A Twist of Faith: An American Christian's Quest to Help Orphans in Africa

Overview

American Christians, veteran reporter John Donnelly has discovered, are an ever-increasing source of aid in Africa, with some experts estimating that U.S. churches supply more resources to Africa than USAID. In A Twist of Faith, he tells the unlikely story of how faith and determination compelled one such American Christian to travel to Africa and open a school for children orphaned by the AIDS epidemic. David Nixon, a carpenter from North Carolina who had lived through his share of trouble, knew nothing about ...
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A Twist of Faith: An American Christian's Quest to Help Orphans in Africa

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Overview

American Christians, veteran reporter John Donnelly has discovered, are an ever-increasing source of aid in Africa, with some experts estimating that U.S. churches supply more resources to Africa than USAID. In A Twist of Faith, he tells the unlikely story of how faith and determination compelled one such American Christian to travel to Africa and open a school for children orphaned by the AIDS epidemic. David Nixon, a carpenter from North Carolina who had lived through his share of trouble, knew nothing about the small, land-locked African country of Malawi. But after having a religious awakening and hearing about a preacher's efforts to aid its impoverished and beleaguered citizens, he raises money from his church and sets off to do what so many well-intentioned Americans of faith do in Africa: build an orphanage. But as his plans are beset with difficulties, Nixon slowly comes to realize that helping others requires listening to and learning from them. And that means changing his preconceived ideas of what the Malawians need and how he can best serve them. A Twist of Faith is the story of one man who, despite personal struggles, a profound cultural gap, the corruption of local officials, and the heartbreak of losing an orphan he comes to love, saves himself by saving others in a place nothing like home. Nixon's story is representative of a growing trend: the thousands of American Christians who are impassioned donors of time, money, and personal energy, devoted to helping African children. 
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  • A Twist of Faith
    A Twist of Faith  

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Foreign affairs reporter Donnelly follows the mission work of one man, an evangelical Christian named David Nixon, who attempts to make a difference in the lives of AIDS orphans in the African nation of Malawi, which gained some visibility in America when Madonna adopted an orphan from that country. Nixon’s backstory includes an evangelical religious awakening that helps him straighten out a youthful mess of a life that included addiction. His talents and zeal take him to Malawi, where he gets an education in how to do things the right, and wrong, way. In telling Nixon’s story, Donnelly also sketches a much larger picture of the difficulties and necessities of cross-cultural interactions between well-intentioned Americans and Malawians skeptical of those intentions. There are no easy answers in this closely observed, eye-opening book. (July)
From the Publisher
“Through the story of David Nixon’s faith-driven journey to save the destitute in Malawi, John Donnelly explores the tenets of true service to underserved communities and accompaniment of the poor, while focusing a shrewd reporter’s gaze on the efforts of various American aid organizations in Africa. He offers a compelling account of the great joy, frustration, and personal sacrifice inherent in addressing the urgent moral claim of the poor on a Christian conscience.”—Paul Farmer, author of Haiti After the Earthquake

“Donnelly sheds light on the faith-inspired armies of compassion who have responded to a call to serve in Africa. By telling the personal story of the founder of one organization, we learn the fundamental truth that regardless of the sums of money involved, service requires human interaction, humility, and an openness to otherness.”—Ambassador Mark R. Dybul, co-director, O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, Georgetown University

“In A Twist of Faith, John Donnelly documents the twisting road traveled by many from a faith-motivated righteous commitment to Africa’s AIDS orphans to the far more difficult destination of doing the right thing. His protagonist David Nixon is an archetype for dozens of well-intentioned Americans I have met who triumphed or failed miserably in direct proportion to the degree that they were able to acquire humility, embrace African family and community values, and overcome the perception that they knew best what African children needed to thrive. An instructive and compelling read.”—Warren Buckingham, first recipient of the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief Lifetime Achievement Award
 
A Twist of Faith beautifully tells the story of an American Christian whose commitment to Africa’s orphans moves him from confidence, passion and determination to humility, wisdom and dependence. Along the way he slowly learns the best practices that can truly honor a culture and its children. An important book for anyone who wants to be God’s hands and feet in our broken world.”—Lynne Hybels, author of Nice Girls Don’t Change the World

"A rousing good read and cautionary tale of one man's mission to help AIDS orphans in Africa–and how good intentions can pave the road to hell..."–Humanosphere, KPLU's blog

"Mr. Donnelly does a masterful job of slowly unraveling the troubled, complex, mutilayered Mr. Dixon."—United Methodist Reporter

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807001325
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 7/10/2012
  • Pages: 200
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

For more than thirty years, John Donnelly has reported in regions far from the United States, starting with the civil wars of Central America, delving into the political violence in Haiti, drawing out tales of conflict and peace in the Middle East and Asia, and then landing in Africa, where he feels most at home. In Africa, where he traveled as a staff reporter for the Boston Globe and later as a Kaiser Family Foundation fellow, he became intrigued by the steady stream of Americans with big hearts and big ambitions whose adventures are told in this book.
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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 A Moment in an African Field 1

Chapter 2 The Road to Africa 7

Chapter 3 Oprah: One of Many 27

Chapter 4 An Education in Malawi 43

Chapter 5 Distant Struggles, Common Bonds 73

Chapter 6 A Grave Loss and a Daunting Challenge 89

Chapter 7 The Lure of Orphanages 117

Chapter 8 A Matter of Faith 133

Chapter 9 Breaking a Cycle 159

Acknowledgments 185

A Note on Sources 189

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