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

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 ...
See more details below
A Twist of Faith: An American Christian's Quest to Help Orphans in Africa

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$14.49
BN.com price
(Save 44%)$25.95 List Price

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. 
Read More Show Less
  • 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

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807001332
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 7/10/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 755,058
  • File size: 3 MB

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.
Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

From Chapter 1

A Moment in an African Field

This was all new. The country, the people, the big sky, the red-clay road that was so narrow it seemed to have been built for bicycles. Just being in Africa made him want to praise the Lord, which he did frequently and with great feeling. David Nixon Jr., an evangelical Christian and a do­it-all carpenter from a suburb of Charlotte, North Caro­lina, couldn’t have been more excited, or more on edge, as he rode in the back seat of a long white Toyota Hiace van into the African bush.

He was traveling deep into the backcountry of a nation he had first heard about only months before—landlocked Malawi in southeastern Africa. He was in the middle of no­where as far as he was concerned, about an hour’s drive west of Lilongwe, the country’s quiet capital. And he was with five fellow American missionaries, including two friends who, like him, were on their first trip to Africa. They had all come in the middle of the summer in 2002 with a loose plan to find local churches and work with them to help or­phans. The six of them weren’t sure if that meant contribut­ing money and whatever expertise each of them had to offer, or if it meant diving in and doing it all themselves.

Nixon was of average height and weight: five foot eight, 165 pounds. He shaved his head every day so close that his scalp shone, a habit he had begun a decade earlier when he’d spent months living in a tent, studying the Bible, and trying to figure out how he would follow God’s word. He had strong arms, a broad chest, a linebacker’s shoulders, a booming baritone voice, and eyes that could be as playful as a child’s or as stern as a drill sergeant’s. He was not good at hiding his emotions. When he was having a good day, he was full of energy and vim, ready to attack life. When troubles got him down, his shoulders slumped as if he were Atlas carrying the weight of the world. Those dark moods would come and go, but they didn’t stay as long as they had when he was a young man hounded by trouble. He attrib­uted the elevation of his mood to his trust in God. God was his Father, and when Nixon said grace, he praised God so thoroughly that the food would often get cold.

On this day in a field in Malawi, he felt vaguely like one of those explorers from a distant era. But he and his partners weren’t looking for gold or diamonds, or for tribes that had had little contact with the outside world; they were hunting for a community in dire need of help. These men knew every community could use some assistance, so they needed to find a local organization they could feel com­fortable with to act as their on-the-ground contact. They believed fervently they had to do all the good they could do for poor Africans, the polar opposite of the goal of most of those who’d come before them, decades and centuries ear­lier—people who wanted to pillage the continent’s riches or enslave its inhabitants.

Their mission couldn’t have come at a more urgent time. According to estimates put forth by the United Na­tions, in recent years the number of orphans in Africa had grown to 34 million, a huge jump from a decade before, due to the AIDS pandemic, which had hit sub-Saharan Africa with greater force than anywhere in the world. In 2002, AIDS treatment was available to people in wealthier countries but to only a tiny percentage of HIV-positive people in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. Just fi fty thou­sand out of the millions of HIV-positive people in develop­ing countries were receiving life-extending treatment. As a result, mothers and fathers in Malawi and throughout Af­rica were dying at alarming rates. Every day across Africa, relatives carried thousands of their near-to-death loved ones to hospitals that had no supplies or medications to save them. Hospital morgues stacked bodies in refrigerated and unrefrigerated rooms. The international community was just beginning to mount a response to this humanitar­ian emergency, forming the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria in 2002; in 2003, the Bush ad­ministration committed billions of dollars to an ambitious program called the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR.

But government programs and the continued work of well-established charities and nongovernmental groups that had labored for decades to deliver aid on behalf of wealthy nations weren’t the only responses. Mostly hidden from public view and rarely recorded or tracked by government or independent evaluators, thousands of private American groups, the vast majority of them faith based, were stirred to action. According to academics who studied development assistance, those faith-based groups gave several billion dol­lars a year to African causes, a stunning amount that likely surpassed the contribution of the U.S. Agency for Interna­tional Development’s funding of African projects.

Over the past decade, I’ve often crossed paths with this underground movement of mostly untrained aid work­ers who arrived in countries across Africa. Five years ago, I decided to take a much closer look. In the fall of 2007, supported by a global-health reporting fellowship from the Kaiser Family Foundation, photographer Dominic Chavez and I started to document what exactly was going on with the torrent of American do-gooders traveling around Africa to help children. I wanted to determine if these disparate efforts were making any difference, either positive or nega­tive. I decided to go to Malawi first, a country I knew well from previous visits for my newspaper, the Boston Globe. And from the moment I started my journey, I saw Ameri­can do-gooders everywhere. They were on every plane trip I took. In African countries, I ran into them at shopping malls, in government offices, in bars and restaurants at the end of long days. Usually within the first ten minutes of conversation, they brought up their deep Christian faith. More often than not, they extended an invitation for me to come see their work firsthand.

I also spent hours with the U.S. embassy employees who were the architects of the massive American response to fight AIDS. These were some of the most dedicated gov­ernment workers I have ever met. In the early days of the PEPFAR initiative, they all seemed to work sixty or seventy or eighty hours a week. They were so dedicated because they knew the better the job they did, the more lives they’d save. There was no doubt in their minds. How could there be? If you lived in sub-Saharan Africa in 2003, all you had to do was go to a morgue or a coffin maker’s shack or the adult wing of a city hospital to be confronted by the in­escapable truth: AIDS was destroying the population of young adults in Africa. The PEPFAR workers were fasci­nated by, and sometimes more than slightly uneasy about, all the private Americans from faith-based groups who were requesting information or showing up at embassies asking how they could help African children. Several longtime U.S. foreign-service offi cers estimated that the number of private do-gooders was two to three times higher than it had been in the 1990s.

As the members of these faith-based groups boarded planes for faraway destinations like Lilongwe, Addis Ababa, Nairobi, and Dar es Salaam, they imagined themselves building orphanages. Some of them anxiously awaited the culmination of months of planning to be allowed to adopt parentless children. David Nixon’s group from Monroe, North Carolina, was, in many respects, not so different from thousands of others. They were people with big hearts and big ideas. But like many of the others, they came with­out much else: without knowledge and, perhaps, without enough humility.

Inside the van in the Malawi bush, Nixon videotaped the scene of their arrival—the road ending, groups of barefoot children chasing them, smiling and laughing and jumping and waving in the dust of the van’s wake. The driver slowed the van to a stop, and Nixon hopped out. Trailed by chil­dren, he started to walk toward a clearing.

From the far side of the field, a group of Malawians appeared, walking and singing confidently and beauti­fully. They were singing in Chichewa, the local language, and their harmonies were so pleasing that the visitors stopped and let the group walk to them. Nixon began to talk as he shot video. He mustered all the composure he could to describe the obvious: “We just drove up and they started singing.”

That was it. He could say nothing else. As the sing­ers came closer, their voices rising, he tried to speak, but he couldn’t. Ordinarily, he had the confidence and natu­ral charisma to talk with anyone. He would look everyone straight in the eye and squeeze his or her hand fi rmly—as fi rmly as his own belief in God. He was earnest and evan­gelical, deadly serious and deeply committed, and he had the unshakable conviction that he was a crusading knight in a foreign land.

But as he stood listening to the singing villagers, his knees weakened, tears rolled down his cheeks, and a chill crawled down his spine. He believed at that moment he was in the presence of God. The thought overwhelmed him: God stood with him.
Why? Why now? Why here? What was it about that moment—about the group of Malawians, and the fi eld, and the children who had gathered all around him as he kept shooting video? He didn’t know. All he knew was that he had to do something on this ground. He had to do some­thing to help these children. He felt that God was com­manding him to do so. As he wept, he silently made a vow.

He was going to work in Africa, in this sliver of a coun­try called Malawi that he knew nothing about, and he was going to help these beautiful children who had no parents. He was going to do good.

The path before him would never seem as simple and clear as it did at that moment. He was headed straight for trouble, and even though he had dealt with plenty of trouble in his life, this would test him—and teach him—like noth­ing had before. A twist of faith had brought him here. But to weather the trials to come, he would need strength, perse­verance, and, most of all, an open heart and an open mind.
Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: A Moment in an African Field

Chapter 2: The Road to Africa

Chapter 3: Oprah: One of Many

Chapter 4: An Education in Malawi

Chapter 5: Distant Struggles, Common Bonds

Chapter 6: A Grave Loss and a Daunting Challenge

Chapter 7: The Lure of Orphanages

Chapter 8: A Matter of Faith

Chapter 9: Breaking a Cycle

Acknowledgments

A Note on Sources
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)