Customer Reviews


15 Reviews
5 star:
 (9)
4 star:
 (5)
3 star:    (0)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:
 (1)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Premise. Mildly Flawed Execution.
"The outsider must learn how they can help before they start working."
For the last 20 years Americans have been giving and going to African nations is record numbers. One of the largest groups to do both has been Evangelical Christians. Some academics estimate that evangelicals have given more money to Africa than the United States and various relief organizations...
Published on August 17, 2012 by lovedrunkbliss

versus
1.0 out of 5 stars A Twisted Boring Tale
A friend recommended this. She is writing a book of her own about the challenges American volunteers face understanding or more likely misunderstanding foreign cultures. I really wanted to like it .....and learn from it. Take time to understand and involve the community. See what it needs and wants before plunging in, building orphanages or whatever. That was the...
Published 7 months ago by bonnierose


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Premise. Mildly Flawed Execution., August 17, 2012
"The outsider must learn how they can help before they start working."
For the last 20 years Americans have been giving and going to African nations is record numbers. One of the largest groups to do both has been Evangelical Christians. Some academics estimate that evangelicals have given more money to Africa than the United States and various relief organizations. The major focus of these Christians has been the children orphaned by the AIDS epidemic of recent memory. John Donnelly, a former journalist, became interested in the attention Africa was receiving from the U.S. in general and grew curious having discovered that much of the efforts are coming from private evangelical citizens and faith based groups.

Donnelly's book is a combination of statistical date, personal anecdotes, and biography of one of the Christians working on Africa's ground level issues. The book sticks with one of those countries by talking almost exclusively about Malawi. The major thesis of the book is that many secular and faith based organizations arrive with lots of money and good intentions but have not taken the time to learn the subtle nuances of a foreign culture. Furthermore, the author hints that perhaps "outsiders" and "whites" may never fully understand the cultures of Africans.

The major biographical subject of the book is David Nixon. Nixon is a southern loner who after a life of drugs and hard living finds Jesus. Upon conversion he develops an almost self-taught dogma while living in a tent with only the bare essentials. He comes out of his self-imposed exile with a few simple revelations. Mostly, he takes the Bible as literal as possible and begins looking for his own personal destiny to help others. Early chapters about Nixon seem to be written with a certain emotional distance. The author tells us how Nixon feels and what those feelings mean in a dry and matter of fact way. For a book about the need for outsiders to understand the nuances of foreign people, Donnelly seems to miss the mark in his ability to communicate the personal faith and motivation of David Nixon in the first half of this book.

The chapters cut back and forth between Nixon's journey and empirical data. While the chapters that deal with empirical data are necessary to build the case that most foreign aid efforts are wasting money and creating more bad than good. They also don't fit as well in the overall narrative. Those portions read like extended articles in Newsweek rather than book material. After Donnelly and Nixon meet the book takes on such an intimate and intense feeling that the first half to three quarters are quickly forgotten. While it's a novel idea to intersperse personal and biographical narrative with empirical and broad research it gives the book an uneven feeling.

Donnelly does succeed in telling a story that is not so much faith based as it is about someone else's faith. He manages to show evangelicals in a positive light. If anything, the Christians in his book come off as incompetent through naiveté rather than ill will. He also deals fairly with faith based groups, local chieftains, and local politicians. All who have an agenda and all who feel that their way is right. Donnelley doesn't shy away from the ugly facts that some of the problem is the people of Malawi themselves. He is able to point out their susceptibility to corruption and entitlement as much as their plight. They are not painted in broad strokes of white guilt. Nor are the Christian's painted as colonialists who are seeking to further enslave a pure and noble culture. As far as Donnelly is concerned the cultures are different. Neither one is inherently more pure than another he is quick to add. However, if no time is taken to understand those differences it is easy to assume that the other side is evil. This assertion is equally false.

The incidents that seem to receive the most negative judgment from the author are pop singer Madonna's charity Raising Malawi, the negligence of local hospitals in Malawi, and the efforts of a short term medical missions team that while sincere were also unethical. As for the main subject David Nixon, Donnelly never seems too sure of what to make of him. The finally fourth of the books is as much about his attempts to understand Nixon as they are about Nixon's attempts to understand the people of Malawi. In the end Nixon and his faith are neither over idealized or overly critiqued. I'd like to add that this book is not an overly optimistic one. It is more of an attempt to understand and inform the public in a realistic and semi objective way. As such, it recounts the personal and missional struggles of a normal man wanting to do something incredible for God and the orphans of Malawi.

I'd recommend this book to pastors and missionaries. As well as any person seeking to live on mission both locally and globally. The lessons are not just applicable to those living overseas but also to people and churches stateside that want to reach their own communities. Is it possible that the millions we spend yearly on reaching our own cities could be better spent? Should we start by asking the community what it needs rather than assuming? Can local mission be equally cross-cultural? As results and dollar oriented as we Americans can be perhaps there is a better way. A way that is more relational, long term, and interested in generational results and not immediate ill conceived ones. As the Malawi minster of child affairs puts it, "They have to know that money cannot do everything. They have to understand that."

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR,Part 255.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a much needed book in the christian "orphan care" world, December 14, 2012
By 
Mary C. Hoyt (Clarkston, GA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I've been immersed in personal research about Africa's orphan crisis for two plus years trying to learn from what others have done and praying through what role I can play in serving the children and their communities in Kinshasa, DRCongo. I've been searching for a book like John Donnelly's and am thrilled to have found it. I've read many articles and websites about the principles Donnelly is advocating and how various groups are implementing them to varying degrees across Africa, but there's just something about a book -the heft of it, the cover to cover feel of it, the ability to go more in depth and present a broad range of data and stories in a comprehensive manner. Donnelly is an excellent writer, a true journalist, and he has given this book to us, the American Christian orphan care community, as a gift of self-reflection. I plan to promote it at the 2013 May Orphan Summit and online until then!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Twist of Faith, August 24, 2012
This was a wonderful story of one man's faith in God and living out what he believed God wanted him to do with his life. The book shares a lot of obstacles that a person must overcome to help people in a foreign country. I found the book to be very well-written and easy to follow. I don't want to repeat the above book description as it depicts the book in an accurate light and there is no need to add to it to tell you what the book is about. If you enjoy reading about missionaries and their stories, then you will find this book a delight to read. In addition to describing Nixon's journey, the author includes the attempts and successes of others who have provided aid to Africa as well, along with how that aid is used and received by their government and people. It gave me an education in how missions and donations to other countries actually work out.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Making Sure You Actually Help, June 26, 2014
This review is from: A Twist of Faith: An American Christian's Quest to Help Orphans in Africa (Paperback)
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

A Twist of Faith: An American Christian’s Quest to Help Orphans in Africa, by John Donnelly, Beacon Press, Boston, 2012

John Donnelly is a veteran reporter who has spent many years writing on the subject of AIDS and particularly AIDS in Africa. Twist of Faith came about because of his interest in the many faith groups in Africa who were dealing with the pandemic, but not showing up in official statistics and reports.

Review

A Twist of Faith is the story of one man, David Nixon, who is on a mission from God to do all that he can to help children in Malawi, one of the poorest African nations, and among one of the nations hardest hit by AIDS. The book recounts Nixon’s experiences over a period of about seven years, from his arrival as a naive young man full of energy to one who has grown much wiser, but no less passionate in his desire to provide a future for the children in and around the area of Malawi where the school he helped build is located. We also get to see the challenges to Nixon’s faith that arise from trying to find the best way to help the children.

One thing that sets this book apart from a lot of others, is that we get to see glimpses into Nixon’s life, from his childhood right up until present day. As a result we get to relate Nixon’s actions to his own upbringing, to his relationship with church leadership and his own personality. Donnelly neither takes Nixon’s faith at face value, nor does he go out of his way to be skeptical about what Donnelly believes. Rather, by and large, he leaves the reader to make their own decisions.

The main method Donnelly uses to allow the reader to evaluate Nixon’s approach to life, and to helping orphans is to place it within the context of other efforts both governmental and non-governmental. This allows the readers to comprehend some of the complexities and nuances of trying to help provide a better future for the AIDS orphans of Africa. You may not agree with Donnelly’s views on orphans and orphanages, but you will be better informed about them by books end.

This book is a good primer for anyone who’s heart is broken by the plight of orphans, but doesn’t know what to do about it. After reading A Twist of Faith, you will hopefully ask yourself, why do I want to help? How can I help, and most importantly how can I make sure that what I do actually helps? Thankfully, this book allows the reader to learn from Nixon’s own experience and to allow that to inform their decisions.

As a priest, I would particularly recommend this book to anybody considering doing short or long-term mission work. It might save a lot of grief along the way.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended if you are a Christian and researching the issue of African orphans, May 26, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Read this book but don't make it the only book on African children's issues you read. What I thought was valuable is that this book tells a truthful story about the efforts of one man, a man with no prior training in ministry, flying only on faith, trying to do something to help at risk kids in Malawi. The story does not turn out completely well. This man founds a school which starts with good local cooperation, high hopes and immediate success. The US founder places a Malawian pastor in charge of the school, then spends his time raising funds in the US while trying to manage a business he owns plus travel back and forth to Africa to oversee the school. Eventually, this single man also has to act as guardian for his pre-school grandson due the parent's drug use. The 2008 economic crash in the US dries up donor funding, the man's business struggles because his time and devotion is split, the Malawian pastor is found to be misappropriating the school's bank account, and the founder is increasingly emotionally torn between the demands of the children in Africa and the need to provide a stable home for his grandson. The book should help us to understand that ministry that is a one man show is weak ministry and that it's very hard for an individual to live in the US and carry out a strategic ministry on another continent, even if his intentions are pure and his inspiration is from God.

Contrary to other reviewers, I was not impressed by the author. One great flaw of the book is that it is a story of faith written by an author with a secular mindset. That author tends to interject his own views into the story. I thought it really very telling that this author is willing to glibly criticize a Uganda charity called Watoto (I have no relationship with this ministry and am not their advocate) which has constructed orphanages for 1000's of kids in that country. He criticizes them because the standard of living and education of the children in the orphanage is higher than that of the surrounding villagers and because some children who grew up in some orphanages in Ethiopia (not Watoto's) expressed the feeling that they were not well prepared for integrating into society or life after the orphanage. Watoto explains that their goal is to prepare the children for leadership positions in the nation. The author thinks this is a waste of money. Instead he promotes the idea that aid organizations should provide funds that allow African orphans to remain in their extended families where they will received love plus maybe provide village-wide aid such as better community schools. In a way derogatory of some Christians, he interjects his opinion that orphans will thus be surrounded by the love of their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, while still being helped. They may received an education not as good as in an orphanage, but they will be more loved and more "socialized" into society. Later in the book, the author goes on to tell the story of one of the orphans in the founder's school, Sousto. Sousto becomes very ill and dies in the hospital. While there, it is the American Christian founder who spends long hours at his bedside nursing him, and pesters doctors and nurses to do everything they can for him. When he dies, David Nixon buys new clothes for his burial and a new toy and slips it into the casket. We find out later in the book that his boy lived with a grandmother who more or less just tolerated his presence in her home, did very little for him and showed her so-called love for him by removing the new clothes and toy from the dead boy's casket and selling them. Thus contradicting the author's bold assertion that placing children with extended family members is better because they will be more loved. So I urge you to be prayerful when you read the book, in order to divide what's from Christ from what is not.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye-opening tale of an American in Africa, August 5, 2012
This is a great book - one that I couldn't put down. This is for all those who wish to help children in crisis around the world - valuable lessons inside. This is for all those who look cynically at religious organizations claiming to alleviate pain and suffering through charity, donations, and orphanages. There's a lesson in here for everyone and it's helpful and instructive. My heart goes out to the book's protagonist - David Nixon. I can't wait to read the next chapter.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Improve upon foreign aid...or short term mission work, August 5, 2012
Talk to anyone who identifies as a Christian and you'll likely hear stories of travels to other places to help those in need (i.e., mission trips) and/or a desire to help others-particularly children who have no families to call their own. It's the reason many people travel to other countries and spend time in orphanages-or send money to other countries to build an orphanage or a school or some other likely much needed outpost for a marginalized part of the population.

Those same people will have wonderful stories to tell and will describe how those experiences impacted them individually as well as the hope that they made some type of difference wherever they were. Although there's a lot of good in all of that, perhaps it's not all it really could be.

In A Twist of Faith: An American Christian's Quest to Help Orphans in Africa, John Donnelly explores what it means to offer aid (regardless of your motivation) in places which we perceive need it most. Mixed in with Donnelly's own research into foreign aid-specifically to Africa-is the story of David Nixon, a well-meaning carpenter from North Carolina who raises money to go to Malawi and build an orphanage. As the project stalls, Nixon learns what it means to listen to the Malawians describe what they need and how to make it happen. Nixon comes to understand that listening to and understanding those from this new (and very different) culture means putting aside his preconceived ideas and plans, taking a different approach, and bringing change and hope to another part of the world-and himself.

Donnelly intersperses his own research (to include interviews with Nixon and others in aid organizations working in Africa as well as his own travels to Africa) with Nixon's story throughout this book. Clearly written and engaging, this book points out the frustrations Americans can experience in trying to accomplish something big in another country (e.g., fundraising, clearing government hurdles, working with local people in country) as well as how our aid is perceived by those who receive it. It brings to light that we make mistakes along the way-chief among them being the short-term nature of the work we do which is usually attached to our own agenda. Instead, Donnelly's book implies that best practice includes consulting with and working alongside those who live where we want to work, including them in every step of the process, and staying in it for the long haul-however long that may be.

At times, I lost interest as Donnelly shifted to discussing data and numbers regarding foreign aid-although that information is important given the context of this book. Incorporating Nixon's story, though one example of this process, illustrated both what not to do as well as what to do in ways those numbers could not. This book was thought-provoking and challenging-especially for someone who has fond memories of those short-term mission trips as an adolescent and young adult.

*********************************************************
Note: Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR,Part 255.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars really makes you think..., April 2, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This book tells of the ups and downs of mission work in Africa. Well-meaning Americans are still working to help African orphans...but what should that look like. This story opens the mind to explore our Christian efforts and really made me sympathetic to the struggles there. I will pray the Holy Spirit will guide all of us.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1.0 out of 5 stars A Twisted Boring Tale, March 8, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
A friend recommended this. She is writing a book of her own about the challenges American volunteers face understanding or more likely misunderstanding foreign cultures. I really wanted to like it .....and learn from it. Take time to understand and involve the community. See what it needs and wants before plunging in, building orphanages or whatever. That was the takeaway wisdom of this book, a sort of tale , a sort of primer on how to do good without being a misguided , misled do gooder creating more problems than solutions. Great advice. It would have made an interesting magazine article. I finished it as a matter of principle. By the end I neither understood or frankly cared about the loser former bad boy dope addict , missing father and husband who hears voices , turns Jesus zealot and heads to Africa to spread the good word. I don't think author John Donnelly did either. He may have started out intrigued by "what makes David Nixon run " but like the reader, he soon wearies of the man's self imposed traumas and emotional turmoil. He simply runs out of steam and ends the book suddenly on a whatever note.... Return to Malawi or Not?
Unless you enjoy reading about crazed bible toting Christians who can't cope with their own lives hopping off to save poor Africans, I suggest you skip this one.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars a twist of faith, February 22, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: A Twist of Faith: An American Christian's Quest to Help Orphans in Africa (Paperback)
very good shape.it came when they said it would.its a good book for ou reading club at the church.thanks alot
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

A Twist of Faith: An American Christian's Quest to Help Orphans in Africa
A Twist of Faith: An American Christian's Quest to Help Orphans in Africa by John Donnelly (Paperback - September 3, 2013)
$16.00 $13.22
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Search these reviews only
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.