"As a newspaper editor, I come across many great stories every year. But FANTASTIC stories are for more rare. The story of Francis Mandewah is one of those few stories that will stay with me forever. 'Friendship' isn't a story. It's a man's real-life experience written from the heart. Francis Mandewah's account of his true life journey will leave you with faith in the good of your fellow man and amazement in how a chance meeting between two individuals shaped two lives forever. It's a story that reminds us of the good in and the fact that, yes, there are times when the 'good guys' win. You will be captivated by this story and won't want to put this book down."-Amazon Review/Newspaper Editor
From the Author
(Q)What inspired you to write this book?
(A) I was inspired by the miracle that God performed in my life when I was a 15-year-old boy in Sierra Leone. In the mist of my hardships while I was selling oranges, I miraculously met Thomas Johnson, an American pilot from Milaca, Minnesota, who was employed to fly boxes of gems and alluvial diamonds in Sierra Leone. This was two decades before the rebel war and the Hollywood movie Blood Diamond, which brought attention to that war.
I was inspired by Tom's friendship and kindness, and his altruistic generosity that opened a new life of opportunity for me, which eventually brought me to America. I was inspired by my own travels and adventures during which I had many harrowing experiences, including crossing the Sahara Desert, which almost cost me my life. I was inspired by the challenges, risks, and trials and tribulations I encountered in Europe and other places, including Italy, Greece, Turkey, and America. I was inspired to see how my deep faith gave me courage and determination to keep moving forward during these experiences.
I was further inspired to write this book because of my sustained connection to the original School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND), who opened the Girl's section of Yengema Secondary School in Sierra Leone in 1973. As a student at Yengema Secondary School in 1976, I came to know Sister Rosanne Rustemeyer because Tom had stayed in contact with her to take care of my school affairs at YSS. I stayed in contact with Sister Rosanne over the years since 1976 when I left Sierra Leone and when I reunited with her and others SSND Sisters in Saint Louis, Missouri, in 2014, I became inspired to chronicle my life experiences.
(Q) How would you summarize your book?
(A) My story is about the power of God, and how He used an altruistic and a generous white man as one of His instruments and servants to literally rescue a black boy from physical abuse and bondage. Tom Johnson could have encountered any other African boy that day that I met him, but God chose me and He positioned Tom to meet me that day, which marked the beginning of my freedom from what I would call slavery and bondage.
At age 14, after having never left my village, I was sent to live with a cruel and physically abusive cousin in the diamond mining camp to continue school, but I soon dropped out because my mother and sister could no longer afford my school fees.
Not wanting to return to live in my village, I continued to live with my cruel cousin while I sold oranges with all the profit going to him and his wife. Tom changed the odds against me when he chose to be my friend, and when he chose to pay my school fees, giving me opportunity that eventually took me to America. With Tom's friendship, I decided to give myself a challenge to prove to Tom that I was worthy of his continued to support in America, so I set myself a challenge -- going through the Sahara Desert to Italy on my own.
(Q)What is the overall theme of your book?
(A) The central topic is how God used Thomas Johnson to rescue a poor African boy from bondage and abuse and giave him opportunity for a better life, and how through faith, courage, and determination the boy encountered and endured several trials and tribulations to finally arrive at his dreamed destination -- America. In America, the boy is confronted to recognize and deal with the issues of race. The boy refuses to believe that all whites are racist, simply because the boy has personally experienced the love, care, and kindness and altruistic and generous nature of a white man-Tom Johnson. But the boy is bound to endure the ravages of racism, which created ambivalence for the boy. Finally, the boy recognizes that no one country in the world is immune from the human challenges among its diverse peoples. There are people who are kind, and people who are not kind, among all races and cultures.
(Q) Where does this book take place?
(A) This book, which features experiences in various locations in the world including Africa, Europe, Turkey, Greece, and America, was written when the author was residing in Ferguson, Missouri (where he still resides)- the United States community that has been rocked with racial tensions in the aftermath of the shooting death of Mike Brown, Jr.
(Q) Why do you think this book will appeal to readers?
(A) This book shows the working miracle of God, how God uses His servants as instruments of His peace and the power of individual acts of kindness to profoundly change the lives of other people. This book should appeal to Christians in general because of the very nature of the story; how a stranger, out of his own goodwill and kindness, randomly chose and decided to help a boy he met who was badly in need of education. It should appeal to people who like stories about the power of the human spirit to overcome adversity and the sustaining power of friendship. It should appeal to travel enthusiasts, adventurers, and to people interested in other people's cultures. It should appeal to civil rights advocates. It should appeal to people who are working for racial justice and equality.
(Q) How is your book relevant in today's society?
(A) My book is relevant in today's society because of the ongoing racial issues involving immigration in this society. It was a white man who laid the foundation and paved the way for me to come to America so I could realize the American dream. Our friendship transcended race, and has built a positive connection between the races. We can overcome racism through friendship and positive cross-cultural relationships.
(Q) Is there any subject currently trending in the news that relates to my your book?
(A) The issues of race, of police misconduct, ethical violations, and/or prosecutorial misconduct in minority cases across the country. The ongoing prosecutorial misconduct pending case reported in the news, i.e, the Mike Brown Jr. shooting.
(Q)What makes your book different from other books?
(A) This book affirms the power of one individual's act of kindness to change another person's life in a profound and positive way. The book gives validation to the path of "Christian" acts of kindness.
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." - Mark 12:30-31
This book demonstrates that goodness and kindness can be found in individuals from any ethnic group or race, and that cruelty and inhumane treatment can be found in individuals from any ethnic group or race as well.