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A Twist of Faith: An American Christian's Quest to Help Orphans in Africa Hardcover – July 10, 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“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

About 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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press (July 10, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807001325
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807001325
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,001,781 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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!
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Format: 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.
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