A Twist of Faith
An American Christian's Quest to Help Orphans in Africa
By John Donnelly
(Beacon Press (MA), Hardcover, 9780807001325, 190pp.)
Publication Date: July 10, 2012
List Price: $25.95*
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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.
“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