A Twist of Faith: An American Christian’s Quest to Help Orphans in Africa by John Donnelly

I have never been on any kind of mission trip, but I have followed the discussions about “poverty tourism” with interest. What are the lasting effects of a youth group traveling overseas to run a VBS for orphans? What about those trips where bloggers write through their experiences? Should churches build wells and orphanages? What happens when schools send shoes and medical supplies? Do the answers to these questions matter, or is it enough that people want do do good?

John Donnelly, the author of A Twist of Faith, has thought about these questions. He is both impressed by and concerned about the many Americans, who, out of their faith and a desire to do good, have sent money and supplies and people to Africa. These people often come with certain ideas about how things should be rather than hearing what the people in the community feel would be best.

One such person is David Nixon, a carpenter from North Carolina who travels to Malawi in order to build orphanages for children who are left without parents because of AIDS. Though he arrives in Malawi with plans, he begins to learn how to listen to the people around him and loses his heart to some of the children he came to help.

A Twist of Faith works best in the chapters where Donnelly explores the consequences of American aid. I thought that it was less effective in the chapters on Nixon. Those chapters seemed distant from the narrator Donnelly’s story, as if Donnelly did not completely understand Nixon and as if parts were glossed over. Additionally, Nixon’s story is still incomplete in many ways, and I wonder if a focus on the overall questions about American aid might have been better served by contrasting four or five similar stories in less detailed ways.

A Twist of Faith asks good questions about how Americans motivated by faith can best help other people. There are not easy answers, but I will look closer before I give money or send supplies to something that seems like a good cause.

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.

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