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Book Review: A Twist of Faith | 

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 — the book A Twist of Faith also offers a few facts that may surprise you:

  • Faith-based organizations spend more money on aid than the U.S. government’s foreign aid agency, USAID.
  • The number of faith-based do-gooders working overseas today is massive, in the hundreds of thousands, but nobody really knows. They usually don’t report activities to outsiders or other aid agencies.
  • Evangelical Christians had a huge role in laying the groundwork and fueling America’s global leadership in responding to the AIDS pandemic in Africa.

Those are just a few interesting tidbits in this new book by John Donnelly, who I guess I should disclose at the outset of this review is a friend. More importantly, he was for many years Africa correspondent for the Boston Globe and is one of the best journalists covering matters of global health.

So why write about faith-based organizations in Africa?

“I saw so many of them when I was based there, and was curious,” Donnelly said. A decade ago, the AIDS pandemic was creating millions of orphans in Africa and faith-based organizations were coming in by the thousands to rescue these children.

“I wondered what they were all doing, and if what they were doing was working,” Donnelly said. “It wasn’t based on any personal beliefs. I was just surprised at how big this was, and also how uncoordinated it all was, and still is.”

This scattershot, fractured approach to aid not just a problem for faith-based organizations, he emphasized. Lack of coordination, half-baked if well-intended ideas and lack of accountability is rampant throughout the entire aid & development community.

In that sense, Donnelly’s book A Twist of Faith: An American Christian’s Quest to Help Orphans in Africa should be of interest to both faithful and faithless do-gooders. Continue reading