Africa the old-fashioned way

"Africa the old-fashioned way" Continued...

Issue: "Daniel of the Year 2002," Dec. 7, 2002

Earlier this year he, his wife Darlene, and 15-year-old daughter Jessica bought a home in Bryanston, just north of Johannesburg, South Africa. Their son David and his wife Angie have also moved to South Africa. The radical career change was not instant after he resigned in 2001 from the leadership of Walk Thru the Bible, the ministry he had launched 25 years ago. Then he intended to move to Hollywood to "expand his territory and enlarge his borders," by taking the Jabez philosophy to filmmaking.

The Wilkinsons plan to spend eight months of each year in South Africa running their new ministry training African pastors and lay leaders, and four months of each year in the United States recruiting more American pastors and mobilizing the financial resources needed to keep the project going. The ministry, dubbed Global Vision Resources, already has partnered with Promise Keepers and World Vision to that end.

Mr. Wilkinson is not the only evangelical leader to cash in a high-profile ministry for Africa. Rosemary Jensen, for 20 years the director of San Antonio-based Bible Study Fellowship International, left that post to start the Rafiki Foundation, a nonprofit ministry to African women and children. ("Rafiki" means "friend" in Swahili.) Mrs. Jensen told WORLD that she has always wanted to do only two things. "I want to teach people about God by teaching the Scriptures. And I want to help with the physical needs of women and children."

Africa was not a new idea for Mrs. Jensen and her husband Bob. As missionaries in Tanzania from 1957 to 1966, they became acquainted with then-Kenyan President Jomo Kenyatta. When they set their sights on Africa again, the Kenyatta family helped Rafiki purchase 27 acres outside Nairobi for a children's center and vocational training school. That compound and another in Ghana are models for Rafiki centers springing up in seven other African nations, as well as India and Ecuador.

The centers aspire to be more like villages than orphanages. When complete, children will live 10 to a cottage with staff attendants to parent them. Many children are AIDS orphans, are suffering from malnutrition, or both. One week a baby found in a garbage bag arrives at the center in Ghana. Another week, a set of triplets is turned over by their mother because she cannot support them.

Food, medical care, and classical Christian education become the children's staples. Mrs. Jensen works hard to keep staff/child ratios low, and she is unembarrassed to tell potential donors the real costs: $100 a month to sponsor a child.

She is also unembarrassed to keep Christian teaching at the center of the work, with particulars spelled out in a seven-part belief statement (including Scripture references) and in website and promotional material. "We will take in Muslim children, but we will not make exceptions about what they are taught," she said. "They will receive a classical education based on Christian principles and they will study the Bible."

In the field she stands out, a white-haired white woman among a sea of usually young black faces. Back in the United States she is no less noticeable, fundraising in a lime green jacket covered in zebras. So far the program has sustained itself without the usual government grants. "We would take a grant from the U.S. government, as long as they did not tell us how to run our program," she said.

Dick Bransford has learned more of the ropes on government aid than he ever cared to, and is discovering that a big business plan isn't always essential to big charity. A surgeon for more than 20 years with Africa Inland Mission, Dr. Bransford in the last decade has put his skills to work in tent wards on the front lines during the Somalian war and in clinics in Sudan while bombs dropped.

After Somalia, he was content to return to the Africa Inland Mission hospital where he first came as a medical student in 1966. Bethany Crippled Childrens Center straddles a glade above the Rift Valley in Kijabe, outside Nairobi-the only hospital of its kind in a country with the population of California. Dr. Bransford directs orthopedics and neurosurgery. The center treats most of Kenya's hydrocephalus and spina bifida cases, in addition to burn injuries, polio, and other crippling diseases.

From that perch Dr. Bransford watched as nearby African wars began to hover at his doorstep. At Bethany, Sudanese, Somalian, and Ethiopian refugees from UN camps just inside Kenya's borders now vie for a table along with the usual stream of Kenyan patients. Despite vast resources and infrastructure, UN camps are going bankrupt as camp populations swell. Nearly two years ago several camps began transporting patients to Dr. Bransford on a weekly basis. War and radical Islam now leave their respective ailments in his ward: landmine wounds, amputations, and women mutilated by female circumcisions.


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