Given that Africa has often been a graveyard for missionaries, Bruce Wilkinson's sad and sudden departure probably shouldn't surprise us. In 2002, flush with celebrity, the Prayer of Jabez author determined to use his newfound wealth and influence to address Africa's tremendous social and spiritual problems. Eventually, his territory-enlarging vision narrowed to Swaziland, a tiny, impoverished kingdom abutting South Africa. Swaziland, with a population of 1.1 million people, has 70,000 orphans, mostly because of AIDS.
Wilkinson announced plans to start Dream for Africa (DFA), a $190 million project that would house 10,000 orphans on a 32,500-acre complex by the end of this year. The plan included a golf course, a dude ranch, abstinence training, and the planting of 500,000 small vegetable gardens. But facing hostile, misinformed accounts in the Swazi press and resistance from government officials, Wilkinson, 58, announced last fall he was leaving Africa and taking an early retirement from active ministry. The dream would continue, but in other hands and on a much smaller scale.
"Bruce was quite broken at this time," a source who requested anonymity told CT. "[DFA] had physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially taken a serious toll."
Like many missionaries, he burned out. Wilkinson, who admits that his Jabez-like prayer for the audacious project did not work, told The Wall Street Journal, "I'll put it down as one of the disappointments of my career."
And a disappointment to his followers. A Swazi pastor told the Journal, "I don't know how to handle this. People won't understandto them Bruce is everything."
What went wrong? From a missions perspective, a lot.
Overconfidence. Wilkinson mistook his ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 60+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more