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Rafiki Foundation  |  God's Word at Work

The History of Rafiki

Rosemary McEachern Jensen

The story of The Rafiki Foundation is inextricably woven with the life of its founder, Rosemary McEachern Jensen.

Rosemary McEachern Jensen, born July 20, 1929, is the fourth of six children born to Don and Mayhoward McEachern. Raised in a log house on the banks of the St. Johns River near Jacksonville, Florida, Rosemary knew at an early age that she wanted to tell others about God. In the summer of 1946 when a pastor challenged a group of youth to give their lives to the foreign mission field, Rosemary felt compelled to step forward and answer the call. That one step began a seven-decade journey in God’s service, first as a missionary to Tanzania, then as the executive director of Bible Study Fellowship International, and most recently as the president of The Rafiki Foundation, Inc.

The years from 1987 to 1991 saw the expansion of Rafiki’s work into Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, and Ghana. An increasing number of doctors, dentists, teachers, and business people answered God’s call to bring medical care, vocational assistance, and Bible teaching to the African people. Funding for these projects was borne by private donors and the biblical studies were provided by Bible Study Fellowship. By 1992, however, the African continent was overwhelmed with the needs of millions of orphans due to the AIDS epidemic. In response to pleas from government and church officials to help the children of Africa, Rosemary expanded the role of the Foundation from that of a sending organization to one that provided for the physical, spiritual, and educational needs of orphans and vulnerable children. Since then, the Foundation has established Rafiki Training Villages in ten of the poorest countries in sub-Saharan Africa to help meet that need.

The Foundation has again responded to requests for help from African church and government leaders by providing educational curriculum for their schools. In 2009, Rafiki began to publish and distribute its school curriculum (including the Rafiki Bible Study) to African church schools. In countries where educational materials are in short supply, the curriculum is a tremendous gift and is another tangible way that Rafiki is befriending the children of Africa.

In 2015 the capstone piece of Rafiki's education came to fruition. The Rafiki Institute of Classical Education (RICE) is a teachers college founded to equip the next generation of classical educators. These colleges train students in math, science, history, philosophy, theology, pedagogy, and more. Graduates are integrated into local and church schools, supplied with Rafiki curriculum, and ultimately set to bring classical education to schools across Africa.

Malawi Village Ministries