The story of The Rafiki Foundation is inextricably woven with the life of its founder, Rosemary McEachern Jensen. If you had to attach an actual time or place to when and where Rafiki began, it would be during the summer of 1946 when at a youth mission rally the then seventeen year old Rosemary felt compelled to step forward and answer the call to give her life to serve God on the foreign mission field. 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.
In 1985 after returning from a trip to Tanzania, Rosemary, her husband Dr. Robert Jensen, her brother Don McEachern, and her friend Richard Walenta were deeply troubled by the disease, famine, and poverty they had witnessed. Moved to help meet the needs of the people of Africa, the foursome decided to form a foundation—The Rafiki Foundation. “Rafiki” means friend in Swahili and depicts the Foundation’s purpose—to befriend orphans and widows in their distress (James 1:27).
Incorporated and officially registered as a nonprofit organization in 1987, the first Rafiki Home Office was established in the Jensen residence with Rosemary directing both the work of the fledgling Foundation and Bible Study Fellowship. It was during those early days that Rafiki sent out its first missionaries to Moshi, Tanzania to provide medical help and establish the first Bible Study Fellowship classes on the continent.
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.
Recently, 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.
© 2017 Rafiki Foundation, Inc., All Rights Reserved