Friendship: A True Story of Adventure, Goodwill and Endurance

Friendship coverForeword for Friendship.jpg

by Francis Mandewah


Telemachus Press
March 2016
Trade Paperback: 368 pages
Genre: Non-Fiction/Memoir/Spirituality

ARC: NETGALLEY in exchange for an unbiased review. The author provided a trade paperback copy as well.

Francis Mandewah was born just before rice farming season in 1961 in the small impoverished village of Punduru in Sierra Leone. His early years were spent in a loving environment with his widowed mother and sisters scratching out a life on their subsistence farm.  Although English is the official language of Sierra Leone, the residents of Punduru speak the regional language of Mende.  The United Methodist Church established a missionary school and church in the community with the mission of converting the children and adults to Christianity as well as providing access to primary school education for the children.

Young Konomueh Mandewah despite the poverty and dire living conditions enjoyed the harmony of life in his small community and was thrilled for the opportunity to attend primary school when he was 8 years-old. The many changes to his life began with his first steps toward formal education; his introduction to English, the assignment of his Christian name…Francis, and perhaps of more lasting import, the development of his relationship with God as his confidant and source of strength.

As a young child, Francis had a reoccurring dream that would prove prescient in his search for purpose and meaning throughout his early years and well into adulthood.

In the dream I have passed a test and my reward is a journey. “Where are you going, my son?” I can hear my mother say.  I become nervous about not having an answer for her.  I go around the room frantically trying to find someone who will tell me my future.  No one answers…the door…opens.  I walk…through the door. I … awaken with the urge to know where I am going.

After completing his primary school education, Francis reached a pivotal moment in his life. In order to further his education and life experience, something he desired almost deliriously, he would need to leave the comfort of his known world and go to another town to attend secondary school.  And he would need room, board, and the cost of tuition. His loving mother unable to provide the money needed to help Francis reached out to a distant cousin for assistance.

Francis did receive his secondary education but at great cost to him physically, mentally and spiritually. His first encounter with abuse and violence was so well crafted in the memoir that I cringed each time his cousin lifted the electric cord to strike him.  And I warn the reader that you will cringe many more times throughout this amazing story as an almost unbelievable number of times Francis lifts himself up from life’s blows buoyed by his unfailing confidence that through prayer, God would provide.

In the midst of the harsh living conditions in his cousin’s home and bowed by abject despair and loneliness, Francis found an answer to his reoccurring dream when a tall blond-haired pilot with helicopter wings proved to be his earthly guardian angel.  Tom Johnson, stepping out of his comfortable life, walked up to a young African boy selling oranges in the dusty road and made a life altering decision that would change both of their lives forever. Tom would prove to be the single most influential person in helping Francis achieve his educational dreams and fulfill his long earnest desire to come to the United States.

The journey from Punduru to the United States winds through the deadly Sahara Desert, Algeria, Greece, Italy, England and much more. His vivid descriptions of these stops along his life’s journey will inspire some readers to plan their next vacation trip!

Mandewah exposes his inner soul and at times you feel the raw wounds in his psyche as he encounters discrimination, poverty, threats, cruelty and dire loneliness.  Yet there is more to his story besides the unbelievable cruelty in the world; Francis finds that there are more beautiful people of every color and stripe than he could have imagined.  The open hearts of these people, in his eyes, were placed in his path by God.  Their openness and generosity will leave the reader inspired.

The most endearing moments for me are the honest admissions of human failure that he brings upon himself. He always finds a way through prayer and meditation to grab himself by the boot straps and take that next positive step.   And there are so many times that the reader will feel the wonder and amazement through the eyes of this man as he discovers what lies beyond the mud brick home of his childhood.

You will applaud him in the end and you will want to encourage a friend to pick up a copy of the book.   As Francis says, it’s about Friendship.


Filed under Book Reviews

3 responses to “Friendship: A True Story of Adventure, Goodwill and Endurance

  1. I am a lawful immigrant in the United States and on the eve of this July 4th 2016, I wish to express my sincere appreciation for being in this country, and my heartfelt gratitude to the America White man – Tom Johnson – who came to my country – Sierra Leone – and befriended me, and rescued me from my misery and bondage and gave me the opportunity and paved the way for me to arrive and settle at my – dreamed destination – in America.

    I was inspired to write my new memoir book – FRIENDSHIP: A True Story of Adventure, Goodwill, and Endurance – because of the miracles God has continued to perform in my life since I was a 15-year old boy in Sierra Leone.

    In the mist of my hardships while selling oranges I miraculously met an American pilot from Milaca, Minnesota, who was employed by the NDMC National Diamond Mining Company to fly boxes of gems and alluvial diamonds in Sierra Leone, from Yengema to Freetown where a British Airways jet would fly the gemstones to London. This American pilot met me, and befriended me and changed my life forever. This was two decades before the horrific rebel war and the Hollywood movie BLOOD DIAMOND.

    I was born in January 1961 in a very poor village of Punduru, in the region once referred to as the heart of the diamond zone in Sierra Leone. My father passed away when I was an infant. I was raised by my mother and two sisters in our bud brick house. I recalled working on the rice the farm and paddies at age seven.

    I was introduced to Christianity when I began attending the United Methodist Church primary school in my village, at age eight. My UMC school was a mud brick building with one-room divided into 5 sections, with instructions for students in grade one through five. There were no more than 20 students with fewer than 5 girls. We shared one teacher, Mr. Edward Dwende. We learned by reciting the alphabet aloud, and we were required to bring 100 short sticks so we could use them for counting to 100.

    Shortly after school opened, my village also got a church, and my people were converted to Christianity. As requirement, all students must attend morning prayers. When it was my turn to ring the church bell for morning prayers, I slept on the floor in my mother’s room the night before so I was never late.

    It was through daily practice at the missionary school that I first learned how to pray. We recited the Lord’s Prayer and John 3:16 daily, once during morning prayers and again during devotion before class starts. Looking back, I considered the words of those prayers as a means of reaching and communicating with God. Church sessions were boring and to stay awake I would silently pray to God to make me obedient and help me remember the vital importance and connection between Christianity and education. This was how I began to establish a relationship with God as my confidante and my source of strength.

    At age 14, I was sent to live with a cruel and physically abusive cousin in a diamond mining camp to help me further my schooling, but I dropped out of school because my mother and sisters could no longer afford to pay my school fees. I began selling oranges for my cruel and physically abusive cousin with all the profits going to him and wife. I was constantly beaten and staved by my cousin Alfred.

    One day in 1976, while I was selling oranges in front of a predominantly white club at the NDMC headquarters at Yengema, God answered my prayers – my life miraculously changed – when I met an American pilot named Thomas Johnson. Tom befriended me, rescued me from my bondage and gave me freedom and opportunity and he eventually paved the way for me to arrive and settle at my dreamed destination – America.

    In America, I was confronted to recognize and deal with the issues of race. But I refuse to believe that all white people are racist, simply because of my own story – how I personally experienced the love, care, and kindness and altruistic and generous nature of a white man — Tom Johnson. But I know I had to endure the ravages of racism, which created ambivalence for me.

    I have learned from my own experiences borne from my worldly travels and adventures during which I interacted with individuals from different cultures, that no one country is immune from the human challenges among its diverse peoples. There are people who are kind, and people who are not so kind, among all races. It was a white man who gave me opportunity so I could realize the American dream. Our friendship transcended race, and built a positive connection between races. We can overcome racism through friendship and positive cross-cultural relationships.

    My book is about the working miracles of God, how God uses His servants as instruments of His peace and the power of individual acts of kindness to profoundly change the lives of other people.

    Thank you Sue Buak – for reviewing my book and posting at your blog.
    Francis Mandewah


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