- The Washington Times - Monday, July 15, 2002

ATLANTA "Prayer of Jabez" author Bruce Wilkinson's plans to relocate from Atlanta to California have taken a drastic turn: He will go to Africa instead.
Mr. Wilkinson, 55, and his wife, Darlene, will keep their home in Atlanta but plan to move Aug. 30 to South Africa, where they have bought a home. They will minister to the hungry and AIDS orphans and help train African church leaders.
Their son David and his wife, Angie, already are living in South Africa, where David Wilkinson is training pastors. Their daughter Jessica, 15, will move in with her grandparents.
By moving to Africa, Mr. Wilkinson joins a small group of evangelical Protestants, such as Billy Graham's son Franklin, who have been admonishing U.S. Christians to do more against AIDS in Africa.
Mr. Wilkinson announced in February that he was leaving Walk Thru the Bible, the Atlanta-based ministry he founded 25 years ago to teach the Scriptures. At that time, he said he would be settling in California to pursue ministry through television and film.
He did start a film company, Ovation Productions, that has a team of 65 employees in South Africa filming "Beat the Drum," the story of a little boy who loses his parents to AIDS. The company also is producing a $25 million movie on "The Prayer of Jabez."
But when the Wilkinsons were in South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana in May, "we were broadsided by the overwhelming need that is in Africa right now," he said.
Millions of people are dying of hunger, and a report released at the 14th International Conference on AIDS in Barcelona last week estimates that more than 11 million children younger than 15 have lost one or both parents to AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. Scientist project that number will grow to more than 20 million in eight years.
The Wilkinsons seeing those statistics in a more human way decided to live there for the next few years.
Mr. Wilkinson was an established author and minister when he was catapulted to international fame through "The Prayer of Jabez," a small volume based on a one-sentence prayer by an Israelite who appears briefly, in 1 Chronicles 4:10. If the passage is repeated by the reader, many blessings will ensue, Mr. Wilkinson writes.
Although derided by some as simplistic, the book, published by Multnomah Press, sold more than 8.3 million copies last year and was listed by Publishers Weekly as the top nonfiction seller of 2001.
"Wherever I travel, people come up to tell me their experiences," he said. "The refrain I hear is, 'Let me tell you what God did when I prayed the prayer of Jabez.'"
The verse reads, in the New International Version of the Old Testament: "Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory. Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain."
The book of homespun spirituality has generated a compact disc and a sequel, "Secrets of the Vine," which also has made the best-seller lists. He is working on a third called "A Life God Rewards: Why Everything You Do Today Matters Forever."
"It's a very revolutionary book because Jesus had [a] lot to say about how what happens to you after you die is based on how you lived on earth,'" he said.
The Jabez book inspired a parody, "The Mantra of Jabez," by Douglas M. Jones, published by Canon Press of Moscow, Idaho. Mr. Jones objected to what he felt was Mr. Wilkinson's trivializing Christianity by reducing it to one's prayers being answered simply if a believer repeated the prayer in 1 Chronicles 4:10.
"The Prayer of Jabez for Women" by Darlene Wilkinson is now the country's No. 1 Christian best seller. She also is working on a "Secrets of the Vine for Women."
The move to Africa is a result of Jabez on more than one level, Mr. Wilkinson says.
Money from sales of Jabez books and products has been "a wonderful provision to do many things we've asked God to let us do." Last year, for instance, he produced a six-part video series called "God's Answer to HIV-AIDS" that has been shown across southern Africa, dealing with issues such as sexuality, responsibility and forgiveness.
He thinks God's call to the continent is an answer to his own petition. Using the prayer of Jabez, Mr. Wilkinson said, he has prayed for 30 years that God would use him for greater service.
"If you're serious about that, you can't have any restrictions on where God sends you," he said. "Our family is brokenhearted by the circumstances in Africa. We feel this is what God wants us to do."


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