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Our Beginning

The story of the Rafiki Foundation is inextricably woven with the lives of its founders,
Rosemary Jensen and her husband, Robert.

Rosemary McEachern Jensen

Born on July 20, 1929, Rosemary is the fourth of six children born to Don and Mayhoward McEachern. Raised 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 answer the call. That one step began her journey in overseas 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.

Dr. Robert Travis Jensen

Born on March 19, 1926, Robert was the younger of two boys born to John and Katherine Jensen. He was born in Minot, North Dakota, but spent most of his youth in Indiana and Minnesota. When WWII began, Bob decided to join the Navy when he came of age. He was accepted in 1944 while in medical school. He hoped to serve his country during the war but did not see action at that time. After completing medical school, Bob joined the Army Medical Corps in 1948 and served as a physician in Japan and Korea during the Korean War.

After completing college, Rosemary taught high school English before joining the Army as an occupational therapist. In 1953, 2nd Lieutenant Rosemary McEachern met combat medic surgeon Robert Jensen on a dance floor in Texas. They began courting and married the following year. Dr. Bob also felt the call to missions and in 1957 the couple sailed for Tanzania, Africa with their young daughter.

Beginning his work in Tanzania as a medical missionary, Dr. Bob founded the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro which is still in operation today. Rosemary taught English in an international school and to medical assistants while searching for more ways to help the people of Africa know God.

After nine years in Tanzania, the Jensens, now a family of five, returned to America to gain more knowledge for their ministry. They wanted not only to know the Bible but to learn how to teach it to others. Rosemary began teaching in Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) and, in 1980, she was named executive director of BSF, a position she held for the next twenty years.

In 1985, Rosemary founded the Rafiki Foundation with the help of Dr. Bob and others. It began with two missionary doctors and their wives serving at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre. The mission grew as college professors, art teachers, and other professionals joined the team to serve in their various strengths. Along with teaching in their areas of expertise, each new missionary also learned to teach the Bible effectively. As God called more of his children to overseas service, Rafiki established Villages in ten African countries.


Dr. Bob and Rosemary continued to search for ways to serve both God and his people. Dr. Bob re-entered the military and began advanced training at Johns Hopkins. He used his skills and knowledge to serve in the U.S. and in Africa.

Rosemary’s heart for those in need caused the founding of the Widows Program in 1988. Through this program, she sought to provide dignified work for impoverished widows in Africa as well as theologically sound Bible study material.

In 1992, Rosemary felt the call to help orphans in Africa. When the first lady of Uganda asked her to help the 1.5 million orphans in her country, Rosemary promised to pray about the situation. However, without money, she did not see how she could help. She prayed as promised and God provided the funds to begin building orphanages. Through the gifts of generous donors, Rafiki built an orphanage in each Rafiki Village.


Dr. Bob, now a decorated Colonel, retired from the Army and began serving as Chief of Medicine at San Antonio State Chest Hospital. He gave lectures, searched for solutions to HIV/AIDS, and wrote many papers. He continued to share the gospel wherever he worked, bringing both physical and spiritual healing.

Dr. Bob and Rosemary traveled to Africa many times for the dedication of Villages, to meet with church partners, and to oversee Village operations.


In 2014, Dr. Robert Jensen, a humble, kind, clever, and compassionate man of God went to his eternal home with his Lord. Thousands of people benefited from his knowledge and care during his lifetime, and many continue to benefit today both at Rafiki and at the Medical Centre in Tanzania.

 

Rosemary Jensen lives in an assisted living facility in Eustis, Florida, and continues to serve God in many ways. She remains president of the Rafiki Foundation and continues to share God’s Word with others by leading Bible studies in the facility. She is currently adapting the Rafiki Bible Study lessons for Sunday School while writing a blog.


The vision God gave Robert and Rosemary Jensen has flourished into a beautiful ministry. Today, the Rafiki Foundation partners with 23 churches in Africa. Over 3,000 children attend the Rafiki Schools, and 8 teacher training programs have been established. The Widows Program consists of more than 15 groups of ladies and over 600 national workers help keep the ten Rafiki Villages operational.