We were delighted to read the latest newsletter from Growing the Church, which oversees the ministry of Rooted in Jesus in South Africa. Training has been provided in the Diocese of Natal for Sunday School teachers who will use Rooted in Jesus Junior to disciple childen, and in the Diocese of Cape Town for lay preachers who will use the adult programme. And there is an encouraging report from those using Rooted in Jesus in Zulu in the Diocese of Pretoria.
On a more sombre note, we would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Ven Hectorina Tsotetse Motsetse, member of the Growing the Church Board and a national Rooted in Jesus trainer in South Africa, who died unexpectedly last month. Hectorina was a a faithful and fruitful minister both in her local Diocese of Free State and more widely, and a tireless advocate for Rooted in Jesus. She was an early adopter of Rooted in Jesus in her own parish of Bernard the Martyr in Eastern Free State, and during the Covid lockdown she pioneered new groups meeting outdoors in villages where people had no internet access and felt very isolated from their church communities. Hectorina was a valued member of the team which introduced Rooted in Jesus to the Diocese of Gambella in Ethiopia, and was looking forward to helping provide further training in Mozambique later this year.
Hectorina leading a workshop at the RinJ conference, Diocese of Gambella
Hectorina will be sorely missed by her family and by the many people with whom she has shared the life-saving message of the gospel. Here, far away, we are hugely grateful for all she has brought to Rooted in Jesus.
‘May light perpetual shine upon her and may she rest in peace and rise in glory with Jesus’ – Bishop Tsietsi Eleonane and Revd Bruce Woolley.
Posted 28th April 2022
Rooted in Jesus is published and supported by the Mathetes Trust. In South Africa it is directed by Revd Bruce Woolley and supported by Growing the Church, which is based in Cape Town.
At the beginning of March the Diocese of Kitale held its second Rooted in Jesus training conference, building on ministry which has taken place in the diocese since the introductory conference held two years ago. The conference was hosted by Bishop Emmanuel Chemengich and Rooted in Jesus coordinator Revd Tarus Kirionon, and led by an international team of five Rooted in Jesus trainers from the US, UK and Kenya.
Team leader Revd Richard Morgan reports:
“195 clergy and lay leaders from the diocese gathered for a three-day conference. Some had already been running Rooted In Jesus discipleship groups since we introduced the course two years ago, but most were new leaders.
“Each day we gathered for worship and main session teaching on the principles of the course, and we then broke into small groups to give leaders a chance to practise leading sessions and receive some feedback. In the afternoon we ran workshops on various skills of small group leadership, and the day ended with an encouragement and a time of ministry.
“There was good feedback from existing groups. Two high school boys and six high school girls had come to faith in two of the groups. Many groups found that people began to engage in ministry in their parish and one parish saw discipleship healing relationships across divisions in the community.
“Our prayer is for God to use this course to move people from being passive believers to active disciples of Jesus Christ in every parish of the Diocese of Kitale.”
There were some particularly encouraging moments –
Team member Peter Needle writes: “I prayed for a person who wanted to be filled with the spirit but wanted healing as well. We prayed for her to be filled first and then I asked what healing she needed and she replied ‘I don’t need it anymore.’ God had sorted it out while I prayed for her to be filled!”
Team member Edward Akhwale observes: “The organization on the ground was very good. The participants were able to actively participate, enjoy and learn. May our Father God bless this ministry.”
Team member Geoff Maughan reflects: “I loved leading workshops outside under the shade of the trees in the Cathedral compound! Surrounded by about 60 people all in small groups trying out different ways of praying together felt quite wonderful.”
The conference was followed by a one day training session for local facilitators, so that each of the seven archdeaconries would be self sufficient and able to meet ongoing training needs. The focus was on encouraging and supporting existing groups, developing good practice in identifying and recruiting new leaders, and identifying ways of running local training sessions in archdeaconries.
The week concluded on Sunday with a magnificent diocesan Thanksgiving Service in the cathedral, attended by over two thousand people. Richard was honoured to be invited to preach, and to pray with local politicians as they prepare for the forthcoming elections.
Conference video report
Richard has put together a short video with key moments from the conference – introduced by a group who composed a brand new song to the words of one of the memory verses:
Bishop Emmanuel concludes:
“We praise the Lord Jesus for the successful RinJ leaders conference. Pray with us that Christ’s grace will abide with the newly trained leaders so they move with urgency and passion to establish RinJ groups across the Diocese, and for the existing leaders to be re-energized and keep pressing on with this vital discipleship program for growing our members to be more and more like Jesus.”
Can you help us?
Rooted in Jesus is published and supported by the Mathetes Trust, a small charity reliant on the support of individuals and churches. This year we have many invitations to help dioceses as they re-establish and develop their ministry following the pandemic. If you would like to help we would be very grateful. To make a financial contribution towards the cost of food and leaders’ materials for each conference just click on the orange donation voucher – or get in touch with us via our website. Thank you!
We have just published the Rooted in Jesus Annual Report for 2021. It was another challenging year, with the Covid19 pandemic not only causing illness and death but also preventing fellowship, travel, and in many places the generation of income. Churches across Africa have been particularly hard hit, with news coming in of famine, armed raids, enforced exile and war, as well as increased poverty and lack of resources related to the pandemic itself.
And yet thanks to the courage and persistence of our partners there was much to be thankful for too. Rooted in Jesus conferences went ahead in DR Congo, Tanzania, Madagascar, South Sudan and Uganda, and the first Zoom conferences were held in South Africa. In many places we learned that the Rooted in Jesus groups had been able to meet even when churches were closed, some in person, some online. People came to faith in Madagascar, Mozambique and Uganda and joined new groups set up to disciple them, and another new parish was inaugurated for families recruited through Rooted in Jesus Junior in Madagascar. Here in the UK a final book was added to the adult programme, and translations of the existing booklets commissioned and completed in twelve languages.
From then to now – Rooted in Jesus crosses a new threshold
2021 was a significant milestone for us : Rooted in Jesus completed its twentieth year of ministry! During that time it has been introduced to 100 Anglican dioceses or denominational networks, trained 17,558 leaders in 142 conferences in 18 African countries, and provided materials in 48 languages. Often it’s been the first discipleship programme people have ever had, and almost always the first in their own language.
There have of course been many ups and downs on the way. Not all those leaders have been successful, and the ravages of war, cyclones, famines and poverty continue to make life very difficult in some of the areas where we minister. But we continue to sow seeds wherever we are asked to go, and we have seen wonderful things happen too – thousands coming to Christ, embarking on ministry, impacting their communities, planting new churches and even dioceses. It’s been a humbling journey, and one which we look forward to continuing in the years to come.
Rooted in Jesus is published and supported by The Mathetes Trust. The full report can be downloaded from the Rooted in Jesus website here.
The Diocese of Aru is located in the far north-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, not far from the borders with Uganda and South Sudan. Rooted in Jesus was first introduced there ten years ago. At that time the Diocesan Christian Education Coordinator explained that whilst personal faith may be strong among the clergy, few people had a real understanding of their faith, and most had no access to materials in their own language. “Our vision,” he wrote, “is to see gospel saturation so that every man, woman and child has a daily encounter with Jesus through word or deed.”
Since then, the area has been through a time of great political and social instability, and then of course came the disruption of Covid. But just over a year ago CMS mission partner Peter Wyard got in touch with us. Peter is now overseeing Christian Education in the diocese, and he wanted to launch an ambitious programme of further training for Rooted in Jesus.
Peter assembled a local training team of 5 people, and together they planned an series of archdeaconry training conferences and followup visits. Translations into Lugbara, Kakwa and Alur are under way, and the new groups are making good progress. Peter writes:
“One of my main roles here in Aru Diocese is Coordinator of Christian Education. That covers the whole spectrum of lay Christian education and discipleship. We have decided to concentrate on discipleship, and we are using Rooted in Jesus as the basis of our programme. The plan is to roll out the course by means of a series of five archdeaconry training courses in each part of this large diocese, with the aim of establishing an RinJ group first in every parish, and eventually in every chapel.
“We are following the principle that it is best to run the conferences, and the RinJ groups themselves, in people’s mother tongue wherever possible. This a big challenge in our diocese where we have several different mother tongues and no effective common language. Our ultimate goal is to produce all 4 books in Lugbarati, Kakwa, Alur and Lingala. This is a slow and painstaking process, but the reward would be great, as the Diocese would then have a really solid base of material for Christian education in the mother tongue of most of our people.
“The conferences have been a spiritual high for the team and for the participants, but the really hard work has been in the follow up, which we are doing as diligently as possible.
“In Congo there are many things that hinder the regular meeting of RinJ groups: illness, death and funerals, rain and awful roads … But the biggest challenge is the low level of many pastors in terms of education and general capacity. So the pastoral follow-up of RinJ groups has been very hard, but also fascinating and rewarding. In Aru archdeaconry the 9 original groups have now become 17, and in Opinyani and Ekanga archdeaconries 8 of the 10 groups are going well.
“At the end of Book 1, we asked each group to share their testimonies. These have been extremely encouraging, giving evidence of a real difference being made in the lives of individuals, church and community. Here are a few:
“Before RinJ we were in ignorance about Jesus Christ, what he asked his disciples to do, and how to know the will of God. This teaching is very important, and if we all put it into practice, our church will truly grow and change.” Maman Claudine
“Thank you for this teaching. It has built a good relation between me and the other Christians (in my parish). We have seen a change in the practical life of our Christians.” Pastor Dudu
“After many temptations, I had really gone backwards in my Christian life. With this teaching, and the memory verses, I have been comforted. I begin to find peace again in my life, which I will really teach and spread in my family.” Jean
“This teaching has helped me a lot. It has taken away my shame. Now I have become a member of the church choir. I will continue to follow this teaching and will also be baptised on Christmas Day. Matt. 7.7 gives me hope: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Régine
Peter and his team ask us to continue praying for them as they work to support the group leaders; for those working on translations; and for the oversight of the programme when his time in Aru comes to an end.
Pastoral commitments are written up in Kakwa; the kitchen team; preparing to lead a practice group session
Rooted in Jesus is published and supported by The Mathetes Trust. Posted 25th January 2021
At last! In October all African countries came off the UK government Covid ‘red list’, enabling us to honour a longstanding invitation from Bishop Abraham Nhial to introduce Rooted in Jesus to the Diocese of Aweil in South Sudan, and to combine this with the first conference in the new neighbouring Diocese of Wanyjok. With little notice (but considerable difficulty!) our team were able to source flights and make the necessary arrangements for Covid19 testing and certification, and the conferences were held in the first two weeks of November.
Team leader Mike Cotterell writes:
“We ran two Rooted in Jesus conferences in Aweil and Wanyjok in Northern Bahr el Ghazal Province. 100 and 150 people were expected, and we had only slightly fewer. Those who came were clearly glad to have been invited. Our vision of learning discipleship in small groups was shared and seemed easily accepted. Practice small groups went well, and all the teaching was well received.”
There were, he reflects, many highlights both in the conferences themselves and in the moments in between:
“Testimonies of healing and spiritual renewal. Team members John and Barry teaching about the Holy Spirit, followed by extended times of utter silence as we bathed in the Spirit’s presence. Many unplanned conversations outside of the conference: talking to a large group of young men after their evening football training, praying in the street with a group of unemployed young men; talking to 80 children in Sunday school; Cathie speaking with the Mothers Union and seeing their faces light up; teaching an impromptu lesson in school on the Trinity.”
The Diocese of Aweil
In Aweil 76 people were commissioned to lead groups on their return home, of whom 41 were men and 35 women. More than half testified that they had felt the power of God during the conference; 15 said that they had received physical healing, and nearly all that the Holy Spirit had touched their hearts or minds. 10 made a first time commitment to Christ, and 3 said they would now be reconciled with someone from whom they were estranged.
Bishop Abraham Nhial wrote afterwards that “The Rooted in Jesus conference in the Diocese of Aweil has educated our pastors and evangelists, who will contribute to the furtherance of the Kingdom of God in Aweil and beyond.” The diocese had arranged for the books to be translated into Dinka Rek (no small undertaking given that this is primarily a spoken language with a non-standard alphabet), and a young pastor named John Akok Akok was appointed as the diocesan coordinator.
The Diocese of Wanyjok
Wanyjok is a huge diocese whose territory stretches right up to the border with Sudan and Darfur, and most parishes are in remote rural areas; founded only four years ago, it has little infrastructure but a growing ministry and a clear strategic plan to raise up faithful Christian leaders. The Rooted in Jesus conference aimed to serve this vision, and 138 people were trained and commissioned to lead groups, of whom 83 were men and 55 women. Mike Cotterell reflects:
“The temperature was in the high thirties, but the enormous tree branches gave welcome shade. Here the Church first began. A remote area outside a small town; now the Cathedral was too small for Sundays, with its tin roof too hot for people to sit all day. Canon Tito the Church founder was with us. People told us “we are the first generation of Christians in this region”. It was an exciting time and place. Amongst us were young men from the grass and mud huts of the Bible college, Pastors, Evangelists and Mothers Union members, with younger women sitting behind, all eager to know more. Some people had walked two days to get there.”
At the end of the conference an astonishing 88 people said they had experienced physical healing, 80 said their ministry had been strengthened, and 60 testified to feeling spiritually renewed. 40 testified to reconciliation, with others saying their hearts had been healed, they had learned new things about the Holy Spirit or about prayer, and that they had committed themselves to Jesus in a new way. Afterwards Bishop Joseph Mamer wrote: “It was really a blessing to have you in our diocese, I’m receiving encouraging reports from individuals who had attended the conference. Many participants confess that their lives have been changed. It is my prayer that it will have a significant impact not only in individuals’ lives, but that their communities and local parishes will be transformed and grow in maturity in faith and understanding of the Word of God.”
Luke Lual Ngong was appointed as diocesan coordinator, and wrote a couple of weeks later to say that 11 groups had already started in one archdeaconry.
Within days of the team’s return to the UK a new Covid variant was detected in South Africa, and once again many countries are imposing travel restrictions. At times it had seemed that this trip would not be able to go ahead; but afterwards the team were left feeling, as Mike put it, that it had been “a special time of usefulness, which will hopefully give birth to much spiritual growth in the years ahead, as people share the fire of God’s love, sharing their passion for Him, His salvation, His Word and see The Spirit powerfully at work – in places we will never know or hear of – but they will know, and so will God. ”
In the meantime plans for conferences in 2022 are already in place and work on translations continues, as does our ministry of prayer and support for those already using Rooted in Jesus. We hope and pray that the new variant will prove mild – and we will continue to jump through the gaps where we can!
As the international climate change conference gets under way in Glasgow, our hearts and minds are with the peaceful people of Madagascar, who continue to suffer the devastating effects of what has been described as the world’s first climate-change famine.
Some of us have been able to contribute to a food aid programme run by the Diocese of Toliara which has seen a hugely positive response; but this is a problem which is not going to go away any time soon. Bishop Gilbert of the neighbouring Diocese of Fianarantsoa has been speaking out about the indescribable suffering of the people. “The situation has worsened since March 2021, especially for our women and children. We need short, medium, and long-term interventions,” he says; “and we will need to begin shifting from rain-fed agriculture.”
Finding a way forward
As we continue to pray for rain, Bishop Gilbert remains confident that the Church has an important role to play, even though it does not have the financial resources to feed the million people who are struggling with the effects of prolonged drought:
“As a diocese, we are offering pastoral care and encouragement. We have an opportunity to provide a Christian response, including a message of hope. We are the people of God. We must continue to teach and train in accordance with the Holy Scripture in these trying times. We are running programs for Sunday school and discipleship so that our people can become responsible in this situation, especially when it comes to civic-mindedness. We believe God is marching with us, because we have been baptized in the Holy Spirit. Many of the people in my diocese are children, so we are also laying a firm foundation for our shared future. We are learning to fortify the faith of our people and staying with them through prayer, fellowship, guidance, and counselling.”
Bishop Gilbert Rakotondravelo Rateloson
Blessed are those who trust in the Lord
To this end, in October, Bishop Gilbert invited us to help support a follow-up conference for the Sunday School teachers using the Rooted in Jesus Junior discipleship programme. With books now printed on the island, and a local team of facilitators providing training and support, Bishop Gilbert is confident that practical discipleship will enable people to come together in small groups to pray, to support one another, and to face the challenges of life together. He reports:
“Thanks be to God because our training with all teachers of our diocese finished last Sunday with a great celebration at St John’s parish Mananjary. The theme of our meeting was taken from the Holy Scripture of 2 Tim 4.2, ‘to preach the message, to insist upon proclaiming it whether the time is right or not, to convince, reproach, and encourage, as you teach with all patience’. During this training, Rev Canon Zaralahy Paulin, priest of Mananjary, taught the contents of the Bible, and Rev Canon Jean Flobert explained the methods and psychology of children with the importance of using tools from RinJ. I taught them again the nature of Anglicanism and the conduct of Sunday school teachers with their responsibilities because God calls them to be teachers. We have given all participants a book, and a certificate to mark the end of their training. All participants are ready to practice the training and wish for continuous cooperation with Rooted in Jesus.”
Bishop Gilbert Rakotondravelo Rateloson
It is desperately difficult to accept that our shared resources are inadequate to prevent the suffering currently being experienced in Madagascar, and to confront the probability that things will only get worse, not just in Madagascar but in many other places too. As we continue to serve some of the poorest people in the world, we can only pray for united and concerted international action, reminding ourselves that whilst everything around us may be uncertain, the reality of our faith is not. At the front of every Rooted in Jesus booklet are printed these words from the prophet Jeremiah:
Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is in the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit. Jeremiah 17.7-8.
Rooted in Jesus was originally commissioned, written and piloted for use in Tanzania, nearly twenty years ago now. Today it is overseen throughout the country by Bishop Stanley Hotay of the Diocese of Mount Kilimanjaro, working with a growing team of diocesan coordinators and national facilitators.
Although some areas of the country are experiencing difficulty due to the number of Covid cases, in others life is continuing much as usual. There are restrictions on international travel into and out of the country, but no restrictions within it. Bishop Stanley has therefore been able to accept two new invitations to run Rooted in Jesus training conferences: one in the Diocese of Biharamulo, and one in the Diocese of Victoria Nyanza.
The Diocese of Biharamulo
Biharumulo is the youngest of Tanzania’s 28 dioceses. Founded just four years ago, it now has 27 parishes, 93 local churches, 30 pastors and 105 lay evangelists. Bishop Vithalis Yusuph explained that many of the evangelists have received little or no training, and the pastors have not so far had access to tools to help them lead others into discipleship; and so over the last 18 months they have been making careful preparations for the introduction of Rooted in Jesus across the diocese. He writes: “My passion is to see our people and churches growing in faith. It’s my hope that the Rooted in Jesus program will make the difference in our diocese.”
Bihamarulo then and now: from 2017 to 2021
The team was led by Canon Abel Obura of the Diocese of Mara, working with colleagues from the Dioceses of Mara, Mount Kilimanjaro and Victoria Nyanza, and using the new Tanzanian edition of the Team Manual which he has recently translated into Swahili.
Abel reports that the reception was very good, with high expectations of what the team had brought. 184 people were present at the conference, including Bishop Vithalis, the diocesan staff, all the pastors and all of the 105 evangelists. Every evangelists was commissioned to lead groups, and will be supported by their pastors and by Canon Zachariah Kaigarula who has been appointed as the Diocesan Coordinator.
The Diocese of Victoria Nyanza
The second conference took place just two weeks later, in the Diocese of Victoria Nyanza (DVN). This was not their first conference; teams with members from both the UK and Tanzania had worked here in both 2014 and 2015. But things can go wrong, and in recent years the diocese has been through a very difficult period. Coordinator Leonard Giligwa has remained faithful to his calling, and has taken part in conferences elsewhere; and now a newly elected bishop, Zephaniah Ntunza, is leading the diocese into new life.
The team was led by Revd Clement Manyatta, who is using Rooted in Jesus to support discipleship among the Masai people in his home diocese of Mount Kilimanjaro; he was accompanied by Bishop Hotay and Revd Charles Unjiro from Mount Kilimanjaro and Canon Abel Obura from Mara.
Clement reports :
“The conference was attended by 56 participants; all were pastors from the 56 parishes in the diocese. The RinJ conference was the first time for Bishop Zephaniah to meet with his pastors since he was elected in May of this year. It was his initiative to reintroduce RinJ to his diocese; he believes this is the only tool DVN needs for evangelism for now. It is good for them to start a new life with a new Bishop after such a long time without a diocesan bishop.”
Our faith encourages us to remember that in the Lord there is always room for a fresh start. It was not their first time, Clement observed, but for most it was like they were hearing for first time. Bishop Stanley Hotay offered this encouragement: “When you plant a field and it does not produce crops, you do not leave the field; you go back to plant again. In DVN we planted before but we are back to planting again. It is our hope this time we will get crops in a short time.”
The conference was held at the Bible College in Mwanza
Taking the long view
Rooted in Jesus has now been introduced to 22 of Tanzania’s 28 dioceses. It has been a huge privilege to watch the growth in discipleship and ministry over the last twenty years; we have cried together and rejoiced together, and we continue to support one another both in prayer and in practical ways. We are immensely thankful for the many blessings that have flowed between us, and we pray for many more in the years to come.
In the meantime we continue to live and work under what are often challenging circumstances. Leonard Giligwa offers us this encouragement:
Rooted in Jesus is published and supported by the Mathetes Trust. Posted 28th September 2021.
In August we were delighted to be able to run the first Rooted in Jesus introductory conference since the Covid19 pandemic began. A team from Tanzania and Burundi travelled to DR Congo to help build the spiritual foundations for the new missionary diocese of Lake Tanganyika which will be formed from within the existing Diocese of Bukavu.
The conference took place at the initiative of Bishop Elisha Tendwa, a missionary bishop who has already used Rooted in Jesus to help plant the Diocese of Kalemie in eastern DRC. The conference was held in Uvira, where it was opened by the Archbishop of DR Congo, Zacharia Masimango Katanga. It was attended by 110 participants – pastors, Mothers Union leaders, Youth leaders, representatives from neighbouring denominations, and the Diocesan Secretary and other central staff members from the parent Diocese of Bukavu.
Bishop Elisha Tendwa writes:
“We thank God that the first address to the conference came from the Archbishop of Congo, The Most Revd Zachariah Masimango Katanda with his wife Naomi. They opened the conference and he said: ‘In our provincial Synod held at the end of July this year we reflected that the Church of Congo was planted about 125 years ago, but that it has not grown; it is stuck like a child who has mulnutrition, because our Christians don’t have roots in Jesus.’ He said we must make sure this Rooted in Jesus course spreads to all dioceses because it provides foundational teaching to the church.”
The team was led by Canon Jacob Robert of the Diocese of Lake Rukwa, Tanzania, with Revd Clement Manyatta of the Diocese of Mt Kilimanjaro, and Revd Elisha Nkeza from the Diocese of Muyinga, Burundi, along with Bishop Tendwa himself.
Team leader Jacob Robert reports:
“The conference took place at Uvira town in the eastern part of the country. Uvira is in the mission area according to Bukavu Diocesan synod plan for next two years. Uvira mission area is covered by four Archdeaconries: Uvira, Fizi, Lake Tanganyika and Itombwe. Each Archdeaconry has five to seven Parishes. In the last Synod they agreed to use RinJ as a tool for reaching out with the Gospel in the area of Uvira so that after a few years they may be able to start a new Diocese which will be called Lake Tanganyika Diocese.
“Facilitators were very keen with the programme timetable and Rev. Elisha, Bishop Tendwa, Rev. Clement and Jacob played carefully their roles of introducing RinJ to participants. I would like to give thanks to the Lord who protected us from the COVID 19. We were afraid that it could attack some of our participants and facilitators, but through God’s grace we completed all we have planned safely.”
A prayerful response
The conference went well. Bishop Tendwa writes, “It was a wonderful conference because some pastors repented and surrendered their life to Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit shows their lives how they are living, so they cried and received to be born again in their lives. They agreed and announced that from now the conference has changed their direction to be disciples of Jesus Christ by having their roots in Jesus. One Pastor said ‘this teaching from Rooted in Jesus is a light to the Church of Congo, it comes to open our eyes that are blind’. We thank God.”
Jacob reports that Marie, Mother’s Union representative, declared that “We are going to form groups in the Mothers Union when we return home, so that we find many new leaders as soon as the Lord will enable us. From this we are going to fulfill the great commission as Jesus commanded.”
The reality of life in DR Congo
It is not easy to minister in DR Congo, one of the most troubled countries of Africa. Team member Elisha Nkeza comments:
“A problem came before we even arrived in the country: when I saw different soldiers from different countries I recognized that this is not a peaceful country. But I was warmly welcomed by the local people, and was encouraged. DRC has a problem of differences more than other countries I knew. I was so pleased and proud to meet different people who speak more than 400 languages. But they are open to sharing their problems, pointing to the endless wars. I chatted and prayed with them; they are tired with wars. With their differences they testified forgiveness and reconciliation. We cried much on this when time came in giving testimony in groups. How wonderful it was!”
Afterwards, the Diocesan General Secretary concluded “The seminar is ended. It has left us with a new saving spirit and reminded us that we must walk in the footstep of Jesus if our desire is be true Christians.”
Bishop Tendwa and the team are keen to express their thanks, both to the participants for their open-hearted response to the conference and to those who supported the conference each day in prayer. “I am looking for the fire of God in Uvira; I will be going there for the very first time so I will need your prayers,” Clement Manyatta had written beforehand. “All this became possible since we know people were praying for us,” he concluded afterwards.
Each participant was given a copy of the Leader’s Introduction and Book 1 in Congolese Swahili or French
Rooted in Jesus is published and supported by the Mathetes Trust. To find out more visit the Rooted in Jesus website.
“I long to see you,” Paul wrote to Timothy from his prison cell in Rome. “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus,” he continued, “and what you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well.”
Paul’s advice rings down the ages, and perhaps has never seemed more urgent than now. We continue to live in a world of closed borders and travel restrictions: some of us are afraid, some discouraged, some frustrated. But our calling has not changed – we are to overcome our discouragement, and keep passing on what we have learned to others.
And that’s what we have been trying to do with Rooted in Jesus – sometimes in old ways, sometimes in new ways. As we prepare to send our first post-pandemic training team to DR Congo later this month, here are some of the recent developments:
A New Training Manual
Twelve years ago we produced the first Rooted in Jesus training manual. The aim was to enable teams of Rooted in Jesus facilitators to provide enjoyable and effective training sessions for new group leaders. The manual has been revised and updated over the years, but until now was available only in English. We are delighted to announce that it is now also available in Swahili, translated by Canon Abel Obura of the Diocese of Mara, Tanzania, and formatted here in our UK office ready to be printed in Arusha. It takes its place alongside the Rooted in Jesus Junior Team Manual which was translated last year.
New Training Methods
As we wait patiently for travel restrictions to ease, some of us have also been experimenting with virtual training, adapting the sessions in the Manual for use over Whatsapp or Zoom. This is being pioneered primarily in South Africa, where the Diocese of Natal has just hosted an Online Rooted in Jesus Small Group Leader Training Course. About 33 people from dioceses across the Province of Southern Africa signed up for the four weekly sessions.
The conference leaders decided to open the first session by inviting some of those who had completed the Rooted in Jesus course during the pandemic to share their testimonies. It made for an electric start, with both group members and the group leader speaking movingly about their experiences.
The group leader explained that they had started their group before the pandemic, but didn’t want to stop when Covid came. So they moved to Whatsapp and met online. Many group members thought it worked better, she said, because everybody had a voice. People were not so shy doing it this way, she explained; God was right in the centre guiding them; “the growth was amazing.”
Group members were only too willing to confirm this:
“I signed up one Sunday. I attended and I loved it. I preferred the social interaction more at church but I enjoyed adapting to the whatsapp. I have got so much closer to God through Rooted in Jesus, and I have found a family. It has transformed my life because I now think of things from a different perspective, I often use my teachings from RinJ to direct my life.”
“Three years ago I was really sick, and I felt the presence of God. I asked someone if there was a Bible study group I could join, and I joined the Bible study group and then Rooted in Jesus. I was carrying baggage from my childhood, and RinJ has taught me from the Bible how to forgive, how to move on, to be a different person. I didn’t mind if it was church or if it was in whatsapp, but perhaps I learnt more in whatsapp because you can go back and read what people said.”
At the same time, we have taken advantage of the quieter period of the pandemic to work on new translations of both the Rooted in Jesus adult and Junior books. Our aim has been to complete translations for languages in which the course had previously been only partly available, to update some of the older translations to bring them into line with the current edition, and to produce new translations into others. We will provide an update later in the year – but in the meantime we are delighted to say that Rooted in Jesus is now available in whole or in part in 47 languages! We have also been working hard to develop local print partnerships to make it easier for those who need additional books to order them: Rooted in Jesus can now be printed in Tanzania, South Africa, Kenya, Madagascar and Uganda.
It’s been a challenging but productive time, and we are not out of the woods yet – but we continue to minister together in hope and in trust.
Jesus said to them, ‘The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you.
Rooted in Jesus is published and supported by The Mathetes Trust, working with our partners across Africa. To find out more visit the Rooted in Jesus website.
“What do we do when we finish the course?” is a question people have often asked us. Our primary answer has always been to say that Rooted in Jesus is about discipleship, and that the calling of disciples is to make more disciples: to go and make disciples (Matthew 28.19-20) who will teach others also (2 Timothy 2.2). The aim is that those who have completed the programme will not only have developed a clear understanding of the ministry to which God is calling them, but also gained the confidence to exercise it: for We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2.10).
Over the years, we have found that many group members have responded to this challenge. Some have become group leaders themselves. Some have become Sunday School teachers, training to use Rooted in Jesus Junior with their classes. Some have developed a ministry of evangelism, intercession, prayer for healing, hospitality. Some have embraced new ways of serving others in the church or in the community. All have been able to bring their faith into the centre of their daily lives in a new and powerful way. And through them all, many others have been introduced to a life-saving relationship with Jesus.
“But,” leaders have insisted, “how will we be resourced and supported as we go our separate ways to live out our calling? How will we maintain the strength that we have found in and through one another? How will we ourselves continue to grow, if we are no longer meeting together?”
Our response has been to create a new book called Tools for the Job. This will be the fifth and final book of the Rooted in Jesus programme. It is not a continuation of the syllabus of Rooted in Jesus, but a transitional book designed to enable a group to continue to meet together in a way which will become self-sustaining. It is based on the following principles:
The group is for people who have completed all four books of Rooted in Jesus Jesus will be at the centre of the group The group will be a community of care Each member is committed to growing in their faith Each member is actively engaged in ministry to others
A New Pattern of Meeting
Tools for the Job provides a detailed plan for a fortnightly meeting in which those who have completed Rooted in Jesus and are now active in ministry can come together in order to encourage one another and continue to grow in faith. Each meeting has the following elements:
1. Welcome and worship 2. Word – Reading the Bible together 3. Fellowship – Supporting one another 4. Spirit – Praying together 5. Exercise – Spiritual disciplines for practice at home
How are the meetings structured?
Tools for the Job provides a template for the structure of each meeting. Detailed notes are provided to guide the group leader through the first three sessions, and a fourth session is provided in outline form. This group leader should then be able to prepare future sessions using the template.
1. Welcome and worship
Group members greet one another and share their news. They pray together, then the group leader identifies one of the Rooted in Jesus memory verses for revision, discussion and evaluation. What difference has it made to the lives of the group? Who have they shared it with? This initial discussion leads into a time of worship.
2. Word – Reading the Bible together
In Rooted in Jesus Books 1-4, Bible passages are considered thematically, following the subject of the week. In Book 5, the group works through a single book of the Bible, focussing each week on 10 to 20 verses. Group members are encouraged to observe, reflect, and respond to the passage, sharing their thoughts and considering the implications for their daily lives. The Gospel of Mark, the Letter to the Ephesians and the Book of Psalms are recommended as good places to start, and a full list of verses and topics is provided.
3. Fellowship – Supporting one another
We know that we cannot be disciples alone; we can only be disciples together. So each meeting sets aside time for group members to share what is happening in their family life and work life; what is happening in their ministry; what is happening in their community – and then to pray together for these things.
4. Spirit – Praying for one another
Through Rooted in Jesus the group will already have explored different ways of praying together. In this part of the meeting, the group pray together for their immediate personal needs, for their ministry and for their community, using whatever pattern of prayer seems best (silent or aloud, individual or corporate; praying for forgiveness, for healing, for guidance, for specific needs and so on). Finally there is time to share ways in which people have experienced answers to their prayers.
5. At Home – Practising spiritual disciplines
One of the best ways to ensure that we continue to grow as disciples of Jesus is to practise spiritual disciplines. We have not used the term ‘spiritual disciplines’ up to now, but through Rooted in Jesus group members have been introduced to the disciplines of meditation, prayer, study, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship, guidance and celebration. The other classic disciplines are fasting and simplicity. Group members are encouraged to look at one of these disciplines each time they meet, and to practise it individually at home. A full set of notes is provided, covering all of the spiritual disciplines and suggesting ways of engaging with them.
What do people say? Encouragement to try Tools for the Job
The Diocese of St Mark the Evangelist in South Africa and the Diocese of Kitale in Kenya are among those to have adopted Rooted in Jesus at the heart of their strategy for discipleship. Bishop Emmanuel Chemengich and former Bishop Martin Breytenbach comment:
“This is a great resource booklet that will ensure the RinJ facilitators are equipped to develop their own resources to their groups but also provides the needed accountability among group members as they share how they are engaging in various ministries and supporting each other, which is our true life-long Christian calling” – Bishop Emmanuel Chemengich, Diocese of Kitale, Kenya
“Rooted in Jesus equips people to grow from beginner disciples in Jesus to leaders of disciple-making groups. Book 5 will help them to continue to grow with their groups, and to use the Bible to address the many challenges of life. The Small Group patterns, principles and processes in this book will equip them to persevere as disciples of Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit, for many years to come” – Bishop Martin Breytenbach, formerly of the Diocese of St Mark the Evangelist, South Africa
Rooted in Jesus Book 5 is already available in English to dioceses where Rooted in Jesus is already in use. It is currently being translated into Swahili, and we hope to make it available in other languages too. Please contact us if you would like to know more.
For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. Colossians 1.9-10 & 2.7
We have been hugely encouraged this month to receive reports of an increase in faith and discipleship within community of those using Rooted in Jesus.
The Diocese of Mount Kilimanjaro (DMK) is the home of Rooted in Jesus: conceived in partnership with Stanley Hotay, then the Mission Director and now the bishop, Rooted in Jesus was first piloted in both the north of the diocese and in the southern region of Kiteto – where, under the leadership of missionary bishop John Hayden, it was instrumental in the formation of a new diocese.
Stanley is now the bishop of DMK, and over the last decade he has pursued a strategic programme of evangelism and church planting, with 420 new churches planted so far. Bishop Stanley has just released a report which is available on youtube. He says:
“How are lives being impacted through the gospel proclamations? In our diocese, this is a reality, not a story. We have been busy planting new churches – over 400 new churches since 2012. Most of these churches are under trees, they are worshipping the Lord; people’s lives have been changed and transformed in many ways – they are no longer the same. There are places where they did not even know who Jesus is. In some places they even asked our Mission Director Clement if he is Jesus! The Lord has blessed us.
We have also started schools in some of those areas, because people do not know how to read and write. We have planted new schools, for example in Moshi. This is mostly a Muslim community, but we have a church there now, almost 100 people, and we have built a school, and drilled a water well. We have built a school in Sonjo, where 250 were baptised in one day. In Ereko in Ngorongoro, 668 were baptised in one day. In Engaruka, 167 were baptised in one day. These are big numbers!
We have started saving groups, where people come together weekly and save the little they have. There are over a thousand people in these groups. They are learning an economic way of living their lives. The money saved in these groups is over 150 million shillings [65,000 USD]. That money belongs to them. Some have bought goats, cows; some have started little projects. But it’s not just money – they are building strong relationships through coming together. They are praying weekly, and learning the word of God. This has transformed their lives.”
Discipling the new believers
The obvious question arises: how to disciple so many new Christians, many of them in such remote areas? Earlier this year, Mission Director and Rooted in Jesus coordinator Clement Manyatta wrote:
“We have just come back from the DMK pastors’ retreat. l got the chance to talk about Rooted in Jesus ministry in DMK, l wanted to know if it is really helping or not. It was really amazing since all pastors said it is helping a lot in their churches. But also we have many new pastors in DMK, so some don’t know much about Rooted in Jesus. So l talked to them about it; they liked it, so we will have Rooted in Jesus seminars in each deanery this year.”
Many of the new churches have been planted amongst the Maasai people of the diocese. Working with Clement we have been able to produce and print a new updated edition of Rooted in Jesus Book 1 in Maasai, and Clement has just written again to say that Rooted in Jesus training has now been given to a group of Masai pastors who will form 50 new groups in the churches of Minjingu, Engaruka, Ngorongoro, Namanga and Mkono.
Bishop Stanley asks: “Please pray for our people, and particularly the new believers.”
Rooted in Jesus in the Anglican Province of Tanzania
Bishop Stanley serves not only as bishop of his own diocese but also as the National Director of Rooted in Jesus for the Anglican Province of Tanzania. Rooted in Jesus has now been introduced to 20 of the 28 dioceses within the Province, and in the next few months a first conference is planned for the Diocese of Bihamarulo, along with follow-up training in a number of other dioceses. Team members will also help to train leaders in Uvira, a missionary area within the Diocese of Bukavu in DR Congo, where Bishop Elisha Tendwa has accepted an invitation to plant a second new diocese. “The plural of disciple is CHURCH,” Bishop Elisha reminds us, “so our members of RinJ must go to Galilee because Jesus is risen and He has already gone before them.”
Please pray for us as we support these missionary journeys. It is a privilege to work, as Jesus worked, with some of the poorest (in material terms) people in the world. As we seek to bring blessing to others, so the Lord brings blessing to us.
In Tanzania and Dr Congo, Rooted in Jesus is used in Maasai, Swahili and French
The Diocese of Kadugli is located in the troubled South Kordofan region of Sudan, parts of which are still dominated by tribal and political conflict, widespread oppression and random killings. Many people have been forced to flee their homes, and entire areas are still under the control of armed rebel units; as if this were not hard enough, the last year has brought the added fear of Covid infection. Diocesan Secretary and Rooted in Jesus coordinator Babuj Simon described all this in his end of year report as an ‘inconvenient situation.’
And yet in the midst of all this, pastors and lay leaders have continued to disciple people using the Arabic Rooted in Jesus booklets given to them in October 2019. Last year they held a listening day for group leaders and another of prayer and fasting, and reduced the size of the groups to make meeting easier. Some groups were able to complete the first book and move on to the second; a group of children achieved a 100% success rate in learning the memory verses, as their elderly leader struggled valiantly to teach them. “It was very hard for me to keep the verses, then recite them to the kids as I’m an old woman, but what I kept I passed to them and the children were very clever, and I succeeded to deal with them,” Zahara Kachou said, with justifiable pride.
Renewing faith in El-Dalang
Babuj has just sent us another report, following a visit to the parish of El-Dalang, where he found that some even more remarkable progress has been made. Pastor Hassan has encouraged the formation of four Rooted in Jesus groups and a new hymn team, he says; each group has two leaders, and some also include children. The hymn team, led by Rooted in Jesus leader Asmohan Abdullah, has brought a revitalisation of church services, and this is encouraging more people to join the groups.
‘There has been no church here for more than fifty years’
But Babuj’s most remarkable news comes from his visit to Salara, a village in a rebel-controlled area some 40km from Ed-Dalang. It is, he says, an inaccessible area unless you get special permission for entrance. 99% of the inhabitants are Muslim and 1% Christian or non-believers. Five members of Rooted in Jesus spent three days in Salara, declaring the name of Jesus Christ. Babuj continues:
“Salara has one of the oldest churches in Nuba Mountains, as reported by some of inhabitants there, first established in 1917. But due to the islamization policies and the former government policy toward the Churches they forced the Christians who were there to become Muslims and destroyed its church. I visited the place, but the building is still standing and used as a college. There has been no church in the place for more than fifty years.
Pastor Hassan Sudan shows the newly built church in Salara and the bombed former church guest house
“What has happened when our Rooted in Jesus member Pastor Hassan Sudan visited the place after his declaration last year to go there, the local government have given him a separate place to establish a church. However the very few believers there know nothing about Christianity, even how to pray; but they helped pastor Hassan in finding the new place, which is near to the main road.
“What is good is that some of the local government individuals there are so enthusiastic for the church to be built, as well very cooperative, that they asked the mosque administration to provide us with a carpet to sleep and sit on, as well as collecting some chairs from the houses.
“Even three of them accepted Christian faith on the last day. And they were baptized two days ago when I was there during our service. They are the head of the religious institution, the head of the intelligence and security in the district, and one of the teachers, whose wife was baptized as well. This happened due to the healing power of prayer done by the group. In all, twenty-two people were baptized that day.
The newly baptized believers of Salara
“A group of hymn team members from El-Dalang and El-Obied town, Pastor Abdo from Elfaw town and a preacher from Khartoum served God with me for three days, visiting widowers and orphans, supporting them by some gifts. The hymn team was composed of different youths from the local Church denominations in El-Dalang and El-Obied; our total number was 20 people, twelve of whom are Anglicans: five Rooted in Jesus members and seven youth leaders in El-Dalang Church who are in the newly estalished Rooted in Jesus youth group headed by Asmohan, the Rooted in Jesus team leader.
“My sincere thanks to Pastor Hassan Sudan, Rooted in Jesus Leader in Salara, and for his Coordination and facilitation to enable the team to get in; and my thanks to the local Administration for their access permission. And the rest of the team, I do recommend your hand, prayer and support for the service of God in Salara district. May our heavenly father be glorified.”
Rooted in Jesus team members pray for healing in Salara
A team from Kadugli’s link UK diocese of Salisbury led a Rooted in Jesus training conference in October 2019, at the invitation of Bishop Hassan Osman.
We have just published the Rooted in Jesus Annual Report for the year 2020, which brought challenges none of us had expected. As a global pandemic crept over the world, churches closed, conferences were postponed, movements restricted, and livelihoods threatened.
We were able to run conferences in three dioceses before national lockdowns came into force, but we had to postpone an additional six conferences, all of which will be rescheduled when the situation permits. We have kept in regular touch with Rooted in Jesus dioceses, networks and ministry partners, and have continued to support them in prayer through our regular prayer diaries and our intercession team. We have learned to use Zoom, and have used Whatsapp to strengthen relationships with both dioceses and coordinators. Finally, we have been able to take advantage of a quieter year both to commission and format new translations of the course materials and training manuals, and to begin work on a new Rooted in Jesus Book 5.
The report can be downloaded from the Rooted in Jesus website here– or read on for a summary, with feedback from across the continent of Africa, details of new translations, personal testimonies and more.
Conference outcomes in Ethiopia and Kenya
Rooted in Jesus was introduced to the new Diocese of Gambella in Ethiopia at the beginning of the year. Groups began straight away, and by May coordinator Jeremiah Paul reported that RinJ was having a huge impact in the life of the churches, comforting victims and strengthening churches. By December there were 47 active groups with over 500 members, about half of whom were new to the Christian faith.
Also at the beginning of the year, a team travelled to the Diocese of Kitale in Kenya to train 137 leaders in how best to use Rooted in Jesus. Groups got off to a strong start, but the planned local followup meetings were prevented by lockdown. Nonetheless, Coordinator Tarus Kirionon wrote in December that most groups were finishing the first book, with some having completed books two and three as well.
The Diocese of Kericho hosted the third of the Rooted in Jesus conferences before the pandemic brought gatherings to a close, facilitated by a team from their link parish of Trinity Cheltenham. Groups began in 19 parishes, and Bishop Ng’eno started one himself for the diocesan staff team. It is hoped that groups planned in the remaining parishes will start in 2021.
Reports from across the continent
We try to keep in touch with all those using Rooted in Jesus, and during 2020 we were pleased to receive updates from 38 of our partners, stretching from Ethiopia to Cape Town. Highlights included:
In Madagascar the Diocese of Toliara currently has 68 groups, and aims to double this number in two years. In the Diocese of Fianarantsoa RinJ Junior is leading to considerable growth in some parishes, with more and more children attending, and new families coming into the churches as a result.
In the Diocese of Niassa in Mozambique, Charles Kapito reports that when churches closed for worship, small groups became central to their ministry. There are now 49 adult and 71 Junior groups, and they plan to double these in the next twelve months.
In South Africa, the biennual Anglicans Abaze conference was held virtually, with an explosion in numbers attending, and a new digital ministry being launched. RinJ training was provided in Lesotho, Natal and Johannesburg, and testimonies of spiritual growth received from Kimberley & Kuruman, Cape Town, Natal and Free State.
In Uganda, the Diocese of East Ruwenzori provided local training for the 37 group leaders. Coordinator James Tumwesigye reports that groups have grown, members become active in ministry, and new people have joined the church. In the Diocese of Soroti Bishop Odongo encouraged clergy to form groups during the 6 months of church closure, and there are now 184 groups meeting across the diocese.
Brian Keel reports on the initiatives taken by the Glad Tidings Churches of Kenya: “Over the past couple of years we have been encouraging some of those we have trained in Rooted in Jesus to use the resources in ‘less than familiar’ locations. Covid has brought that about!” In Kisumu churches were asked to run RinJ community programmes for young people, and this led to improved morale and new faith commitments. In Nyanza the churches moved their ministry into people’s homes, and the resulting growth in interest led to the foundation of five new congregations. Similar things have happened in Busia, a border town where Muslims have been coming to faith and three new congregations have opened.
In Zambia, Dignity Worldwide have continued to support the Life Group leaders who use Rooted in Jesus for their meetings. They report continued growth in this exciting non-denominational ministry, with over 900 groups now meeting, and new groups being formed for mutual support as people faced the challenges of the pandemic.
New Translations and Editions
2020 was a year of new translations and editions of the adult Rooted in Jesus programme. Books were translated into Thok Nath and Amharic for use in Ethiopia, existing translations into Zande, Masai and French were revised and updated, and work in an additional 11 languages was initiated. We published a French translation of the Rooted in Jesus Junior booklets, and a Swahili translation of the Team Manual.
In their own words
We have received many encouraging testimonies over the past year. Here is a selection:
“It has been a precious experience to be part of a group. There has been a measured approach with our leaders preparing very well and not placing on us any dogmatic agendas or pressure to go and start a church immediately. You have reminded me first and foremost that Jesus wants to have a relationship with me.” RinJ Zoom group member, Cape Town
“These groups have really been a blessing to the people that meet. The ones that had the opportunity to meet have been enjoying and getting encouraged as they journey towards building and growing their relationship with our God. Many groups have already completed the first book and now as they continue with classes they’re using the second book.” Diocese of the Rift Valley, Tanzania
“The enemy has succeeded in keeping places of worship closed temporarily but he has not succeeded in preventing the St Luke’s RinJ from their weekly fellowship via social media. Every Thursday I look forward to spending time and discussing the word of God with my fellow RinJ members. Learning the memory verses has helped me to overcome trying and negative situations during Lockdown” – RinJ group member, Diocese of Natal
“Even if there is lock down of Churches, people are meeting in their cell groups sharing the word of God, and one of the tools that has helped is the Rooted in Jesus material.” Diocese of Soroti, Uganda
Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.
To download the full report click here. Rooted in Jesus is published and supported by The Mathetes Trust. Posted 2nd March 2021
‘I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me a drink; I was a stranger and you received me in your homes, naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me, in prison and you visited me.’ (Matthew 25:35)
We are delighted to receive an update from the Diocese of Toliara in Madagascar, where the great suffering caused in recent months by drought and famine has led both to an outpouring of generosity from Christians in other places, and to a marked increase in church growth.
The latest newsletter from the Friends of Toliara reports:
“The second stage of the food distribution has now taken place in the deep south of the Diocese, where the worst of the famine is occurring. 800 sacks of rice and 192 sacks of beans were given out in Amboasary, and Fort Dauphin received 100 sacks of rice and 25 sacks of beans. So, 900 vulnerable families received enough food for 30 days. Mr Ialy (Economic Development Coordinator), Rev Donné (Dean of the District) and Deacon Gaston (from the Parish of Amboasary) oversaw the distributions.
“The rice and beans are given to everyone, no matter what their religion. People in these villages are turning to follow Jesus. Gaston reports that the churches in Amboasary Parish are now packed – an “explosion of people”, he said, “with no more room to fit in people. People are being baptized because they are being touched by the love of God and asking, ‘What religion is this that cares? We want to join you’ “.
“The local people have noticed also that we gave everything we had to give. In other cases, soldiers (appointed by the government) kept almost 2/3 of the goods they had to distribute. People are touched by the Diocese’s integrity and trust. So we may think we’re just giving money, we may think we’re only giving foods, but through this, people are being saved eternally by God’s grace.
Discipling new believers with Rooted in Jesus in Ambovombe
“There are many groups of people from the forest who come each Sunday to worship together at the church in Ambovombe, walking in some cases 6 miles to get there. They are learning about Jesus for the first time. Seven villages have asked if a church could be planted there, but because of the lack of workers, Dean Donné and Rev Gaston decided they should worship first with the Church in Ambovombe for two months to learn more about Jesus. Gaston’s wife, Oliviah, is leading three Rooted in Jesus groups. Gaston is teaching new catechists and evangelizing. The student catechists are teaching the people about baptism.
“The need is still great however, and the rural exodus has not stopped, with some people walking to Fort Dauphin on foot (around 60 miles). Please pray for rain to fall so that rivers will be filled, the underground water table will rise, and crops will grow, but not so much rain at any one time that it causes damage.
Rooted in Jesus in Mahabo parish
Meanwhile Sue Babbs, who has recently returned from a nine month assignment in Toliara, reports that the Chapel of Saint Andrew in Mahabo has now completed the Rooted in Jesus discipleship training. They have achieved this just two years after Derek Waller and Revd Florent Lahitody, working alongside parish priest Victor Osoro, trained the first Rooted in Jesus group leaders at Mahabo. The photo shows the group receiving their certificates.
‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’ John 13.34-35
Rooted in Jesus was translated into Malagasy and introduced to the Diocese of Toliara in 2011, with Rooted in Jesus Junior following in 2017. Back in 2011, the Diocese was yet to be formally inaugurated: it had just three priests, a tiny cathedral built of sticks and thatch, and a handful of churches scattered across a huge area. Now there are over 108 churches in ten parishes, supported by a well resourced central hub and an innovative programme of outreach and training. In a country where 80% of people are yet to hear the gospel, it’s encouraging to read of the huge strides still being made despite the very real difficulties of living in an island subject to an increasing scourge of famine and cyclones.
The diocese is currently led by Assistant Bishop Samitiana Razafindralambo, who has taken over from Bishop Todd and Revd Patsy McGregor following their return to the United States.
You can find out more about the ministry of the Diocese of Toliara by visiting their website here.
Rooted in Jesus is published and supported by the Mathetes Trust. The Rooted in Jesus website can be found here.
Have you ever, by any chance, received a startling and unexpected announcement, perhaps one which changed your plans for Christmas??? Here in England we are all thinking again about the next few days – for, they tell us, something bigger than family, more far-reaching than mid-winter feasts, is happening among us: the coronavirus is once again expanding its reach, our hopsitals are full, and we must stay at home.
It may occur to us that this is not the first time ordinary people have sat down and listened to news they didn’t expect to hear. What would it be like, to be looking after your animals in the hills, to be welcoming people to your inn, to be gazing at the night sky – and suddenly to discover that something so momentous was going on that it would change everything? That was the experience of the shepherds in the biblical story, the publicans in the towns, the wise men observing a new star. Perhaps it’s not so hard for us to imagine after all, as we too are forced to change our plans. Perhaps this is a time to pray that we will be able to enter more deeply into the story which we remember at this time of year, to trust more profoundly in whatever future awaits us, and to give thanks for the coming of Jesus into our lives.
But however tough things may be, we are not alone. Bad news paves the way for good news – and that is, after all, what Christmas is all about. Perhaps we will be able to see the ‘Christmas star’ due to brighten our skies for the first time in hundreds of years as Jupiter and Saturn line up this week, and perhaps we will remember that once, a star just like it led the wise to Jesus.
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.
All of us at the Mathetes Trust wish you a very happy and blessed Christmas.
One of the benefits of the coronavirus pandemic this year has been to prompt us all to experiment with new ways of meeting together. Martin and Colleen Breytenbach have been leading the first ever Rooted in Jesus group to meet online through Zoom. After successfully working through the first book, they are now continuing with the second – and beginning to prepare some of the members to lead their own groups. Colleen has written the following report, which we hope will both guide and encourage others:
“Martin and I have been running a Zoom Discipleship group during the months of Covid lockdown in Cape Town. Here are some of the comments we received when our group took a break after Book 1:
“I have appreciated the weekly study of the Word and the contact with other in prayer. It has strengthened me, so that when we re-opened the church after the Covid Lockdown, I had a new confidence to lead the church. I felt like I had grown.”
“It is interesting to see that although this material was designed to teach people who are not necessarily literate, that it was malleable enough be used effectively with graduates in the city context.”
“Coming from a Moslem background I never felt like I had a Christian family. I now have a family, and I have a team of Christian prayer warriors who love each other. I fell like I fit in for the first time.”
“It has been a precious experience to be part of a group. It has never been about manipulating people. There has been a measured approach with our leaders preparing very well and not placing on us any dogmatic agendas or pressure to go and start a church immediately. You have reminded me first and foremost that Jesus wants to have a relationship with me. Also, I love being part of a group who prays.“
“The first book took 15 weeks to complete. We favoured depth of study rather than brevity. If the group (who are all graduates) wished to search the Scriptures more deeply, we allowed them to do that. In this way, we ensured that each person drank deeply of the material and were fully satiated.
We took a four-week break after Book 1, during which time we had one social gathering, where we barbecued safely out of doors in line with Covid-19 guidance. We resumed on the 6th Nov and the group expressed great joy to be together again.
Before we started our group, we spent time discerning what God was calling us to do.
As we conceived of running one group, many names came to mind from our congregation. We wanted to invite them all! Some of the names were of those who were mature in the faith and we realised that they could potentially be future leaders. We realised that our small group could potentially lead to many groups starting up, and that as we grew in experience in running the first group, we could possibly run a training course for those who would volunteer to run groups in the future.
We shared our calling with the priest of our church to get permission to run the group and got his support and his assurance of prayer.
We created a Whatsapp group and invited participants, having first spoken to them each in person and got their agreement to join the Whatsapp group.
“The following Guidelines were sent out on a WhatsApp group, four days before the first meeting started:
Welcome: Dear all, welcome to the new St Peter’s Discipleship Group, facilitated by Martin and Colleen Breytenbach.
Etiquette: We have created this group in order to communicate essential arrangements and prayer requests. Please keep responses to a minimum so that we do not spam each other. There is no need to assure each other that we are praying, by sending emoticons. Let us take it as read that we will support one another. Remember that prayer requests are confidential and are not to be shared outside of this group.
The Material: We will be following the Rooted in Jesus manuals, the first of which we will study over the next twelve weeks. There are four books in total, which lead a Disciple all the way from making a basic commitment to Jesus, to the point of maturity in Christ, where they can train other disciples. After twelve weeks we will take a break before continuing this journey. We aim to fulfil that Great Commission by making Disciples who will make Disciples (Matt 28:19, 2 Timothy 2:2). The course requires one to memorise Scripture verses, so that the Word of God will dwell in you richly.
Practical arrangements: Our meetings will commence on Friday 29th May 2020 at 19h15 for 19h30 on Zoom. To avoid overloading the Wi-Fi bandwidth, we suggest that if you are a couple, you share one computer. We will end at 21h00 each evening.
The nature of the evening: The Sessions are designed to be interactive and fun. They contain practical demonstrations, videos, and breakaway conversations in Zoom breakout groups. You will be encouraged to participate fully in discussions and sharing. You will need a Bible and a notebook at your side in which to record your personal notes.
Final Greeting: God bless you all. We are praying for this journey of faith, and for all the individuals in the group. You may want to ask a friend to support you in prayer during this journey.
We had to check that every person had enough data or a strong enough Wi-Fi connection to support their audio and video on Zoom. Sometimes it was necessary to have a private Zoom meeting to establish that the individual understood the system and could participate fully.
We rehearsed Zoom techniques as leaders i.e. Zoom Breakout rooms, and Screen sharing
We practised using the material. We used our morning quiet times to work prayerfully through the verses so that we were ready spiritually, and had brainstormed some of the questions we might want to ask the participants during the session (that served us well during the actual session because it took the discussion much deeper).
Some thoughts in hindsight
“We needed to be flexible in our leadership. Some of what we prepared never happened. Some subjects were never covered, but we realise that that they may be covered later.
We allowed discussion to go off on a tangent if the tangent was worthwhile and not a distraction. However, we never allowed the group to go completely off the topic. We reined in people who talked for too long, by saying, “Thank you very much for that point. That was very helpful. Let us move on to the next paragraph” (or something like that).
We allowed time for people to share their needs, their fears and distractions. For instance, one couple was very distracted one evening because they were hearing about service delivery protests and riots in their near neighbourhood. They needed immediate prayer support. We stopped the meeting to pray for the people concerned and to intercede for the situation. It was an enriching time and brought the group closer together.”
In South Africa Rooted in Jesus is directed by Trevor Pearce and overseen by Growing the Church, based in Cape Town. The Rooted in Jesus Administrator is Estelle Adams.
As we keep in touch with the Rooted in Jesus family, we have both encouraging and difficult news to share. We are very grateful for those who have sent us their news and prayer needs. Here is a summary to bring you up to date:
Creative solutions to difficult situations
Ven Hectorina Tsotetsi is the Rooted in Jesus coordinator for the Diocese of the Free State, South Africa, and a member of the national training team. She reports: “After the President of South Africa announced that the public gatherings of churches are allowed to operate, I decided to start RinJ small groups in the villages where people do not have access to the internet. As we are aware that not all of people are on social media, it seems like the church leadership has abandoned them. So far I have started new 4 adult RinJ small groups. Three RinJ small groups are operating physically and one is operating online. We make a point of observing covid-19 guidelines. We wear masks every time we are gathering, we sanitize our hands for 20 seconds and we practice social distancing all the time. On Monday and Friday we worship on the mountain because on the mountain there is enough open space for us to make a circle. People are happy because they did not understand prayer at home. We are doing it practically. People are growing spiritually. Even in this difficult time of pandemic of coronavirus they have hope and faith in God. Most of them testified that they did not understand the meaning of eternal life but they understood. They thought that they would have eternal life after death.”
A socially distant Rooted in Jesus groups meets in the Diocese of the Free State
Brian Keel, working with local Pentecostal networks in Kenya, tells how leaders there are responding to the local needs created by the coronavirus pandemic: “Having not been in their churches for some six months, they have been transitioning to smaller groupings in outdoor locations, and this has attracted people who had not been attending church. This has led to additional RinJ courses being facilitated. The news of this has reached the local government, who have asked the network of churches we work with in the Kisumu area to go to villages where they do not have a presence. RinJ and RinJ Junior were put to use, and people have been coming to faith. This course of response has now spread to the coast where there is a greater density of Muslims, but the churches are being asked to go into villages in order to run programmes for children and youth. A blessing is that many of the pastors are school teachers, so are not in school therefore are utilising their time in these outreach programmes.”
And Revd Alfred Mugisa, Mission Coordinator in the Diocese of South Rwenzori, Uganda, writes: “We thank you for the ministry you have supported within the Rooted in Jesus programme since 2008. The diocese by then had about 300 Churches and because of the Rooted in Jesus programme the Churches have increased nearly to 500. We had 51 parishes and now we have 79. We are grateful to God to God for the expansion of the Churches. In our last report we had 137 groups of Rooted in Jesus, 57 adult groups, 60 junior groups and number of children was 1220 who are reciting Bible verses and can be able to preach. Among these group members, most of them are leading prayer fellowships in families during this COVID-19 pandemic.”
Looking to the future
However, across Africa the situation remains extremely challenging – not simply due to the number of cases of Covid19, which remain relatively low (for the current statistics in each country click here) – but because of the impact of the measures taken to prevent its spread. Those countries already suffering from political unrest, poverty and violence are the ones where the impact is likely to be particularly high, pushing many communities over the edge of resilience.
In Madagascar, there have to date been 15,000 cases and 200 deaths. The country is on full lockdown, with no social gatherings and no transportation, but even so the five main hospitals in the capital can no longer cope with the influx of people. Revd Pez Raobison reports from Antananarivo that it is a difficult time, as people struggle with poverty, famine, and illness; he fears that the long term effects of the virus will be devastating – even without a pandemic, the six Dioceses of Madagascar struggle structurally with poverty, illness, vulnerability, unemployment, and famine. Many people cannot afford soap, and have no ready access to water, Pez says; few can afford a stock of essential supplies, and most struggle to raise an income to buy food. If the virus continues to spread, the situation will become increasingly difficult.
The Women’s Centre, Diocese of Toliara, where over 22,000 face maskshave now been made by local women
At the same time, we learn that people have not been slow to take advantage of the new opportunities which present themselves even in times such as these. Further south in the Diocese of Toliara, the women’s centre within the cathedral compound has been not only making masks but training others to do so too, with 22,000 sewn so far! And the clergy are embracing new technology, as Bishop Todd McGregorreports:
History was made today in the Diocese! We had our first zoom call with our clergy. This was a real victory and the clergy were so excited to see each other, to meet together and to pray even if via Zoom. Our meeting lasted 2 hours. They have all agreed to do this each month. I can’t believe how excited everyone was to see each other. It was truly a Christ like moment. Good is coming even out of this coronavirus pandemic! It is wonderful that Zoom is enabling clergy, who live and work so far apart, to meet with each other for prayer, support, encouragement and future planning. We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God (Romans 8: 28 )
In South Sudan, Bishop Moses Zungo writes to share the joys and trials of theDiocese of Maridi. He reports that life is returning to normal, that churches have now reopened (following heath guidelines), and that a week of witness is being held. But there are still many dangers:
“Despite the fact that people are returning to normal life in Maridi, still the communities are seen to be in danger as many people are not keeping the guidelines for Covid-19. Access to information in the rural areas is limited due to inadequate resources to reach them and the remoteness of the tropical areas. Most of our people are uneducated; they have no access to local media and live by their traditional and cultural aspects. There is a high level of ignorance and unbelief about the truth of the Coronavirus. People in the rural areas go on shaking hands and have not maintained social distancing.”
Bishop Moses draws our attention to the other factors which make daily life so difficult, and asks for our prayer:
Risk of famine : The conflict in South Sudan has damaged the country’s economy, contributing to soaring inflation, as a consequence, food prices continue to rise and many families in South Sudan go hungry. Unsuccessful peace process : Despite a peace agreement, the population of South Sudan has yet to see an end of fighting. Conflict has resulted in a sharp rise in the number of people fleeing their homes and basic infrastructure such as health and education facilities have been destroyed. Conflict is threatening civilianlives : Tens of thousands of people have been killed in South Sudan as a direct result of the current conflict and millions have been forced to flee. Civilians are the main victims of the fighting, looting and ambushes.
Meanwhile a different but equally traumatic situation prevails in northern Uganda. Revd John Onyao of the Diocese of Karamoja had recently returned from the village of Lopei expressing his joy to see that the church he planted there with the help of Rooted in Jesus has continued to grow even during his absence, with 110 families coming together to welcome John and Bishop Abura. But just a few weeks later, John writes of a resurgence of violence in theregion:
The world is broken. Our situation in Karamoja is saddening every day. Last week in Lopei warriors killed 4 people, the following Sunday the locust invaded the villages and destroyed sorghum, sunflower and other crops, leaving the villages in tears. Last Saturday the warriors raided again, taking over 500 herds of cattle; about 300 were rescued, the rest the warriors managed to escape with. Last night in a place called Kangole the warriors shot 2 people of which one died and one has been rushed to hospital. We have been having peace but now things are changing.
And yet even in the midst of this John is able to share that “though we are going through this hard time and places of worship are still closed, the congregation that I am pastoring are meeting and sharing the word of God every time they meet. Testimonies are shared and they pray together. The numbers are being added and for the past 3 weeks I have been meeting with them and share with them the Joy of salvation. This Sunday will going to be with them it will be good time to to hear from them, smile and pray with them.”
Praying for our needs
We have included all these things in our regular programme of prayer, and long for the time when we may again come together to share our faith, comfort one another in our pain, thank God for the good things which are coming out of a bad situation, and pray together for our physical, mental and spiritual needs as we move into an uncertain future. In the meantime we remember that we can turn to God for comfort and help in the darkest of situations:
Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon those who fear him, on those who wait in hope for his steadfast love, To deliver their soul from death and to feed them in time of famine. We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. from Psalm 33
Rooted in Jesus is published and supported by The Mathetes Trust, working with partners throughout the continent. In South Africa Rooted in Jesus is supported by Growing the Church, and in Tanzania by the Diocese of Mount Kilimanjaro. To find out more visit the Rooted in Jesus website; or follow us on Facebook.
We have just received the following report from Estelle Adams of Growing the Church in Cape Town:
Bruce Woolley reports from Pietermaritzburg in the Diocese of Natal
Rooted in Jesus started at St Luke’s Church, Woodlands on 10th October 2019. We knew very little about the course until the Leaders’ workshop, but it is amazing how God takes something small and grows and develops it. We were not sure how many people would join the course but there was a group of 6 of us that got together every week to pray for the course and for God to send the right people to the group. We also agreed to pray at 9pm every night for this group.
We have been so blessed with the wonderful group of people who regularly attend and who despite Lockdown have continued to meet on a Thursday evening using whatsapp to continue the course. We averaged about 20 -25 people before the Lockdown and about 20 at the moment. Our group is varied and we have 3 members from the Catholic church who have joined and also a member who joins us from Durban and recently one from Philadelphia, USA. Lockdown has caused so much stress for people but thanks be to God, it has actually allowed the group to develop and reach people further afield.
In their own words : Testimonies from group members
“I look forward to Thursday nights when we can communicate with other members of RinJ like a Bible study group. It’s wonderful to keep in touch with Jesus and each other.”
“Jesus died so that we could have a deep, passionate, personal relationship with God so we need to get to know him thru the Bible & this will help us to be Christ like. The closer you get to God the more he lovingly & graciously changes you from the inside out. RinJ is helping me with all of the above.”
“The enemy has succeeded in keeping places of worship closed temporarily but he has not succeeded in preventing the St Luke’s RinJ from their weekly fellowship via social media. Every Thursday I look forward to spending time and discussing the word of God with my fellow RinJ members. Learning the memory verses has helped me to overcome trying and negative situations during Lockdown.”
“I can remember the first time I walked into the church’s hall to attend Rooted in Jesus. I was nervous. Nervous because I was much younger than the age group attracted to RinJ and because I wasn’t as strong in my faith as they were. I walked in that hall feeling nervous but walked out feeling blessed. Every week I looked forward to Thursday because it would be RinJ. Our sessions made me look into life with new and different specifications. I am now constantly at peace and if anything is attacking my peace I pray about it.”
“RinJ has brought me much closer to God and his people in the church. About 2 weeks ago I tested positive for Covid-19 and when I found out I was in total shock even though I was very sick. It was just a shock that I was now part of the statistics and that I had something the whole world is talking about. I just went silent and prayed to God for complete healing. I wasn’t getting any better so the first thing I did was call our priest Father George one evening and before I could open my eyes the next morning he was by our house gate to drop off communion and holy oil. He prayed for me over the phone and went through the communion with me on the phone. It was in that moment that I was so grateful I walked through those doors of the church to join RinJ. I am so grateful that RinJ is virtual now during this pandemic because I get to still take part even though I’m positive with Covid-19. I am so thankful to God that he put me in the right place at the right time.”
“I have learned so much. God has shown me that He is always there especially when he is not. I have surrendered all to him and He is in Control. That all will be answered, But in His time. He has sent me angels just at the right time.”
“RinJ has been such an amazing journey so far and has had such a huge impact with my relationship with Jesus Christ. Things that I used to have difficulty understanding have become so clear, it also helped me to open up when we in groups, to hear others testimonies and how people can come together and share is just amazing. I used to get angry with myself sometimes because I couldn’t remember a Bible verse but with RinJ I’m enjoying the memory verses which is such a great way to remember a Bible verse, what RinJ has also done for me is really strengthen me in the word and in my prayer life, I feel so encouraged to pray on my own, with others and for others and has helped me so much in the lay ministry. I really am enjoying this journey in RinJ and I know it can only strengthen my relationship with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
In South Africa Rooted in Jesus is overseen by Growing the Church, directed by Revd Trevor Pearce. Rooted in Jesus is published and supported by the Mathetes Trust.