News from the Diocese of Toliara, Madagascar

The Diocese of Toliara is the youngest and southernmost Anglican diocese in Madagascar. Led by Bishop Todd and Revd Patsy McGregor, it has a threefold focus on evangelism, education and economic development. Our connection with the diocese dates back to 2011, when Bishop Todd first invited us to provide training for Rooted in Jesus. We went back in 2013, and again in 2017 in order to train Sunday School teachers to use Rooted in Jesus Junior.

The Diocese of Toliara is linked with the Church of the Good Samaritan, Paoli (US), whose rector Revd Richard Morgan joined the Rooted in Jesus team in 2013. Last week Good Samaritan’s live-stream service included a video interview with Bishop Todd, who provided an update on the three-fold ministry of the diocese, shared some of the hardship caused by the coronavirus measures, and asked for our continued prayers.

Bishop Todd McGregor speaks with Fr Ben Capp – click on the image to watch

Making disciples with Rooted in Jesus

When it comes to sharing the gospel, Madagascar offers unique challenges and opportunities. Revd Victor Osoro explained in a recent newsletter how the diocese sets about the ministry of evangelism:

The culture of Madagascar, especially in the rural southern area where the Diocese of Toliara is situated, is quite different from that in the UK, Europe, and the US. Many Malagasy are hearing of Jesus for the very first time when we go out to the small villages to evangelize. While Christianity was introduced to this island nation in the early 1800s, there have also been times when the practice of Christianity was banned. Today, we see a great many people who have never heard of Jesus. They more often practice their Malagasy traditional religion, led by a shaman and a medicine man. So we must start from a very different place. We start from the very basics of the Christian faith and the story of Jesus.

Victor continued with a story which has repeated itself in many places:

One day when we were evangelizing, we came to a village to share the gospel with the village elder. He surrendered his life to Jesus – but he did not stop there. He called all the villagers and shared what the Lord had done in his heart. Everyone present, knowing the past life of the man and hearing what the Lord had done in his life, they too surrendered their lives to the new-found faith. They committed to begin a new walk with Christ. Many of them gave up their trust in the medicine man and put their trust in the Lord. We had to burn all types of charms created by the medicine man for various purposes that they had in their homes! They are now growing as disciples of Christ.

In the interview, Bishop Todd tells Fr Ben that this focus on evangelism has seen the diocese grow from just 11 churches to 110. “We don’t have any problems in growing the church,” he explains; “it’s just in terms of having people growing themselves, and that’s what Rooted in Jesus offers.” There are currently some 200 Rooted in Jesus groups meeting in the various parishes, supported by CMS missionary Derek Waller, and the growth has been exciting.

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic

At the moment, of course, the ministry of the diocese has been affected by the current pandemic and the measures taken to contain it – not just for those still waiting to hear the gospel, but also, Bishop Todd says, for the clergy, who depend upon the weekly offerings at church to support their families. Most churches have now been closed for two months, which is causing considerable hardship.

Bishop Todd and Revd Patsy have written more about the impact of Covid-19 on the life of the diocese in their recent newsletter, which you can read here. Please do join us in praying for them, for those who minister alongside them, and for the people they serve.

Rooted in Jesus is published and supported by the Mathetes Trust.

Posted 27th May 2020.

Ministry in difficult times

St Paul reminds the Corinthians that it is not always easy to remain faithful to our calling as ministers of the gospel: “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

Perhaps now more than ever, as a new virus sweeps the world, we feel weak, hard pressed and perplexed. Some of us are not used to this; we have expected life to be easy, things to go right. For others it comes as yet another burden to add to those we already have. But we know too that this a time of change is also a time of opportunity – a time to remember our own fragility, to consider afresh our calling. Many are asking questions about God; many are learning to serve in new ways; many are caring, praying, bearing witness to the hope that is in them.

Whenever we confront new circumstances, it is helpful to remind ourselves that God is at work in the most distressing and challenging of situations. And so we want to share a recent communication we have received from John Onyao of the Diocese of Karamoja, Uganda.

Last year John was asked by his bishop, Joseph Abura, to plant a new church in a remote rural area with little tradition of churchgoing. John tells us how this felt, what he did, and what is happening now:

One year ago, I left my home after being transferred from the mission office to serve on mission to Lopei. Somehow “going on mission” seems to feel different than serving right here in the office. I am reminded that missions take on a variety of different looks, but the character is the same—serving. There are big missions and little missions. There are missions that require our skills and expertise and missions that require only a smile and a kind word.

When John arrived in the village and announced that he had come to open a church, he found that there was opposition. A rumour went round that the new church was in fact led by people who were deriving occult power from water spirits; in other words that it was demonic. And when John took some villagers to attend a prayer conference, children ran in front of the car and nearly caused it to overturn as John swerved to avoid them – and then vanished.

But John persisted, and the new church held its first service just over a year ago. Using Rooted in Jesus, he began to teach them:

My main aim was to introduce fully the program of Rooted in Jesus to church. I have also used some lessons from Rooted in Jesus book one to engage some of the members in the church to share with us their past experiences in life. I normally take 10 minutes to share something from Rooted in Jesus Book before we start with prayers. I called this teaching ‘Biblical early morning tips’ where at least 10-15 members attend. This helped many to grow their faith.

But now of course John and the new church members face a new kind of difficulty. He writes:

Greetings to you all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We believe He is the Almighty God and Father even today. We may sometimes feel lost in this world full of tragedy and fear, but we are encouraging each other to be strong in our faith and commitment to Him and to the people in need.

In Uganda we are suddenly in a time of crisis, just like in many other countries around the world. Meetings are not allowed, and intensified preventive health and hygiene measures have to be taken, people are locked up in their houses, including ‘social distancing’. For the churches this means that their services are held at home if possible with a limited number of people to be able to ‘gather’ on Sundays. I know that this crisis will have a huge impact on our members and churches. Because even in the darkest days we experience His love. This gives us the power to rise up and to continue, as followers of Jesus Christ.

The one thing that connects us is prayer. We all believe in a God who is all powerful and we pray for His guidance and His mercy for His church and for the people we serve. Nevertheless, He calls us to be prepared and to be careful. I wish you all the wisdom to do what needs to be done. May God be with you from day to day as Jesus has promised after He rose from the death. He will be with us till the end of time, and no powers will be able to separate us from Him. His Kingdom will come!

Pastor John Onyao

For the moment the new church is unable to meet, as any gathering of more than five people is not allowed. But John is trusting that the spiritual foundations laid over the last year will be sufficient to help the new Christians walk in faith through this new crisis. He invites us to pray for them – that people will observe the new government measures, that the new Christians will remain steadfast in the face of a culture which draws people back to the shrines of their ancestors, that they will continue to grow spiritually, and that more will be saved. John also invites us to pray that land will be provided for a church building, and that he will receive the basic resources he needs to continue his ministry.

Experience shows us that as soon as we overcome one difficulty, another rises to take its place. But St Paul continues:

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Let us stand with John, and with all who face the same challenges in their own place – and let us draw encouragement from his words: “There are big missions and little missions. There are missions that require our skills and expertise and missions that require only a smile and a kind word.” We can all do that.

Posted 17th April 2020

Rooted in Jesus is published and supported by The Mathetes Trust. To find out more visit www.rootedinjesus.net.

Rooted in Jesus goes to Ethiopia

A Rooted in Jesus team has recently returned from Ethiopia, where we were delighted to be invited to provide the first Rooted in Jesus training for the forthcoming Diocese of Gambella in the new Anglican Province of Alexandria.

Team leader Bishop Martin Bretytenbach reports:

+Martin Breytenbach

“It was a privilege and joy to bring Rooted in Jesus (RinJ) to Ethiopia for the first time! The local and visiting teams agreed that the conference went really well, and that God can use RinJ to establish firm foundations and deep roots for disciple-making in the Anglican Church there. Each member of the team was well prepared and presented their material clearly and with authority. All members of the team also spent time relating to the participants individually and in groups.

Before the Conference even took place, the Diocesan Team had already been identified. It was a huge positive to have the support of the Bishops, and the Diocesan and regional Coordinators in place from the beginning. The visiting and local teams met the day before the conference to get to know one another, prepare and pray together. We also met each evening during the conference to review progress and pray. During these times they set goals and made plans for RinJ in the Gambella region of Ethiopia. Bishop Kim Seng is requiring the use of RinJ in Confirmation preparation, leadership training and training for ordination in Ethiopia.

The conference

The conference took place at the SIM Conference Centre on the beautiful Bishoftu Guda Lake, about 50km SE of Addis Ababa. Most of those who attended were from the western part of Ethiopia (Gambella), which borders on South Sudan. The languages represented were English (which the majority could understand to some degree, Amharic, Nuer (the people prefer the name Thok Naath), Anywak & other smaller languages.

This was the annual Clergy Retreat/Conference, and those attending were clergy (about 33 including the Bishops and Mrs Kuan) and seminary students (about 8). It was very encouraging to see the good and supportive relationships among those who participated. Clearly they enjoy worshipping and serving God together.

Engagement with the material

The team was excited and encouraged by the real thirst for the Word of God; and the participants’ desire to engage with God and grow as disciples. We saw most of the groups having a lot of fun with the practical demonstrations and memory verses. It was very clear to us that RinJ is able to meet a great need, and has given them tools for ministry and disciple-making that they were eager to receive.

The three workshops (Pastoral Care, Leading RinJ and Prayer) were enthusiastically attended and the participants engaged with us and the material actively. There were many questions, especially about the details of how to start and run groups. There was a lot of prayer for one another. The ministry sessions were deep, especially the one on Knowing God’s Love, where participants nailed to the cross their needs for forgiveness and to forgive. It was deeply moving to minister among people who have suffered but are fully committed to proclaiming God’s reign in their contexts.

Challenges and opportunities

The Anglican Church in Ethiopia, especially Gambella, is very “young” in terms of infrastructure, training and oversight – until now there has been spontaneous growth of the Anglican Church, largely through migration from South Sudan. Many have suffered and live and work in difficult and dangerous circumstances. However, there are plans to establish two new Dioceses: one in Gambella, and one covering the rest of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. A theological seminary has been established in Gambella, and RinJ will help greatly in laying solid foundations of faith and practical discipleship.

It was exciting to be part of the first team to take RinJ to Ethiopia. I pray that, as the people of Ethiopia are ‘rooted and grounded’ in God’s love through faith in Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit, God may ‘accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine’ (Ephesians 3:17-21). To God be the glory forever. Amen.”

The group receive their certificates

The team

Team member Ven Hectorina Totsetsi reflects: “It was my dream and wish to fulfill the mission of Jesus to go and make disciples throughout the world. I am very passionate about Rooted in Jesus; RinJ is changing people’s lives. My visit to Ethiopia was a huge experience and exciting moment. I gained a lot of experience of how people  interact and engage with others in Ethiopia. I experienced kindness and gentleness on the road and in Addis Ababa. I learned how to engage and manage diversity. The visit to Ethiopia inspired and uplifted my spirit.”

Rooted in Jesus is published and supported by the Mathetes Trust.
To find out more please visit the Rooted in Jesus website.

Posted 17th March 2020

Putting down roots in Kenya

Rooted in Jesus has now been introduced to eight Anglican dioceses and two denominational networks in Kenya. In recent months training conferences have been held in the Diocese of Butere, the Diocese of Kitale, and the Diocese of Kericho.

Getting to grips with Rooted in Jesus in Kitale

The Diocese of Kitale

The Diocese of Kitale lies in north-west Kenya. Created in 1997, it now has 71 parishes and 4 missionary areas, served by 93 clergy. The mission of the diocese is to promote God’s kingdom through teaching, discipling and serving for wholistic transformation, and when Emmanuel Chemengich was appointed its second bishop in 2018 one of his first actions was to request a training conference for Rooted in Jesus.

In September 2019 the Diocesan Synod formally endorsed the partnership with Rooted in Jesus, and at the end of January 137 clergy and lay readers came to St Luke’s cathedral for a four day residential training conference. The conference was led by a team from the US, UK and Kenya, and 126 people were commissioned to start groups.

Team Leader Richard Morgan writes:

There were many points during various times of worship, prayer and ministry where the Spirit’s presence was very tangible. Participants commented on how this had been a spiritual experience for them and not simply informational. Bishop Emmanuel was a great example to his people. After introducing us, he said ‘Now I’m going to sit down as a student’, took his seat, and faithfully attended every single session of the conference. He was the first to receive a certificate of completion and has already identified some of the people he will invite to the Rooted in Jesus group that he will lead. We pray that the Spirit would continue to deepen these faithful ministers in their relationship with Christ and empower them for ministry in this Diocese.

The Diocese of Butere

One of the team members in Kitale was Revd Capt Benjamin Kibara, who is the Rooted in Jesus Coordinator for the Diocese of Butere. Butere adopted Rooted in Jesus in 2017, and at the end of 2019 they hosted their first Rooted in Jesus Junior conference. 89 Sunday School teachers responded enthusiastically to the training, with much time spent in prayer. An additional conference was held to encourage the existing leaders of the adult groups and train a new generation of leaders, and this was attended by a further 140 people. Team leader Ben Beecroft believes that Butere now has the potential to become a flagship diocese for Rooted in Jesus.

All this was borne out by Benjamin Kibara in Kitale, where he shared his experience of Rooted in Jesus in a report which those present described as ‘electrifying.’ Benjamin has sent through an annual report which shows that there are now 712 adult and Junior Rooted in Jesus groups spread across the diocese, with new groups being formed by those who have completed the course. ‘Many group members are gradually understanding how to make disciples,’ he says.

Diocese of Kericho

Earlier this month a team from Trinity church, Cheltenham travelled to Narok to lead a Rooted in Jesus conference for the clergy and lay leaders of the diocese. Team leader Tim Grew reports:

Based at St Luke’s in Narok, the Diocesan senior team were delighted that very nearly their entire clergy team were present, each bringing a key lay leader with them, so we were just under 60 delegates in total. Bishop Ernest and his senior staff were present throughout. The level of engagement was high for the duration. All sessions were positive; feedback was excellent. All in all, I’d say that God answered our specific prayers, including being anointed for the responsibility of facilitating the conference, and seeing a high level of enthusiasm and acceptance of the RinJ vision, approach and material.

We had some lovely testimony from folk – one key MU leader saying she’d had a total breakthrough in her sense of being loved deeply by the Father; some healings, including a man’s back that had given him fairly constant pain since a car accident in 2007. He waited 24 hours before sharing, just to be sure! Another man who had been praying and hoping to learn and grow more in the gifts of the Spirit, just delighted as we taught/shared/practised in this area. Praise Jesus.

Praying together in Narok

To find out more about Rooted in Jesus in Kenya visit our website page here.
Rooted in Jesus is published and supported by the Mathetes Trust.


Posted 3rd March 2020.

Rooted in Jesus Annual Report 2019

2019 has been an encouraging year. Conferences have been held by us and our partners in 8 countries, bringing the total number of people now trained to lead groups to just under 16,000. Translation of the books into the appropriate local languages is an ongoing task, and this year we have produced booklets in a further 5 languages. In the course of the year we have received reports from nearly 40 dioceses, and we have a growing number of invitations for next year.

The second Rooted in Jesus conference in the Diocese of the Rift Valley, Tanzania

The full report can be downloaded HERE, and we have reported on some of the year’s work in our regular blog posts. To catch up on the highlights and share in some more recent news, read on!

The Diocese of the Rift Valley, Tanzania

The Diocese of the Rift Valley (left) became the first diocese to hold two Rooted in Jesus
conferences in a single year. The first was held in February and the second in November, both led by Jacob Robert. Coordinator George Mbago reported that groups had started in every parish, with 40 doing particularly well, most of which have now moved on to the second book. Groups are led by pastors, catechists and Mothers Union members; others are being formed following the second conference. Perhaps the most striking testimony came from Bishop John Lupaa, who had himself led a group for just four people in a small rural church with a dilapidated building and very few members. Having taken those four through the first book, he encouraged them to start groups of their own. Just under a year on, that church has 84 members and a new building!

The Diocese of Mpwapwa


Dustan Mtoro has served as Rooted in Jesus Coordinator in Mpwapwa for 8 years. He reports that there are nearly 300 groups in the diocese, some using the adult programme, some using Rooted in Jesus Junior; many have completed the course, and in everyparish both church commitment and every member participation have risen dramatically. Last year an ambitious fund raising campaign for a new building organised through the RinJ groups raised the sum required within three months.

Dustan has now retired, and his successor Anderson Madimilo adds that “For us it is a success everywhere; it has raised the giving, it has established the faith in our Christians. The number of Christians has grown, because we no longer lose people to other churches as we used to. Because the groups pray together, many people have had their problems solved, their lives changed.”

Rooted in Jesus spreads across Southern Africa

In South Africa Rooted in Jesus is supported by Growing the Church and coordinated by Estelle Adams. In 2019 training was offered in the Dioceses of Lesotho, Natal, Free State and Johannesburg. One year in, Bishop Dintoe Letloenyane of the Diocese of the Free State shared his thoughts about Rooted in Jesus with Bishop Martin Breytenbach:

Bishop Dintoe Letloenyane

“I must say we are very excited about this ministry, Rooted in Jesus, which is all to do with making disciples for Christ in his church. In the bishop’s office I lead a Rooted in Jesus group for the staff. We can see that Rooted in Jesus is helping a lot of people to come to the Lord, to know who they are, to develop their faith, and it’s also helping their families, because whenever there is trouble or challenges at home, people know that Christ is there to help them. We have a priest who has really taken the local church by storm through Rooted in Jesus. We have seen how people have given their commitment and their life to the Lord – men who never really thought that they could give their services, they have come to work in the church. We have seen women with spades and forks doing gardening and making vegetable gardens for themselves and to feed the people around them. But it’s really about bringing people to the Lord Jesus Christ, who feeds us, who quenches our thirst, who heals us, who has given the promise that he will walk with us each and every step of our lives. And so we are very excited about Rooted in Jesus.”

In September Estelle reflected: “I can’t contain myself when I see how amazingly this Discipleship tool is working in the dioceses, but also in the lives of individuals.”

Supporting ministry in difficult situations

Many of the countries which have adopted Rooted in Jesus enjoy peace
and stability, if not always prosperity. For others, the situation is more demanding. It is our particular privilege to support those who minister in these challenging situations.

Diocese of Kadugli, South Sudan

In October a Rooted in Jesus conference was held in Kadugli at the invitation of Bishop Hassan, led by a team from the linked Diocese of Salisbury, UK. The churches in Kadugli have undergone a very difficult time due to the political conflict which has dominated the country. A Roman Catholic priest explained that the wars had drawn Christians of all denominations closer. He also said the people were traumatised by war and were much strengthened that Christians had come from England to encourage them. We posted a full report in an earlier post.

Diocese of Katanga, DR Congo

Rooted in Jesus was introduced to the Diocese of Katanga in 2014, and in March we reported how Bishop Elisha Tendwa used it as the basis for ministry in the missionary Diocese of Kalemie. In July we were glad to be able to send some Bibles for the new groups in one of the refugee camps, and in December we received the following report from Coordinator Stephane Makata:

A Rooted in Jesus group in the Diocese of Katanga

“The RinJ teachings have helped all the parishes in the Diocese; many testimonies have been seen and confirmed among the believers. Through these teachings God will help the church to have the good way to follow and how to remain faithful to Him. The RinJ teachings have helped us reach many goals. The group members and leaders are growing in number, churches are planted (especially in the camp of displaced people). These teachings are helping the believers to take hold of the word of God. RinJ leaders and members have participated in the processes of conflict resolution and peace making; this does not mean only to teach people the word of God but also to teach them how to love their neighbours, forgive them and build peace.”

Diocese of Toliara, Madagascar

Derek & Jane Waller

The Diocese of Toliara covers a huge, undeveloped area in southern Madagascar, and suffers regularly from drought, violent cyclones and famine. They have been using Rooted in Jesus since 2011, and the programme is now overseen by CMS missionary Derek Waller. During 2019 Derek and his team have provided ongoing training in each of the 10 parishes of the diocese, with people walking long distances both to attend and to lead their groups. Derek reports that in Ankilifaly a group has completed all 4 books, and 6 of the members are now leading groups of their own. Progress is inevitably slow, but people are growing and new churches being planted.

Diocese of Niassa, Mozambique

Another diocese affected by both material and educational poverty is Niassa, in
Mozambique, where Rooted in Jesus has been in use since 2006, when it contributed to a period of great renewal and growth. Relaunched with a new generation of leaders in 2018, it is now supported by coordinator Anold Gezan, who has been conducting day seminars to support the new leaders across the diocese. Next year Bishop Vicente plans
to introduce Rooted in Jesus Junior for the first time. He reflects on the importance of discipleship:




Our diocese is growing numerically, but how are we growing spiritually? The mandate Jesus gave was to go and make disciples. When Rooted in Jesus was implemented last year it really made an impact. You can see that from the clergy, even in the communities, because we have established small groups and people’s lives have been changed. When you see that, it’s a great joy to you as a servant of Jesus”.


Diocese of Kondoa, Tanzania

The Diocese of Kondoa in Tanzania is located in an area where 90% of the population are Muslim, which brings huge challenges for the church. The diocese is growing steadily under the leadership of Bishop Given Gaula, and in November held its first Rooted in Jesus conference. Bishop Given hopes that Rooted in Jesus will help the Christians, many of whom have had little formal education, to grow in faith, as well as providing them with a tool they can use to reach out to their communities.


News from Kenya

In October the Diocese of Butere held its third set of Rooted in Jesus conferences. 140 existing and new leaders attended during the first week, and 89 Sunday School teachers came together for the second. Team leader Ben Beecroft reports that the Sunday School teachers (below) responded with great enthusiasm and really threw themselves into all elements of the conference. Both conferences were marked by strong engagement with the sessions and a spiritual hunger to grow. Adult groups are running all over the diocese now, and Ben observes that Butere has the potential to become a flagship diocese for RinJ & Junior in Kenya, with many leaders who could help with RinJ teams elsewhere.

Sunday School teachers at the Rooted in Jesus Junior conference, Butere

News from Uganda

We first went to Uganda back in 2012. Since then Rooted in Jesus has been adopted by 9 dioceses, of which the most recent is the Diocese of East Ruwenzori. A team from the UK, Burundi and Tanzania visited in May. 171 people attended the conference, with all 7 archdeaconries and 42 parishes represented. Participants included the clergy, Mothers Union leaders, parish Mission Coordinators, Lay Readers and Fathers Union leaders. We posted a full report here.

Other dioceses to report recently include the Diocese of Soroti , where Coordinator Pascal Odele writes that there are now 107 active groups across the diocese – a great achievement during a period of episcopal interregnum. In the Diocese of Karamoja John Onyao reports that he is using Rooted in Jesus to plant a church in his new parish. And in the Diocese of Mityana coordinators John Musaasizi and Jethro Ssebulime have continued to visit parishes to provide teaching and support:

Canon John Musaasizi

“Jethro and I are very thankful to the Lord Jesus for enabling us to get to Binikira last Sunday. We wanted to find out whether Mark the Rooted in Jesus trainer is still maintaining the same pace of discipleship multiplication. We enjoyed participating in the reality of our expectation. The trained groups that attended church worship yesterday morning made it crystal clear that they had applied all what they learned in their daily life experience, including forming discipleship groups at their local settings. They also gained respect in the communities where they live. Much was testified. They memorized required Scripture and hid verses in their hearts. We tested them by giving them opportunities to recite what they had hidden in their hearts. They not only recited, but they also explained the application of verses in their daily lives. We thanked Mark for being an outstanding discipleship trainer in the entire Diocese of Mityana.”

News from Burundi

Elisha Academy is the Rooted in Jesus Coordinator in the Diocese of Muyinga. He reports:

Andrew & Elisha
Elisha with fellow team member Andrew in Uganda


“The Diocese began when they had almost 25 parishes. But now after using Rooted in Jesus, more than 5 parishes have been inaugurated. This is a result of the Rooted in Jesus mission. This place is a good place for doing this ministry because many people need to hear about Jesus.”

We were delighted that Elisha was able to join the team to East Ruwenzori in May.

We were also pleased to support Peter Kay, who this year ran a follow-up conference for the RinJ leaders in the FECABu network of churches in Bujumbura. Peter reports that some 400 people are currently meeting in 25 groups.

The work of Dignity in Zambia

It has been a privilege over the last 10 years to share Rooted in Jesus with Dignity, a UK charity which plants small community groups in rural areas – initially in Zambia, but increasingly in neighbouring countries. Jo Kimball reports that here are now 763 Life Groups involving over 15,000 people; the groups use Rooted in Jesus alongside Dignity’s material which focuses on ministry to the community:

“We are thankful for the role Rooted in Jesus has played in helping many Life Group members draw close to Jesus. Charles has only been attending Life Groups for 3 months and can already see a change in himself. ‘There are a lot of changes in me since I joined a Life Group. I feel like I have been set free because many of the things I never understood, now I understand them!’”

You can read more of Dignity’s remarkable story on their website.

Conference testimonies

It is always a huge privilege to be a small part of people’s lives, and to hear their testimonies. In the Diocese of Koforidua, Ghana, Augustine Baafi shared his reaction to the conference with disarming honesty:

“I didn’t really want to be part of this conference. But I spoke to my grandfather. He said to me, “Augustine, I want you to be part of this programme.” So I took it with brave courage and I said I am going just to witness and not to be part of it. So I came by, and when I came here, it’s not like an institution or a church programme, but it was more or less like a family. And I’ve learned here that Jesus is not only what we read about in the Bible, but is more like a father to us, a brother, a sister or a mother to us. Jesus is real to us, and whenever we call on Jesus, he’s going to be part of our life and he’s inviting us also to be part of his family, this great and big family that he’s calling us to be with. I came here to be an observer, but I have learned that I’m part of the group, and the big family that God wants me to be part of.”

Augustine is now training for the priesthood.

Barry Blackford shares the difference prayer made to the toddler son of a conference participant in Kadugli, Sudan:

Rooted in Jesus participants, Kadugli

“At the start of one of the morning breaks, a young mother came for healing for her son. He was totally full of fear and refused to leave her side. Whatever she did had to be done with an extra limb attached to her leg. The lad was about 3-4 years old, the same age as my youngest grandson who is totally fearless. We prayed for the lad and cut him off from his ancestral spirits. Within an hour he wandered up to me on his own to give me a high-5 and then ran back to mum. By the time we got to lunch he was going out the front with the other children and by the end of the day he went home with some of the others whilst mum stayed at the conference. Mum had also been unwell when she came and was also healed.”

A young woman named Firoza shared her testimony with the team from Growing the Church in the Diocese of Kimberley and Kuruman, South Africa:

A conference participant receives her Rooted in Jesus certificate in Kimberley & Kuruman

“It has been seven months since I converted from Islam to Christianity. Then one of the parishioners called and asked if I would like to attend a Rooted in Jesus course. Not knowing what to expect, I agreed. “The facilitators explained the difference between a convert and a disciple of Christ. We were divided into three small groups to read and discuss scriptures in the bible. Some of the priests shared beautiful testimonies of what happened to them when the bible was first opened to them. While I was engaging, there was always someone that would share a scripture that would speak to me. We also made acquaintances with people from other parishes. I was intrigued by their enthusiasm and how they wanted to know more about the Word of God. Others shared ideas on how they where going to start small discipleship groups and work from the books received. Rooted in Jesus helped me understand more about the Christian faith, the power of prayer and how to stand firm in the faith. The material in the course has also given me so much peace of mind. It has taught me to live as Jesus did and assured me that whenever I face challenges, God will always be with me.”

Blessing in two directions : team members give thanks

We often say that those who give their time and resources to join Rooted in Jesus teams are blessed in as great a measure as those to whom they minister, and this has continued to be the case this year:

“I have never had such a big lesson in relying so entirely on God. It has been a very exciting and defining moment, and I have never been so free of doubt and so confident in him. Since coming back, this has hugely helped the way I lead in my own ministry and the way in which I approach the unknown, hand things from my control over to his, and to trust everything to him.” – Ben

“The experience has confirmed my struggle – I cannot believe that it’s possible to live an authentic Christian life in this country without a meaningful and sacrificial relationship supporting and being supported by, our brothers and sisters in poorer countries; I’m challenged to believe and trust more, and I have a different perspective on the issues and problems people face in this country” – Andrew

“I was convinced God wanted us to go, and there were indications that God intended to do something, so I had a sense of anticipation. Did he act? YOU BET! It was a real privilege to see God working in power among the participants, and to experience his blessing myself. Furthermore, I found God had additional aims, as he used our visit to encourage believers who were traumatised by 30 years of civil war. I have gained in confidence, and speak with more assurance. I have also become increasingly hungry for God and for means to serve him better.” – John

“The delegates on both conferences were so encouraging and welcoming. It was hard work, we didn’t stop from morning prayers 7am to 3:30pm, but it was so uplifting and enjoyable to be with such wonderful Christian people. I loved every minute of the conferences and prayerfully so did the delegates.” – Sarah

One day I might be able to tell you just how much Rooted in Jesus changed my life.” – Stephen

The last word?

What does it feel like to be involved with Rooted in Jesus? Mike Cotterell reflects:

Mike (centre back) with the East Ruwenzori team

Many things happen while on Mission, some planned like the Conferences themselves but then extras, like ‘chance’ meetings that God seems to orchestrate. A conference looks like this: A Team, a group of participants and a location over four days. But another side of the reality is that there are thousands of significant moments: Person to person conversations, individuals listening and in conversation with God. Sharing of testimonies, acts of kindness, encounters with God; whole conference experiences of the presence of God. So, a Conference is a complex network of lives touching each other, with the Holy Spirit an active ingredient, like yeast in a batch of dough. God inspiring his agenda and firing his people; and this against a background of human weakness and negative spiritual interference.”

Mike is a long-standing Rooted in Jesus Team Leader, and a Trustee of the Mathetes Trust.

Finally

We are grateful to all those who have given up their time to go on teams, and to our dedicated group of intercessors who pray for each conference as it happens. We are thankful for the generosity of those who have supported Rooted in Jesus financially this year. And last and most importantly of all, we are hugely grateful to our hosts, who invite us to share in their ministry – for their trust, for their hospitality, and for the privilege of partnership in the gospel.

Remember you can download the full report here.

Rooted in Jesus is published and supported by the Mathetes Trust. If you would like to help dioceses in Africa introduce Rooted in Jesus please visit our website or click on the link below.

Posted by Alison Morgan, 20th January 2020

Incarnation and Redemption in the Diocese of Kondoa

Kondoa is a small town which sits on the eastern edge of the Great Rift Valley in central Tanzania. It’s an unremarkable place, an ordinary rural community whose people support themselves predominantly by subsistence farming – but it’s bursting with remarkable history: geological, cultural and spiritual. Missionary Vincent Donovan famously remarked that God enables a people, any people, to reach salvation through their culture and tribal, racial customs and traditions. And perhaps the key to understanding the ministry of the Diocese of Kondoa today is to be found in its history.

Traditional religion

The Great Rift Valley formed some 25 million years ago, as powerful tectonic shifts deep underground pulled the landscape apart, creating a great rift down the middle of what today is Tanzania. Kondoa sits on the edge of the escarpment which rises above the valley on its eastern side. It’s an odd landscape, dotted with massive granite boulders which look as if they had been tossed there by giants; a mysterious landscape which for thousands of years has invited its inhabitants to consider the spiritual realities which lie behind the visible world. And from the earliest times, that invitation has been accepted: these boulders shelter some of the oldest cultural and religious rock art in the world, thought to date from 50,000 to 2,000 years ago. Some of the sites are still used for traditional spiritual ceremonies to this day.

A rock painting at Kolo, Kondoa District

Islam

But there are many ways of thinking about spiritual questions, and sometimes answers are suggested not by geological but by cultural factors. The 19th century saw a huge increase in the Arab slave and ivory caravans which passed through this region on their way from the slave dealing areas in the west to the export markets on the east coast. The economic welfare of these inland communities was bound up with this trade, and many of the peoples along the route abandoned the traditional religion of their ancestors and embraced Islam. Kondoa, once a place of rest for the slave caravans, today has a population which is 90% Muslim.

Christian mission

Fast forward to the late 19th century. As Christian missionaries brought the gospel to Tanzania, Anglican dioceses were founded, starting in the former slave trading regions. In 1927 the Diocese of Central Tanganyika became the third Anglican diocese in Tanzania, covering a vast area which included Kondoa. For many years the bishop of the diocese cherished the hope that one day Kondoa could become a diocese in its own right.

But Kondoa is a difficult place to minister. Not only because of its majority Muslim population, but because of its poverty. The road system is very poor, with just one tarmacked road running through its centre. The economy is mostly subsistence farming, with only 25% of the land cultivated; erratic rainfall mans that crop failure is common. Electricity is available in Kondoa itself but not yet in the villages, most of which do not have running water; educational attainment is the second lowest in the country. But notwithstanding these difficulties, the Diocese of Kondoa was eventually founded in 2001 – following a rather unexpected development.

The spiritual foundations for growth

By the 1990s an Anglican pastor named Given and a New Zealand missionary named David were working together to bring the gospel to the people of Kondoa. ‘Given’, named by the nurse who had saved his life as a premature baby, was the son of an illegitimate mother and an alcoholic father; he spent the first 14 years of his life in a leaking hut, often going without food for days at a time. But his mother was a strong Christian, and when Given was 14 a visiting preacher invited people to give their lives to Jesus. Given welcomed Jesus as his Saviour, and began a journey which has shaped the Diocese of Kondoa to this day. One thing led to another as God’s plan unfolded. Given was confirmed; he was sent by the Bishop to school; he trained with the Church Army as an Evangelist; and he began with David to minister the gospel in the villages of Kondoa.

One day Given and David were travelling when they came across a woman who had collapsed. Doctors had been called and said she needed a blood transfusion to save her life. Her friends and family had offered their blood but were found to be of the wrong blood group. “Try mine,” David said. It was the correct group. He gave blood, and the woman was healed. Given traces the spiritual foundation of the Diocese of Kondoa to this moment. It was, he says, a huge step forward for the gospel. Three things were important:

Christ on the cross, by William Mather
  1. A man gave his blood to a woman – in Muslim society women are considered inferior to men
  2. A man gave his blood to a black woman – in Muslim society a black woman is considered inferior to an Arab woman
  3. A white man gave his blood to a black woman. Remember, this is a place which offered shelter to the slave caravans…

The giving of blood, Given says, represented the sacrifice of Jesus. Something had happened in the heavenly places, and from that day onwards the gospel began to spread in Kondoa.

The ministry of the Diocese today

In 2001 Kondoa became a diocese in its own right, and in 2012 Given was asked to become its second bishop. In worldly terms this was not an attractive prospect, and Given had two other job offers at the same time. But his wife Lilian, who is also ordained, suggested they spend a night in prayer. God spoke to them from the Book of Esther: for such a time as this… Given was consecrated later that year as Rt Revd Dr Given Gaula, second Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Kondoa.

Today the Diocese of Kondoa has 34 parishes, 8 deacons, 50 pastors and 97 catechists, and serves a population of 600,000 people. The Cathedral is currently the only parish in the diocese which is self sustaining financially, and most of the pastors are not paid. But despite these difficulties the diocese is growing. There are now some 18,000 Anglicans, up from just 7,000 in 2012, and whereas then there were no church buildings at all, now there are many. The diocese even has its own Bible College.

The Anglican cathedral in Kondoa

Rooted in Jesus is introduced to Kondoa

In June 2019 Bishop Given, with the support of the Barnabas Fund and the Diocese of Rochester with which Kondoa is linked, invited us to send a Rooted in Jesus team to the diocese. Rooted in Jesus is designed to support people who may have received little formal education and yet who wish to learn more about the Christian faith – people in places like Kondoa. Bishop Given hopes that the groups will both strengthen the faith of church members, and provide a tool for evangelism in local communities across the diocese.

So the first Rooted in Jesus conference was held in November 2019, in the church which currently serves as the cathedral. The team of facilitators was led by Canon Jacob Robert from the Diocese of Mara, and the conference was attended by 126 pastors, catechists, evangelists and Bible College students. The team provided teaching on the nature of discipleship, on the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and on the rewards and difficulties of ministry. Team member Bishop Elisha Tendwa shared his inspirational experiences of planting a diocese with Rooted in Jesus in DR Congo. Participants engaged attentively in the workshops on leadership, pastoral care and prayer, and twenty bravely volunteered to lead practice groups. Outside boys played football in the sandy riverbed, two women trudged up and down with cans of water for the plants in the cathedral’s plant nursery, and children gathered to watch a Muslim family train their new camel. Something new was happening in the midst of the ordinary people of this ordinary place.

Practising Rooted in Jesus beneath the ancient sycamore trees of Kondoa

There were many poignant moments in the conference, not least when people shared the despair they feel at being a religious minority in their own communities, despite Tanzania being a largely Christian country. Many said that they have experienced discrimination on the basis of their faith; but as the days passed gradually people began to feel that Rooted in Jesus offers the hope of reaching out to their neighbours with the gospel. The most painful moment, though, was when Bishop Given explained that despite his urgent desire to be fully present at the conference, he must go home to be with his mother, who had been admitted urgently to hospital. Marina, a lifelong Christian, had been seriously ill since Easter; and the following day she died. Given, whose childhood faith had been nurtured by his mother in such difficult circumstances, has remained the primary support for his family for many years, and he was with her as she died. The team was able to visit him and offer their condolences after the conference. “My mum was everything to me,” Bishop Given said sadly as he told of her death, sharing his conviction that her release from suffering was nonetheless an answer to the prayers of the faithful.

Looking ahead

“The Lord appointed seventy-two others … He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.”  Luke 10: 1-3

It was agreed that the groups would be formally launched across the diocese on 30th November. The Rooted in Jesus programme will be coordinated by Canon Lameck Masambi, the Diocesan Mission and Evangelism Officer. Reports will be provided by group leaders to the pastors, discussed in the parish councils, and passed to the area deans. Lameck will meet regularly with the area deans to review progress.

Our prayers remain with Bishop Gaula and his family, with Canon Lameck and with all those who will lead the groups, trusting that Rooted in Jesus will contribute to the ongoing spiritual growth of the people of Kondoa.

Bishop Given Gaula and Canon Lameck Masambi

Rooted in Jesus is published and overseen by The Mathetes Trust, and supported in the Diocese of Kondoa by the Barnabas Fund and by the Diocese of Rochester. The diocese has its own website, and you can read Bishop Given’s personal testimony here.

Posted by Revd Dr Alison Morgan, 15th December 2019.

News from the Diocese of Kimberley and Kuruman, South Africa

Report by Glynnis Moorcroft, Diocesan RinJ Coordinator

A Rooted in Jesus (RinJ) Training Conference was held in the Diocese of Kimberley and Kuruman at St Cyprian’s Cathedral Hall from Wednesday, 25 September to Friday, 27 September 2019. It was led by four GtC facilitators. The three-day training was intense but a real blessing to those who attended it.

The training included:

Daily morning devotions, teaching sessions which included “An introduction to Rooted in Jesus?” “Rewards and Challenges of Ministry”, “The Work of the Holy Spirit” – and more. Practice Lessons covered: “What is the problem?” “Who is Jesus” and “Assurance of Victory.” Ministry topics: “Knowing God’s Love,” “Rewards and Challenges of Ministry” and “Repentance and Renewal.” The presence of God’s Spirit was very evident and experienced by many.

The Holy Spirit gave us the freedom to pray for each other. Some were moved to tears. Worshipping God  through song and prayer during the training was meaningful and enriching. Many received Christ and left the training feeling transformed, encouraged, strengthened, and ready to serve oth- ers by starting their own RinJ groups in their different parishes.

One lady said to me: “I did not find it all that exciting until we did the Holy Spirit session. I stood there and others prayed and laid hands on me. I started crying and the Holy Spirit touched me deeply.”

Another told me how she cried with release and relief after the teaching on the Holy Spirit. “The teaching on the Holy Spirit at the Rooted in Jesus Training Conference was more powerful than  we  could ever have imagined.”

Team member Anthony McAnda has already started a small group at St Barnabas and Denzyl Sampson from St Mary the Virgin in Barkly West, has also started one. More are being started as I write. To God be all the glory!

Petrus Long commented:

“This Rooted in Jesus Training Conference had a great impact on my life. It caused me to look at the bible with new eyes. My desire to read the bible has also greatly increased. The RinJ small group, which I had started, means so much to me. We started with 4 members and  increased to 8. All the members are so enthusiastic and would like to meet more often than once a week. That we will reconsider next year. We also trust that our youth will start a new group in the future and we intend to start a community RinJ Group too”.

Firoza shares her testimony

“It  has been seven months since I converted from Islam to Christianity. Then one of the parishioners called and asked if I would like to attend a Rooted in Jesus course. Not knowing what to expect, I agreed.

“The  facilitators explained the difference between a convert and a disciple of Christ. We were divided into three small groups to read and discuss scriptures in the bible. Some of the priests shared beautiful testimonies of what happened to them when the bible was first opened to them.    

“While I was engaging, there was always someone that would share a scripture that would speak to me. We also made acquaintances with people from other parishes. I was intrigued by their enthusiasm and how they wanted to know more about the Word of God.

Others shared ideas on how they where going to start small discipleship groups and work from the books received. Rooted in Jesus helped me understand more about the Christian faith, the power of prayer and how to stand firm in the faith. We learned several memory verses. The material in the RinJ course has also given me so much peace of mind. It has taught me to live as Jesus did and assured me that whenever I face challenges, God will always be with me.”


In South Africa Rooted in Jesus is supported by Growing the Church, a church growth institute that serves the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. Growing the Church is directed by Revd Trevor Pearce. This report first appeared in the GtC November 2019 newsletter.

Posted 3rd December 2019