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.
Revd Dr Joseph Morenammele reports from the Diocese of Lesotho in Southern Africa:
“On the 13th of June 2020 we had a one day refresher workshop for our Rooted in Jesus Programme. At the beginning of 2019 our diocesan team was trained in RinJ but following that, we did not have ample opportunity to implement what we had been taught. So, the purpose of this workshop was two-fold:
First, to get feedback from those who we were previously trained
Second, to refresh everyone and inspire them to respond to the call to discipleship.
“The training went very well with 39 attending from 5 parishes. The guide provided by GtC was very helpful in running the day’s programme. Parishes were given opportunity to report on what they have been doing since the training they had in 2019. A lot was shared, being both positive and negative. It was very encouraging to hear from people who had divided into small groups about the ministry that they had been exercising in their parishes in the meanwhile.
“A fair amount of time was also spent on making regional plans for the future, as well as incorporating the many new people into the origi-nal team. People were so keen to engage! The question of knowing Christ and making him known was central to all our discussions. Over and above all was the question of Christian growth – disciples inten-tionally making disciples”.
Some comments from members:
“I work with children and so I used the childrens’ material to start a group in my local church. The interesting thing is that with time, kids from other denominations started joining us too” – A leader from St Michael’s Parish.
“I must confess that not much has been done in our church. I have been trying to form a Bible study group at our church but sadly I did not succeed. However, from this encouraging meeting onwards, I will certainly revive the work.” – A leader from St John’s Parish.
“We are thankful for this programme. Thank you too for calling us together like this. I was discouraged when I saw nothing happening at church after that one week of training. However I have been encouraged and I feel strong enough to go back and restart. We really want to see our church revived” – Participant from the Church of the Resurrection.
Launching GtC and Anglican Ablaze’s Digital Ministry
Rooted in Jesus is supported in Southern Africa by Growing the Church and a national team of trainers. The latest Growing the Church newsletter provides an update on how they are rising to the challenges posed by the coronavirus.
The ministries of GtC and Anglicans Ablaze were anticipating a good year. We had 52 Diocesan Coordinators and assistants at our extended annual training event in November 2019. Fresh ideas for GtC and AA’s ministries were bubbling to the surface. We were anticipating up to 2500 attendees at Anglicans Ablaze. And then the Coronavirus literally turned the world upside down. Very fortunately we were already reflecting on how a more digital ministry could assist us to have a greater reach into our 30 dioceses across 7 countries. And so we sprang into action—a very steep learning curve for us none-the-less, as for many others.
Our digital training events have already taken off with dozens of people attending our Alpha and Rooted in Jesus training events via Zoom. Many dozens attended our international leadership event with Craig Groeschel. This small start has enabled us to engage with many more people than we could ever have hoped for. Our “radio broadcasting” of discipleship material via Facebook will be up and running soon. This small start has enabled us to engage with many more people than we could ever have hoped for. Thank you Lord!
Growing the Church is directed by Fr Trevor Pearce, supported by Liaison Bishop Tsietsi Seleonae. To find out more visit www.growingthechurch.org.za.
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.
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. To find out more visit the Rooted in Jesus website.
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!
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.
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:
“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 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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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:
“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:
“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
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.
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:
“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:
“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.
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:
“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:
“It has been seven months since I converted from Islam to Christianity. Then one of theparishioners 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:
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
A man gave his blood to a woman – in Muslim society women are considered inferior to men
A man gave his blood to a blackwoman – in Muslim society a black woman is considered inferior to an Arab woman
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.
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.
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.
“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.