As the English rain settled in for the winter, Mike Cotterell and a team from Rooted in Jesus set off for two dioceses in Uganda, one already using Rooted in Jesus, one introducing it for the first time. Revd Capt James Tumwesigye joined the team from the Diocese of East Rwenzori, and Pastor John Onyao from Karamoja helped with the training in Soroti.
Diocese of Karamoja
Rooted in Jesus was introduced to the Diocese of Karamoja at the invitation of Bishop Joseph Abura in 2016, and since then Coordinator John Onyao has been working hard to support and encourage the group leaders. The conference was held in Moroto, and 84 leaders attended. The region is emerging from a period of insecurity characterised by cattle raiding and other issues; the diocese has worked hard to resolve this, and there is a growing sense of optimism. The conference was marked by the presence of the Holy Spirit, with 50% of those attending testifying to physical and 30% to inner healing.
John Onyao reflected afterwards:
“Like a lot of churches, Karamoja Diocese has a number of people who have been Christians for a long time, are faithful servants of Christ and his Church, are members of congregations, and so on, but are in danger of always ‘being empty’ spiritually. As we were planning the RinJ programme and what to do next in different Parishes, we decided that we needed to do something which would rekindle our first love of Christ. Out of this was RinJ follow up programme, launched over the week led by Rev. Michael and the team.
“The team both led and spoke with a great sensitivity and openness and listened and heard people’s questions. Mike, Ben, Captain James and Lucy in the conference in Karamoja were loving, gentle in presentation, encouraging in message and clear in teaching. They allowed the Holy Spirit to use them in a powerful way. During this time of the teaching some of the participants testified, understanding of how RinJ groups are led, both in vocabulary and in its overall direction. The assumption was that daily discipleship, and church ministry, requires participation in the church, rather than simply seeking the Spirit’s blessing on our ministry.”
John was encouraged by the testimonies of those who had started Rooted in Jesus groups in 2016:
Alfred Lokiru testified:
“RinJ was so amazing to life and the lives of the group members I used to meet. As we kept on meeting, one of the participants in my group who comes from the mountain asked me to visit him on the top of the mountain. I accepted to go up on the mountain, the first day I held the meeting 45 people gave their lives to Christ. As time went and I kept on meeting these people 112 got baptized in the church. His appeal was RinJ is a very good programme as result it should continue.”
Rev’d James Chegem testified:
“RinJ has done a lot in the church I am leading, I used to struggle a lot from the time the church started but when introduced RinJ it has helped me to grow the church numerically and spiritually. He testified of a woman called Lucia who had never gone to school in her time but as she kept on coming to attend RinJ meeting, Lucia learnt how to memorize verses and now she is good evangelist and quotes scriptures in the bible which she used to memorize. Three of the members of his group had come to attend the training led by Rev’d Mike. James testified that many of the members who attended RinJ meetings in his church are now committed to church programmes. The church now has 300 members in attendance of which due to the usual challenges of Karamoja 100 of them born again attend church regularly. He appealed that RinJ should not stop.”
To read John’s full report click here.
Diocese of Soroti
From Karamoja the team travelled, accompanied by John, to Soroti, where they were welcomed by Bishop George Erwau and Coordinator Emmanuel Elianu. The diocese had been preparing for the conference for many months, translating the course books into Ateso and choosing whom to invite. In the event it was the largest conference we have ever held, with 222 people attending, and translation into both Ateso and Kumam. Team leader Mike Cotterell writes:
“For this initial conference, the Diocese had planned well, had good resources and facilities. Those invited to attend were limited to those who would be willing, able and available to run small R in J Groups. The conference was loud, enthusiastic and very ready – by lunch time on the first day it felt like an average third day when people have relaxed and have understood what the conference was about! As with Karamoja, people quickly understood the concepts and engaged well in the practice small groups and the workshops. Coordinator Emmanuel did an excellent job, especially considering the numbers involved and by the second day was relaxed and carrying a big smile. We felt sure the future coordination of R in J in the Diocese would be carefully and enthusiastically pursued.
“Feedback was again very positive and again we felt that the Holy Spirit had been at work in powerful ways, to which many gave testimony. The responses revealed: 100% felt blessed by the Conference; 100% felt energized; 100% committed to start up a R in J Small Group; 12% heard God speaking in a new way; 25% were physically healed and 95% received inner healing – that was how they indicated! We felt that God had done a significant work.”
To read Mike’s full report click here.
As ever, it was not only the conference participants but also the team who experienced great blessing. Lucy Henderson, on her first Rooted in Jesus team, wrote:
“I found our time in Uganda a wonderful and valuable experience. The outward looking faith of many of the people we met was a great example as well as the trust in and thanks given to God for everything each day. The people we met I felt really embraced us as brothers and sisters, members of the same Church family. There were lots of memorable things; so many adorable children everywhere, big smiles from so many people and very many handshakes, the pouring out of stories as well as honesty about fears and the life changing work of the Holy Spirit, the forgiveness of and freedom from some terrible things of the past, new friendships… I feel strengthened by God and have grown in confidence.”
It is not easy to travel thousands of miles at your own expense to share your faith with complete strangers; it is not easy to provide training to lay leaders from all over a large rural diocese; it is not easy for those leaders to establish and maintain challenging discipleship groups; it is not easy for a Coordinator to support them adequately, or for a diocese to spend precious resources on discipleship training. Why do it, when other projects offer easier and tangible results? Because, we think, it is in that place where Word and Spirit meet that life is to be found; it is in the quality of our discipleship that we find the key to our future. John Onyao sums it up well:
“We live in unpredictable times and face challenges. RinJ’s vocation is located at the crossroads where renewal and mission meet. Renewal without mission quickly becomes self indulgence. Mission without renewal often results in disillusion. Renewal for mission lies at the heart of the Spirit’s activity in the church. Unpredictable times and discontinuous change make discernment the Church’s most critical capacity for our day. Discernment takes place where word and Spirit meet, not this time at a crossroads but at a junction, the junction between past and the future.”
Team members: Revd Mike Cotterell, Revd Capt James Tumwesigye,
Revd Ben Brady, Lucy Henderson, Revd John Onyao.
To find out more about these and other dioceses visit the Uganda page of the Rooted in Jesus website.
Posted by Revd Dr Alison Morgan, 2nd January 2018