Rooted in Jesus is a discipleship programme designed in and for Africa. First developed in partnership with the Diocese of Mount Kiimanjaro in Tanzania, Rooted in Jesus has now been running for 17 years; it forms a major focus of the work of the Mathetes Trust, which publishes and supports it.
In 2012 Elisha Tendwa, then a pastor in the Anglican Diocese of Dar es Salaam, was appointed missionary bishop within the Diocese of Katanga in DR Congo. He got in touch with us to say he would like to use Rooted in Jesus – could we help? We were delighted to accept the invitation. To cut a long story short, the course books were duly adapted into congolese swahili, a team leader was appointed, a series of conferences held, local coordinators trained and Rooted in Jesus groups planted across the diocese.
Six years on, Elisha has completed his mission and returned home – and last month Alison Morgan met him in Arusha to catch up with the story.
The call to serve
The Diocese of Katanga covers an area more than twice as big as the entire UK, and is home to some six million people. Elisha’s task was to grow the church in the eastern region of Kalémie in order to form a new diocese. He explained:
“The Archbishop of Tanzania was the chair of the House of Bishops in Africa. He was visiting DRC, and Katanga requested a missionary bishop from Tanzania who would come to serve in the area of Kalémie in Katanga to prepare it to become a new diocese. He came back and shared that request, and asked me to go to serve in that area. I was then a parish priest. I shared with my family and my wife Fidea. But the situation in Kalémie was not good, they had war, and it was difficult for me to accept. We prayed and fasted, and I said to my wife ‘Let me go and see the situation, and when I see it is all right I will be able to come home and say that I should accept.’ But my wife said, ‘No, if you go and you see the situation is not good to serve there, what then, will you come back and say you will not go? If this is God’s call on your life, you should accept.’
“So I accepted. I left my parish, and we prepared to go to Kalémie. I used the boat to get there. I reached Kalémie. The situation was so difficult. There were only three pastors in that huge area, and four evangelists. My church was small, you had to bend to enter, because it is a small building. My house was not good, and I prayed and said to God, ‘Are you really calling me here? I have left a good house and a good salary – why do you want me to come here? Is this a kind of punishment?’
“I started my episcopal ministry after being consecrated on November 25, 2012 at St Paul’s Cathedral in Lubumbashi as an assistant missionary Bishop who will live and work in Kalémie to prepare that area by making evangelization, and by increasing the number of Christians and church buildings and growing the numbers of ministers like pastors, catechists, deacons and evangelists. I asked my God through prayer and I took a time for fasting; I used Psalm 121 to ask God: ‘I lift my eyes to the mountain, where does my help come from?’
“And God is good. He gave me a vision.
Growing the church with Rooted in Jesus
“I returned to Tanzania and I connected with missionary Jerry in Zanzibar, and he connected me with Revd Dr Alison Morgan. I shared with Alison the situation including the security situation, and she connected me with team leader Matthew. As soon as the situation was OK Matthew came with a Rooted in Jesus team of six people, 4 from UK and two from Tanzania, to plant a Rooted in Jesus ministry. They conducted conferences at Lubumbshi and Kalémie.
“For me it was a time of blessing. Rooted in Jesus is a discipleship course; it plants groups. We invited people through the evangelists and pastors, and 270 participants came, from far away areas. People from Moba came with their bicycles, two days it takes to reach there. These were lay people from the different parishes, youth leaders, Mothers Union leaders, church councils. The team stayed for one week and taught us about church planting with Rooted in Jesus. It was very, very useful. Rooted in Jesus ministry changed the life of people in Congo.
A syllabus for evangelism and discipleship
“Rooted in Jesus has a syllabus. There are leaders’ books, which you can follow. It is based on Matthew 28, go and preach and teach and make disciples. There are 4 books. When you follow the first one you have a thirst to know what is next. The first book helps you to grow, it gives you faith. In DRC, discipleship and evangelism you cannot separate them, because evangelism is the beginning of discipleship. You don’t go to preach the word of God if you do not lead people into discipleship. It is useful for people of God in Kalémie because they have been affected by the wars, they do not believe in each other, they have many gods in their minds. They were suffering and finding God in other ways. But when we introduced them to the real God, and we prayed, and they saw miracles, they surrendered their lives to God. Some had been possessed by demons, and after praying they felt like a new human being. We prayed also for physical healing. This gave people confidence in God.
“When each group finished the first book the coordinator gave them the second book. The syllabus connects the books together. So the first book is a foundation, the second book teaches how to invite the Holy Spirit. The third book is about the church, about Jesus when he gave authority to St Peter, build my church. The third book talks about church, not as a building only but as a way of life, personal between people. The church is holy – how can we be holy? You can offer your life in the way of building a new church. With Rooted in Jesus the first church was built with mud and grass, but people learned that church is about the heart, and they began to build big churches with stone, and they put their money to buy cement. They brought material from different sources because they learned to worship God in a good place.
“Book Four is about ministry to others. Some groups went faster than others, because the coordinator was able to visit them easily. The groups further away, even 200 km, had less support. Book 4 is a good book because it helps people to help others. Women created a plan to visit the sick in hospitals – this is because book 4 teaches how to minister to others. They went every week to hospitals, they collected gifts like soap, sugar, salt, to encourage the sick people – in hospitals there is no food. They learned also that when you pray to God, if you look after others then God will look after you. They went to visit people in their houses who were suffering and invited them to come and pray and visit also – even if they were not Christians, and they too gave their lives to Christ. We were able to baptise and teach people, and the church grew through Rooted in Jesus.
A growing church
“After two years we saw the fruits. People were coming to worship under the tree, and they began to build churches from mud and trees, with a grass roof. Small groups who learned through Rooted in Jesus changed the surrounding community, because the church received new Christians from other denominations, and others who were not Christian before, including some who were pagans who were converted to be Christian and baptised. We chose James Mayundo to be the Kalémie coordinator. James Mayundo was always visiting groups, seeing how they were growing spiritually, and seeing how to help.
“We saw fruit, we made ordinations to deacons. We have opened churches, the situation is good now. After five years of my ministry in Kalémie, working together with Rooted in Jesus, the number of Christians increased, many parishes opened, and the number of ministers as pastors, catechists and evangelists increased. By the time I left Kalémie they had an archdeaconry of Manono with 6 parishes, each with sub parishes led by catechists. Manono is 460 km from Kalemie. The archdeaconry of Nyunzu has four parishes with sub parishes also. In the Nyunzu archdeaconry the people are pygmies; we have a pygmy catechist. In the archdeaconry of Kalémie they have 5 parishes. And that is where we are building the cathedral of St John the Baptist. Now we have 8 pastors, and more than 16 catechists. We have many churches, some worship under the tree, and they put a shelter up like a tent; others have built.
“We have now built a good church, St John the Baptist, which in future will be the cathedral of the Diocese of Kalémie. The Synod of Katanga came to see the situation, and they said now it’s time for Kalémie to become a new diocese. The House of Bishops accepted that, and this was the end of my mission. The bishop will be elected soon. So I have come back to Tanzania.
Learning to trust God
“When I came back from Kalémie by ship to Tanzania, there was thunder, sometimes people fear they will die on Lake Tanganyika. People said pastor, bishop, we are here, in this storm. I stood and I went to the corridor outside on the ship and I said to God that time you were in the boat and you slept and your disciples woke you and you said stop. So when the situation was dangerous I prayed. We reached Kigoma in Tanzania and I took my small bag, and I dropped it into the lake with my money and my computer and everything. I cried to God and said what about me, but some people gave support and it was all given to me. I saw the hand of God with me in trouble.
“Through Kalémie I have learned how to serve God in any situation, persecution, suffering. I have learned from Paul – I know how to get, how to lose. But always God has provided for me. In the six years I served in Kalémie, I was not without anything. I am ready to go anywhere, to serve God in any circumstances.
“So the mission in Congo gave me a new way and a new life in my ministry. It is quite different from ministry in Tanzania. But I have a thirst to continue to serve God in that way which has changed my life, and which has changed my view on how to serve God in a situation of suffering.”
Bishop Elisha (in black) has now joined the national Rooted in Jesus team in Tanzania, which is led by Bishop Stanley Hotay of the Diocese of Mount Kilimanjaro (in blue).
To watch a video interview with Bishop Elisha visit
Posted by Alison Morgan, 11th March 2019