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 the parishioners called and asked if I would like to attend a Rooted in Jesus course. Not knowing what to expect, I agreed. “The facilitators explained the difference between a convert and a disciple of Christ. We were divided into three small groups to read and discuss scriptures in the bible. Some of the priests shared beautiful testimonies of what happened to them when the bible was first opened to them. While I was engaging, there was always someone that would share a scripture that would speak to me. We also made acquaintances with people from other parishes. I was intrigued by their enthusiasm and how they wanted to know more about the Word of God. Others shared ideas on how they where going to start small discipleship groups and work from the books received. Rooted in Jesus helped me understand more about the Christian faith, the power of prayer and how to stand firm in the faith. The material in the course has also given me so much peace of mind. It has taught me to live as Jesus did and assured me that whenever I face challenges, God will always be with me.”
Blessing in two directions : team members give thanks
We often say that those who give their time and resources to join Rooted in Jesus teams are blessed in as great a measure as those to whom they minister, and this has continued to be the case this year:
“I have never had such a big lesson in relying so entirely on God. It has been a very exciting and defining moment, and I have never been so free of doubt and so confident in him. Since coming back, this has hugely helped the way I lead in my own ministry and the way in which I approach the unknown, hand things from my control over to his, and to trust everything to him.” – Ben
“The experience has confirmed my struggle – I cannot believe that it’s possible to live an authentic Christian life in this country without a meaningful and sacrificial relationship supporting and being supported by, our brothers and sisters in poorer countries; I’m challenged to believe and trust more, and I have a different perspective on the issues and problems people face in this country” – Andrew
“I was convinced God wanted us to go, and there were indications that God intended to do something, so I had a sense of anticipation. Did he act? YOU BET! It was a real privilege to see God working in power among the participants, and to experience his blessing myself. Furthermore, I found God had additional aims, as he used our visit to encourage believers who were traumatised by 30 years of civil war. I have gained in confidence, and speak with more assurance. I have also become increasingly hungry for God and for means to serve him better.” – John
“The delegates on both conferences were so encouraging and welcoming. It was hard work, we didn’t stop from morning prayers 7am to 3:30pm, but it was so uplifting and enjoyable to be with such wonderful Christian people. I loved every minute of the conferences and prayerfully so did the delegates.” – Sarah
One day I might be able to tell you just how much Rooted in Jesus changed my life.” – Stephen
The last word?
What does it feel like to be involved with Rooted in Jesus? Mike Cotterell reflects:
“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.
Remember you can download the full report here.
Posted by Alison Morgan, 20th January 2020