Rooted in Jesus was originally commissioned, written and piloted for use in Tanzania, nearly twenty years ago now. Today it is overseen throughout the country by Bishop Stanley Hotay of the Diocese of Mount Kilimanjaro, working with a growing team of diocesan coordinators and national facilitators.
Although some areas of the country are experiencing difficulty due to the number of Covid cases, in others life is continuing much as usual. There are restrictions on international travel into and out of the country, but no restrictions within it. Bishop Stanley has therefore been able to accept two new invitations to run Rooted in Jesus training conferences: one in the Diocese of Biharamulo, and one in the Diocese of Victoria Nyanza.
The Diocese of Biharamulo
Biharumulo is the youngest of Tanzania’s 28 dioceses. Founded just four years ago, it now has 27 parishes, 93 local churches, 30 pastors and 105 lay evangelists. Bishop Vithalis Yusuph explained that many of the evangelists have received little or no training, and the pastors have not so far had access to tools to help them lead others into discipleship; and so over the last 18 months they have been making careful preparations for the introduction of Rooted in Jesus across the diocese. He writes: “My passion is to see our people and churches growing in faith. It’s my hope that the Rooted in Jesus program will make the difference in our diocese.”
Bihamarulo then and now: from 2017 to 2021
The team was led by Canon Abel Obura of the Diocese of Mara, working with colleagues from the Dioceses of Mara, Mount Kilimanjaro and Victoria Nyanza, and using the new Tanzanian edition of the Team Manual which he has recently translated into Swahili.
Abel reports that the reception was very good, with high expectations of what the team had brought. 184 people were present at the conference, including Bishop Vithalis, the diocesan staff, all the pastors and all of the 105 evangelists. Every evangelists was commissioned to lead groups, and will be supported by their pastors and by Canon Zachariah Kaigarula who has been appointed as the Diocesan Coordinator.
The Diocese of Victoria Nyanza
The second conference took place just two weeks later, in the Diocese of Victoria Nyanza (DVN). This was not their first conference; teams with members from both the UK and Tanzania had worked here in both 2014 and 2015. But things can go wrong, and in recent years the diocese has been through a very difficult period. Coordinator Leonard Giligwa has remained faithful to his calling, and has taken part in conferences elsewhere; and now a newly elected bishop, Zephaniah Ntunza, is leading the diocese into new life.
The team was led by Revd Clement Manyatta, who is using Rooted in Jesus to support discipleship among the Masai people in his home diocese of Mount Kilimanjaro; he was accompanied by Bishop Hotay and Revd Charles Unjiro from Mount Kilimanjaro and Canon Abel Obura from Mara.
Clement reports :
“The conference was attended by 56 participants; all were pastors from the 56 parishes in the diocese. The RinJ conference was the first time for Bishop Zephaniah to meet with his pastors since he was elected in May of this year. It was his initiative to reintroduce RinJ to his diocese; he believes this is the only tool DVN needs for evangelism for now. It is good for them to start a new life with a new Bishop after such a long time without a diocesan bishop.”
Our faith encourages us to remember that in the Lord there is always room for a fresh start. It was not their first time, Clement observed, but for most it was like they were hearing for first time. Bishop Stanley Hotay offered this encouragement: “When you plant a field and it does not produce crops, you do not leave the field; you go back to plant again. In DVN we planted before but we are back to planting again. It is our hope this time we will get crops in a short time.”
The conference was held at the Bible College in Mwanza
Taking the long view
Rooted in Jesus has now been introduced to 22 of Tanzania’s 28 dioceses. It has been a huge privilege to watch the growth in discipleship and ministry over the last twenty years; we have cried together and rejoiced together, and we continue to support one another both in prayer and in practical ways. We are immensely thankful for the many blessings that have flowed between us, and we pray for many more in the years to come.
In the meantime we continue to live and work under what are often challenging circumstances. Leonard Giligwa offers us this encouragement:
Rooted in Jesus is published and supported by the Mathetes Trust.
Posted 28th September 2021.