A window of opportunity

At last! In October all African countries came off the UK government Covid ‘red list’, enabling us to honour a longstanding invitation from Bishop Abraham Nhial to introduce Rooted in Jesus to the Diocese of Aweil in South Sudan, and to combine this with the first conference in the new neighbouring Diocese of Wanyjok. With little notice (but considerable difficulty!) our team were able to source flights and make the necessary arrangements for Covid19 testing and certification, and the conferences were held in the first two weeks of November.

Groups get to grips with Rooted in Jesus in Wanyjok

Team leader Mike Cotterell writes:

“We ran two Rooted in Jesus conferences in Aweil and Wanyjok in Northern Bahr el Ghazal Province. 100 and 150 people were expected, and we had only slightly fewer. Those who came were clearly glad to have been invited. Our vision of learning discipleship in small groups was shared and seemed easily accepted. Practice small groups went well, and all the teaching was well received.”

There were, he reflects, many highlights both in the conferences themselves and in the moments in between:

“Testimonies of healing and spiritual renewal. Team members John and Barry teaching about the Holy Spirit, followed by extended times of utter silence as we bathed in the Spirit’s presence. Many unplanned conversations outside of the conference: talking to a large group of young men after their evening football training, praying in the street with a group of unemployed young men; talking to 80 children in Sunday school; Cathie speaking with the Mothers Union and seeing their faces light up; teaching an impromptu lesson in school on the Trinity.”

The Diocese of Aweil

In Aweil 76 people were commissioned to lead groups on their return home, of whom 41 were men and 35 women. More than half testified that they had felt the power of God during the conference; 15 said that they had received physical healing, and nearly all that the Holy Spirit had touched their hearts or minds. 10 made a first time commitment to Christ, and 3 said they would now be reconciled with someone from whom they were estranged.

Bishop Abraham Nhial wrote afterwards that “The Rooted in Jesus conference in the Diocese of Aweil has educated our pastors and evangelists, who will contribute to the furtherance of the Kingdom of God in Aweil and beyond.” The diocese had arranged for the books to be translated into Dinka Rek (no small undertaking given that this is primarily a spoken language with a non-standard alphabet), and a young pastor named John Akok Akok was appointed as the diocesan coordinator.

The Diocese of Wanyjok

Wanyjok is a huge diocese whose territory stretches right up to the border with Sudan and Darfur, and most parishes are in remote rural areas; founded only four years ago, it has little infrastructure but a growing ministry and a clear strategic plan to raise up faithful Christian leaders. The Rooted in Jesus conference aimed to serve this vision, and 138 people were trained and commissioned to lead groups, of whom 83 were men and 55 women. Mike Cotterell reflects:

“The temperature was in the high thirties, but the enormous tree branches gave welcome shade. Here the Church first began. A remote area outside a small town; now the Cathedral was too small for Sundays, with its tin roof too hot for people to sit all day. Canon Tito the Church founder was with us. People told us “we are the first generation of Christians in this region”. It was an exciting time and place. Amongst us were young men from the grass and mud huts of the Bible college, Pastors, Evangelists and Mothers Union members, with younger women sitting behind, all eager to know more. Some people had walked two days to get there.” 

At the end of the conference an astonishing 88 people said they had experienced physical healing, 80 said their ministry had been strengthened, and 60 testified to feeling spiritually renewed. 40 testified to reconciliation, with others saying their hearts had been healed, they had learned new things about the Holy Spirit or about prayer, and that they had committed themselves to Jesus in a new way. Afterwards Bishop Joseph Mamer wrote: “It was really a blessing to have you in our diocese, I’m receiving encouraging reports from individuals who had attended the conference. Many participants confess that their lives have been changed. It is my prayer that it will have a significant impact not only in individuals’ lives, but that their communities and local parishes will be transformed and grow in maturity in faith and understanding of the Word of God.”

Luke Lual Ngong was appointed as diocesan coordinator, and wrote a couple of weeks later to say that 11 groups had already started in one archdeaconry.

Looking ahead

Within days of the team’s return to the UK a new Covid variant was detected in South Africa, and once again many countries are imposing travel restrictions. At times it had seemed that this trip would not be able to go ahead; but afterwards the team were left feeling, as Mike put it, that it had been “a special time of usefulness, which will hopefully give birth to much spiritual growth in the years ahead, as people share the fire of God’s love, sharing their passion for Him, His salvation, His Word and see The Spirit powerfully at work – in places we will never know or hear of – but they will know, and so will God. ” 

In the meantime plans for conferences in 2022 are already in place and work on translations continues, as does our ministry of prayer and support for those already using Rooted in Jesus. We hope and pray that the new variant will prove mild – and we will continue to jump through the gaps where we can!

Rooted in Jesus is published and supported by The Mathetes Trust. If you would like to find out more please do visit our websites www.rootedinjesus.net and https//mathetestrust.org, or get in touch with us directly.

Posted 13th December 2021