This year we were delighted to be able to respond at last to a pre-Covid invitation to introduce Rooted in Jesus to two new dioceses in Burundi. In August a team of five facilitators travelled from England and from DR Congo to lead the first Rooted in Jesus conferences for the new Anglican Dioceses of Rutana and of Buhiga.
Kim leads a workshop on prayer in Rutana cathedral
First we travelled to Rutana, a young diocese just building its cathedral compound in a remote rural area of the country. Bishop Pontien Ribakare is keen to build a foundation of discipleship as a platform for church growth, and the conference had been organised by national Rooted in Jesus coordinator Elisha Nkeza and the Diocesan Secretary Jean Nisubire. A hundred people – pastors and lay leaders – had travelled to Rutana town for the conference, many walking for several hours from distant villages. All participated with enthusiasm, enjoying the practical aspects of the programme and punctuating the day with praise and worship. Bishop Pontien gave a rousing address at the end, and Philemon Ndayifukamiye, who has just graduated in theology from Bujumbura Christian University and is shortly to be ordained, was appointed as Diocesan Coordinator.
Small group practice beneath the jacaranda trees in Buhiga
The team then set off on a five hour drive through the mountains to Buhiga. Burundi may be poor in terms of world economics – in terms of per capita income it rates as the poorest country in the world – but its hills and valleys are fertile, and its people now live in peace. Everywhere there was an abundance of crops being planted and harvested, and in both places our tables were piled high with beautifully prepared fruit and vegetables. It was a welcoming and encouraging place to be.
Buhiga is an unusual diocese. Its mission station was established by Anglican missionaries back in 1935, and the cathedral was built soon afterwards. It became a centre for education and training, and its schools now see the best educational results in the country. But few of the local people were trained for leadership, and until five years ago Buhiga was part of the much bigger diocese of Gitega. Bishop Evariste Njiimbere is its first bishop, and he and Diocesan Secretary Etienne Nyokindi had invited pastors and lay leaders from all of the 43 parishes to attend the conference. Turnout was exceptionally high, and 146 pastors, catechists, Mothers Union and Youth leaders arrived in time for the opening session.
Coordinators Philemon Ndayifukamiye and Vianney Ndihokubwayo, with Revd Elisha Nkeza (centre)
As in Rutana, all participants were attentive and enthusiastic – even after the generous lunches painstakingly prepared and served in the compound refectory! Worship was exuberant and moving, and each day opened and closed with prayer led by the Dean of the Cathedral. Vianney Ndihokubwayo, also a graduate of Bujumbura Christian University, was appointed as Coordinator, and the national programme will be overseen by Revd Elisha Nkeza, Dean of Muyinga Cathedral.
All members of the team found it a huge privilege to be able to serve the people of Burundi in this way. The team’s only common language was French, whereas that of the participants was Kirundi; teaching was variously delivered in English, French and Swahili, and ably translated by the young university students. The conferences were supported in prayer by a team of intercessors, with whom we were able to keep in touch each day by whatsapp.
The Rooted in Jesus books have been translated into Kirundi.
Rooted in Jesus is published and supported by The Mathetes Trust, and we are hugely grateful to all those who give their time, talents and resources to make this ministry possible.