We have been hugely encouraged this month to receive reports of an increase in faith and discipleship within community of those using Rooted in Jesus.
The Diocese of Mount Kilimanjaro (DMK) is the home of Rooted in Jesus: conceived in partnership with Stanley Hotay, then the Mission Director and now the bishop, Rooted in Jesus was first piloted in both the north of the diocese and in the southern region of Kiteto – where, under the leadership of missionary bishop John Hayden, it was instrumental in the formation of a new diocese.
Stanley is now the bishop of DMK, and over the last decade he has pursued a strategic programme of evangelism and church planting, with 420 new churches planted so far. Bishop Stanley has just released a report which is available on youtube. He says:
“How are lives being impacted through the gospel proclamations? In our diocese, this is a reality, not a story. We have been busy planting new churches – over 400 new churches since 2012. Most of these churches are under trees, they are worshipping the Lord; people’s lives have been changed and transformed in many ways – they are no longer the same. There are places where they did not even know who Jesus is. In some places they even asked our Mission Director Clement if he is Jesus! The Lord has blessed us.
We have also started schools in some of those areas, because people do not know how to read and write. We have planted new schools, for example in Moshi. This is mostly a Muslim community, but we have a church there now, almost 100 people, and we have built a school, and drilled a water well. We have built a school in Sonjo, where 250 were baptised in one day. In Ereko in Ngorongoro, 668 were baptised in one day. In Engaruka, 167 were baptised in one day. These are big numbers!
We have started saving groups, where people come together weekly and save the little they have. There are over a thousand people in these groups. They are learning an economic way of living their lives. The money saved in these groups is over 150 million shillings [65,000 USD]. That money belongs to them. Some have bought goats, cows; some have started little projects. But it’s not just money – they are building strong relationships through coming together. They are praying weekly, and learning the word of God. This has transformed their lives.”
Discipling the new believers
The obvious question arises: how to disciple so many new Christians, many of them in such remote areas? Earlier this year, Mission Director and Rooted in Jesus coordinator Clement Manyatta wrote:
“We have just come back from the DMK pastors’ retreat. l got the chance to talk about Rooted in Jesus ministry in DMK, l wanted to know if it is really helping or not. It was really amazing since all pastors said it is helping a lot in their churches. But also we have many new pastors in DMK, so some don’t know much about Rooted in Jesus. So l talked to them about it; they liked it, so we will have Rooted in Jesus seminars in each deanery this year.”
Many of the new churches have been planted amongst the Maasai people of the diocese. Working with Clement we have been able to produce and print a new updated edition of Rooted in Jesus Book 1 in Maasai, and Clement has just written again to say that Rooted in Jesus training has now been given to a group of Masai pastors who will form 50 new groups in the churches of Minjingu, Engaruka, Ngorongoro, Namanga and Mkono.
Bishop Stanley asks: “Please pray for our people, and particularly the new believers.”
Rooted in Jesus in the Anglican Province of Tanzania
Bishop Stanley serves not only as bishop of his own diocese but also as the National Director of Rooted in Jesus for the Anglican Province of Tanzania. Rooted in Jesus has now been introduced to 20 of the 28 dioceses within the Province, and in the next few months a first conference is planned for the Diocese of Bihamarulo, along with follow-up training in a number of other dioceses. Team members will also help to train leaders in Uvira, a missionary area within the Diocese of Bukavu in DR Congo, where Bishop Elisha Tendwa has accepted an invitation to plant a second new diocese. “The plural of disciple is CHURCH,” Bishop Elisha reminds us, “so our members of RinJ must go to Galilee because Jesus is risen and He has already gone before them.”
Please pray for us as we support these missionary journeys. It is a privilege to work, as Jesus worked, with some of the poorest (in material terms) people in the world. As we seek to bring blessing to others, so the Lord brings blessing to us.
In Tanzania and Dr Congo, Rooted in Jesus is used in Maasai, Swahili and French
The Diocese of Kadugli is located in the troubled South Kordofan region of Sudan, parts of which are still dominated by tribal and political conflict, widespread oppression and random killings. Many people have been forced to flee their homes, and entire areas are still under the control of armed rebel units; as if this were not hard enough, the last year has brought the added fear of Covid infection. Diocesan Secretary and Rooted in Jesus coordinator Babuj Simon described all this in his end of year report as an ‘inconvenient situation.’
And yet in the midst of all this, pastors and lay leaders have continued to disciple people using the Arabic Rooted in Jesus booklets given to them in October 2019. Last year they held a listening day for group leaders and another of prayer and fasting, and reduced the size of the groups to make meeting easier. Some groups were able to complete the first book and move on to the second; a group of children achieved a 100% success rate in learning the memory verses, as their elderly leader struggled valiantly to teach them. “It was very hard for me to keep the verses, then recite them to the kids as I’m an old woman, but what I kept I passed to them and the children were very clever, and I succeeded to deal with them,” Zahara Kachou said, with justifiable pride.
Renewing faith in El-Dalang
Babuj has just sent us another report, following a visit to the parish of El-Dalang, where he found that some even more remarkable progress has been made. Pastor Hassan has encouraged the formation of four Rooted in Jesus groups and a new hymn team, he says; each group has two leaders, and some also include children. The hymn team, led by Rooted in Jesus leader Asmohan Abdullah, has brought a revitalisation of church services, and this is encouraging more people to join the groups.
‘There has been no church here for more than fifty years’
But Babuj’s most remarkable news comes from his visit to Salara, a village in a rebel-controlled area some 40km from Ed-Dalang. It is, he says, an inaccessible area unless you get special permission for entrance. 99% of the inhabitants are Muslim and 1% Christian or non-believers. Five members of Rooted in Jesus spent three days in Salara, declaring the name of Jesus Christ. Babuj continues:
“Salara has one of the oldest churches in Nuba Mountains, as reported by some of inhabitants there, first established in 1917. But due to the islamization policies and the former government policy toward the Churches they forced the Christians who were there to become Muslims and destroyed its church. I visited the place, but the building is still standing and used as a college. There has been no church in the place for more than fifty years.
Pastor Hassan Sudan shows the newly built church in Salara and the bombed former church guest house
“What has happened when our Rooted in Jesus member Pastor Hassan Sudan visited the place after his declaration last year to go there, the local government have given him a separate place to establish a church. However the very few believers there know nothing about Christianity, even how to pray; but they helped pastor Hassan in finding the new place, which is near to the main road.
“What is good is that some of the local government individuals there are so enthusiastic for the church to be built, as well very cooperative, that they asked the mosque administration to provide us with a carpet to sleep and sit on, as well as collecting some chairs from the houses.
“Even three of them accepted Christian faith on the last day. And they were baptized two days ago when I was there during our service. They are the head of the religious institution, the head of the intelligence and security in the district, and one of the teachers, whose wife was baptized as well. This happened due to the healing power of prayer done by the group. In all, twenty-two people were baptized that day.
The newly baptized believers of Salara
“A group of hymn team members from El-Dalang and El-Obied town, Pastor Abdo from Elfaw town and a preacher from Khartoum served God with me for three days, visiting widowers and orphans, supporting them by some gifts. The hymn team was composed of different youths from the local Church denominations in El-Dalang and El-Obied; our total number was 20 people, twelve of whom are Anglicans: five Rooted in Jesus members and seven youth leaders in El-Dalang Church who are in the newly estalished Rooted in Jesus youth group headed by Asmohan, the Rooted in Jesus team leader.
“My sincere thanks to Pastor Hassan Sudan, Rooted in Jesus Leader in Salara, and for his Coordination and facilitation to enable the team to get in; and my thanks to the local Administration for their access permission. And the rest of the team, I do recommend your hand, prayer and support for the service of God in Salara district. May our heavenly father be glorified.”
Rooted in Jesus team members pray for healing in Salara
A team from Kadugli’s link UK diocese of Salisbury led a Rooted in Jesus training conference in October 2019, at the invitation of Bishop Hassan Osman.
We have just published the Rooted in Jesus Annual Report for the year 2020, which brought challenges none of us had expected. As a global pandemic crept over the world, churches closed, conferences were postponed, movements restricted, and livelihoods threatened.
We were able to run conferences in three dioceses before national lockdowns came into force, but we had to postpone an additional six conferences, all of which will be rescheduled when the situation permits. We have kept in regular touch with Rooted in Jesus dioceses, networks and ministry partners, and have continued to support them in prayer through our regular prayer diaries and our intercession team. We have learned to use Zoom, and have used Whatsapp to strengthen relationships with both dioceses and coordinators. Finally, we have been able to take advantage of a quieter year both to commission and format new translations of the course materials and training manuals, and to begin work on a new Rooted in Jesus Book 5.
The report can be downloaded from the Rooted in Jesus website here– or read on for a summary, with feedback from across the continent of Africa, details of new translations, personal testimonies and more.
Conference outcomes in Ethiopia and Kenya
Rooted in Jesus was introduced to the new Diocese of Gambella in Ethiopia at the beginning of the year. Groups began straight away, and by May coordinator Jeremiah Paul reported that RinJ was having a huge impact in the life of the churches, comforting victims and strengthening churches. By December there were 47 active groups with over 500 members, about half of whom were new to the Christian faith.
Also at the beginning of the year, a team travelled to the Diocese of Kitale in Kenya to train 137 leaders in how best to use Rooted in Jesus. Groups got off to a strong start, but the planned local followup meetings were prevented by lockdown. Nonetheless, Coordinator Tarus Kirionon wrote in December that most groups were finishing the first book, with some having completed books two and three as well.
The Diocese of Kericho hosted the third of the Rooted in Jesus conferences before the pandemic brought gatherings to a close, facilitated by a team from their link parish of Trinity Cheltenham. Groups began in 19 parishes, and Bishop Ng’eno started one himself for the diocesan staff team. It is hoped that groups planned in the remaining parishes will start in 2021.
Reports from across the continent
We try to keep in touch with all those using Rooted in Jesus, and during 2020 we were pleased to receive updates from 38 of our partners, stretching from Ethiopia to Cape Town. Highlights included:
In Madagascar the Diocese of Toliara currently has 68 groups, and aims to double this number in two years. In the Diocese of Fianarantsoa RinJ Junior is leading to considerable growth in some parishes, with more and more children attending, and new families coming into the churches as a result.
In the Diocese of Niassa in Mozambique, Charles Kapito reports that when churches closed for worship, small groups became central to their ministry. There are now 49 adult and 71 Junior groups, and they plan to double these in the next twelve months.
In South Africa, the biennual Anglicans Abaze conference was held virtually, with an explosion in numbers attending, and a new digital ministry being launched. RinJ training was provided in Lesotho, Natal and Johannesburg, and testimonies of spiritual growth received from Kimberley & Kuruman, Cape Town, Natal and Free State.
In Uganda, the Diocese of East Ruwenzori provided local training for the 37 group leaders. Coordinator James Tumwesigye reports that groups have grown, members become active in ministry, and new people have joined the church. In the Diocese of Soroti Bishop Odongo encouraged clergy to form groups during the 6 months of church closure, and there are now 184 groups meeting across the diocese.
Brian Keel reports on the initiatives taken by the Glad Tidings Churches of Kenya: “Over the past couple of years we have been encouraging some of those we have trained in Rooted in Jesus to use the resources in ‘less than familiar’ locations. Covid has brought that about!” In Kisumu churches were asked to run RinJ community programmes for young people, and this led to improved morale and new faith commitments. In Nyanza the churches moved their ministry into people’s homes, and the resulting growth in interest led to the foundation of five new congregations. Similar things have happened in Busia, a border town where Muslims have been coming to faith and three new congregations have opened.
In Zambia, Dignity Worldwide have continued to support the Life Group leaders who use Rooted in Jesus for their meetings. They report continued growth in this exciting non-denominational ministry, with over 900 groups now meeting, and new groups being formed for mutual support as people faced the challenges of the pandemic.
New Translations and Editions
2020 was a year of new translations and editions of the adult Rooted in Jesus programme. Books were translated into Thok Nath and Amharic for use in Ethiopia, existing translations into Zande, Masai and French were revised and updated, and work in an additional 11 languages was initiated. We published a French translation of the Rooted in Jesus Junior booklets, and a Swahili translation of the Team Manual.
In their own words
We have received many encouraging testimonies over the past year. Here is a selection:
“It has been a precious experience to be part of a group. There has been a measured approach with our leaders preparing very well and not placing on us any dogmatic agendas or pressure to go and start a church immediately. You have reminded me first and foremost that Jesus wants to have a relationship with me.” RinJ Zoom group member, Cape Town
“These groups have really been a blessing to the people that meet. The ones that had the opportunity to meet have been enjoying and getting encouraged as they journey towards building and growing their relationship with our God. Many groups have already completed the first book and now as they continue with classes they’re using the second book.” Diocese of the Rift Valley, Tanzania
“The enemy has succeeded in keeping places of worship closed temporarily but he has not succeeded in preventing the St Luke’s RinJ from their weekly fellowship via social media. Every Thursday I look forward to spending time and discussing the word of God with my fellow RinJ members. Learning the memory verses has helped me to overcome trying and negative situations during Lockdown” – RinJ group member, Diocese of Natal
“Even if there is lock down of Churches, people are meeting in their cell groups sharing the word of God, and one of the tools that has helped is the Rooted in Jesus material.” Diocese of Soroti, Uganda
Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.
To download the full report click here. Rooted in Jesus is published and supported by The Mathetes Trust. Posted 2nd March 2021
One of the benefits of the coronavirus pandemic this year has been to prompt us all to experiment with new ways of meeting together. Martin and Colleen Breytenbach have been leading the first ever Rooted in Jesus group to meet online through Zoom. After successfully working through the first book, they are now continuing with the second – and beginning to prepare some of the members to lead their own groups. Colleen has written the following report, which we hope will both guide and encourage others:
“Martin and I have been running a Zoom Discipleship group during the months of Covid lockdown in Cape Town. Here are some of the comments we received when our group took a break after Book 1:
“I have appreciated the weekly study of the Word and the contact with other in prayer. It has strengthened me, so that when we re-opened the church after the Covid Lockdown, I had a new confidence to lead the church. I felt like I had grown.”
“It is interesting to see that although this material was designed to teach people who are not necessarily literate, that it was malleable enough be used effectively with graduates in the city context.”
“Coming from a Moslem background I never felt like I had a Christian family. I now have a family, and I have a team of Christian prayer warriors who love each other. I fell like I fit in for the first time.”
“It has been a precious experience to be part of a group. It has never been about manipulating people. There has been a measured approach with our leaders preparing very well and not placing on us any dogmatic agendas or pressure to go and start a church immediately. You have reminded me first and foremost that Jesus wants to have a relationship with me. Also, I love being part of a group who prays.“
“The first book took 15 weeks to complete. We favoured depth of study rather than brevity. If the group (who are all graduates) wished to search the Scriptures more deeply, we allowed them to do that. In this way, we ensured that each person drank deeply of the material and were fully satiated.
We took a four-week break after Book 1, during which time we had one social gathering, where we barbecued safely out of doors in line with Covid-19 guidance. We resumed on the 6th Nov and the group expressed great joy to be together again.
Before we started our group, we spent time discerning what God was calling us to do.
As we conceived of running one group, many names came to mind from our congregation. We wanted to invite them all! Some of the names were of those who were mature in the faith and we realised that they could potentially be future leaders. We realised that our small group could potentially lead to many groups starting up, and that as we grew in experience in running the first group, we could possibly run a training course for those who would volunteer to run groups in the future.
We shared our calling with the priest of our church to get permission to run the group and got his support and his assurance of prayer.
We created a Whatsapp group and invited participants, having first spoken to them each in person and got their agreement to join the Whatsapp group.
“The following Guidelines were sent out on a WhatsApp group, four days before the first meeting started:
Welcome: Dear all, welcome to the new St Peter’s Discipleship Group, facilitated by Martin and Colleen Breytenbach.
Etiquette: We have created this group in order to communicate essential arrangements and prayer requests. Please keep responses to a minimum so that we do not spam each other. There is no need to assure each other that we are praying, by sending emoticons. Let us take it as read that we will support one another. Remember that prayer requests are confidential and are not to be shared outside of this group.
The Material: We will be following the Rooted in Jesus manuals, the first of which we will study over the next twelve weeks. There are four books in total, which lead a Disciple all the way from making a basic commitment to Jesus, to the point of maturity in Christ, where they can train other disciples. After twelve weeks we will take a break before continuing this journey. We aim to fulfil that Great Commission by making Disciples who will make Disciples (Matt 28:19, 2 Timothy 2:2). The course requires one to memorise Scripture verses, so that the Word of God will dwell in you richly.
Practical arrangements: Our meetings will commence on Friday 29th May 2020 at 19h15 for 19h30 on Zoom. To avoid overloading the Wi-Fi bandwidth, we suggest that if you are a couple, you share one computer. We will end at 21h00 each evening.
The nature of the evening: The Sessions are designed to be interactive and fun. They contain practical demonstrations, videos, and breakaway conversations in Zoom breakout groups. You will be encouraged to participate fully in discussions and sharing. You will need a Bible and a notebook at your side in which to record your personal notes.
Final Greeting: God bless you all. We are praying for this journey of faith, and for all the individuals in the group. You may want to ask a friend to support you in prayer during this journey.
We had to check that every person had enough data or a strong enough Wi-Fi connection to support their audio and video on Zoom. Sometimes it was necessary to have a private Zoom meeting to establish that the individual understood the system and could participate fully.
We rehearsed Zoom techniques as leaders i.e. Zoom Breakout rooms, and Screen sharing
We practised using the material. We used our morning quiet times to work prayerfully through the verses so that we were ready spiritually, and had brainstormed some of the questions we might want to ask the participants during the session (that served us well during the actual session because it took the discussion much deeper).
Some thoughts in hindsight
“We needed to be flexible in our leadership. Some of what we prepared never happened. Some subjects were never covered, but we realise that that they may be covered later.
We allowed discussion to go off on a tangent if the tangent was worthwhile and not a distraction. However, we never allowed the group to go completely off the topic. We reined in people who talked for too long, by saying, “Thank you very much for that point. That was very helpful. Let us move on to the next paragraph” (or something like that).
We allowed time for people to share their needs, their fears and distractions. For instance, one couple was very distracted one evening because they were hearing about service delivery protests and riots in their near neighbourhood. They needed immediate prayer support. We stopped the meeting to pray for the people concerned and to intercede for the situation. It was an enriching time and brought the group closer together.”
In South Africa Rooted in Jesus is directed by Trevor Pearce and overseen by Growing the Church, based in Cape Town. The Rooted in Jesus Administrator is Estelle Adams.
We have just received the following report from Estelle Adams of Growing the Church in Cape Town:
Bruce Woolley reports from Pietermaritzburg in the Diocese of Natal
Rooted in Jesus started at St Luke’s Church, Woodlands on 10th October 2019. We knew very little about the course until the Leaders’ workshop, but it is amazing how God takes something small and grows and develops it. We were not sure how many people would join the course but there was a group of 6 of us that got together every week to pray for the course and for God to send the right people to the group. We also agreed to pray at 9pm every night for this group.
We have been so blessed with the wonderful group of people who regularly attend and who despite Lockdown have continued to meet on a Thursday evening using whatsapp to continue the course. We averaged about 20 -25 people before the Lockdown and about 20 at the moment. Our group is varied and we have 3 members from the Catholic church who have joined and also a member who joins us from Durban and recently one from Philadelphia, USA. Lockdown has caused so much stress for people but thanks be to God, it has actually allowed the group to develop and reach people further afield.
In their own words : Testimonies from group members
“I look forward to Thursday nights when we can communicate with other members of RinJ like a Bible study group. It’s wonderful to keep in touch with Jesus and each other.”
“Jesus died so that we could have a deep, passionate, personal relationship with God so we need to get to know him thru the Bible & this will help us to be Christ like. The closer you get to God the more he lovingly & graciously changes you from the inside out. RinJ is helping me with all of the above.”
“The enemy has succeeded in keeping places of worship closed temporarily but he has not succeeded in preventing the St Luke’s RinJ from their weekly fellowship via social media. Every Thursday I look forward to spending time and discussing the word of God with my fellow RinJ members. Learning the memory verses has helped me to overcome trying and negative situations during Lockdown.”
“I can remember the first time I walked into the church’s hall to attend Rooted in Jesus. I was nervous. Nervous because I was much younger than the age group attracted to RinJ and because I wasn’t as strong in my faith as they were. I walked in that hall feeling nervous but walked out feeling blessed. Every week I looked forward to Thursday because it would be RinJ. Our sessions made me look into life with new and different specifications. I am now constantly at peace and if anything is attacking my peace I pray about it.”
“RinJ has brought me much closer to God and his people in the church. About 2 weeks ago I tested positive for Covid-19 and when I found out I was in total shock even though I was very sick. It was just a shock that I was now part of the statistics and that I had something the whole world is talking about. I just went silent and prayed to God for complete healing. I wasn’t getting any better so the first thing I did was call our priest Father George one evening and before I could open my eyes the next morning he was by our house gate to drop off communion and holy oil. He prayed for me over the phone and went through the communion with me on the phone. It was in that moment that I was so grateful I walked through those doors of the church to join RinJ. I am so grateful that RinJ is virtual now during this pandemic because I get to still take part even though I’m positive with Covid-19. I am so thankful to God that he put me in the right place at the right time.”
“I have learned so much. God has shown me that He is always there especially when he is not. I have surrendered all to him and He is in Control. That all will be answered, But in His time. He has sent me angels just at the right time.”
“RinJ has been such an amazing journey so far and has had such a huge impact with my relationship with Jesus Christ. Things that I used to have difficulty understanding have become so clear, it also helped me to open up when we in groups, to hear others testimonies and how people can come together and share is just amazing. I used to get angry with myself sometimes because I couldn’t remember a Bible verse but with RinJ I’m enjoying the memory verses which is such a great way to remember a Bible verse, what RinJ has also done for me is really strengthen me in the word and in my prayer life, I feel so encouraged to pray on my own, with others and for others and has helped me so much in the lay ministry. I really am enjoying this journey in RinJ and I know it can only strengthen my relationship with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
In South Africa Rooted in Jesus is overseen by Growing the Church, directed by Revd Trevor Pearce. Rooted in Jesus is published and supported by the Mathetes Trust.
Revd Dr Joseph Morenammele reports from the Diocese of Lesotho in Southern Africa:
“On the 13th of June 2020 we had a one day refresher workshop for our Rooted in Jesus Programme. At the beginning of 2019 our diocesan team was trained in RinJ but following that, we did not have ample opportunity to implement what we had been taught. So, the purpose of this workshop was two-fold:
First, to get feedback from those who we were previously trained
Second, to refresh everyone and inspire them to respond to the call to discipleship.
“The training went very well with 39 attending from 5 parishes. The guide provided by GtC was very helpful in running the day’s programme. Parishes were given opportunity to report on what they have been doing since the training they had in 2019. A lot was shared, being both positive and negative. It was very encouraging to hear from people who had divided into small groups about the ministry that they had been exercising in their parishes in the meanwhile.
“A fair amount of time was also spent on making regional plans for the future, as well as incorporating the many new people into the origi-nal team. People were so keen to engage! The question of knowing Christ and making him known was central to all our discussions. Over and above all was the question of Christian growth – disciples inten-tionally making disciples”.
Some comments from members:
“I work with children and so I used the childrens’ material to start a group in my local church. The interesting thing is that with time, kids from other denominations started joining us too” – A leader from St Michael’s Parish.
“I must confess that not much has been done in our church. I have been trying to form a Bible study group at our church but sadly I did not succeed. However, from this encouraging meeting onwards, I will certainly revive the work.” – A leader from St John’s Parish.
“We are thankful for this programme. Thank you too for calling us together like this. I was discouraged when I saw nothing happening at church after that one week of training. However I have been encouraged and I feel strong enough to go back and restart. We really want to see our church revived” – Participant from the Church of the Resurrection.
Launching GtC and Anglican Ablaze’s Digital Ministry
Rooted in Jesus is supported in Southern Africa by Growing the Church and a national team of trainers. The latest Growing the Church newsletter provides an update on how they are rising to the challenges posed by the coronavirus.
The ministries of GtC and Anglicans Ablaze were anticipating a good year. We had 52 Diocesan Coordinators and assistants at our extended annual training event in November 2019. Fresh ideas for GtC and AA’s ministries were bubbling to the surface. We were anticipating up to 2500 attendees at Anglicans Ablaze. And then the Coronavirus literally turned the world upside down. Very fortunately we were already reflecting on how a more digital ministry could assist us to have a greater reach into our 30 dioceses across 7 countries. And so we sprang into action—a very steep learning curve for us none-the-less, as for many others.
Our digital training events have already taken off with dozens of people attending our Alpha and Rooted in Jesus training events via Zoom. Many dozens attended our international leadership event with Craig Groeschel. This small start has enabled us to engage with many more people than we could ever have hoped for. Our “radio broadcasting” of discipleship material via Facebook will be up and running soon. This small start has enabled us to engage with many more people than we could ever have hoped for. Thank you Lord!
Growing the Church is directed by Fr Trevor Pearce, supported by Liaison Bishop Tsietsi Seleonae. To find out more visit www.growingthechurch.org.za.
A Rooted in Jesus team has recently returned from Ethiopia, where we were delighted to be invited to provide the first Rooted in Jesus training for the forthcoming Diocese of Gambella in the new Anglican Province of Alexandria.
Team leader Bishop Martin Bretytenbach reports:
“It was a privilege and joy to bring Rooted in Jesus (RinJ) to Ethiopia for the first time! The local and visiting teams agreed that the conference went really well, and that God can use RinJ to establish firm foundations and deep roots for disciple-making in the Anglican Church there. Each member of the team was well prepared and presented their material clearly and with authority. All members of the team also spent time relating to the participants individually and in groups.
Before the Conference even took place, the Diocesan Team had already been identified. It was a huge positive to have the support of the Bishops, and the Diocesan and regional Coordinators in place from the beginning. The visiting and local teams met the day before the conference to get to know one another, prepare and pray together. We also met each evening during the conference to review progress and pray. During these times they set goals and made plans for RinJ in the Gambella region of Ethiopia. Bishop Kim Seng is requiring the use of RinJ in Confirmation preparation, leadership training and training for ordination in Ethiopia.
The conference took place at the SIM Conference Centre on the beautiful Bishoftu Guda Lake, about 50km SE of Addis Ababa. Most of those who attended were from the western part of Ethiopia (Gambella), which borders on South Sudan. The languages represented were English (which the majority could understand to some degree, Amharic, Nuer (the people prefer the name Thok Naath), Anywak & other smaller languages.
This was the annual Clergy Retreat/Conference, and those attending were clergy (about 33 including the Bishops and Mrs Kuan) and seminary students (about 8). It was very encouraging to see the good and supportive relationships among those who participated. Clearly they enjoy worshipping and serving God together.
Engagement with the material
The team was excited and encouraged by the real thirst for the Word of God; and the participants’ desire to engage with God and grow as disciples. We saw most of the groups having a lot of fun with the practical demonstrations and memory verses. It was very clear to us that RinJ is able to meet a great need, and has given them tools for ministry and disciple-making that they were eager to receive.
The three workshops (Pastoral Care, Leading RinJ and Prayer) were enthusiastically attended and the participants engaged with us and the material actively. There were many questions, especially about the details of how to start and run groups. There was a lot of prayer for one another. The ministry sessions were deep, especially the one on Knowing God’s Love, where participants nailed to the cross their needs for forgiveness and to forgive. It was deeply moving to minister among people who have suffered but are fully committed to proclaiming God’s reign in their contexts.
Challenges and opportunities
The Anglican Church in Ethiopia, especially Gambella, is very “young” in terms of infrastructure, training and oversight – until now there has been spontaneous growth of the Anglican Church, largely through migration from South Sudan. Many have suffered and live and work in difficult and dangerous circumstances. However, there are plans to establish two new Dioceses: one in Gambella, and one covering the rest of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. A theological seminary has been established in Gambella, and RinJ will help greatly in laying solid foundations of faith and practical discipleship.
It was exciting to be part of the first team to take RinJ to Ethiopia. I pray that, as the people of Ethiopia are ‘rooted and grounded’ in God’s love through faith in Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit, God may ‘accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine’ (Ephesians 3:17-21). To God be the glory forever. Amen.”
Team member Ven Hectorina Totsetsi reflects: “It was my dream and wish to fulfill the mission of Jesus to go and make disciples throughout the world. I am very passionate about Rooted in Jesus; RinJ is changing people’s lives. My visit to Ethiopia was a huge experience and exciting moment. I gained a lot of experience of how people interact and engage with others in Ethiopia. I experienced kindness and gentleness on the road and in Addis Ababa. I learned how to engage and manage diversity. The visit to Ethiopia inspired and uplifted my spirit.”
Rooted in Jesus is published and supported by the Mathetes Trust. To find out more please visit the Rooted in Jesus website.
Kondoa is a small town which sits on the eastern edge of the Great Rift Valley in central Tanzania. It’s an unremarkable place, an ordinary rural community whose people support themselves predominantly by subsistence farming – but it’s bursting with remarkable history: geological, cultural and spiritual. Missionary Vincent Donovan famously remarked that God enables a people, any people, to reach salvation through their culture and tribal, racial customs and traditions. And perhaps the key to understanding the ministry of the Diocese of Kondoa today is to be found in its history.
The Great Rift Valley formed some 25 million years ago, as powerful tectonic shifts deep underground pulled the landscape apart, creating a great rift down the middle of what today is Tanzania. Kondoa sits on the edge of the escarpment which rises above the valley on its eastern side. It’s an odd landscape, dotted with massive granite boulders which look as if they had been tossed there by giants; a mysterious landscape which for thousands of years has invited its inhabitants to consider the spiritual realities which lie behind the visible world. And from the earliest times, that invitation has been accepted: these boulders shelter some of the oldest cultural and religious rock art in the world, thought to date from 50,000 to 2,000 years ago. Some of the sites are still used for traditional spiritual ceremonies to this day.
But there are many ways of thinking about spiritual questions, and sometimes answers are suggested not by geological but by cultural factors. The 19th century saw a huge increase in the Arab slave and ivory caravans which passed through this region on their way from the slave dealing areas in the west to the export markets on the east coast. The economic welfare of these inland communities was bound up with this trade, and many of the peoples along the route abandoned the traditional religion of their ancestors and embraced Islam. Kondoa, once a place of rest for the slave caravans, today has a population which is 90% Muslim.
Fast forward to the late 19th century. As Christian missionaries brought the gospel to Tanzania, Anglican dioceses were founded, starting in the former slave trading regions. In 1927 the Diocese of Central Tanganyika became the third Anglican diocese in Tanzania, covering a vast area which included Kondoa. For many years the bishop of the diocese cherished the hope that one day Kondoa could become a diocese in its own right.
But Kondoa is a difficult place to minister. Not only because of its majority Muslim population, but because of its poverty. The road system is very poor, with just one tarmacked road running through its centre. The economy is mostly subsistence farming, with only 25% of the land cultivated; erratic rainfall mans that crop failure is common. Electricity is available in Kondoa itself but not yet in the villages, most of which do not have running water; educational attainment is the second lowest in the country. But notwithstanding these difficulties, the Diocese of Kondoa was eventually founded in 2001 – following a rather unexpected development.
The spiritual foundations for growth
By the 1990s an Anglican pastor named Given and a New Zealand missionary named David were working together to bring the gospel to the people of Kondoa. ‘Given’, named by the nurse who had saved his life as a premature baby, was the son of an illegitimate mother and an alcoholic father; he spent the first 14 years of his life in a leaking hut, often going without food for days at a time. But his mother was a strong Christian, and when Given was 14 a visiting preacher invited people to give their lives to Jesus. Given welcomed Jesus as his Saviour, and began a journey which has shaped the Diocese of Kondoa to this day. One thing led to another as God’s plan unfolded. Given was confirmed; he was sent by the Bishop to school; he trained with the Church Army as an Evangelist; and he began with David to minister the gospel in the villages of Kondoa.
One day Given and David were travelling when they came across a woman who had collapsed. Doctors had been called and said she needed a blood transfusion to save her life. Her friends and family had offered their blood but were found to be of the wrong blood group. “Try mine,” David said. It was the correct group. He gave blood, and the woman was healed. Given traces the spiritual foundation of the Diocese of Kondoa to this moment. It was, he says, a huge step forward for the gospel. Three things were important:
A man gave his blood to a woman – in Muslim society women are considered inferior to men
A man gave his blood to a blackwoman – in Muslim society a black woman is considered inferior to an Arab woman
A white man gave his blood to a black woman. Remember, this is a place which offered shelter to the slave caravans…
The giving of blood, Given says, represented the sacrifice of Jesus. Something had happened in the heavenly places, and from that day onwards the gospel began to spread in Kondoa.
The ministry of the Diocese today
In 2001 Kondoa became a diocese in its own right, and in 2012 Given was asked to become its second bishop. In worldly terms this was not an attractive prospect, and Given had two other job offers at the same time. But his wife Lilian, who is also ordained, suggested they spend a night in prayer. God spoke to them from the Book of Esther: for such a time as this… Given was consecrated later that year as Rt Revd Dr Given Gaula, second Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Kondoa.
Today the Diocese of Kondoa has 34 parishes, 8 deacons, 50 pastors and 97 catechists, and serves a population of 600,000 people. The Cathedral is currently the only parish in the diocese which is self sustaining financially, and most of the pastors are not paid. But despite these difficulties the diocese is growing. There are now some 18,000 Anglicans, up from just 7,000 in 2012, and whereas then there were no church buildings at all, now there are many. The diocese even has its own Bible College.
Rooted in Jesus is introduced to Kondoa
In June 2019 Bishop Given, with the support of the Barnabas Fund and the Diocese of Rochester with which Kondoa is linked, invited us to send a Rooted in Jesus team to the diocese. Rooted in Jesus is designed to support people who may have received little formal education and yet who wish to learn more about the Christian faith – people in places like Kondoa. Bishop Given hopes that the groups will both strengthen the faith of church members, and provide a tool for evangelism in local communities across the diocese.
So the first Rooted in Jesus conference was held in November 2019, in the church which currently serves as the cathedral. The team of facilitators was led by Canon Jacob Robert from the Diocese of Mara, and the conference was attended by 126 pastors, catechists, evangelists and Bible College students. The team provided teaching on the nature of discipleship, on the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and on the rewards and difficulties of ministry. Team member Bishop Elisha Tendwa shared his inspirational experiences of planting a diocese with Rooted in Jesus in DR Congo. Participants engaged attentively in the workshops on leadership, pastoral care and prayer, and twenty bravely volunteered to lead practice groups. Outside boys played football in the sandy riverbed, two women trudged up and down with cans of water for the plants in the cathedral’s plant nursery, and children gathered to watch a Muslim family train their new camel. Something new was happening in the midst of the ordinary people of this ordinary place.
There were many poignant moments in the conference, not least when people shared the despair they feel at being a religious minority in their own communities, despite Tanzania being a largely Christian country. Many said that they have experienced discrimination on the basis of their faith; but as the days passed gradually people began to feel that Rooted in Jesus offers the hope of reaching out to their neighbours with the gospel. The most painful moment, though, was when Bishop Given explained that despite his urgent desire to be fully present at the conference, he must go home to be with his mother, who had been admitted urgently to hospital. Marina, a lifelong Christian, had been seriously ill since Easter; and the following day she died. Given, whose childhood faith had been nurtured by his mother in such difficult circumstances, has remained the primary support for his family for many years, and he was with her as she died. The team was able to visit him and offer their condolences after the conference. “My mum was everything to me,” Bishop Given said sadly as he told of her death, sharing his conviction that her release from suffering was nonetheless an answer to the prayers of the faithful.
“The Lord appointed seventy-two others … He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” Luke 10: 1-3
It was agreed that the groups would be formally launched across the diocese on 30th November. The Rooted in Jesus programme will be coordinated by Canon Lameck Masambi, the Diocesan Mission and Evangelism Officer. Reports will be provided by group leaders to the pastors, discussed in the parish councils, and passed to the area deans. Lameck will meet regularly with the area deans to review progress.
Our prayers remain with Bishop Gaula and his family, with Canon Lameck and with all those who will lead the groups, trusting that Rooted in Jesus will contribute to the ongoing spiritual growth of the people of Kondoa.
Bishop Given Gaula and Canon Lameck Masambi
Rooted in Jesus is published and overseen by The Mathetes Trust, and supported in the Diocese of Kondoa by the Barnabas Fund and by the Diocese of Rochester. The diocese has its own website, and you can read Bishop Given’s personal testimony here.
Posted by Revd Dr Alison Morgan, 15th December 2019.