A Rooted in Jesus team has just returned to the UK from Ghana, where we had been invited by Bishop Felix Annancy to provide the first small group discipleship training for the Diocese of Koforidua. It was a first for Rooted in Jesus too, as Ghana becomes the 17th country to introduce the programme.
Bishop Felix was consecrated in 2017 as the second bishop of Koforidua, which has 31 parishes serving a population of some two million people. Each parish had been asked to send up to four representatives to the conference, and in the event 110 enthusiastic participants arrived from all over the diocese. The conference was hosted at the Anglican Senior High and Technical School in Kwabeng, and opened by Bishop Felix and the five archdeacons. Ven Kofi Obeng Ofosu will act as the diocesan coordinator for the programme.
At the end of the conference the 110 group leaders were given certificates, and books in the local language of Asante Twi, or English for those in non-Twi speaking areas. Men and women were equally represented at the conference.
It was an inspiring time for us all. The first thing we learned is that in Ghana people dance! And laugh, and worship, and sing… It all made for a very joyful conference, with people attentive in their listening and enthusiastic in their participation. Delegates took full advantage of the opportunities to lead a small group through a practice lesson, and engaged us with many comments and questions during the workshops on prayer, pastoral care and small group leadership. Prayer was a keynote of the conference, with people praying now quietly in ones and twos, now passionately in groups. The daily ministry times offered further opportunities for people to bring their needs to the Lord.
One of the bonuses for the team was that English is a national language in Ghana, which meant that we were able to engage personally with the conference participants. One on one conversations are often revealing – not least when the person explains, as Augustine did, that they hadn’t actually wanted to come to the conference at all! What Augustine went on to say next was one of the most encouraging things we have heard – so much so that we asked him to say it all over again so that we could share it with others. Click on the image to listen for yourself.
On the Sundays before and after the conference the team was invited to attend two notable events in the life of the diocese. The first was the silver jubilee being celebrated by Archdeacon Paul Kwabena Akomea-Marfo, who has completed 25 years of ordained ministry; the second was the installation of her Ladyship Justice Mrs Sophia Ophilia Adjeibea Adinyira, a Supreme Court judge who becomes the first lay canon, and the first woman canon, of the Cathedral Church of St Peter, Koforidua. Each of these services lasted between four and five hours, and each was followed by a reception to which we were also generously welcomed. Although this vibrant Anglo-Catholic diocese does not currently ordain women, it was inspiring to see the example being set by Sophia and by the many women at the conference, all of whom are deeply committed and active in their Christian ministry.
We are immensely grateful to all those who upheld the conference in prayer. I can’t at the moment think of a prayer that wasn’t answered!
An international team from the UK, Tanzania and Burundi has recently returned from Uganda, where Rooted in Jesus was introduced for the first time to the Diocese of East Ruwenzori at the invitation of Bishop George Turyasinga.
The conference was attended by 171 participants, including the diocesan clergy and representatives from all seven archdeaconries and 42 parishes: Mothers Union leaders, Parish Mission Coordinators, Senior Lay Readers and Fathers Union leaders. Bishop George writes:
“The team which came was used by God to bless us with the Spirit filled message. We were overwhelmed by the members. We had expected 150 people and we registered 171 people. This made the number more than we had planned. We are thankful for the team that came and introduced Rooted in Jesus in our Diocese. We are glad for the way Mike handled and coordinated the team. Everyone on the team knew what they were doing and every participant was encouraged to go back and begin making their own groups. We were encouraged and we are hopeful that we shall register positive results in discipleship. We are thankful that some groups have already started in some parishes.”
Bishop George Turyasinga
The programme will be coordinated by Revd Capt James Tumwesigye, who oversaw its implementation in his previous Diocese of South Rwenzori. James comments that “the teaching materials are good and practical to answer issues that our Christians are having.” The Rooted in Jesus leader’s booklets have been translated into the local language of Runyankore, local coordinators have been appointed in each Archdeaconry, and a series of follow-up days are planned across the Diocese.
It’s easy to give an account of a conference in terms of dates and numbers and future plans, but so much happens around the edges of these things, as people engage with one another and meet with the Lord in unexpected ways. Those praying for the conference were inspired and encouraged by the daily bulletins sent by the team. Team Leader Mike Cotterell sums it all up:
“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: 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.”
Revd Mike Cotterell
People invest their time, energy and personal resources in attending these conferences. They come full of expectation and trust that they will be not just trained to use a new programme, but refreshed emotionally and spiritually. At the end of each conference Mike likes to ask participants how they had found things, not individually, for that would take too long, but by simply raising their hands. He reports that of those attending, 100% said they had enjoyed the conference and felt refreshed in the Spirit. 90% indicated they had heard God speak afresh. 50 people testified to physical healing, 120+ to spiritual healing. All felt renewed and more committed to Church, 95% said they were more compelled to share the Gospel. 60% felt the Pastoral care workshop gave them more energy for caring, and half said they felt bolder in prayer after the Prayer workshop. To read Mike’s full report click here.
The team was led by Revd Mike Cotterell, with Bishop Elisha Tendwa from Tanzania, Revd Elisha Academy from Burundi, Revd Andrew Goodman from the Diocese of St Albans and Ms Rachel Hsuan from the Diocese of Chester.
The Rooted in Jesus team
Rooted in Jesus is published and supported by the Mathetes Trust. To find out more visit the Rooted in Jesus website.
In South Africa, Rooted in Jesus is overseen by Trevor Pearce and his team at Growing the Church, based in Cape Town. They have recently published a number of video interviews and an exciting report on recent conferences in the Dioceses of Lesotho, Natal and Free State.
THE DIOCESE OF FREE STATE
The Diocese of the Free State held a discipleship training conference in May last year, followed by their own Anglicans Ablaze Conference in November. Bishop Dintoe has spoken recently about the growth of discipleship within the diocese which has resulted from the introduction of Rooted in Jesus – click on the image to hear his remarkable testimony:
The GtC newsletter confirms: ‘A recent visit by Trevor Pearce revealed that as a result of Rooted in Jesus the Diocese was growing in fruitfulness, and development was obvious. Bishop Dintoe’s group with his staff members are now moving on to book three of Rooted in Jesus. Fr Itumeleng Pooe has a group with some of the members of the Fellowship of Vocation. He also runs a RinJ Junior group with his family. The programme has also taken root in the Far Eastern Free State, where the Revd Hectorina Tsotetsi, on her own, is coordinating 7 discipleship groups!’
Revd Hectorina Tsotsi reports: “So far Qwaqwa has seven RinJ groups, four RinJ adult groups, two RinJ junior groups and one group for The God Who is There. God is awesome; through the RinJ program people are growing spiritually, physically and economically. The church of God is growing!”
With the help of a team from Free State, Growing the Church was able to facilitate two further conferences in Lesotho and Natal. They report:
THE DIOCESE OF LESOTHO
‘The Diocese of Lesotho recently hosted a Discipleship Training Conference – training small group leaders in Rooted in Jesus, Rooted in Jesus Junior and in the urban, post-modern discipleship tool, The God Who Is There. What an exciting and vibrant group of participants – about 55 people attended. Facilitators consisted of Trevor Pearce and Estelle Adams of the Diocese of Cape Town, the Revds Itumeleng Pooe and Hectorina Tsotetsi from Qwaqwa, and Dr Joseph Morenammele, Dr Frangena Rathabanang and Me Thakane Mohapi, from Lesotho. ‘The 55 facilitators committed to starting 24 small groups. With an average of 10 people in each group, 240 people will be discipled! There is such excitement. Yes! Lesotho TV aired part of the conference.’
“I am totally humbled as I reflect on the weekend—words will never be enough to express what the Lord has done here! It was a wow experience. As Isaiah 43:18 says, ‘God is doing a new thing.’ Several participants heard the gospel for the first time and committed their lives to Jesus. Thank God for Revd Trevor who preached boldly about salvation and gently challenged the people to consider inviting Jesus in their lives.”
THE DIOCESE OF NATAL
‘After hosting Anglicans Ablaze 2018, the Diocese of Natal has become unstoppable! Their enthusiasm has led to lots of activities. They launched Growing the Church, Natal, which included training conferences on various aspects of Intentional Discipleship in five different regions, including Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Port Shepstone, Ladysmith and Durban North. The training tools used were Rooted in Jesus Adult, Rooted in Jesus Junior, J-Life, Alpha and a Discipleship Workshop. Teams of trainers spread across the Diocese of Natal.’
Bruce Woolley explains: “Each course will be rotating around the diocese over a period of 15 months. We are, with our Bishop’s support, taking GtC to the people, and assisting and enabling parishes to evangelize and make disciples. God is good!” Since then, three new Rooted in Jesus Adult groups, one new Rooted in Jesus Junior group, three new Alpha Groups and one new J-Life group have been formed at Parish Level.”
Zama Dlamini reports: “RinJ took off nicely in our diocese. We had a great start in Ladysmith. God’s presence was experienced by all. The participants showed so much excitement with regards to RinJ. We had both lay people and clergy attending. On Saturday, youth members from various parishes joined us. All in all, the sessions went well. We appreciated all the support from Revd Bruce and Revd Shezi for organising the logistics pertaining to the workshops.”
Find out more about Rooted in Jesus
The first diocese in South Africa to introduce Rooted in Jesus was the Diocese of St Mark the Evangelist in Limpopo Province, ten years ago now. Bishop Martin Breytenbach, who has just stepped down as Chair of Growing the Church, explains how Rooted in Jesus works:
It is exciting to see the difference that Rooted in Jesus is making in the Province. to find out more about Rooted in Jesus in South Africa visit our South Africa page. To watch more video interviews by Martin, visit the Rooted in Jesus website here or have a look at our youtube page here. The Rooted in Jesus report from Growing the Church can be downloaded here. If you would like to follow this blog just click on the ‘Follow’ button on the right.
Rooted in Jesus is a project of the Mathetes Trust, a UK registered charity which publishes both Rooted in Jesus and The God Who is There. To find out more visit our website.
Created in 2002, Rooted in Jesus has now been running for 17 years. During this time it has been introduced to some 90 dioceses, denominations and theological colleges in 16 African countries. Over 13,000 people have now been trained to lead Rooted in Jesus groups!
Many of those who have adopted Rooted in Jesus now provide their own ongoing training and support, fulfilling our vision that the programme should become self-sustaining in each province or area. We invite each diocese or network to send us an annual report, and we have been delighted to receive many testimonies to the impact that Rooted in Jesus is having as a tool for church-planting, discipleship training and ministry to families. For some highlights, read on – or download the full Annual Report HERE.
Conferences in 2018
During the course of the year Rooted in Jesus conferences were held in seven Anglican dioceses and two denominational networks, and we reported on some of these as they took place:
Following the second Rooted in Jesus conferences in the Diocese of Butere, coordinator Benjamin Kibara reports that there are now 410 Rooted in Jesus groups meeting across the diocese, of which 107 were newly planted in 2018.
Just under a year on from the first Rooted in Jesus conference in the Diocese of the Free State, Bishop Dintoe reports:
“We have visibly seen how Rooted in Jesus has affected the local people, and how people have given their commitment and their life to the Lord. We notice men who never really thought that they could give their services volunteer to work in the church, paint the roof of the church, do maintenance at the local church. We have seen women with spades and forks doing gardening and making vegetable gardens for themselves and also to feed the community and 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. We are very excited about Rooted in Jesus.”
November 2018 saw the inauguration of the new Diocese of Nampula in Mozambique, and a Rooted in Jesus conference was held the very next week! Bishop Manuel has worked with Rooted in Jesus for many years in Nampula’s parent diocese of Niassa, and a few months later he explained:
“The programme of Rooted in Jesus has opened up many opportunities. As a new diocese we faced a lot of difficulties: where to begin? We had three priorities. The first is to transform our congregations; then to train leaders, and then to plant new churches. And we began to ask: ‘How can we manage all that?’ There was a risk of starting as an institution rather than growing people. But then with Rooted in Jesus, we were handed a tool that got us exactly to the place we wanted to reach. Thanks to Rooted in Jesus, we could train leaders within the congregations, and plant new churches. Those who had already taken part came together in groups: 35-40 groups. And within these groups, we began to see fresh individuals, fresh leaders and fresh congregations emerge. Rooted in Jesus has given us a fresh vision for making disciples, creating new believers. The programme which is simple, practical but always very profound. It’s a spirituality that challenges us all.”
Bishop Manuel Ernesto
News from those already using Rooted in Jesus
Rooted in Jesus is now in use in 8 dioceses in Uganda. The Diocese of Bunyoro Kitara, Uganda, introduced Rooted in Jesus six years ago. Coordinator Joyce Asaba reports that many groups are now completing the course, and new groups have been planted:
“Group members say that they have really benefited from the course; some have become leaders and formed other groups. They also say that scripture memory has helped them in ministry and in their daily lives. Others say their lives have changed completely.”
At the opposite end of the country in the Diocese of Mityana, Coordinator John Musaasizi and his colleagues visited now fewer than 32 churches in the course of the year, encouraging entire congregations to commit to Rooted in Jesus and supporting the group leader in each place. They have seen many come to faith, and many changed lives.
Elsewhere, the Diocese of Eastern Zambia now runs all its own training for both the adult and Junior programmes. Fr Kapomba Sekeleti reports:
“People are now rooted in Jesus. Things have changed in the lives of our ministers and lay leaders. We use RinJ Junior for child baptism preparation, and RinJ adult for adults. The Rooted in Jesus material is simple and easily understood. We have seen people returning to faith, deepening their prayer life, increasing their commitment to church. We have seen growing interest in the Bible. And people are becoming grounded in the word of God, they love the church more, they are growing the church. Some have the confidence to preach the word of God, some to pray for others. These are some of the fruits we have seen because people are rooted in Jesus.”
In Tanzania, Rooted in Jesus has now been introduced to 18 of the 28 dioceses of the Province. Perhaps the biggest surprise comes from the Diocese of Masasi, where there has been an explosion in the numbers of children enrolled in Rooted in Jesus Junior classes – up from 3500 to 5500 in a single year. News is particularly encouraging from Mpwapwa, where there are 163 adult and 131 junior groups; Coordinator Dustan Mtoro explains that new people have come to faith, church attendance has increased, and group members are offering their time, talents and resources to the church – and took just three months to raise the money needed for the construction of a new diocesan building!
Tanzanian dioceses which have hosted RinJ training are shown in green (Kibondo, formed in 2012 from the Diocese of Western Tanganyika, not shown)
News from our partners
Rooted in Jesus has been adopted by a number of independent organisations and denominations. Foremost among these is Dignity, who in the last ten years have used RinJ alongside their own materials to plant 700 cross-denominational ‘Life’ groups in rural areas, initially in Zambia but now also in Tanzania, Angola, Kenya and Namibia. Focussing not on the church but on the community, group members support one another and those in need regardless of church affiliation, social status or lifestyle, motivated by their growing faith in Jesus – and the result is a trail of stories of what they refer to as ‘amazing lives, everyday miracles’. It is a huge privilege to be able to make a small contribution to this remarkable story. To find out more visit Dignity’s website HERE.
Planting new dioceses with Rooted in Jesus
Last but of course not least, Rooted in Jesus has often been used for planting not only churches but even whole dioceses. In DR Congo, Bishop Elisha Tendwa completed six years as a missionary bishop, using Rooted in Jesus to plant groups and build Christian communities in remote, unreached areas – to read his story and watch a video interview click HERE.
Why do we need to be rooted in Jesus?
‘Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”‘ Matthew 28.16-20.
Rooted in Jesus is published and supported by the Mathetes Trust. The word ‘mathetes’ is the New Testament term for our English word ‘disciple’, and the Great Commission by Jesus underpins everything we do both here in the UK and with our partners in Africa.
To download the Annual Report as a pdf file click HERE To visit the Rooted in Jesus website click HERE
Rooted in Jesus is a discipleship programme designed in and for Africa. First developed in partnership with the Diocese of Mount Kiimanjaro in Tanzania, Rooted in Jesus has now been running for 17 years; it forms a major focus of the work of the Mathetes Trust, which publishes and supports it.
In 2012 Elisha Tendwa, then a pastor in the Anglican Diocese of Dar es Salaam, was appointed missionary bishop within the Diocese of Katanga in DR Congo. He got in touch with us to say he would like to use Rooted in Jesus – could we help? We were delighted to accept the invitation. To cut a long story short, the course books were duly adapted into congolese swahili, a team leader was appointed, a series of conferences held, local coordinators trained and Rooted in Jesus groups planted across the diocese.
Six years on, Elisha has completed his mission and returned home – and last month Alison Morgan met him in Arusha to catch up with the story.
The call to serve
The Diocese of Katanga covers an area more than twice as big as the entire UK, and is home to some six million people. Elisha’s task was to grow the church in the eastern region of Kalémie in order to form a new diocese. He explained:
“The Archbishop of Tanzania was the chair of the House of Bishops in Africa. He was visiting DRC, and Katanga requested a missionary bishop from Tanzania who would come to serve in the area of Kalémie in Katanga to prepare it to become a new diocese. He came back and shared that request, and asked me to go to serve in that area. I was then a parish priest. I shared with my family and my wife Fidea. But the situation in Kalémie was not good, they had war, and it was difficult for me to accept. We prayed and fasted, and I said to my wife ‘Let me go and see the situation, and when I see it is all right I will be able to come home and say that I should accept.’ But my wife said, ‘No, if you go and you see the situation is not good to serve there, what then, will you come back and say you will not go? If this is God’s call on your life, you should accept.’
“So I accepted. I
left my parish, and we prepared to go to Kalémie. I used the boat to get there.
I reached Kalémie. The situation was so difficult. There were only three pastors
in that huge area, and four evangelists. My church was small, you had to bend
to enter, because it is a small building. My house was not good, and I prayed
and said to God, ‘Are you really calling me here? I have left a good house and
a good salary – why do you want me to come here? Is this a kind of punishment?’
“I started my episcopal ministry after being consecrated on November 25, 2012 at St Paul’s Cathedral in Lubumbashi as an assistant missionary Bishop who will live and work in Kalémie to prepare that area by making evangelization, and by increasing the number of Christians and church buildings and growing the numbers of ministers like pastors, catechists, deacons and evangelists. I asked my God through prayer and I took a time for fasting; I used Psalm 121 to ask God: ‘I lift my eyes to the mountain, where does my help come from?’
“And God is good. He gave me a vision.
Growing the church with Rooted in Jesus
“I returned to Tanzania and I connected with missionary Jerry in Zanzibar, and he connected me with Revd Dr Alison Morgan. I shared with Alison the situation including the security situation, and she connected me with team leader Matthew. As soon as the situation was OK Matthew came with a Rooted in Jesus team of six people, 4 from UK and two from Tanzania, to plant a Rooted in Jesus ministry. They conducted conferences at Lubumbshi and Kalémie.
“For me it was a time of blessing. Rooted in Jesus is a discipleship course; it plants groups. We invited people through the evangelists and pastors, and 270 participants came, from far away areas. People from Moba came with their bicycles, two days it takes to reach there. These were lay people from the different parishes, youth leaders, Mothers Union leaders, church councils. The team stayed for one week and taught us about church planting with Rooted in Jesus. It was very, very useful. Rooted in Jesus ministry changed the life of people in Congo.
A syllabus for evangelism and discipleship
“Rooted in Jesus has a syllabus. There are leaders’ books, which you can follow. It is based on Matthew 28, go and preach and teach and make disciples. There are 4 books. When you follow the first one you have a thirst to know what is next. The first book helps you to grow, it gives you faith. In DRC, discipleship and evangelism you cannot separate them, because evangelism is the beginning of discipleship. You don’t go to preach the word of God if you do not lead people into discipleship. It is useful for people of God in Kalémie because they have been affected by the wars, they do not believe in each other, they have many gods in their minds. They were suffering and finding God in other ways. But when we introduced them to the real God, and we prayed, and they saw miracles, they surrendered their lives to God. Some had been possessed by demons, and after praying they felt like a new human being. We prayed also for physical healing. This gave people confidence in God.
“When each group finished the first book the coordinator gave them the second book. The syllabus connects the books together. So the first book is a foundation, the second book teaches how to invite the Holy Spirit. The third book is about the church, about Jesus when he gave authority to St Peter, build my church. The third book talks about church, not as a building only but as a way of life, personal between people. The church is holy – how can we be holy? You can offer your life in the way of building a new church. With Rooted in Jesus the first church was built with mud and grass, but people learned that church is about the heart, and they began to build big churches with stone, and they put their money to buy cement. They brought material from different sources because they learned to worship God in a good place.
“Book Four is about ministry to others. Some groups went faster than others, because the coordinator was able to visit them easily. The groups further away, even 200 km, had less support. Book 4 is a good book because it helps people to help others. Women created a plan to visit the sick in hospitals – this is because book 4 teaches how to minister to others. They went every week to hospitals, they collected gifts like soap, sugar, salt, to encourage the sick people – in hospitals there is no food. They learned also that when you pray to God, if you look after others then God will look after you. They went to visit people in their houses who were suffering and invited them to come and pray and visit also – even if they were not Christians, and they too gave their lives to Christ. We were able to baptise and teach people, and the church grew through Rooted in Jesus.
A growing church
“After two years we saw the fruits. People were coming to worship under the tree, and they began to build churches from mud and trees, with a grass roof. Small groups who learned through Rooted in Jesus changed the surrounding community, because the church received new Christians from other denominations, and others who were not Christian before, including some who were pagans who were converted to be Christian and baptised. We chose James Mayundo to be the Kalémie coordinator. James Mayundo was always visiting groups, seeing how they were growing spiritually, and seeing how to help.
“We saw fruit, we made ordinations to deacons. We have opened churches, the situation is good now. After five years of my ministry in Kalémie, working together with Rooted in Jesus, the number of Christians increased, many parishes opened, and the number of ministers as pastors, catechists and evangelists increased. By the time I left Kalémie they had an archdeaconry of Manono with 6 parishes, each with sub parishes led by catechists. Manono is 460 km from Kalemie. The archdeaconry of Nyunzu has four parishes with sub parishes also. In the Nyunzu archdeaconry the people are pygmies; we have a pygmy catechist. In the archdeaconry of Kalémie they have 5 parishes. And that is where we are building the cathedral of St John the Baptist. Now we have 8 pastors, and more than 16 catechists. We have many churches, some worship under the tree, and they put a shelter up like a tent; others have built.
“We have now built a good church, St John the Baptist, which in future will be the cathedral of the Diocese of Kalémie. The Synod of Katanga came to see the situation, and they said now it’s time for Kalémie to become a new diocese. The House of Bishops accepted that, and this was the end of my mission. The bishop will be elected soon. So I have come back to Tanzania.
Learning to trust God
“When I came
back from Kalémie by ship to Tanzania, there was thunder, sometimes people fear
they will die on Lake Tanganyika. People said pastor, bishop, we are here, in
this storm. I stood and I went to the corridor outside on the ship and I said
to God that time you were in the boat and you slept and your disciples woke you
and you said stop. So when the situation was dangerous I prayed. We reached
Kigoma in Tanzania and I took my small bag, and I dropped it into the lake with
my money and my computer and everything. I cried to God and said what about me,
but some people gave support and it was all given to me. I saw the hand of God
with me in trouble.
“Through Kalémie I have learned how to serve God in any situation, persecution, suffering. I have learned from Paul – I know how to get, how to lose. But always God has provided for me. In the six years I served in Kalémie, I was not without anything. I am ready to go anywhere, to serve God in any circumstances.
“So the mission in Congo gave me a new way and a new life in my
ministry. It is quite different from ministry in Tanzania. But I have a
thirst to continue to serve God in that way which has changed my life,
and which has changed my view on how to serve God in a situation of
Bishop Elisha (in black) has now joined the national Rooted in Jesus team in Tanzania, which is led by Bishop Stanley Hotay of the Diocese of Mount Kilimanjaro (in blue).
Last week the Diocese of the Rift Valley in Tanzania held its first Rooted in Jesus conference. The conference took place in the small town of Manyoni, near the geographical centre of the country, at the initiative of Bishop John Lupaa, and was attended by 235 pastors, catechists, Bible college students and Mothers Union representatives.
“I love you, Lord, my strength” (Ps 18.1)
Bishop John explained that the diocese, which covers the province of Singida, has 267 churches in 51 parishes, with a membership of some 130,000 people – about ten per cent of the population of the province. Over the last year he has visited every single one of these 267 churches, confirming 3000 people and baptising as many again; there is an openness here to the gospel. “We are lucky,” he says, because we are poor. People depend on God, because they have nothing else.”
But there is much still to do, he explained; of the 1300 villages in the province, 1000 have no Anglican presence, and many of those – particularly in the more remote rural areas – have no church of any kind. This is an area of primary evangelism. The diocesan vision is to increase the number of Christians by 2,200 every year, and to do this by becoming a self-sustaining community which grows through releasing the time, talents and gifts of its members. Bishop John hopes that Rooted in Jesus will help them to fulfil this vision.
In Tanzania Rooted in Jesus is directed by Bishop Stanley Hotay of the Diocese of Mount Kilimanjaro; Stanley was one of the founders of the programme, which has now been running for nearly twenty years. In that time it has spread to 19 of the 27 dioceses in the country, and is still growing. Bishop Stanley had invited Canon Jacob Robert of the Diocese of Mara to lead the team. Jacob was joined by his colleague Canon Gaspar Kassanda, with Canon Dustan Mtoro from the Diocese of Mpwapwa, Revd Clement Manyatta from Mount Kilimanjaro, supported by Dr Alison Morgan from the UK. The conference had been organised by Canon George Mbago of the Department of Christian Education in DRV, ably supported by a team from the cathedral, where it was hosted.
The team was able to meet together the day before the conference to plan and pray, and everyone was delighted to find that each person brought a different gifting, Ephesians style, to the team – a leader, a pastor, an evangelist, a prayer minister, and a teacher. We worked hard, depended on one another, and rejoiced as we watched people learning and growing together.
A diverse pattern of learning
A Rooted in Jesus conference stretches over four days, and includes praise and worship, biblical teaching, small group practice, workshops and prayer; it also offers participants the opportunity to share their own needs and minister to one another. Each participant had paid their own bus fare to reach the conference, and many were offered hospitality by cathedral members who opened their homes to them. Each had come in the expectation that they would learn and grow during their time together, and they threw themselves wholeheartedly into every element of the programme. Bishop John was present throughout the conference to affirm and encourage, and this created a great sense of common purpose.
Rooted in Jesus is intentionally interactive and practical, and each session includes discussion, practical demonstration, times of sharing, questions, prayer and the learning of a memory verse. Encouraged to lead collaboratively rather than classroom style, participants found themselves caught up into something that was challenging but also hugely enjoyable. They adapted quickly to the new approach, and threw themselves with enthusiasm into the practical demonstrations.
Encouraging one another
This was a particularly experienced team, and participants were encouraged by the testimony of Jacob, Gaspar and Dustan, each of whom has been using Rooted in Jesus in their own diocese for over seven years now, and each of whom was able to share many stories of how people have grown in confidence and faith as they have committed themselves to learning together to be disciples of Jesus:
Dustan coordinates Rooted in Jesus in the Diocese of Mpwapwa. He reported that there are now nearly 300 groups in the diocese, some using the adult programme, some using Rooted in Jesus Junior in Sunday schools; many people have completed the course, and in every parish both church commitment and every member participation have risen dramatically as a result. Last year an ambitious fund raising campaign for a new building organised through the Rooted in Jesus groups raised the sum required within three months.
Gaspar is the Director of Evangelism in the Diocese of Mara. He told the conference how he has been steadily planting 7-10 churches a year, working with a small team and using Rooted in Jesus to disciple those who respond to the gospel. In each place the new Christians build a wooden church and thatch it with leaves, and the diocese has grown so much that they have already divided once and plan to do so again. Jacob said that there are nearly 200 adult groups and 135 Junior groups in the diocese – and that many people have already completed the course and developed their own ministry to others.
At the end of the conference Bishop John Lupaa gave a solemn charge. Each person commissioned will be expected to start a Rooted in Jesus group in their church, he said; the groups will meet weekly, perhaps on a Sunday morning before the church service. Each group leader will report regularly to a parish coordinator, and the reports will be shared with the deanery coordinator and then with the diocesan management. Progress will be evaluated at the next Diocesan Synod in April. A new department is to be created in the diocese for Rooted in Jesus, and Canon George Mbago will direct it. “We are expecting great growth,” Bishop John said; “and this growth will support our diocesan vision.”
Every Rooted in Jesus team is a lot bigger than it looks, and we are very grateful to those who prayed each day for the conference, to those who prepared magnificent meals for huge numbers of people with very basic facilities, and to those who support and encourage Rooted in Jesus financially and in other ways.
Find out more
To find out more about the Diocese of the Rift Valley visit its website. Rooted in Jesus is published and supported in the UK by the Mathetes Trust. For more information about the programme and how it works, visit the Rooted in Jesus website.
“Being part of the RinJ team in Soroti Diocese was demanding, thought-provoking, inspiring, and profoundly affecting. People’s commitment to learning, their gratitude to God and to us, and their sheer joy in the Lord will be abiding memories. So will the impression of an Anglican diocese growing in number and vitality. The learning with RinJ is two-way!” Steve Coneys
Rooted in Jesus was first introduced to the Diocese of Soroti, Uganda, in 2017, and in November 2018 a team led by Revd Mike Cotterell returned to provide further training and encouragement. Coordinator Emmanuel Elianu had arranged two conferences, the first a followup gathering in Soroti, the second a conference for new leaders in Kaberamaido. Rooted in Jesus is used in the Ateso language in Soroti, but had been newly translated into Kumam for those in Kaberamaido.
The conferences were well attended, with 175 participants in Soroti; some of them were already using Rooted in Jesus, but many were coming for the first time. In Kaberamaido the conference was attended by 70 mostly lay people who had never been to anything like this, and were soon enthusiastically worshipping and sitting on the edge of benches listening and very engaged. In both places about a third of the participants were women.
God at work through prayer
As so often in Africa, joy is matched by pain. In Soroti Mike reported that “we are very pleased and thankful for all God has done. Everyone at the conference was united, excited and very clearly blessed by the teaching. The times of personal response were deep and powerful. Engagement and ability to grasp and to apply were enormous. Everyone had fun and loved it.” And yet he also wrote of a young woman called Eunice, who said that both her parents were shot on the same day and then her daughter disappeared from nursery and has not been found. Eunice found some comfort during the ministry talk, and was able to pray with the team. In Kaberamaido, a very poor, rural area, they learned that some girls marry at the age of twelve, and inevitably have a high number of children themselves. Life is far from easy even when nothing goes wrong.
Prayer was also a feature of the conference in Kaberamaido, with most of the participants saying that their prayers had been answered. Three quarters of them said they had been healed either emotionally or spiritually and that they were sleeping better; sixteen had been released from fear and six had experienced physical healing. Given the intensity with which people had responded to the invitation to confess their sins and receive the blessing of the Holy Spirit, the team were not surprised. Worship, Mike says, was loud and wonderful. “The final day ended with beautiful wild, loud dance and worship. No one wanted to go home. ‘We have learned a lot’, they said.”The team often discussed highlights from the day or the conference, but they were hard to identify because there were so many! Perhaps one that is telling, was when some people received their RinJ booklet on the last morning, they recieved it with joy and immediately sat down and prayed over it. They had received something precious.
So what was the unexpected?
The children. They were everywhere. Some teams rest in between sessions, but this team didn’t feel the need for that. In Soroti they filled some spare moments by teaching a group of curious children the game ‘What’s the Time, Mr Lion?’, and ended up giving an impromptu telling of a Bible story to local onlookers on the dirt track. The children took the game back to their primary school, and the next day another gang of unknown children turned up out of nowhere asking to play the same game. From then on the conference was overrun with primary school children, many taking to the fringes of the workshops and ministry times, and some asking for prayer.
It was the same in Kaberamaido, where the Church was located very near the Church Primary School; flocks of children came and went from early afternoon into the conference. They were welcomed and encouraged to sit in on sessions and workshops, which they did in large numbers – often outnumbering the adults – and were always very well behaved. Mike reported, “Dozens of these children are our friends now (in and out of the church and listening to many things) and we want to do something special for them. So by arrangement with the Archdeacon and the Primary School Headteacher, the team offered to run a two hour programme for the school in Church immediately after the conference. About 200 children were kept spell-bound for 2 1/2 hours of story-telling, drama and song. The enthusiasm and engagement was exceptional, and the session ended in everyone kneeling for a prayer of commitment led by a local leader.
A transition moment
Coordinator Emmanuel Elianu is leaving his post in order to undertake further study. He has handed over to Pascal Odele. Pascal demonstrated great keenness for Rooted in Jesus, which Mike feels will be a good jump-start to his new role as Mission Coordinator. And the Diocese as a whole is preparing for the election of a successor to Bishop George Erwau, who retired last year. So it is our hope that Rooted in Jesus will continue to provide a catalyst for growth during the interregnum – it’s all too easy for a diocese to lose momentum while focussing on the election of a new bishop.
Blessing in two directions
We always find that blessing travels in two directions during a Rooted in Jesus conference. We asked the team members to tell us about their experiences. Diana High, a lay leader in her local church (below, left), replied: “My most memorable moment was during the prayer workshops when I got the delegates to be quiet and listen to the Holy Spirit. One man got up afterwards and said ‘I thought you were joking and then God said to me …’. Each time someone had received something from the Lord. It was such a delight to see their faces and for them to realise that God does speak to them.”
Steve Coneys, Mission & Growth Adviser in the Diocese of Canterbury (below, right), wrote: “The quality of relationships, level of mutual support, sense of humour, times of prayer and sharing combined to make this a valuable part of the experience. Since returning I’ve realised that, while it is true that what team members have to offer is our ‘education’, the experience of being a team member is probably as much one of being a pilgrim as an educator. In this short time, we were welcomed to stand on the holy ground of African Christians’ experience and their knowledge of God in Jesus Christ. Their gentleness, gratitude, joy in the Lord, commitment and eagerness to learn spoke powerfully to us of our life in Christ as Jesus’ disciples. I’m interested in seeking deep rooted culture change towards missional church in the Diocese of Canterbury. Here is a church, recognisably Anglican, where the clergy and lay leaders we observed seemed to enjoy working together, the people seemed receptive to learning and to change, and the church is growing using a strategy of planting new congregations. It can happen!”