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.
The conference facilitators were Revd Dr David Archer, Revd Colin Cooper, Revd Max Cross and Revd Dr Alison Morgan. We were particularly pleased that Max was able to join the team, representing the Diocese of Portsmouth which is linked with Koforidua.
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!
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.