Much of the ministry of Rooted in Jesus over the last few years has been in South Sudan, the youngest country in the world. The most recent conference was held in the far north of the country, in the Diocese of Maiwut, at the invitation of Bishop Peter Gatbel.
Coordinator John Jamuth explains:
“Gaining independence in 2011 brought more freedom of worship, fellowship and discipleship to entire Christian populations in South Sudan. Maiwut diocese was born as the result of freedom of religious expression and worship. It’s one of the youngest Dioceses in the Province of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan. Because of its location the Diocese has very limited connection with church and international partners to support the ministry and development of the diocese.”
We were therefore delighted to be able to send a Rooted in Jesus team to help the people of Maiwut establish their programme of Christian discipleship. The team was led by Tim Wambunya, formerly bishop of the Diocese of Butere in Kenya, which has been using Rooted in Jesus for some years; Tim now leads the multi-cultural church of St Paul’s, Slough. The conference was opened by the Hon. James Zan Chol, Deputy Commissioner of Maiwut county, and attended by church leaders from every archdeaonry in the two counties which make up the diocese.
The team (Nadeem, Tim, Dave and Andrew), Bishop Peter and Mrs Gatbel, Coordinator John Jamuth
Team Leader Tim Wambunya reports:
“One hundred and five people attended the conference, including about ten from other denominations in Maiwut. They were clergy, evangelists, mothers’ union members and youth. All one hundred and five received certificates and books. In addition, we had about two thousand people attend the Sunday service. This included the government Deputy Commissioner and some denominational leaders.
“The training was very well received. Participants were consistent in attending every day and keen to return to their churches to begin small groups. By the end of the conference, the delegates had nicknamed me ‘mot matut’, which means ‘small groups’ in the Nuer language. There was singing and dancing at the graduation, and the Rooted in Jesus coordinator sent a conference report to the UK team just one week after the conference – a remarkable achievement given the challenges in communication and finding a computer and internet. So it seems the diocese has got off to a great start and a strong foundation laid for Rooted in Jesus.”
Worship and teaching
One month later John Jamuth was able to report that he had been visiting group leaders in their own locations. He writes: “It was a blessing for me as they accepted Rooted in Jesus discipleship training in Maiwut centre, bomas and villages.” John has now told us that seventy-five groups have completed the first book and are moving on to the second book.
We look forward to continuing to support the ministry of Maiwut. “We have achieved very little,” John explained, “because we have no resources, and war and floods have greatly affected the community. The bishop and clergy have no salary and other means of support. We request the Rooted in Jesus team to return to Maiwut, we felt your wisdom, love and discipleship will change our community.”
That is our prayer too.
In Maiwut, Rooted in Jesus is used in the Nuer language.
Can you help?
If you would like to help us provide ongoing support to the Diocese of Maiwut, please make use of the short cuts on the right hand side of this page, or visit our support page where you will find and a gift aid / standing order form and the address to which to return it. We hope to return to Maiwut in 2024.
Photos by David Ridge and John Jamuth. Rooted in Jesus is published and supported by The Mathetes Trust.
We are pleased to let you know that we have now published the Rooted in Jesus Annual Report for 2022; it can be downloaded here.
The ending of the Covid19 travel restrictions led to a very busy year, with a record 23 Rooted in Jesus conferences taking place in 8 African countries. No fewer than seven of these were in South Sudan, the youngest country in the world, where Anglican churches are placing an increasing emphasis on discipleship as a tool for both consolidation and growth.
We remain grateful to all those who have given their time and resources to make this possible, and look forward, along with our partners in Tanzania and South Africa, to continuing to serve our brothers and sisters across the continent in the coming year.
Rooted in Jesus is published and supported by The Mathetes Trust. To find out more click here.
“The crocodile was kind to me, I stopped swimming and he continued down stream. I used to get beaten everyday for being late for school – boys were not allowed to use boats, I had to swim across the river with my books above my head… This is where I started school; we just wrote the alphabet with our fingers in the sand and the teacher would put a tick in the sand.” Bishop Joseph Mamer of the Diocese of Wanyjok had taken us to the area of his birth and early years, team leader Mike Cotterell writes; there was no bridge then, nor was there a market, nor displaced people in temporary shelters. Visits to places and stories about lives are so powerful.
Life in South Sudan has not got easier. The Rooted in Jesus team ministering in the Diocese of Nyamlel, Aweil and Wanyjok faced difficulties caused not by crocodiles but by the touch-and-go nature of local flights, by flooded roads, damaged buildings, hungry people and a lack of electric light. Many participants had walked miles through swamped fields to attend the conferences, despite the devastation caused to their homes and crops; but prayer was heartfelt and worship vibrant. One man gave thanks for the healing of his feet, which had swollen after he had spent three days walking and wading through floods; a woman who had been unable to stand found after prayer that she was able to walk alone.
One Province, two weeks, three conferences
First stop for the team – Mike Cotterell, Luka Lual, Andrew Nankivell and Leslie Siu – was the Diocese of Nyamlel, founded only three years ago and part of the Internal Province of Northern Barh El Ghazal. Bishop Peter Garang, who was present throughout the four day conference, had written: “It requires more training in order to equip and empower church leaders such as lay readers, evangelists, pastors, elders and youth who must be able to do mission and evangelism properly in their respective parishes across the Episcopal Diocese of Nyamlel.”
A hundred people attended the conference, including three women who arrived and announced “We were not selected to come to the conference, we walked all day to get here and waddled through water waist deep, we don’t want a certificate, we will eat our own food and sleep somewhere, we just want the training.” They received both the training and certificates! Afterwards Bishop Peter wrote: “It is my prayer that those participants who received the basic biblical knowledge and skills during Rooted in Jesus Conference have been touched by the power of the Holy Spirit to start Rooted in Jesus small groups in their respective parishes across the Diocese of Nyamlel.”
Next stop was the Diocese of Aweil. This was a return visit, a follow-up conference for those who were trained last year. “Our journey from Nyamlel to Aweil was uneventful in local terms,” writes team member Leslie Siu; “having to stop and weave our way through herds of cattle, long stretches of dusty tracks with bumps that mean I’m unlikely to complain about potholes in British roads ever again, and seeing many people walking for seemingly endless miles in the baking hot sun.” 84 people turned up to the conference which was hosted by Canon William Aguer and Coordinator John Akok, as Bishop Abraham was receiving medical treatment elsewhere. John reported that many of the 60 groups initially established in the parishes of Aweil town had been interrupted by the recent flooding, and the hope is that the impetus provided by the conference will help them resume once the waters go down.
John Akok with one of the Rooted in Jesus groups in Aweil
The third and final conference took place in the Diocese of Wanyjok – another newly formed diocese. This too was a return conference, providing encouragement and support to those trained last year, and offering training to 50 additional leaders. This is Luka Lual’s home diocese, and he reported that 100 groups had been established after the introductory conference last year, and all had been making good progress, with many of them working through the second book – though once again many had been forced to suspend meeting due to the long period of extensive and unusual flooding which had made roads impassable, and caused crops to fail, people to be cut off or displaced, and houses to fall down.
Lesli Siu writes: “Our time in Wanyjok was a brilliant final stop to the trip. The conference largely took place under a huge tree Christians have been gathering under for many years. Situated next to a local church school, we regularly had school children coming by to see what was happening. Once again, our gathered times of worship were punctuated by the lively demeanour of the older women who often led the way in joyful song and dance.”
Worshipping beneath the tree in Wanyjok
Afterwards Bishop Joseph Mamer, who was present throughout the conference, wrote: “Everyone was touched, I felt that the Holy Spirit was moving during the conference. I remember one woman got healed as she confessed, another woman whose six children died also gave her life to Christ after many years of following and consulting witchcraft, spearmaster, many evil things, those are very significant. Young youth were also challenged, their lives got changed. We remain grateful and it is our prayer that this program will continue, as I have realized that it’s one of the best tools to bring about transformation and change in our youngest growing diocese of Wanyjok. We pray that this program will flourish into bigger development and growth.”
Filling the gaps
In between the conference sessions, the team were able to spend time engaging with the local children, who were on holiday from school. In Nyamlel, while participants worked in small groups, Mike and Andrew played with a group which began with just a few children but soon grew into a crowd of 40. The next afternoon they ran an impromptu session of gospel teaching with actions, stories, drama and games, and in Wanyjok they led a session in the church school and visited the Bible College.On Sundays they were invited to preach at the cathedrals and in local churches. The mission concluded in Juba with a meeting with a number of bishops who were gathering for their annual conference, and a debrief session with Archbishop Moses Deng.
Luka Lual teaching the children; the Nyamlel Mothers Union; Bishop Peter Garang awarding certificates
Mike Cotterell reflects: “South Sudan is often not a comfortable place to live in. But, WOW didn’t we meet loads of people who were hungry for teaching and very welcoming! The Bishop of Aweil was not with us, due to hospitalisation abroad, but the involvement of the other Bishops at nearly everything was very valuable along with senior clergy, who were also engaged and often willing to lead small groups. The most exciting and excitable group at each conference were those from the Mother’s Union, who sang and danced the loudest and longest. The times of meditation and prayer were often extremely still and often long, as people waited on God and prayed and listened to him, often reluctant to finish.”
But perhaps the last word should go to Bishop Peter Garang, who closed the conference in Nyamlel with a powerful reminder to those joyfully receiving their certificates: “The devil is not frightened of a certificate; you need to actually do the work!”
We have committed to praying for them as they do so.
Left: The team – Andrew Nankivell, Mike Cotterell (team leader), Luka Lual and Leslie Siu Right – click to read Leslie’s detailed report
We hope to return to South Sudan next year, but this will depend not just on the local situation but also on our financial resources. If you would like to help support the ministry of Rooted in Jesus in South Sudan you can do so by clicking on the orange CAF button in the right hand margin of this page – or just follow the link here.
Rooted in Jesus is published and supported by the Mathetes Trust, a UK Registered Charity.
Of all the countries where Rooted in Jesus has been adopted as the primary strategy for teaching Christian discipleship, South Sudan is the most challenging in which to minister. Created only 11 years ago after more than 20 years of civil war, South Sudan is the world’s youngest country. The Episcopal Church of South Sudan (ECSS) was quick to plan for the future, and over the next couple of years Rooted in Jesus was introduced to the Anglican dioceses of Nzara, Wau and Yambio. Groups were established, and hopes were high.
The first RinJ conference in South Sudan, Diocese of Nzara, March 2012
But in 2013 a new civil war broke out, and over the next 5 years tens of thousands of people were killed or displaced. After a prolonged period of negotiation a peace agreement was signed in 2018, and whilst South Sudan remains a difficult country to visit, we have been able to continue our support for the Anglican church there. The ending of the Covid19 travel restrictions last year made it possible to accept invitations from the Dioceses of Aweil and Wanyjok, and in May this year we were able to send a team to the Dioceses of Maridi and Yambio. In October a further team led by Barry Blackford ran conferences in Wau and Tonj, and in November Mike Cotterell took a team to offer follow-up conferences in Aweil and Wanyjok, and an introductory conference in Nyamlel.
This report covers the recent conferences in the Dioceses of Wau and Tonj.
The Diocese of Wau
As we prayed for Barry, Derreck, Diana (from the UK), John and Yosefate (from Aweil and Nzara) we became increasingly aware of the difficulties posed by the lack of many of the things we take for granted. South Sudan has few roads, so internal travel has to be by air – and flights are hard to book and liable to change at short notice. Electricity is a bonus, accommodation basic, and clean drinking water not always available. Most people speak and teach in Dinka (into which the leader’s booklets had been painstakingly translated), but not all can read it. Food insecurity is a constant problem, recently exacerbated not only by the suspension of the UN food aid programme following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but also by serious flooding which had washed away almost all locally grown crops.
Despite these difficulties, 85 people turned up to the first conference, which ran for four days. A lifetime of civil war isn’t good for morale, pastors are not paid for their ministry, and food insecurity zaps the spirit. The team sensed spiritual weariness and a sense of pervasive passivity. But by the second day something of a breakthrough had been achieved, with a powerful sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit. Barry wrote:
“As we were praying the Spirit down after the morning teaching it felt right to ask Bishop Peter to give his testimony. It was very powerful & the Spirit poured down in power. During the afternoon Workshop on prayer, a lady was given the verse about Jesus cursing the unproductive fig tree, and she was in tears because he said he wanted the tree to bear fruit – and she’s the tree, and he wanted her to bear fruit. This continued into the evening ministry session where we shared words given to Barry and Diana. People responded to both of these, and one lady was convicted by God and poured out a prayer of repentance. We told her that she is forgiven and then prayed for her deliverance and she was transformed. Most were touched by the Spirit and praised God out loud, often in tongues.”
Smiles all round as delegates receive books and certificates in Wau
At the end of the conference 79 people were commissioned to lead groups on their return home.
The Diocese of Tonj
The ECSS is experiencing a period of sustained growth and expansion, and within the Northern Province six new dioceses have been created – one of which is the mission diocese of Tonj, led by Bishop Peter Yuol Gur. The arrival of the Rooted in Jesus team marked the first time Europeans had visited the diocese to teach, and they were given a huge welcome by Bishop Peter and the diocesan leadership team. 100 people had been invited to the conference, but over 120 turned up. The conference was held in the cathedral, with group work taking place outside under the trees.
But here too, the long shadow of the civil war loomed, as the news came in that fighting had broken out in another part of the diocese. Bishop Peter’s nephew had been shot, and two of the delegates learned that family members had been killed. Meanwhile team member Yosefate received the news that back at home in Nzara two of his friends had been attacked by a man with a machete, and one had died. Barry writes:
“One of our interpreters received a message to say that her favourite uncle had been one of those killed in the conflict. She insisted on continuing to interpret for us. When she had finished her stint, I had a chat with her. She shared what had been happening in her life. She had been nursing her sick father, who had died 2 weeks earlier, and she had just been informed by her school that she could not return to complete her education because nursing her dying father was not sufficient reason for missing school. As a result, she was no longer going to be able to sit her exams and go to university. In just 2 weeks she had lost: her father; a very supportive uncle, who was taking her father’s place as head of the family; and her future aspirations of an education and career. Her response was to forgive those who had done these things to her and to say that she knew that God was there with her and would help her through it.”
The result of all this was that the times of prayer intensified. The team learned that the local custom was that people would come for prayer no matter what was happening – if the clergy were in the church, people would just walk in, come to the front and ask for prayer. And so they did – for reassurance, for physical healing, for release from oppression. Worship continued unabated – and was at times, Barry reports, difficult to stop!
“As soon as we finished some teaching, they worshipped; and before we started, they worshipped”
At the end of the conference 105 people were given certificates and commissioned as Rooted in Jesus group leaders, the team were showered with gifts, and Diocesan Secretary Zechariah Dut was appointed as diocesan coordinator. In Wau his counterpart John Awer will undertake this role, and Revd Joseph Uyu will serve as Provincial Coordinator. Archbishop Moses hopes to persist with his plan to introduce Rooted in Jesus to every diocese in the Northern Province over the next decade.
It wasn’t easy – but the team were much encouraged by their experiences:
“Going on these conferences always challenges my faith and spiritual perspective. They inevitably lead to a realigning and recalibrating of my faith as a result of being exposed to the faith of those we have the privilege to minister to. This trip as with the others will impact upon my parish ministry, and not just with a fund of new sermon illustrations! The sense I got of the South Sudanese Church being dependant upon the daily miraculous was both humbling and inspiring in equal measure.” – Derreck Lee-Philpot
“The wanderers have returned with stories to tell and blessings to share. Despite some of the problems that we faced along the way, we feel greatly blessed by what we have seen God doing in the dioceses of Wau and Tonj. The people of South Sudan are really great and it was so good to have two of the South Sudanese Coordinators with us. John and Yosefate were a great asset and up for anything. But most of all a really big ‘thank you’ to all of you for your love and prayers, especially when the times were a Iittle testing. We were really aware of your prayers when the going got tough.” – Barry Blackford
Conference participants with the bishop and team, Tonj
Finally, a request for your help
Rooted in Jesus is published and supported by The Mathetes Trust. We will not beat about the bush – ministry in South Sudan is not only challenging but expensive. If we are to continue to work there, helping Archbishop Moses fulfil his vision for growing discipleship across this needy Province, we need your support! If you would be willing to make a donation to enable us to continue this ministry, we would be immensely grateful. And if you would like to join our prayer team, we would be delighted to hear from you too. To make a donation just click the CAF button, or for other ways of giving visit our website. For more information or to join our prayer team, click here.
We were delighted to receive the latest Rooted in Jesus news from Growing the Church, our partner organisation in South Africa, and would like to share a couple of items with you:
Reflection on the Rooted in Jesus Training held in the Diocese of Umzimvubu
A Rooted in Jesus conference was held in Umzimvubu, a diocese in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, with 65 people attending from 11 parishes. Canon Luthando Xhamlayo writes:
“Spiritual Hunger and Thirst
“Generally speaking, one the clear indications that something is physically wrong with someone is when they lose their appetite. It is the same spiritually. To hunger and thirst for God is is the very root of our being. It is just the way God made us. Because this hunger and thirst is very basic to human nature, we constantly find ourselves seeking fulfilment somewhere else rather than in God. Unfortunately the replacement object leaves a void in our lives.
“This spiritual hunger and thirst manifested itself in the number of priests that we had at the training. We had about 11 priests who attended the event together with their congregants.
“The other sign of people who are hungry and thirsty for God manifested itself in the manner in which all attendees carried themselves. They participated fully and actively.”
A Tribute to Estelle Adams
For more than a decade, Estelle has served as the Provincial coordinator for discipleship in the Province of Southern Africa, and she has been at the hub of the ministry of Rooted in Jesus ever since. It has been a huge privilege to work with her during that time. Estelle began her well-earned retirement earlier this year, and we want to add our voices to the chorus of appreciation for her unstinting service and commitment to the ministry of discipleship.
Trevor Pearce writes:
“Estelle Adams retired from Growing the Church (GtC) on the 31st of July 2022, after 14 years of faithful service. She will always be remembered for her cheerful demeanour and excellent service towards all who engaged with the GtC office.
“How will I, and many of you remember Estelle?
As a faithful, Spirit-filled servant of God – such a gifted lady, yet so humble and unassuming.
She was a “Mama Hen” who always drew others under her “wings” when they were hurting or discouraged.
She was a team player who was always willing to draw others in and “grow” them.
Estelle played a significant role in helping GtC and AA make both a regional and global impact.
“From all across our dioceses we say, “Thank you Estelle!” May our Lord grant you a happy, meaning-filled and restful retirement. We all send you lots and lots of love.”
We join Revd Bruce Woolley, the director of Growing the Church, in welcoming Ketha Dube as Estelle’s successor.
To find out more about how Rooted in Jesus is used in South Africa visit our website. Growing the Church offers training and support for Rooted in Jesus and other ministries to find out more click here.
We have just received a report from Team Leader Ben Beecroft on the recent conferences held in the Dioceses of East Ruwenzori and South Rwenzori in Uganda. Uganda was particularly badly affected by the Covid restrictions, which remained in force for many months and prevented churches from meeting together – so it was particularly good to be able to hold refresher conferences in both dioceses.
A workshop in East Ruwenzori, against the backdrop of the Ruwenzori mountains
The Diocese of East Ruwenzori
The team was composed of members from the UK, Uganda and Kenya. They travelled first to East Ruwenzori, where Rooted in Jesus was introduced in 2019. Over 170 leaders were trained then, and groups had been established – until the pandemic hit.
The conference was held in a local school and attended by 80 leaders, mostly new to the programme.
Ben reports that the hospitality shown to the team was outstanding, and that the teaching was very well received. One team member wrote that for him the most memorable part of the visit was ‘the attentive/appreciative look in the eyes of most participants.’ Another team member particularly valued the change to talk and pray with a pastor whose experience very closely matched his own – ‘ I think God clearly brought us together.’ The prayer times were characterised by healing and deliverance. One man who had been suffering from an ulcerated digestive tract for fourteen years found that by the following day all the pain had gone, and he was able to eat and drink freely. Many others received healing, insight into the issues which had been troubling them, and anointing from the Holy Spirit.
All those attending were given books in the local language of Runyankore. The conference closed on a high note, with participants singing the East Africa revival song at the final commissioning.
The Diocese of South Rwenzori
Rooted in Jesus has been running in South Rwenzori since 2008, with both the adult and the Junior programmes in regular use there. But Bishop Nason Baluku is new to the diocese and places a high emphasis on discipleship, and Coordinator William Musisi has recently returned home after several years away for theological training. The time seemed right to inject fresh impetus into both the adult and the children’s groups – not least to enable the programme to reach out into those areas which are experiencing rapid population growth.
The Rooted in Jesus Junior conference in South Rwenzori
Two conferences were held, running alongside one another, each supported by three team members. Attendance was impressive, with a mix of existing leaders coming for refreshment and new leaders coming for the first time. The adult conference was attended by 99 pastors and lay leaders, and the Junior conference by 78 Sunday School teachers. All those attending were given books in the local language of Lhukonzo.
As always, team members felt that they received far more than they gave. Team leader Ben wrote that although they had begun as strangers, ‘they all gelled together quickly, a testament to God’s grace, answered prayer and their Christian maturity.’ Team members themselves reflected:
For me it very much felt I was part of the body of Christ doing discipleship together, supported by the intercessors at home. I received more from the trip than I gave, even though I gave as much as I could.
I personally had a tremendous spiritual uplift and blessing, something that had been missing in the past few years, and I want to thank God, the team and the participants for that
The visit was amazing. It exceeded our expectations and we felt that God had planned this mission for us with specific moments over the last 30 years. In some ways it was the culmination of a lifetime’s calling.
I felt so challenged seeing what the training does in the lives of the individuals – beginning with me! I left with one main challenge, to use the skills I obtained through the leadership, team spirit, humility and love of each member.
The team and coordinators with Bishop George Turyasingura in East Ruwenzori
The team came home with a great sense of optimism for the future in both dioceses, under the leadership of their bishops George and Nason, and with the commitment of coordinators James, Philip and William. An early encouragement came from Byesembu parish in South Rwenzori, where the Sunday School immediately started following Rooted in Jesus Junior. They sent this photo of the children, who are enjoying the programme and have already completed the third lesson.
The Rooted in Jesus Junior class in Byesembu
We are hugely grateful as always to all those who prayed for the team, participants and dioceses before, during and following the two conferences. Both dioceses ask us to continue to support them in prayer, with Bishop Nason requesting: ‘I pledge to do my best in ensuring that both the implementation and sustainability of the groups are registering growth in South Rwenzori Diocese. Kindly join us in prayer that many more people will be trained to reach out to the increasing population.’
A Rooted in Jesus team has just returned from two weeks in South Sudan – our second visit to this country in recent months. In November we travelled to the Dioceses of Aweil and Wanyjok; this time we were delighted to accept invitations to minister in the Diocese of Maridi and the Diocese of Yambio.
The Diocese of Maridi
This was our first visit to the Diocese of Maridi, and it was good finally to be able to go after the long delay caused by the Covid19 pandemic. 120 leaders, lay and ordained, attended the four day conference. Team Leader David Archer reports:
“We received a very warm arrival in the Diocese of Maridi, with its beautiful and verdant setting and prolific mangos. An impressive delegation of senior clergy met us at Maridi airstrip. We were then taken the few miles to Maridi Cathedral where we received a welcome from many clergy and delegates, were given a ‘guard of honour’ and presented with garlands. Bishop Moses formally welcomed us to the Diocese and a time of introductions was completed.
“The conference ran for four days with preachments on Sunday and followed the standard schedule with all team members taking an active part in both small groups, workshops and plenary sessions. As the conference progressed, the delegates gained greater confidence and were more vocal in their engagement including the plenary sessions – this was especially noticeable amongst the women. Good engagement was seen throughout the conference including the workshops and small groups.
“The conference finished well, with Bishop Moses presenting certificates to 120 delegates at the closing Commissioning Service, comprising church leaders and lay leaders. Bishop Moses is deeply committed to the success of Rooted in Jesus and has confidence in his Diocesan Coordinator Rev Eli Bangisa Paul, who is the Director of the Chaima Christian Institute and was previously the Provincial Secretary of Western Equatoria.”
“On behalf of the Diocese of Maridi, I would like to extend our sincere thanks and appreciation to you and the Rooted in Jesus team who visited Maridi recently. The Rooted in Jesus conference in the Diocese of Maridi was remarkable and fruitful.”
Bishop Moses Zungo
The Diocese of Yambio
Rooted in Jesus was first introduced to the Diocese of Yambio a decade ago. This second visit provided an opportunity to revitalise the programme after the years of political and social upheaval, and to train a new generation of leaders. Here too over 120 people attended.
David reports: “After a short road trip from Yambio airport to Yambio Cathedral, as in Maridi we were given an enthusiastic reception, a ‘guard of honour’, presented with garlands and an introductory welcome service. Arrival day was spent in preparation for the conference and included time for a meeting with senior clergy, including the Provincial Secretary, the Provost and Archbishop Samuel Peni’s brother Isaiah, appointed to be the Diocesan Coordinator.
“The energy and passion of the delegates in Yambio was infectious, and it felt vibrant and youthful. As in Maridi, the conference finished well, with the Diocesan Coordinator, Isaiah along with the Provost leading the Commissioning Service. Isaiah presented in excess of 120 certificates to pastors, Mother’s Union leaders, youth leaders and evangelism leaders. During the conference the Diocesan Coordinator appointed a series of coordinators to work with him in implementing Rooted in Jesus across the Diocese.”
“The visit more than lived up to expectations. There was a contentment and joy about the people and their engagement with the conference. They were quick to be singing and dancing and it was a great pleasure for me to join in. They were so excited about being commissioned and keen to get started that some were already planning their first groups that same day. There was a significant response to the teaching on Repentance and Renewal – I was overwhelmed to see nearly all the participants kneeling.
Team member Gay Maynard
David concludes: “The team worked extremely well together and we greatly valued our time away while recognising that this was a physically demanding and challenging trip. For me it was a privilege to lead the team, and I am very grateful for the opportunity. I am grateful too that my church, St. Mary’s support my involvement with RinJ, and I consider these times to be some of the most significant in my ministerial role.”
Small groups in Yambio; travelling between dioceses; Yambio cathedral
We are grateful to the team, David, Tim, Gay and Dan for their willingness to set aside their time and resources to travel to South Sudan, and to all those in Maridi and Yambio who welcomed them and looked after them. We are grateful to the intercessors who played a crucial role in praying for the team and the delegates during their time together. And a huge thank you is due to all those whose generosity made this long planned visit to the youngest and one of the poorest countries in the world possible.
Rooted in Jesus has been translated into Local Arabic (Leaders Introduction, left) and Zande (centre & right)
We were delighted to read the latest newsletter from Growing the Church, which oversees the ministry of Rooted in Jesus in South Africa. Training has been provided in the Diocese of Natal for Sunday School teachers who will use Rooted in Jesus Junior to disciple childen, and in the Diocese of Cape Town for lay preachers who will use the adult programme. And there is an encouraging report from those using Rooted in Jesus in Zulu in the Diocese of Pretoria.
On a more sombre note, we would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Ven Hectorina Tsotetse Motsetse, member of the Growing the Church Board and a national Rooted in Jesus trainer in South Africa, who died unexpectedly last month. Hectorina was a a faithful and fruitful minister both in her local Diocese of Free State and more widely, and a tireless advocate for Rooted in Jesus. She was an early adopter of Rooted in Jesus in her own parish of Bernard the Martyr in Eastern Free State, and during the Covid lockdown she pioneered new groups meeting outdoors in villages where people had no internet access and felt very isolated from their church communities. Hectorina was a valued member of the team which introduced Rooted in Jesus to the Diocese of Gambella in Ethiopia, and was looking forward to helping provide further training in Mozambique later this year.
Hectorina leading a workshop at the RinJ conference, Diocese of Gambella
Hectorina will be sorely missed by her family and by the many people with whom she has shared the life-saving message of the gospel. Here, far away, we are hugely grateful for all she has brought to Rooted in Jesus.
‘May light perpetual shine upon her and may she rest in peace and rise in glory with Jesus’ – Bishop Tsietsi Eleonane and Revd Bruce Woolley.
Posted 28th April 2022
Rooted in Jesus is published and supported by the Mathetes Trust. In South Africa it is directed by Revd Bruce Woolley and supported by Growing the Church, which is based in Cape Town.
At the beginning of March the Diocese of Kitale held its second Rooted in Jesus training conference, building on ministry which has taken place in the diocese since the introductory conference held two years ago. The conference was hosted by Bishop Emmanuel Chemengich and Rooted in Jesus coordinator Revd Tarus Kirionon, and led by an international team of five Rooted in Jesus trainers from the US, UK and Kenya.
Team leader Revd Richard Morgan reports:
“195 clergy and lay leaders from the diocese gathered for a three-day conference. Some had already been running Rooted In Jesus discipleship groups since we introduced the course two years ago, but most were new leaders.
“Each day we gathered for worship and main session teaching on the principles of the course, and we then broke into small groups to give leaders a chance to practise leading sessions and receive some feedback. In the afternoon we ran workshops on various skills of small group leadership, and the day ended with an encouragement and a time of ministry.
“There was good feedback from existing groups. Two high school boys and six high school girls had come to faith in two of the groups. Many groups found that people began to engage in ministry in their parish and one parish saw discipleship healing relationships across divisions in the community.
“Our prayer is for God to use this course to move people from being passive believers to active disciples of Jesus Christ in every parish of the Diocese of Kitale.”
There were some particularly encouraging moments –
Team member Peter Needle writes: “I prayed for a person who wanted to be filled with the spirit but wanted healing as well. We prayed for her to be filled first and then I asked what healing she needed and she replied ‘I don’t need it anymore.’ God had sorted it out while I prayed for her to be filled!”
Team member Edward Akhwale observes: “The organization on the ground was very good. The participants were able to actively participate, enjoy and learn. May our Father God bless this ministry.”
Team member Geoff Maughan reflects: “I loved leading workshops outside under the shade of the trees in the Cathedral compound! Surrounded by about 60 people all in small groups trying out different ways of praying together felt quite wonderful.”
The conference was followed by a one day training session for local facilitators, so that each of the seven archdeaconries would be self sufficient and able to meet ongoing training needs. The focus was on encouraging and supporting existing groups, developing good practice in identifying and recruiting new leaders, and identifying ways of running local training sessions in archdeaconries.
The week concluded on Sunday with a magnificent diocesan Thanksgiving Service in the cathedral, attended by over two thousand people. Richard was honoured to be invited to preach, and to pray with local politicians as they prepare for the forthcoming elections.
Conference video report
Richard has put together a short video with key moments from the conference – introduced by a group who composed a brand new song to the words of one of the memory verses:
Bishop Emmanuel concludes:
“We praise the Lord Jesus for the successful RinJ leaders conference. Pray with us that Christ’s grace will abide with the newly trained leaders so they move with urgency and passion to establish RinJ groups across the Diocese, and for the existing leaders to be re-energized and keep pressing on with this vital discipleship program for growing our members to be more and more like Jesus.”
Can you help us?
Rooted in Jesus is published and supported by the Mathetes Trust, a small charity reliant on the support of individuals and churches. This year we have many invitations to help dioceses as they re-establish and develop their ministry following the pandemic. If you would like to help we would be very grateful. To make a financial contribution towards the cost of food and leaders’ materials for each conference just click on the orange donation voucher – or get in touch with us via our website. Thank you!
We have just published the Rooted in Jesus Annual Report for 2021. It was another challenging year, with the Covid19 pandemic not only causing illness and death but also preventing fellowship, travel, and in many places the generation of income. Churches across Africa have been particularly hard hit, with news coming in of famine, armed raids, enforced exile and war, as well as increased poverty and lack of resources related to the pandemic itself.
And yet thanks to the courage and persistence of our partners there was much to be thankful for too. Rooted in Jesus conferences went ahead in DR Congo, Tanzania, Madagascar, South Sudan and Uganda, and the first Zoom conferences were held in South Africa. In many places we learned that the Rooted in Jesus groups had been able to meet even when churches were closed, some in person, some online. People came to faith in Madagascar, Mozambique and Uganda and joined new groups set up to disciple them, and another new parish was inaugurated for families recruited through Rooted in Jesus Junior in Madagascar. Here in the UK a final book was added to the adult programme, and translations of the existing booklets commissioned and completed in twelve languages.
From then to now – Rooted in Jesus crosses a new threshold
2021 was a significant milestone for us : Rooted in Jesus completed its twentieth year of ministry! During that time it has been introduced to 100 Anglican dioceses or denominational networks, trained 17,558 leaders in 142 conferences in 18 African countries, and provided materials in 48 languages. Often it’s been the first discipleship programme people have ever had, and almost always the first in their own language.
There have of course been many ups and downs on the way. Not all those leaders have been successful, and the ravages of war, cyclones, famines and poverty continue to make life very difficult in some of the areas where we minister. But we continue to sow seeds wherever we are asked to go, and we have seen wonderful things happen too – thousands coming to Christ, embarking on ministry, impacting their communities, planting new churches and even dioceses. It’s been a humbling journey, and one which we look forward to continuing in the years to come.
Rooted in Jesus is published and supported by The Mathetes Trust. The full report can be downloaded from the Rooted in Jesus website here.
At last! In October all African countries came off the UK government Covid ‘red list’, enabling us to honour a longstanding invitation from Bishop Abraham Nhial to introduce Rooted in Jesus to the Diocese of Aweil in South Sudan, and to combine this with the first conference in the new neighbouring Diocese of Wanyjok. With little notice (but considerable difficulty!) our team were able to source flights and make the necessary arrangements for Covid19 testing and certification, and the conferences were held in the first two weeks of November.
Team leader Mike Cotterell writes:
“We ran two Rooted in Jesus conferences in Aweil and Wanyjok in Northern Bahr el Ghazal Province. 100 and 150 people were expected, and we had only slightly fewer. Those who came were clearly glad to have been invited. Our vision of learning discipleship in small groups was shared and seemed easily accepted. Practice small groups went well, and all the teaching was well received.”
There were, he reflects, many highlights both in the conferences themselves and in the moments in between:
“Testimonies of healing and spiritual renewal. Team members John and Barry teaching about the Holy Spirit, followed by extended times of utter silence as we bathed in the Spirit’s presence. Many unplanned conversations outside of the conference: talking to a large group of young men after their evening football training, praying in the street with a group of unemployed young men; talking to 80 children in Sunday school; Cathie speaking with the Mothers Union and seeing their faces light up; teaching an impromptu lesson in school on the Trinity.”
The Diocese of Aweil
In Aweil 76 people were commissioned to lead groups on their return home, of whom 41 were men and 35 women. More than half testified that they had felt the power of God during the conference; 15 said that they had received physical healing, and nearly all that the Holy Spirit had touched their hearts or minds. 10 made a first time commitment to Christ, and 3 said they would now be reconciled with someone from whom they were estranged.
Bishop Abraham Nhial wrote afterwards that “The Rooted in Jesus conference in the Diocese of Aweil has educated our pastors and evangelists, who will contribute to the furtherance of the Kingdom of God in Aweil and beyond.” The diocese had arranged for the books to be translated into Dinka Rek (no small undertaking given that this is primarily a spoken language with a non-standard alphabet), and a young pastor named John Akok Akok was appointed as the diocesan coordinator.
The Diocese of Wanyjok
Wanyjok is a huge diocese whose territory stretches right up to the border with Sudan and Darfur, and most parishes are in remote rural areas; founded only four years ago, it has little infrastructure but a growing ministry and a clear strategic plan to raise up faithful Christian leaders. The Rooted in Jesus conference aimed to serve this vision, and 138 people were trained and commissioned to lead groups, of whom 83 were men and 55 women. Mike Cotterell reflects:
“The temperature was in the high thirties, but the enormous tree branches gave welcome shade. Here the Church first began. A remote area outside a small town; now the Cathedral was too small for Sundays, with its tin roof too hot for people to sit all day. Canon Tito the Church founder was with us. People told us “we are the first generation of Christians in this region”. It was an exciting time and place. Amongst us were young men from the grass and mud huts of the Bible college, Pastors, Evangelists and Mothers Union members, with younger women sitting behind, all eager to know more. Some people had walked two days to get there.”
At the end of the conference an astonishing 88 people said they had experienced physical healing, 80 said their ministry had been strengthened, and 60 testified to feeling spiritually renewed. 40 testified to reconciliation, with others saying their hearts had been healed, they had learned new things about the Holy Spirit or about prayer, and that they had committed themselves to Jesus in a new way. Afterwards Bishop Joseph Mamer wrote: “It was really a blessing to have you in our diocese, I’m receiving encouraging reports from individuals who had attended the conference. Many participants confess that their lives have been changed. It is my prayer that it will have a significant impact not only in individuals’ lives, but that their communities and local parishes will be transformed and grow in maturity in faith and understanding of the Word of God.”
Luke Lual Ngong was appointed as diocesan coordinator, and wrote a couple of weeks later to say that 11 groups had already started in one archdeaconry.
Within days of the team’s return to the UK a new Covid variant was detected in South Africa, and once again many countries are imposing travel restrictions. At times it had seemed that this trip would not be able to go ahead; but afterwards the team were left feeling, as Mike put it, that it had been “a special time of usefulness, which will hopefully give birth to much spiritual growth in the years ahead, as people share the fire of God’s love, sharing their passion for Him, His salvation, His Word and see The Spirit powerfully at work – in places we will never know or hear of – but they will know, and so will God. ”
In the meantime plans for conferences in 2022 are already in place and work on translations continues, as does our ministry of prayer and support for those already using Rooted in Jesus. We hope and pray that the new variant will prove mild – and we will continue to jump through the gaps where we can!
As the international climate change conference gets under way in Glasgow, our hearts and minds are with the peaceful people of Madagascar, who continue to suffer the devastating effects of what has been described as the world’s first climate-change famine.
Some of us have been able to contribute to a food aid programme run by the Diocese of Toliara which has seen a hugely positive response; but this is a problem which is not going to go away any time soon. Bishop Gilbert of the neighbouring Diocese of Fianarantsoa has been speaking out about the indescribable suffering of the people. “The situation has worsened since March 2021, especially for our women and children. We need short, medium, and long-term interventions,” he says; “and we will need to begin shifting from rain-fed agriculture.”
Finding a way forward
As we continue to pray for rain, Bishop Gilbert remains confident that the Church has an important role to play, even though it does not have the financial resources to feed the million people who are struggling with the effects of prolonged drought:
“As a diocese, we are offering pastoral care and encouragement. We have an opportunity to provide a Christian response, including a message of hope. We are the people of God. We must continue to teach and train in accordance with the Holy Scripture in these trying times. We are running programs for Sunday school and discipleship so that our people can become responsible in this situation, especially when it comes to civic-mindedness. We believe God is marching with us, because we have been baptized in the Holy Spirit. Many of the people in my diocese are children, so we are also laying a firm foundation for our shared future. We are learning to fortify the faith of our people and staying with them through prayer, fellowship, guidance, and counselling.”
Bishop Gilbert Rakotondravelo Rateloson
Blessed are those who trust in the Lord
To this end, in October, Bishop Gilbert invited us to help support a follow-up conference for the Sunday School teachers using the Rooted in Jesus Junior discipleship programme. With books now printed on the island, and a local team of facilitators providing training and support, Bishop Gilbert is confident that practical discipleship will enable people to come together in small groups to pray, to support one another, and to face the challenges of life together. He reports:
“Thanks be to God because our training with all teachers of our diocese finished last Sunday with a great celebration at St John’s parish Mananjary. The theme of our meeting was taken from the Holy Scripture of 2 Tim 4.2, ‘to preach the message, to insist upon proclaiming it whether the time is right or not, to convince, reproach, and encourage, as you teach with all patience’. During this training, Rev Canon Zaralahy Paulin, priest of Mananjary, taught the contents of the Bible, and Rev Canon Jean Flobert explained the methods and psychology of children with the importance of using tools from RinJ. I taught them again the nature of Anglicanism and the conduct of Sunday school teachers with their responsibilities because God calls them to be teachers. We have given all participants a book, and a certificate to mark the end of their training. All participants are ready to practice the training and wish for continuous cooperation with Rooted in Jesus.”
Bishop Gilbert Rakotondravelo Rateloson
It is desperately difficult to accept that our shared resources are inadequate to prevent the suffering currently being experienced in Madagascar, and to confront the probability that things will only get worse, not just in Madagascar but in many other places too. As we continue to serve some of the poorest people in the world, we can only pray for united and concerted international action, reminding ourselves that whilst everything around us may be uncertain, the reality of our faith is not. At the front of every Rooted in Jesus booklet are printed these words from the prophet Jeremiah:
Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is in 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. Jeremiah 17.7-8.
Rooted in Jesus was originally commissioned, written and piloted for use in Tanzania, nearly twenty years ago now. Today it is overseen throughout the country by Bishop Stanley Hotay of the Diocese of Mount Kilimanjaro, working with a growing team of diocesan coordinators and national facilitators.
Although some areas of the country are experiencing difficulty due to the number of Covid cases, in others life is continuing much as usual. There are restrictions on international travel into and out of the country, but no restrictions within it. Bishop Stanley has therefore been able to accept two new invitations to run Rooted in Jesus training conferences: one in the Diocese of Biharamulo, and one in the Diocese of Victoria Nyanza.
The Diocese of Biharamulo
Biharumulo is the youngest of Tanzania’s 28 dioceses. Founded just four years ago, it now has 27 parishes, 93 local churches, 30 pastors and 105 lay evangelists. Bishop Vithalis Yusuph explained that many of the evangelists have received little or no training, and the pastors have not so far had access to tools to help them lead others into discipleship; and so over the last 18 months they have been making careful preparations for the introduction of Rooted in Jesus across the diocese. He writes: “My passion is to see our people and churches growing in faith. It’s my hope that the Rooted in Jesus program will make the difference in our diocese.”
Bihamarulo then and now: from 2017 to 2021
The team was led by Canon Abel Obura of the Diocese of Mara, working with colleagues from the Dioceses of Mara, Mount Kilimanjaro and Victoria Nyanza, and using the new Tanzanian edition of the Team Manual which he has recently translated into Swahili.
Abel reports that the reception was very good, with high expectations of what the team had brought. 184 people were present at the conference, including Bishop Vithalis, the diocesan staff, all the pastors and all of the 105 evangelists. Every evangelists was commissioned to lead groups, and will be supported by their pastors and by Canon Zachariah Kaigarula who has been appointed as the Diocesan Coordinator.
The Diocese of Victoria Nyanza
The second conference took place just two weeks later, in the Diocese of Victoria Nyanza (DVN). This was not their first conference; teams with members from both the UK and Tanzania had worked here in both 2014 and 2015. But things can go wrong, and in recent years the diocese has been through a very difficult period. Coordinator Leonard Giligwa has remained faithful to his calling, and has taken part in conferences elsewhere; and now a newly elected bishop, Zephaniah Ntunza, is leading the diocese into new life.
The team was led by Revd Clement Manyatta, who is using Rooted in Jesus to support discipleship among the Masai people in his home diocese of Mount Kilimanjaro; he was accompanied by Bishop Hotay and Revd Charles Unjiro from Mount Kilimanjaro and Canon Abel Obura from Mara.
Clement reports :
“The conference was attended by 56 participants; all were pastors from the 56 parishes in the diocese. The RinJ conference was the first time for Bishop Zephaniah to meet with his pastors since he was elected in May of this year. It was his initiative to reintroduce RinJ to his diocese; he believes this is the only tool DVN needs for evangelism for now. It is good for them to start a new life with a new Bishop after such a long time without a diocesan bishop.”
Our faith encourages us to remember that in the Lord there is always room for a fresh start. It was not their first time, Clement observed, but for most it was like they were hearing for first time. Bishop Stanley Hotay offered this encouragement: “When you plant a field and it does not produce crops, you do not leave the field; you go back to plant again. In DVN we planted before but we are back to planting again. It is our hope this time we will get crops in a short time.”
The conference was held at the Bible College in Mwanza
Taking the long view
Rooted in Jesus has now been introduced to 22 of Tanzania’s 28 dioceses. It has been a huge privilege to watch the growth in discipleship and ministry over the last twenty years; we have cried together and rejoiced together, and we continue to support one another both in prayer and in practical ways. We are immensely thankful for the many blessings that have flowed between us, and we pray for many more in the years to come.
In the meantime we continue to live and work under what are often challenging circumstances. Leonard Giligwa offers us this encouragement:
Rooted in Jesus is published and supported by the Mathetes Trust. Posted 28th September 2021.
In August we were delighted to be able to run the first Rooted in Jesus introductory conference since the Covid19 pandemic began. A team from Tanzania and Burundi travelled to DR Congo to help build the spiritual foundations for the new missionary diocese of Lake Tanganyika which will be formed from within the existing Diocese of Bukavu.
The conference took place at the initiative of Bishop Elisha Tendwa, a missionary bishop who has already used Rooted in Jesus to help plant the Diocese of Kalemie in eastern DRC. The conference was held in Uvira, where it was opened by the Archbishop of DR Congo, Zacharia Masimango Katanga. It was attended by 110 participants – pastors, Mothers Union leaders, Youth leaders, representatives from neighbouring denominations, and the Diocesan Secretary and other central staff members from the parent Diocese of Bukavu.
Bishop Elisha Tendwa writes:
“We thank God that the first address to the conference came from the Archbishop of Congo, The Most Revd Zachariah Masimango Katanda with his wife Naomi. They opened the conference and he said: ‘In our provincial Synod held at the end of July this year we reflected that the Church of Congo was planted about 125 years ago, but that it has not grown; it is stuck like a child who has mulnutrition, because our Christians don’t have roots in Jesus.’ He said we must make sure this Rooted in Jesus course spreads to all dioceses because it provides foundational teaching to the church.”
The team was led by Canon Jacob Robert of the Diocese of Lake Rukwa, Tanzania, with Revd Clement Manyatta of the Diocese of Mt Kilimanjaro, and Revd Elisha Nkeza from the Diocese of Muyinga, Burundi, along with Bishop Tendwa himself.
Team leader Jacob Robert reports:
“The conference took place at Uvira town in the eastern part of the country. Uvira is in the mission area according to Bukavu Diocesan synod plan for next two years. Uvira mission area is covered by four Archdeaconries: Uvira, Fizi, Lake Tanganyika and Itombwe. Each Archdeaconry has five to seven Parishes. In the last Synod they agreed to use RinJ as a tool for reaching out with the Gospel in the area of Uvira so that after a few years they may be able to start a new Diocese which will be called Lake Tanganyika Diocese.
“Facilitators were very keen with the programme timetable and Rev. Elisha, Bishop Tendwa, Rev. Clement and Jacob played carefully their roles of introducing RinJ to participants. I would like to give thanks to the Lord who protected us from the COVID 19. We were afraid that it could attack some of our participants and facilitators, but through God’s grace we completed all we have planned safely.”
A prayerful response
The conference went well. Bishop Tendwa writes, “It was a wonderful conference because some pastors repented and surrendered their life to Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit shows their lives how they are living, so they cried and received to be born again in their lives. They agreed and announced that from now the conference has changed their direction to be disciples of Jesus Christ by having their roots in Jesus. One Pastor said ‘this teaching from Rooted in Jesus is a light to the Church of Congo, it comes to open our eyes that are blind’. We thank God.”
Jacob reports that Marie, Mother’s Union representative, declared that “We are going to form groups in the Mothers Union when we return home, so that we find many new leaders as soon as the Lord will enable us. From this we are going to fulfill the great commission as Jesus commanded.”
The reality of life in DR Congo
It is not easy to minister in DR Congo, one of the most troubled countries of Africa. Team member Elisha Nkeza comments:
“A problem came before we even arrived in the country: when I saw different soldiers from different countries I recognized that this is not a peaceful country. But I was warmly welcomed by the local people, and was encouraged. DRC has a problem of differences more than other countries I knew. I was so pleased and proud to meet different people who speak more than 400 languages. But they are open to sharing their problems, pointing to the endless wars. I chatted and prayed with them; they are tired with wars. With their differences they testified forgiveness and reconciliation. We cried much on this when time came in giving testimony in groups. How wonderful it was!”
Afterwards, the Diocesan General Secretary concluded “The seminar is ended. It has left us with a new saving spirit and reminded us that we must walk in the footstep of Jesus if our desire is be true Christians.”
Bishop Tendwa and the team are keen to express their thanks, both to the participants for their open-hearted response to the conference and to those who supported the conference each day in prayer. “I am looking for the fire of God in Uvira; I will be going there for the very first time so I will need your prayers,” Clement Manyatta had written beforehand. “All this became possible since we know people were praying for us,” he concluded afterwards.
Each participant was given a copy of the Leader’s Introduction and Book 1 in Congolese Swahili or French
Rooted in Jesus is published and supported by the Mathetes Trust. To find out more visit the Rooted in Jesus website.
“I long to see you,” Paul wrote to Timothy from his prison cell in Rome. “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus,” he continued, “and what you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well.”
Paul’s advice rings down the ages, and perhaps has never seemed more urgent than now. We continue to live in a world of closed borders and travel restrictions: some of us are afraid, some discouraged, some frustrated. But our calling has not changed – we are to overcome our discouragement, and keep passing on what we have learned to others.
And that’s what we have been trying to do with Rooted in Jesus – sometimes in old ways, sometimes in new ways. As we prepare to send our first post-pandemic training team to DR Congo later this month, here are some of the recent developments:
A New Training Manual
Twelve years ago we produced the first Rooted in Jesus training manual. The aim was to enable teams of Rooted in Jesus facilitators to provide enjoyable and effective training sessions for new group leaders. The manual has been revised and updated over the years, but until now was available only in English. We are delighted to announce that it is now also available in Swahili, translated by Canon Abel Obura of the Diocese of Mara, Tanzania, and formatted here in our UK office ready to be printed in Arusha. It takes its place alongside the Rooted in Jesus Junior Team Manual which was translated last year.
New Training Methods
As we wait patiently for travel restrictions to ease, some of us have also been experimenting with virtual training, adapting the sessions in the Manual for use over Whatsapp or Zoom. This is being pioneered primarily in South Africa, where the Diocese of Natal has just hosted an Online Rooted in Jesus Small Group Leader Training Course. About 33 people from dioceses across the Province of Southern Africa signed up for the four weekly sessions.
The conference leaders decided to open the first session by inviting some of those who had completed the Rooted in Jesus course during the pandemic to share their testimonies. It made for an electric start, with both group members and the group leader speaking movingly about their experiences.
The group leader explained that they had started their group before the pandemic, but didn’t want to stop when Covid came. So they moved to Whatsapp and met online. Many group members thought it worked better, she said, because everybody had a voice. People were not so shy doing it this way, she explained; God was right in the centre guiding them; “the growth was amazing.”
Group members were only too willing to confirm this:
“I signed up one Sunday. I attended and I loved it. I preferred the social interaction more at church but I enjoyed adapting to the whatsapp. I have got so much closer to God through Rooted in Jesus, and I have found a family. It has transformed my life because I now think of things from a different perspective, I often use my teachings from RinJ to direct my life.”
“Three years ago I was really sick, and I felt the presence of God. I asked someone if there was a Bible study group I could join, and I joined the Bible study group and then Rooted in Jesus. I was carrying baggage from my childhood, and RinJ has taught me from the Bible how to forgive, how to move on, to be a different person. I didn’t mind if it was church or if it was in whatsapp, but perhaps I learnt more in whatsapp because you can go back and read what people said.”
At the same time, we have taken advantage of the quieter period of the pandemic to work on new translations of both the Rooted in Jesus adult and Junior books. Our aim has been to complete translations for languages in which the course had previously been only partly available, to update some of the older translations to bring them into line with the current edition, and to produce new translations into others. We will provide an update later in the year – but in the meantime we are delighted to say that Rooted in Jesus is now available in whole or in part in 47 languages! We have also been working hard to develop local print partnerships to make it easier for those who need additional books to order them: Rooted in Jesus can now be printed in Tanzania, South Africa, Kenya, Madagascar and Uganda.
It’s been a challenging but productive time, and we are not out of the woods yet – but we continue to minister together in hope and in trust.
Jesus said to them, ‘The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you.
Rooted in Jesus is published and supported by The Mathetes Trust, working with our partners across Africa. To find out more visit the Rooted in Jesus website.
“What do we do when we finish the course?” is a question people have often asked us. Our primary answer has always been to say that Rooted in Jesus is about discipleship, and that the calling of disciples is to make more disciples: to go and make disciples (Matthew 28.19-20) who will teach others also (2 Timothy 2.2). The aim is that those who have completed the programme will not only have developed a clear understanding of the ministry to which God is calling them, but also gained the confidence to exercise it: for We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2.10).
Over the years, we have found that many group members have responded to this challenge. Some have become group leaders themselves. Some have become Sunday School teachers, training to use Rooted in Jesus Junior with their classes. Some have developed a ministry of evangelism, intercession, prayer for healing, hospitality. Some have embraced new ways of serving others in the church or in the community. All have been able to bring their faith into the centre of their daily lives in a new and powerful way. And through them all, many others have been introduced to a life-saving relationship with Jesus.
“But,” leaders have insisted, “how will we be resourced and supported as we go our separate ways to live out our calling? How will we maintain the strength that we have found in and through one another? How will we ourselves continue to grow, if we are no longer meeting together?”
Our response has been to create a new book called Tools for the Job. This will be the fifth and final book of the Rooted in Jesus programme. It is not a continuation of the syllabus of Rooted in Jesus, but a transitional book designed to enable a group to continue to meet together in a way which will become self-sustaining. It is based on the following principles:
The group is for people who have completed all four books of Rooted in Jesus Jesus will be at the centre of the group The group will be a community of care Each member is committed to growing in their faith Each member is actively engaged in ministry to others
A New Pattern of Meeting
Tools for the Job provides a detailed plan for a fortnightly meeting in which those who have completed Rooted in Jesus and are now active in ministry can come together in order to encourage one another and continue to grow in faith. Each meeting has the following elements:
1. Welcome and worship 2. Word – Reading the Bible together 3. Fellowship – Supporting one another 4. Spirit – Praying together 5. Exercise – Spiritual disciplines for practice at home
How are the meetings structured?
Tools for the Job provides a template for the structure of each meeting. Detailed notes are provided to guide the group leader through the first three sessions, and a fourth session is provided in outline form. This group leader should then be able to prepare future sessions using the template.
1. Welcome and worship
Group members greet one another and share their news. They pray together, then the group leader identifies one of the Rooted in Jesus memory verses for revision, discussion and evaluation. What difference has it made to the lives of the group? Who have they shared it with? This initial discussion leads into a time of worship.
2. Word – Reading the Bible together
In Rooted in Jesus Books 1-4, Bible passages are considered thematically, following the subject of the week. In Book 5, the group works through a single book of the Bible, focussing each week on 10 to 20 verses. Group members are encouraged to observe, reflect, and respond to the passage, sharing their thoughts and considering the implications for their daily lives. The Gospel of Mark, the Letter to the Ephesians and the Book of Psalms are recommended as good places to start, and a full list of verses and topics is provided.
3. Fellowship – Supporting one another
We know that we cannot be disciples alone; we can only be disciples together. So each meeting sets aside time for group members to share what is happening in their family life and work life; what is happening in their ministry; what is happening in their community – and then to pray together for these things.
4. Spirit – Praying for one another
Through Rooted in Jesus the group will already have explored different ways of praying together. In this part of the meeting, the group pray together for their immediate personal needs, for their ministry and for their community, using whatever pattern of prayer seems best (silent or aloud, individual or corporate; praying for forgiveness, for healing, for guidance, for specific needs and so on). Finally there is time to share ways in which people have experienced answers to their prayers.
5. At Home – Practising spiritual disciplines
One of the best ways to ensure that we continue to grow as disciples of Jesus is to practise spiritual disciplines. We have not used the term ‘spiritual disciplines’ up to now, but through Rooted in Jesus group members have been introduced to the disciplines of meditation, prayer, study, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship, guidance and celebration. The other classic disciplines are fasting and simplicity. Group members are encouraged to look at one of these disciplines each time they meet, and to practise it individually at home. A full set of notes is provided, covering all of the spiritual disciplines and suggesting ways of engaging with them.
What do people say? Encouragement to try Tools for the Job
The Diocese of St Mark the Evangelist in South Africa and the Diocese of Kitale in Kenya are among those to have adopted Rooted in Jesus at the heart of their strategy for discipleship. Bishop Emmanuel Chemengich and former Bishop Martin Breytenbach comment:
“This is a great resource booklet that will ensure the RinJ facilitators are equipped to develop their own resources to their groups but also provides the needed accountability among group members as they share how they are engaging in various ministries and supporting each other, which is our true life-long Christian calling” – Bishop Emmanuel Chemengich, Diocese of Kitale, Kenya
“Rooted in Jesus equips people to grow from beginner disciples in Jesus to leaders of disciple-making groups. Book 5 will help them to continue to grow with their groups, and to use the Bible to address the many challenges of life. The Small Group patterns, principles and processes in this book will equip them to persevere as disciples of Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit, for many years to come” – Bishop Martin Breytenbach, formerly of the Diocese of St Mark the Evangelist, South Africa
Rooted in Jesus Book 5 is already available in English to dioceses where Rooted in Jesus is already in use. It is currently being translated into Swahili, and we hope to make it available in other languages too. Please contact us if you would like to know more.
For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. Colossians 1.9-10 & 2.7
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
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.