As the country begins to awaken from its enforced hibernation, we have begun to travel again. Our EQUIP groups are still meeting by Zoom, but we are increasingly able to plan real, live events with and for those we support. Roger Morgan has just spent a weekend in Kent helping a tiny but growing village church prepare for its first ever parish mission, working with a determined clergy couple and a dynamic group of young church members. ‘We have not had a prayer opportunity until now, and people’s response was amazing!’, they wrote afterwards; ‘a lady who didn’t attend on Sunday said her friend (who did) wouldn’t stop talking about it!’ And that, of course, is what we want – a world in which people talk about what’s going on in the local church…
A new book for Rooted in Jesus
We have continued to work hard on Rooted in Jesus, with 7 conferences ready to go as soon as circumstances permit. We have printed additional books for the growing number of groups in Uganda, Kenya, Madagascar and Tanzania, and have published translations in several new languages as well as updating editions for some of the older translations. But the main news to share is that we have written a brand new book. It’s called Tools for the Job, and its aim is to provide an ongoing template for groups which have completed the 4 books of the Rooted in Jesus programme and are now engaged in various forms of ministry, but wish to continue meeting together periodically to support and pray for one another and continue to grow in their faith. To find out more please visit our blog.
The new world of Zoom
Zoom is one of the new tools we will probably all want to keep on using into the future. It’s early days, but we have been experimenting with virtual small groups and training events. Bishop Martin and Colleen Breytenbach have been running a Zoom Rooted in Jesus group in Cape Town, which is going very well – if anything, they say, people are able to respond more deeply from the familiar environment of their own homes. They are now designing the first Rooted in Jesus virtual leadership training, adapting the usual conference material into a Zoom-friendly format.
Here in England, Ian and Sue Cripps have had some very positive feedback from the Beyond Ourselves course which they ran over Zoom for those who signed up after a virtual enquiry event at which Roger spoke. ‘Each week, every topic and associated exercise has spoken to me and I have found my faith strengthened and enhanced’, wrote one participant afterwards; ‘Having experienced this course, I would recommend it to anyone who wants to explore their faith, whether coming from none or little faith, or having been brought up in a Christian family.’
So here we are in a new season. We’d like to close by sharing some news we received recently from Ven Hectorina Tsotetsi of the Diocese of the Free State in South Africa:
“Let me share the most exciting and shocking news that happened on the day of Pentecost, where [a member of our] RinJ small teams donated 50K [rand, ie £2.5K] as a testimony of life changing and thanksgiving to God. Her reason for donating such a huge amount of money is that she nearly died without accepting Jesus as Lord and Saviour. She thanks God for the transformation of becoming a new creation. God is good all the time.”
The beginning of Lent seems like a good time to focus our minds and prayers on our brothers and sisters in other lands, and we have some news to share from the Diocese in Toliara, Madagascar. We have posted a full report on our blog, but here is a summary:
Southern Madagascar has been hit by a prolonged period of drought. This has seen many people lose their lives, and many more have been forced to leave their homes in search of food. With support from Christians in far off places, the diocese has now made a second famine relief distribution, providing enough sacks of rice and beans to feed 900 families in the affected areas for a month.
The good news is that many people have responded to this by starting to attend church – not least because the food was given away to everybody, irrespective of religious affiliation. There has been, Revd Gaston, reports, an “explosion of people, with no more room to fit in people. People are being baptized because they are being touched by the love of God and asking, ‘What religion is this that cares? We want to join you’”. Gaston’s wife Olivia is running three Rooted in Jesus groups to teach those who have decided to place their faith in Jesus, and the new church of Ambovombe is packed out on Sundays.
Meanwhile, not far away in Mahabo parish, the Rooted in Jesus group in the Chapel of St Andrew has now completed the programme and received certificates.
We first went to Madagascar ten years ago. In a country where 80% of people are yet to hear the gospel, it’s hugely encouraging to see the huge strides being made despite the very real difficulties of living in a place subject to an increasing scourge of famines and cyclones. We feel privileged to be able to continue to support them in these small ways. As we begin the season of Lent, it would be good to respond to their prayer request: “Please pray for rain to fall so that rivers will be filled, the underground water table will rise, and crops will grow, but not so much rain at any one time that it causes damage.”
It has been a great privilege this year to share in the good news of Jesus with so many people, both in the UK and in Africa. We are grateful to all who have partnered and prayed with us, and offer our best wishes for a trustful and joyful Christmas.
We have seen the Lord working in many places – but would like to invite you to pray for just one of them as we celebrate the coming of Christ: the Diocese of Kondoa.
Kondoa sits on the eastern edge of the Great Rift Valley in central Tanzania, and it held its first Rooted in Jesus conference last month. It’s an unremarkable place, set in an ordinary rural community whose people support themselves predominantly by subsistence farming. But it faces particular challenges. People have worshipped in traditional ways here for thousands of years – Kondoa is home to some of the oldest rock paintings in the world. And more recently, Kondoa was a staging post on the slave route to the east coast. Today 90% of its 600,000 people are are Muslim. Many have never heard the gospel.
But the Lord has been working in Kondoa. Bishop Given Gaula has been called to serve the diocese as its leader, and he has some remarkable stories to tell. The number of Christians is growing, churches are being planted, and 126 people have just been trained to lead the first Rooted in Jesus groups.
We’ve posted a full report on https://rootedinjesus.blog/. So before you settle down to celebrate the Lord’s coming with your family, why not take the time to ponder on what he is doing among our brothers and sisters in this remote rural district in the heart of Africa – starting with a very special act of incarnation and redemption.