In 2003 156 pastors and evangelists began to lead a small group in the Kiteto region of the diocese of Mount Kilimanjaro, using the Rooted in Jesus discipleship course developed specially for them. 4 years later, after battling through famine and drought, the groups have completed the course. Alison Morgan, Stephen Dinsmore, Elaine Sutherland and Ben Thorpe went to listen to their experiences and help coordinator Michael Samuel train a new generation of leaders.
We began by dividing the delegates into groups and asking them lots of questions about how they had found the course. We were deeply encouraged by their answers, which went far beyond anything we had expected.
Almost without exception the group leaders said that they now had great confidence in God, that he was with them and was powerful to work through them. One said ‘I have a sense of God being with me, empowering me; and I had constantly prayed for this, and continue to pray for it’. Another said ‘it has been an encouragement to me that God is with me as one of the first women leaders’. Many said they used to read the Bible like a newspaper or magazine, but now read it and pray over it daily and find that it speaks to them. Some said that they have lost their fear; that they feel power in preaching; that they feel a love for their group members. When we asked about the memory verses, one after another they shared the ones which had changed their lives. Several said their churches are now full; one said the whole village has changed dramatically.
We asked about the group members. What has Rooted in Jesus done for them? One said that on the 4th lesson, ‘Who is Jesus?’, he had taught them the memory verse John 1.12, which says to all who received him he gave power to become children of God. He said they hadn’t known that. They were just churchgoers, and they’d not heard of the Holy Spirit or realised any act of commitment was necessary. He had explained the verse and the whole group was filled with the Holy Spirit. Other leaders said their people had stopped worshipping the wrong God, had developed their own prayer life instead of just saying prayers in church, had been praying for the sick and seeing healings, had stopped drinking, beating their wives, and using drugs and cigarettes. Some had been inspired to learn to read and write so they could read the Bible. Prayer was becoming normal in the villages. People were sharing their faith and others were coming to Christ. They were speaking out against witchcraft. Illiterate people are teaching others from the memory verses. One man used to do everything in the church but now can’t get a word in edgeways. A child who used to fall down all the time was prayed for until he was healed, with the result that the whole family came to Christ and joined the group. A woman with a very small voice was prayed for; she now sings in the choir. In one Masai village the elders now pray over their decisions. In another village a Muslim had come into the church during a group meeting saying his feet were burning, and he didn't know what they were doing but could he please join them?
Many of the new group leaders are women – even amongst the Masai. This represents a break with tradition, but is being embraced as being in line with the pattern of the New Testament church. 5 new deanery coordinators have been appointed to support the new groups, of which there will now be 330. Meanwhile in the north of the diocese Stanley Hotay and Isaiah Chambala have recently held a conference for the 100+ group leaders of Arusha and Kilimanjaro deaneries. There are also groups meeting in Babati deanery, supported by Jacob Lihhima who has just travelled to DR Congo as part of a team to introduce Rooted in Jesus there.
When we began 4 years ago, we stood in a church in a small, dusty town called Engusero and received a prophecy from God, in the midst of worship, that if his people in this forgotten part of Tanzania continued to pray and seek his face as they were doing that day, he would bless them. Never have I seen such a large group of people so changed in such a short space of time. He has blessed them indeed.
We wish to thank all those who have prayed so faithfully for all involved in this ministry.
Update February 2009
Rooted in Jesus continues to play a key part in the life of the church in DMK. Michael Samuel is now working with 5 deanery coordinators to support all the groups in the Kiteto deaneries, and the second generation of leaders have mostly begun book 2 with their groups. Michael has drawn up a new action plan. He writes:
We divide the year in three parts; from January-February I will visit the group leaders and group members to encourage them to meet every Sunday because this is the rain time and most of the people are in fields. The people were in fields up to April after that they start to meet three times per week as ordinary. From June-July the Deaneries coordinators to visit all group leaders and to hear about the lessons which lessons and section s are there. From October-November I travel to visit all groups to confirm if they finished teaching book one or two and I will give them their certificates.
The ministry is not without its difficulties - the coordinators need bicycle tyres, and Michael's motorbike fuel has become much more expensive. But he is extraordinarily persistent - please do continue to pray for him. He is sending Erasto Mollel, a Masai student from KCC, with us to Northern Masailand (Kenya!) in March, where we will be working with the Masai Covenant Church International to introduce Rooted in Jesus there. We also have an invitation from Masasi diocese in Tanzania, and Michael will travel as part of the team in August.
In the north, Isaiah Chambala is now studying in the States, and has appointed a replacement to continue his work in overseeing the 150 groups in Arusha Deanery. He still refers to Rooted in Jesus as 'the Idea that has reshaped my ministry'; and is currently talking to his colleagues in Mpapwa diocese about introducing it there. All this serves to build and strengthen not just DMK itself, but also the church in Tanzania as a whole, as relationships are deepened and Rooted in Jesus is shared.