Raising up champions

Ten years since CMS-Africa was established to take a fresh, innovative and African-led approach to global mission, there is much to celebrate.

BY JO MITCHELL, FREELANCE WRITER

As international director Rev Dr Dennis Tongoi prepares to step down, it’s clear that the organisation he has led for the last decade has built a reputation as a powerful catalyst. Aiming to equip a rising generation of change makers, CMS-Africa has seen 10,000 Africans trained in holistic mission discipleship in the last four years.

While the church in Africa has grown significantly in numbers over recent decades, African Christian leaders say a depth of change in day-to-day life has been slower in coming. Debilitating poverty, inequality and conflict persist. But Dennis and his team are committed to changing that. Keen to model “church on Monday”, they are driven by the desire to see every aspect of life transformed – from family life to farming to business. Rather than focus on delivering services, CMS-Africa seeks to show people ways to use the resources that God has already given them to find a way out of poverty.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams meets Dennis Tongoi in Africa
Rowan Williams visits a CMS-Africa supported project with Dennis, June 2011

To do this, they develop and multiply models of excellence designed to address challenges such as debt and environmental degradation. This Transformational Stewardship Training is core to CMS-Africa's work and introduces trainees to the transforming power of the gospel and what it means to live a life of love and faith alongside practical tools and skills.

The outworking of this is bringing about change in people’s lives and across communities, as people learn to see life through a biblical worldview rather than through the prevailing poverty mindset. This enabling environment is helping families to manage their budgets effectively, farmers to produce a sustainable harvest and entrepreneurs to set up businesses that create useful products while earning an invaluable income – all in Jesus’ name.

Dennis Tongoi speaking
Dennis Tongoi speaks at a CMS conference in Kenya, 2011

As they train others to steward their resources well, CMS-Africa is keen to practise what they preach – and find strategies to be self-sustaining too. One way has been to develop its Nairobi base. With construction on a new building now complete, tenants are being sought for a new hub for groups united by similar goals. In this way, CMS-Africa will generate ongoing income while creating a community of change-seekers.

While preparing to hand over leadership to Canon Moses Bushendich, Dennis took a moment to share his personal highlights with us, and what he sees ahead for the organisation’s next 10 years.

What have you seen God doing in and through CMS-Africa over the last decade?

The context of the founding of CMS-Africa was one in which the continent’s people were resource-rich but living in poverty. People don’t see what they already have.

What God has done is help people realise that they have resources – material, but primarily people. They learn that God’s word can be a solution to their situation, that money doesn’t change things, but people do. As the church has become much more aware of her stewardship mandate, people have been discipled to see themselves as God sees them and through this they have begun to change their communities and their nations. What was once a goal is now a reality. That’s what God has done.

What were your hopes when you started? In what ways have they been fulfilled?

Part of my vision was to see Africa transformed in one generation. CMS is an amazing platform with an amazing network. Because of this we’ve been able to see 45 different countries reached by our network of trainers. What’s key is not getting things done but developing people to do them. We are multipliers, not service providers. That’s how the numbers have grown – so that over 10,000 people received systematic discipleship training in four years.

Small group of white and black people walk across red earth
Lady Gill Brentford and Dennis Tongoi lead a group through the Kibera settlement, Nairobi

What have CMS-Africa’s key achievements been in this period?

We’ve been raising up champions – practitioners of holistic mission – who are not just talkers but doers. We’ve been building and then using communities of best practice to show people the impact of following Christ: “This works: come and see what God has done, as we’ve stepped out in obedience to his word.” We’ve modelled to people the need to obey. Much training focuses on knowledge; ours is based on obedience, on how much you put into practice. As a result, we’re seeing the fruit continually growing and multiplying in the training’s third, fourth or fifth year.

What are some of your personal highlights of this time?

I’ve loved seeing the people that God has raised up over time to be trainers, whose lives I’ve invested in. Because of the geographical spread of the training work, we travel to see our champions in Juba, Arusha, Kinshasa, Bujumbura. Then, recently, we brought all these people together to meet each other and form a team. Seeing that happen was a real highlight. They’re now working together to create a harmonised new stewardship training tool.

Group of people praying
Having just received Jesus during a church service in Tanzania, two people pray with Dennis Tongoi and their pastor

Leaders and practitioners are coming together from so many backgrounds, representing the diversity of Africa and developing a message which will impact all of these contexts. This is a key milestone.

When I think of how people’s lives are changed as a result of CMS-Africa’s ministry, I feel joy: the children who are now going to school, the brokenness that has been healed, the people who were once rejected but are now a valued part of the church, the young people once held back by poverty who are now studying at university thanks to people’s faithful support.

What have you learned about mission?

It’s God’s mission, not mine. I’m not defined by where I’ve fallen short, or where I’ve succeeded. I’m defined by where I am with Christ. He’s engaged, he’s doing his work and my role is to respond to that. That means I don’t need to be anxious about tomorrow; I just need to be present today, recognise his voice and follow him.

What do you believe the future holds for CMS-Africa?

As an organisation which raises leaders who then develop more leaders, we are in a very strong position with the whole church in Africa, not just the Anglican church. Leaders who worked with us in the early days have since become bishops and archbishops. They’ve witnessed our work and have confidence in us. A truly Africa-wide network is growing, and will develop much further over the next 10 years. CMS-Africa was born in Nairobi, but I thank God that my successor Canon Moses Bushendich is Ugandan.

Our board members are drawn from many African countries, and we are seeing churches establishing increasingly fruitful links across the continent. I am excited to see what God will do.

The Call in Action: PRAY

  1. Pray that Dennis will continue to see lives transformed by the God he loves and serves so wholeheartedly.
  2. Pray for Moses Bushendich as he starts leading CMS-Africa.
  3. Pray for CMS-Africa as they celebrate their 10th birthday in October.

To find out more about the work of CMS-Africa, see www.cms-africa.org

Published 26 October 2018
Region
Africa

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