BY BARRY RODRIGUEZ, SENIOR PASTORAL RESIDENT
In 2005 I had the chance to spend a full year interning with Nairobi Chapel in Kenya. That year happened to be when Nairobi Chapel took the bold step to multiply themselves into five new church plants spread all across the city. The interns, like myself, who were a part of the program that year, were divided up between the different church plants. Intern Angie Gatamah and I were assigned to go with Pastor Muriithi Wanjau, a protégé of Pastor Oscar Muriu, and two other pastors (Pastor Simon and Pastor Linda) to plant what eventually became called Mavuno Church on the south side of Nairobi.
Our staff of five was small, but energetic, and the need around us was very real. Upon planting the church, our congregation quickly grew to hundreds. Along with this growth came a major need for discipleship. Each week new people (especially young adults) came to Pastor Muriithi looking to be discipled – to learn the basics of the faith and figure out what this whole “Jesus thing” was all about. If you want to hear Pastor Muriithi's version of the story, it's quite entertaining, click here!
As an intern, I helped Pastor Muriithi schedule meetings with these folks. It didn’t take long, however, before these one on one meetings were overwhelming his schedule. He simply didn’t have the capacity to walk so many people through faith in Jesus individually. Because of this, Pastor Muriithi realized he needed to create a new kind of discipleship program to help these curious people establish the foundations of their faith.
His idea was to design a 10-week experience which was unlike anything else offered in Kenya at the time. Most churches in Nairobi offered classes where people could attend, learn from someone up front, and get a certificate of completion. Often, however, the certificate (not the learning) became the goal, so peoples’ actual engagement was minimal. Because of this, Pastor Muriithi wanted to shake things up. His idea was to have the learning happen throughout the week via daily devotionals, with the weekly gatherings being a chance to actually experience what was being learned. Thus, the Mavuno Church “Foundations Class” (later named Mizizi, Swahili for “roots”) was born.
During the whole first class we were flying by the seat of our pants. Each week we rushed to get the following week’s content written, printed, and into the hands of the class by the time they gathered. As an intern, I was scrambling to do everything from buying refreshments, printing copies, and even helping to write some of the curriculum. Often I didn’t even have time to collate the copies, so we’d have a dozen stacks of pages lined up on chairs and each class member had to assemble their own packet.
Despite our rush, the class was a profound success. Many of the attendees put their trust in Jesus for the first time, and many others took the first steps on a journey of calling which they are still living today. We were all blown away with what God was doing with this relatively simple new program. Mavuno Church started a second round of Mizizi, which I again helped to facilitate, and then my internship was over. The first published version of the curriculum came out the day I flew home from Nairobi. I came back to the US and went on with my life, never expecting I would encounter Mizizi again.
Unbeknownst to me, however, Mizizi begin to explode across East Africa. Nairobi Chapel began implementing it as a part of their discipleship strategy, and it quickly spread to the many other churches and church plants associated with Chapel. It didn’t take long for one of Nairobi Chapel’s partners in the US to catch on. In 2010, Mariners Church in Irvine, CA, adapted Mizizi for an American audience, renamed it Rooted, and began trying it out with their congregation. Rooted quickly began to transform lives here in the US, just as it had in Kenya. Soon a whole network of American churches sprouted, all using Rooted to disciple their people.
Fast forward to late 2016, when Grace began recognizing its own need for a unified, foundational program to help our people kickstart their discipleship journey. Over the course of the next year, we explored several different existing programs to see if anything might work in our context. Rooted was one of the options. Ultimately, after lots of discussion and searching, it seemed Rooted would be the ideal program to implement at Grace. We took the leap, began pilot groups, and just launched the program church-wide in fall 2018.
Just like that, I’ve found myself being a part of Mizizi yet again. Today, 13 years after making photocopies in Nairobi, I get to watch as this simple, powerful program transforms the church I am a part of. I don’t know exactly what will happen once Rooted becomes established at Grace, but I am so eager to see what God will do!