African churchgoers train to write devotionals

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Key points:

  • Training by Africa Upper Room Ministries is part workshop, part listening pilgrimage to expand resources and encourage disciple-making across the continent.
  • The sessions took place in five countries: Angola, Botswana, Côte d'Ivoire, Kenya and Zimbabwe.
  • Participants learned how to write inspirational daily devotions using either reflection on their personal experiences or a biblical text as a guide.

United Methodists were among different Christian leaders trained to write daily devotions during a two-day writers’ workshop and listening pilgrimage hosted by the Africa Upper Room Ministries.

More than 20 participants learned how to write inspirational daily devotions — using either reflection on their personal experiences or biblical text as a guide — during the June 21-22 event at Four Points Hotel in Nairobi.

To continue growing the work of Africa Upper Room Ministries on the continent, the devotional writers’ training was conducted in five countries: Angola, Botswana, Côte d'Ivoire, Kenya and Zimbabwe.

The Rev. Sidwell Mokgothu, Limpopo Synod Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa and the chair of the Africa Upper Room Ministries board, said the publication ministry gives a platform to stories and amplifies the voice of African people.

“The Upper Room Devotional is about the spiritual life experiences of ordinary people,” he said, noting that the majority of the current contributors are from the United States. “Whilst it (is) good to receive from others, Africans also have something worthy to share with peoples of the world.”

During the training, participants were guided on the discipline of writing the different elements of a devotional, including biblical text, meditation, prayer, thoughts for the day and prayer focus — with each devotional not exceeding 300 words.

“Writing moves us beyond our oral tradition and assists us to reach many,” Mokgothu said.

Participants of an Africa Upper Room Ministries devotional writers’ training held June 21-22 pose outside of the Four Points Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo by Gad Maiga, UM News. 
Participants of an Africa Upper Room Ministries devotional writers’ training held June 21-22 pose outside of the Four Points Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo by Gad Maiga, UM News.

Started as a daily devotional guide in 1935, The Upper Room has grown to include publications, programs, prayer support and other resources. The ministry is housed at Discipleship Ministries, the agency that promotes disciple-making across the denomination.

Africa Upper Room Ministries was founded in 2002 in South Africa as a new model for international ministry, drawing people together throughout the continent in practicing the daily disciplines of reading the Bible, praying and sharing the journey with Christians around the world.

Mokgothu, who provides strategic leadership and governance for Africa Upper Room, called the training and pilgrimage a great achievement.

Noting the challenge of resources, Mokgothu said it is important for those who can volunteer to pledge their time, talents and expertise.

“The challenges that we met with are the usual challenges of the continent. They are mainly about the levels of poverty.

“Ordinary people who deserve our resources cannot afford them,” he continued. “Ours is not a business but a ministry. We have the challenge of balancing between distributing these resources to those who need them most and sustaining the ministry.”

Tumi Mogodi, operations manager for Africa Upper Room Ministries, led the devotional-writing workshop in Kenya. She shared why the training was termed as a “listening pilgrimage.”

“We were not a bunch of tourists but a team of pilgrims undertaking a sacred mission of discernment, which included listening to each other and God,” she said.

“We listened to those who spoke from their context and what their wishes and hopes are regarding our work. Our responsibility is, beyond the visits, to meet and share what we have heard and respond in a manner that is responsible.”

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Mogodi said it’s important to create an implementation strategy based on resources.

“Our greatest responsibility is to create space for God’s people to participate and contribute and own this ministry as theirs,” she said.

Mpho Raadt, digital marketing and sales officer for Africa Upper Room Ministries, said the goal is to create an intentional Pan African ministry with a large footprint across the continent.

“We need to heal Africa from its scars of colonialism, imperialism, coups, corruption and wars that happened in the past and are continuing in different forms and shapes today,” Raadt said.

Reuben Ososo, lay leader at Kayole St. John United Methodist Church, said the Upper Room training was a great resource that will improve devotional writers.

“I appreciate the opportunity to be part of this ministry that is supporting the spiritual formations of Christians like us with the desire to know more about God,” he said.

The Rev. Wilton T. Odongo, Nairobi District superintendent, said the training would empower the Christian community in Kenya.

“I am grateful to (Africa Upper Room Ministries) for providing us with crucial resources that will help us connect daily to God and contribute to the spiritual growth of others,” he said.   

Peter Velander, The Upper Room’s executive director, said he was pleased with Upper Room Africa’s work in crossing borders to encourage people to share their stories of faith.

He was among three leaders from The Upper Room who visited Africa for the writers’ training.

“We hope to continue providing spiritual resources to help Christians navigate their faith in relation to others and God’s creation,” Velander said.

Gad Maiga is a communicator for the Kenya-Ethiopia Conference. News media contact: Julie Dwyer at [email protected]. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily and Friday Digest.


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