Mama Ester: Planting Seeds of Love


In a small, African village, an elderly woman eagerly tells a Bible story to a group of young onlookers. It is a new morning in Zambia and preschool is beginning.

But this elderly school teacher has not always had smiling faces to look upon.

Her nation, Zambia, in southeast Africa, is set on a plateau with 70 percent of the population living in extreme poverty.


In Zambia, HIV/AIDS is rampant and the life expectancy is only about 40 years. Additionally, 30 percent of the population is illiterate, and many children grow up never having the opportunity to go to school.

As a resident of a rural Zambian village, life is difficult for this elderly lady known as Mama Ester. A disability causes her to use a crutch and she often has to sit in a wheelchair.

However, three years ago, hope came to Ester in the form of a missionary who befriended her. When she realized that Ester was one of the few people in the village who could read, the missionary encouraged Ester to begin a preschool for the young children of the village.

With nothing but a box of preschool material, Ester did not have much to work with, but she accepted the challenge and began teaching a group of young children.

Using an old truck tire as a school house, Mama Ester gathers the children every morning and begins by telling them a Bible story. Then, she divides the children into four groups where they can receive some teaching, read books, make crafts, or play with toys. At the end, each child gets to sit with Mama Ester on the tire and talk with her. Throughout the morning, each group rotates stations, and every child has the opportunity to learn, laugh, and be loved.

Picture 2

Preschool on a truck tire!

Picture 1
Bible story time in Mama Ester’s preschool.

Mama Ester’s work is thriving in her community, and the leaders are taking notice. The matriarch of the village, upon visiting Ester’s makeshift school, was shocked to find that these young scholars could read better than her grandchild who had been educated in a government school.

Today, Mama Ester’s ministry has grown, and she now is teaching many of the village cattle herders to read.  Before they head out to work each morning, many of  these farmers visit Ester to receive the education they never had before. Ester is also training new teachers who are reaching out to the surrounding villages with the love of Christ and the gift of education.

Ester’s ministry is not complicated, expensive, or extraordinary. But by using the resources she had — which happened to be her mind, an old truck tire, and a box of preschool material — Ester seized the opportunity and plated seeds of love in her community.

Picture 3

Ester enjoying the company of some of her bright young students.

The Disciple Nations Alliance seeks to raise up leaders just like Mama Ester. By teaching people how to reach out to their communities with the resources they have, the DNA seeks to bring God’s kingdom to the nations. Although Ester has never heard of the DNA, she is a living testimony of how the work of one faithful believer can bring transformation.

This story was shared by Johannes Aucamp, a DNA trainer who serves and trains African pastors, helping them develop into Christ-like servant leaders who bring transformation and glory to God in their communities. He works as part of Training of Pastors in Africa (TOPIA). E-mail him at, and follow TOPIA on Facebook and Twitter (@TopiaMinistries)!

After a decade in the field, an American missionary has the ‘scales removed from his mind’

Philip Renfroe compares the years after his “second conversion” to waking up early in the morning and walking through a very thick fog. As the day progresses, the fog lifts, but early on, you can’t see where you are or where you’re going.

“Even though I had been a missionary for over 10 years,” he says, “in my heart, I cried out and said, ‘Lord, I had no idea I was blind from these things. But I’m asking you to remove the scales from my mind and to help me see the truth from a biblical-worldview perspective.’”

After working for years as a medical doctor in a rural Kenyan hospital–a 300-bed facility serving half a million people–Philip learned new things about Kenyans that changed his whole perspective.

All of this resulted unexpectedly from a great trial facing Philip’s Christian colleagues. But isn’t that just how our God loves to work–to take a hopeless, difficult situation and turn it into something profound and life-changing?

While working through a difficult conflict in the ministry, one of Philip’s colleagues suggested seeking outside counsel. Dennis Tongoi was brought into the picture–he is DNA’s representative in East Africa and the leader of DNA’s partner Samaritan Strategy Africa.

Instead of discussing strategy, budgets and business, Dennis talked about what it means to have a biblical worldview. He explained the impact of animism on African churches and the impact of humanistic secularism on Western churches, giving specific examples that resonated with Philip and his group.

“He was answering questions that I had as a North American missionary well over 10 years,” says Philip. “As he was talking, I can still picture in my mind sitting in the chapel of this Bible college where we were meeting … and the Holy Spirit came to me and said, “Philip Renfroe, you are a secularist.’ I knew in my heart that the Holy Spirit was right.”

Dennis encouraged the ministry leaders to change their whole approach to this certain problem, but his involvement didn’t stop there.

“Dennis Tongoi is a dear friend; I love him as a brother,” Philip says. “God has used him as a mentor to me.”

A few months after meeting, Philip attended a DNA Vision Conference led by Dennis. He soaked up more DNA teachings on biblical worldview and seed projects, deciding his missions organization, World Gospel Mission (WGM), needed to hear these things.

Infiltrating the organization

Philip and Dennis organized another Vision Conference, this time for 70 Africa Gospel Church leaders and 30 WGM missionaries. Out of that grew a vibrant ministry at the local Bomet Prison (learn more about that).

Philip’s next plan was to have Hubert Harriman, president of WGM, meet Dennis. This came to fruition in the lobby of a Nairobi hotel.

“As I sat and listened to him,” recalls Hubert, “the illustrations he used and his thoughts, it reminded me a lot of [famed theologian] John Wesley.”

Dennis (top right) conducts “Trainer of Trainers” workshops as a strategic way to multiply DNA teachings.

Hubert, a former pastor, began to see what Dennis meant by “humanistic secularism”–how he and the Western church had set a division into something that meant to be whole.

There are two rails, Hubert says: the rail of the spiritual (holiness) and that of the social (people’s needs). The tendency is to separate the two.

“I had the same tendency and realized these rails run together; they make a track. If we don’t run these two rails together–parallel–we will get off track,” Hubert says.

WGM is an organization more than 100 years old; an establishment like that doesn’t change quickly. But when its top leadership experiences a head-and-heart change, as Hubert did, movement can be swift.

Hubert and other top leadership dove deeper into DNA teachings, assembling a conference with 20 WGM country directors from around the world to talk about integrating physical and spiritual ministry. The board of directors then agreed to adopt a more intentional focus on wholistic community transformation, with Philip in charge.

This plan enables WGM field workers to go back to established churches and help them discover how to minister wholistically to their communities. New missionaries not yet deployed will be trained as well, and even the 30-plus employees in WGM’s administrative office in Indiana will have a two-day training this coming January.

Hubert wants to show churches: “Let’s not just deal with these four walls; there’s a community around you.”

Contact Philip Renfroe or Hubert Harriman at

DNA’s work in Africa: Finalist for World Magazine award

Last week, World Magazine released this year’s finalists for its prestigious Hope Award for Effective Compassion, and we were so excited to see the work of Chris Ampadu, West Africa Coordinator for Samaritan Strategy Africa (SSA), selected as the only international ministry on the list!

Read the full article here.

Chris, a native of Ghana, was one of the first DNA trainers in Africa. After attending a Vision Conference in 1999, he walked away from a successful business career to be mentored by DNA co-founder Darrow Miller. He has been a highly effective trainer and mentor of church leaders in West Africa since. Today, Chris serves on staff with Harvest.

Chris (right) is on the leadership team of Samaritan Strategy Africa. SSA and DNA share the same mission: To encourage, prepare and equip local churches with a Christian worldview (mind-set) to carry out wholistic ministry in their communities.

Since 2005, Chris and his fellow SSA colleagues have worked to raise up indigenous training teams in every African nation. Since they began:

  • More than 400 African trainers have been certified
  • National training teams now exist in 26 African nations
  • More than 600 Vision Conferences have been conducted
  • Nearly 30,000 African pastors and church leaders have been trained
  • Thousands of Seed Projects have been implemented

These African leaders offer a shining example of DNA’s prayer to see local believers catch a vision for their communities and run with it in a way that multiplies impact.

The Hope Award began with 200 nominations, from which five finalists were selected. Each finalist received a $4,000 prize, and votes from the public will determine who wins the $21,000 grand prize.

World Magazine’s editor-in-chief, Marvin Olasky, and his wife saw Chris’ work first-hand earlier this year.

Click here to cast your vote by September 30!

SSA’s mission aligns perfectly with World Magazine’s criteria for the contest: “programs that are not just evangelical and not just economic, but unite body and soul.”

A full-length article in the September edition explains: “DNA sees Christian worldview teaching as the missing link between evangelism and economic development. Without that understanding, Africa’s Christianity takes a gnostic form, with extravagant worship on Sunday but no connection between that and their lives the rest of the week, or between the spiritual and the material.”

DNA is privileged to partner with Chris and SSA, acting as a behind-the-scenes catalyst and supporter for this movement which continues to gain speed. Just a few months ago, three new teams took root in Niger, Benin and Lesotho.

If you’d like to vote for Samaritan Strategy Africa to win this $21,000 prize, please do so here. To financially support the spread of a biblical worldview across Africa, give through our website (choose dropdown “DNA’s work in Africa”).

If you give $30 or more, we’ll send you a free copy of Against All Hope: Hope for Africa, written conjointly by the DNA and SSA.

A “new” way of evangelism takes root in West Africa

Indeed, wholistic ministry really is the oldest tool for evangelism–Jesus invented it. But in West Africa, where “open-air crusades” have been a preferred method for so many generations, today’s Christian leaders are discovering the power of extending Jesus’ love to the whole person, operating from a biblical worldview.

“The reception to our message was just overwhelming, and participants called for more time since it has been just a day’s vision casting,” says Chris Ampadu, a DNA partner working in Ghana.

In the past couple of months, Chris has helped conduct in Ghana:

  • a mentorship program for Christian professionals from six countries.
  • a training for 169 church leaders on “Love Action as a Tool for Evangelism.”
  • an annual Wholistic Club meeting with 10 leaders, each of whom has 30-60 members demonstrating God’s love in profound ways at the grassroots level.
  • presentations on wholistic ministry to more than 800 evangelistic leaders, followed by new plans for a four-day Vision Conference.

“A church elder from Katanga said [the church’s] demonstration of love to the needy and poor has shocked many people in the village such that two Moslems and three animist women have joined the club, saying they have never seen poor people coming out of their poverty to show such compassion and love,” Chris says.

In the DR Congo, cleaning up streets opens the door for the gospel

From Brother Serge, serving the Lord in Kinshasa, the DR Congo’s capital and largest city

For some time, I have been concerned with the physical cleanliness of our community. The streets were lined with litter. Drains were clogged up so much that they became breeding grounds for malaria-spreading mosquitoes — these would claim many lives every day, especially among infants and children.

It was during a training by Harvest (a partner of DNA) that I was challenged to do something about this.

Every Saturday, I took steps to care for this environment where I live. Soon, many neighbors joined me….

Today, you will find a whole group of men, women and even children working together to improve their community. We call ourselves the Wholistic Discipleship Club for Community Transformation.

As a result, we have been invited by many churches to share about this ministry — God’s desire for us to be healthy not just spiritually, but also physically, stewarding our resources and serving each other together.

The Message Which Can Change our Continent

Buingo Mateene was exposed to DNA in 2003 when he attended three vision conferences. One VC was in Ghana, facilitated by Darrow Miller and Chris Amapadu; the other two, in Togo and Benin, were facilitated by Chris and John Wood.

Buingo is country director for the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Here is the powerful story of DNA’s impact on Buingo’s own life and the difference between knowing it and doing it!

Three Stories of the Power of a Mustard Seed

My name is Rev.  Meshack Okumu. I live in Nairobi, Kenya. I work for Carlile College, Centre for Urban Mission.

We are doing DNA training in eight informal settlements. Last year we wanted to reach 200 pastors and church leaders with the DNA material and we were able to actually train more than 200! The following stories are examples of what God has done through the DNA trainings in our region.


A few years ago we had a training in one of the slums called Kawangware. In this slum there was a pastor from the Free Pentecostal Fellowship in Kenya. After going through the training he went back to his village and talked about the concepts with the members of his congregation and to people in the community.

One of the issues they were dealing with was poverty. Many poor, needy people were coming to church and living in the community. So he decided to begin an economic empowerment program for his community.

Working with the community, they formed a savings group and started saving 50 shillings (less than a dollar) every week. After about six months they began making loans to the members of the group. Each borrower would return the money with interest.

This program started about four years ago. Today they have in excess of 300,000 shillings which they have generated without any outside help. The people thought they had nothing to give and now they have much! The finances of the church has increased because of this.


We had a training in another slum called Mwiki Kasarani. About 35 pastors came. Most of the pastors are also working other jobs. One pastor was also a teacher in an informal school, so his immediate audience was the children in his school.

The people coming from this community are so poor that sometimes the children would come to school without breakfast and sometimes would go without lunch. So this pastor and his members decided they would start making porridge for the children in this school. They said they would begin by making porridge for just 10 children. The success of this porridge business was so good that the local government official (he is called the Chief) heard about it. The Chief then called the pastor/teacher and told him to come to his office for some relief food. They got about six bags of maize and six bags of beans. The pastor realized that you don’t have to have everything but when you begin being faithful with the very little that you have, God will multiply it.

The pastor was excited that the Chief was able to hear and give them some food. They are continuing with the services of giving the children some light meal.


Another slum where we work is called Kibera. It is reportedly the second largest slum in Africa.

Beatrice studies in a recent training session

I had a training in Soweto, one local village in this slum. A lady there, named Beatrice, is a leader in their  church. Beatrice went through the training and began thinking about how to implement this training in her community. But before she could share these ideas with her church she felt she needed to begin doing something in her own surroundings.

Beatrice went to visit a neighbor and to her surprise found that the neighbor’s children were sleeping on a carton on the floor without a mattress. She was moved because in her home she had a mat and felt she needed to share. She went home and took a knife and cut in two the mat her children slept on. Through this she was able to share and lots of relationship developed, neighbors who had not been talking to each were now in relationship.

Beatrice’s simple gift bore fruit

A pastor in the same training thought about the discipline of love. He had never visited a sick neighbor. This time he went back to his neighborhood and visited this neighbor. He found the neighbor was very sick and needed attention. But he didn’t have money to take the neighbor to the hospital. So he went to another neighbor and asked if he could borrow 50 shillings (less than one dollar) for transport to the hospital. But that neighbor gave him 1000 shillings which was enough to take a taxi instead of using public transport.

As we learn in the training about the discipline of love, you don’t have to have everything to serve God. You just begin with what you have. He was so happy that God was able to use him, not necessarily removing money from his pocket but the Lord provided through other people.

International Youth Movement Launched from Seed Project

Gizachew Ayka serves as director of Win Souls for God Evangelical Ministries, an organization seeking “to bring the street children of Addis Ababa [Ethiopia] out of their misery into a stable life with well-being.” Gizachew also leads Hope for Children, a relief and development organization serving among extremely poor children of Ethiopia.

Gizachew was first exposed to the DNA over ten years ago at a vision conference, facilitated by Bob Moffitt and Darrow Miller, in Addis Ababa. He was invited to the conference by his Sunday School teacher, Demelash Lemma. Today Demelash is Horn of Africa coordinator for Samaritan Strategy Africa.

In this brief video, Gizachew shares the story of a dynamic work that started with two young men at a vision conference and since has grown explosively and is serving needs in multiple countries.

In Sudan, the Church Plays a Vital Role Peaceful Referendum

Stephen Langa is Director of Transforming Nations Alliance, the DNA national network in Uganda. He is also an elder at the 22,000 member Watoto Church in Kampala. In 2010, Stephen facilitated Vision Conferences in Khartoum, Yei, Juba and Rumbek Sudan. Attending these events were key church leaders from all major denominations. For more background, read thisthis, and this.

Stephen challenged these church leaders to step up and play their God-given, prophetic role at this critical time for the nation. As a result, they banded together and took several strategic actions. These included convening several reconciliation meetings between various factions in Southern Sudan, conducting civic education and encouraging people to vote in the referendum, and advocating at the United Nations as well as to leaders of the United States and England, warning of attacks planned by the northern government to prevent the referendum from happening.

The result of these actions was nothing short of miraculous–a peaceful referendum after more than 50 years of civil war

Stephen delivered the following electrifying report at the DNA Global Forum in South Africa:

“A delegation of Sudanese religious leaders met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon October 11 to express their fear of what might happen if the general referendum of for the independence of South Sudan is not carried out as planned. “We told him we came to raise an alarm to the United Nations.” So they did that, and as a result of this advocacy, Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir was put under extreme pressure by the UN, by the US government, and by the British government not to invade the south. And we thank God that they prevailed.

“In the closing days before the referendum, things began to change. The tone of the Sudanese government toward south Sudan shifted, indicating that the government in Khartoum had accepted the eventuality of southern Sudan independence. It was an amazing thing. Nobody thought this was possible because even in those last moments there was much tension and nobody knew what was going to happen.Four days before the referendum, president Al-Bashir visited southern Sudan. Nobody imagined this was possible. This was December, just a few weeks before the scheduled vote. Finally, the miracle took place, the referendum actually happened, and the people voted overwhelmingly for secession and to start a new nation.What lessons did we learn?

“First, that God is sovereign over nations and it is his plans and purposes that will ultimately come to pass. Scripture teaches that it is what God ordains that will actually happen.

“Secondly, we learned that when the church decides to obey God and take seriously God’s command to disciple the nations, no power, no force in the universe can prevail against God.

“Thirdly, we see that it is feasible and possible today to disciple nations using the principles of the kingdom of God. In 1960, U.S. president Kennedy told the American people that by the end of the decade they should have put a man on the surface of the moon. He said it was now feasible and possible. We are saying today it is now feasible and possible to disciple nations using biblical principles.

“Why is Sudan important? Sudan is strategic for the kingdom. Sudanese Christians know Arabic and they can be used in north Africa. We are experiencing a kairos moment for the Islamic nations of North Africa. I believe that what’s happening in Egypt, Tunisia, and other places is an indication of what is happening in Islam. We believe that the backbone of Islam has been broken. That means that God can use nations like Sudan, with the wonderful potential they have, the language, etc, to actually reach northern African nations. It is exciting to see what God is doing.”

Samaritan Strategy Budding in Sudan

Stephen Langa, Eastern Africa Coordinator for Samaritan Strategy Africa (SSA), is praising God for the “suddenly opened amazing doors” the movement is having in Sudan. He credits the robust relationship between the SSA offices in Kampala and Nairobi, but also a growing trust relationship between SSA and the Church Missionary Society (CMS).

Sudan, long torn by strife, is largely new territory for SSA. Stephen has worked to “harmonize and coordinate” ministry efforts there, with the goal of building one or more national teams. Dennis Tongoi and the Kenya team had developed relationships with churches in southern Sudan, while Stephen fostered relationships with leaders in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital in the Muslim-dominated north. Notwithstanding the legendary rift between the north and south, he believed it was possible to “forge a common vision and strategy to disciple the nation of Sudan.” That process got a big jump start this year.

Archbishop Dr. Daniel Deng (center) with other bishops and clergy plus traditional chiefs at the Peace & Reconciliation Conference in Juba held on September 2-4, 2010

Stephen attended a Peace and Reconciliation conference in Juba, organized by The Episcopal Church of Sudan, the country’s largest Christian denomination. He wanted to build relationships with church leaders, introduce them to SSA teachings, and explore with them how to equip all Sudan’s Christians.

The conference convened 90 participants, including church leaders from 12 dioceses from southern Sudan, but other stakeholders as well. Government leaders attended, including the Speaker of the Southern Sudan Parliament, the Governor of Central Equatorial State, and the Presidential Advisor on Religious Affairs.

Another key player was the Minister for Peace and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) Implementation. He reviewed the history of Sudan since 1947, before turning to the current status of the CPA. His report indicated that preparations for the January 9, 2011 referendum are far behind schedule. Serious conflicts between the Northern and Southern governments must be solved to provide for a peaceful referendum and a sustainable future.

The presence of government leaders at the conference gave believers the opportunity to demonstrate Christ’s love. Participants were deeply impressed by the “open, frank and non-judgmental discussions,” as well as by the good reputation of the church with the government, the people and the international community.

Conference planners also invited the leader of New Sudan Council of Islamic Affairs to represent the Muslim community. Some of the most powerful dynamic happened when this man saw Christianity in action.

“We were told by the Khartoum government that ‘the Christians in the South hate you and will kill you if the South separates,’” he said. “But now I see that all that is not true. From this conference I have seen that Christians love us and are willing to live in peace and harmony with us”.

Speaker of Southern Sudan Parliament Hon. James Igga greeting traditional chiefs

A similar reflection came from the traditional chiefs in attendance. Stephen reported that one  commented that they [the chiefs] have been marginalized in the past by both governments, but in the conference they felt recognized and empowered and feel that they “can now contribute towards peace in Sudan.”

“One even confided that if the government had invited them they would not have come,” Steven reported, “but since it was the church that invited them, they came.”

The participants were challenged to take these new perspectives to their people at the grassroots level, especially in view of the coming referendum, to equip them to vote “from a point of truth and knowledge.”

The SSA movement benefitted as well by achieving a better grasp of “the situation and challenges that Sudan is facing as a nation.” Stephen believes the SSA can now contextualize their message “from an informed point of view.”

Five ECS dioceses are planning to have vision conferences by spring 2011, and a provisional inter-denominational vision conference in Juba has been scheduled for November 9-13, 2010. Stephen is grateful for the SSA foundation and praying for “good fruit that will result in the expansion of the Kingdom of God in Sudan and beyond.”

The enormous political uncertainties in Sudan comprise a significant challenge to the work of SSA, and that of the church at large. No one knows what to expect after the referendum. Will Sudan be a one-state nation, or two? Christians are praying that God would grant peace to the Sudanese people, that the referendum will be conducted in a free and fair manner, and that both the governments and the people will accept the results.