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A family stand with a neighbor and her new mattress

Families are connecting with one another and growing as disciples of Christ through a new devotional you helped make possible.

Families play an important role in the spiritual formation of children, said Resonate Global Mission missionary Megan Ribbens. But for parents, it’s not always easy to know how to talk with your children about the Bible in a fun and engaging way.

Sawubona Families, a new interactive devotional that you helped make possible, is helping families connect with one another and grow as disciples of Christ.

The Challenge of Spiritual Formation at Home

Throughout countries in Eastern and Southern Africa, Resonate missionaries have seen growing trends impacting the family. Parents have difficulty translating their values in new, urban environments, and many families are spending less time together. Children may attend boarding school and spend weeks or months at a time away from their families. Some parents may need to travel to find work, or they work sun-up to sun-down in order to provide for basic needs.

“There are fewer deeply meaningful opportunities for the moral and spiritual formation of children that will carry them into adulthood well,” said Megan.

That’s one of the reasons many families rely on schools and churches to disciple their children and contribute to their spiritual formation. So, when the Covid-19 pandemic forced schools and churches to close, many parents were at a loss.

Attempting to address these unique needs for parents in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Resonate missionaries found there weren’t a lot of local resources to rely on—and many resources available in Western countries aren’t effective, or easily adapted, for the context of countries throughout Eastern and Southern Africa.

“Local expertise and abilities of content consultants, graphic designers, videographers, and children who recorded stories made Sawubona Families so very rich.

That’s why a team of Resonate Global Mission workers—Diana Boot in Uganda, Megan Ribbens in South Africa, and Mwikali Wambua in Kenya—worked with local experts to develop an interactive devotional for families called Sawubona Families (“Sawubona” is an isiZulu greeting that means “we see you” in English). Sawubona Families was made accessible to families through platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp.

“We aimed to fill in some of these gaps arising from Covid-19 restrictions and lockdowns by creating and sharing a meaningful and contextual resource that was engaging and accessible to many through social media,” said Megan.

A Playful Study on the Fruit of the Spirit

A “playful” study on the Fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23, Sawubona Families invited parents and children to read Scripture together and share with one another in a fun and engaging way. Tapping into African cultural strengths—such as storytelling, traditional games, music, and African proverbs—Sawubona Families helped families learn about the Fruit of the Spirit.

But as part of building character as a disciple of Christ and growing in the Fruit of the Spirit, Sawubona Families also encouraged families to look outward. Each week, families explored and planned ways they could love their neighbors. 

“We hoped this would motivate and inspire families to respond with Christ’s love in concrete ways,” said Megan.

It did.

Children in one family helped a neighbor carry groceries upstairs to the neighbor’s apartment. Another family purchased a new mattress for a woman in their community who wasn’t easily able to afford one for herself. One participant—we’ll call her Mary—said her children were excited to work through the Sawubona Families every week. Mary and her family witnessed transformation in the life of one of their neighbors.

Prompted by the Holy Spirit

Encouraged to look for ways to love her neighbors, Mary started ministering with a single mom who lived in her community. We’ll call her Joy. Two of Joy’s children were living with a foster family while she and her newborn daughter found shelter in an abandoned building.

Week after week, as Mary and her family read through the Fruit of the Spirit Sawubona Families lessons, Mary felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to share this passage of Galatians with Joy. They started with the fruits of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21.

“When we read, just the fruits of the flesh, she could strongly identify with that,” said Mary.

“What a joy and privilege it has been to see the transformation in her life. God is good.”

But as they continued in the passage and read the Fruits of the Spirit, Joy got a glimpse of a life following Christ. She said she wanted that for her life.

So, Mary and Joy continued to meet together and study the Bible. Their families got to know one another better and they became friends. Mary and her family also advocated for Joy when she needed support, including working with managers of a women’s shelter to secure safe accommodations and healthy meals for the woman and her daughter.

And one day, as Mary and Joy were reading through the gospel of John, Joy decided she wanted to commit her life to Christ. It’s a decision that has brought her so much joy, and now she’s working on practicing the Fruits of the Spirit in her own life as well. Mary said that she has especially noticed more patience in Joy’s life.

“What a joy and privilege it has been to see the transformation in her life,” said Mary. “God is good.”

The Importance of Context-Specific Resources

Mary and Joy’s friendship is only one of the ways the Holy Spirit has been working through Sawubona Families. The team members who worked on developing the interactive, family devotional were also encouraged by participating in the lessons and hearing testimonies from families throughout the region.

“I was surprised and personally challenged at the lengths some families went to see and help their neighbor, especially in a time of social distancing and so many restrictions,” said Megan.

Just like any ministry, spiritual formation and discipleship does not work with a “one-size-fits-all” approach. It is so important to work with context-specific resources.

“We were reminded of how valuable local expertise, resources, and abilities are,” said Megan. “Local expertise and abilities of content consultants, graphic designers, videographers, and children who recorded stories made Sawubona Families so very rich."

Thank you for helping to make the Sawubona Families devotional possible through your support of Resonate ministries and missionaries!

A version of this story was previously published by The Banner