Dignity is a movement of volunteers, missions and churches working together to help people know Jesus and fight disadvantage in all its forms.
We serve people in poor, rural communities outside the scope of the church. We have seen evangelism bringing people to Jesus; teaching, friendship and community leading to discipleship; and acts of kindness and love transforming communities.
This is our story.
Seeing the challenge
Jon and Jude Witt, Dignity’s founders, have been working in sub-Saharan Africa for many years. They grow connections in rural Zambia and by 2004 they see that conventional church training methods are having little lasting impact. Jon asks God to show him a different way and God’s replies with 61:3 – “They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendour.”
How can we respond?
Jon asks, “How can we help everyone become oaks of righteousness, mighty trees who display your splendour?”
God shows Jon that people are already placed and waiting in every location and village, and are looking for help to follow Him and take hold of what He has for them. These men and women are capable of transforming their own communities. Instead of turning to missionaries or leaders, Jon and Jude should begin with ordinary, everyday people. They turn their focus to equipping people to help them reach their potential.
A Congolese pastor gave us a word from God: “God will give you a walking stick and you will visit and begin work in many countries within Africa.”
Amazing moments; nothing lasting
Jon visits a remote part of Zambia and listens to missionaries who have been there for years. They tell amazing stories and have seen God do incredible things. People have been raised from the dead, healed, and many have become Christians. Yet they seem discouraged and downcast. Nothing they do lasts. People respond to the good news of Jesus, but there is nothing to help them grow and continue in faith.
Seeing with dignity
Mark Burton, a friend of Jon and Jude, spends time with them in Zambia. A professional photographer, he has volunteered his skills to help promote the work they are doing. He takes a series of photos of Zambian mothers, standing in a dark doorway. Their simplicity and beauty challenges the viewer to strip away prejudice and preconception and see each person with the dignity God intended. Building on what God has already been saying, the word dignity stands out to Jon and Jude.
A different way - Dignity began
With a desire to provide locally led, ongoing Christian discipleship on a wide scale, and to draw out the potential in each person, Dignity is born. Formally established as a Charitable Company in the UK in October 2007, Dignity’s objectives are set as:
- The promotion of the Christian Faith through the enabling of Christian discipleship and evangelism.
- The practical and effective relief of poverty and suffering, particularly but not exclusively in Africa.
A new way of life
In 2008 we gather a few local pastors and community leaders in the Copperbelt province of Zambia. We pray together and discuss how we can help them become mighty trees who display God’s splendour in their own community. We draw up plans for them to start five Life Groups in their villages. These groups meet in mud-built churches and schools – even under a tree.
The day before leaving Zambia , we were given another word from God: “I will start many bush fires and no amount of firefighting from the enemy will dampen them.”
A year later, Life Groups have doubled in number. Everyone is welcome, particularly those often seen as the ‘least’. People are meeting weekly, in communities of between 10 and 30, and serving Jesus and their neighbours. Stories emerge of unity growing between divided churches. Life Groups are bringing people and mission resources together to reach their wider community with the good news of Jesus.
An army in waiting
We continue to pioneer Life Groups, always looking for the people God has placed in different areas. God raises up committed, natural leaders, and we establish volunteer teams to lead the work in their areas. Farmers, fisherpeople, teachers, parents, young adults and those often seen as the ‘least’ begin to take hold of what God had for them.
‘The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” - Matthew 25:40
Growth and learning
Life Group numbers steadily grow. Stories of hope, help and reconciliation are written across Zambia. We support, encourage, train, pray, love and journey with the people God has brought us alongside. We develop strategies and materials to help Life Groups love those around them and organically reproduce.
10 years on
700 Life Groups, with an estimated membership of 14,000 people, are well established. Life Groups have spread across borders and are present in Namibia and Tanzania. Connections are growing in Kenya and the DRC. Many people are standing as God’s mighty trees, reaching out, working together, and making a difference. In places where there’s no church, Life Groups are acting as one. In places where there is a church or churches, Life Groups are building unity and cohesion.
With a view to teaching others how to pioneer Life Groups in new places, we develop a residency course to train ‘Mission Pioneers’. Travel restrictions linked to COVID-19 bring a sudden halt to our plans. We repurpose the curriculum, turning it into a self-guided study manual, Village Journey. Within its first year, 78 people enroll, many sharing the course with friends, and clusters of Life Groups begin to spring up in new areas.
Flourishing in hard times
Alongside this, existing Life Groups find ways to pray together, support and encourage one another while COVID-19 restrictions close many churches. Life Group numbers hold steady and whilst some struggle, new groups are born. We see God’s wisdom in raising up his people in each community. His splendour is truly on display.
“They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendour.” – Isaiah 61:3
The example set by Life Groups in rural sub-Saharan Africa shows us how anyone, no matter where they are, can reach their own community. Those who have had the opportunity to visit Life Groups in person carry the idea home with them, and groups are planted in Llanrwst, Wales and Miami, Florida.
Become Part Of The Story
God’s power to enable everyday people to do extraordinary things is leading to many communities being reached for Jesus. In villages all over sub-Saharan Africa, ordinary people are becoming like mighty trees, oaks of righteousness for God.
The story is still being written and you can be part of it. You don’t need to be a leader. You don’t need years of training. You don’t need pots of money. God can use anyone and everyone, which means that he can use you no matter who or where you are.
Life Groups are simply communities on mission together. Imagine your community on a mission to help others know Jesus and to overcome disadvantage. Whose lives would be changed for the better, which seemingly impossible situations would be impacted? The witness of Jesus at work in your community would inspire more groups to spring up. You would join the thousands of people living amazing lives and seeing everyday miracles.