The history of Pamoja begins in a small church in Western Canada in 1986, when Sig & Joy Feser sold their house, quit their jobs, and moved half-way around the world, following the call of God. They did not see themselves as missionary material, and it had taken them a long time to reach the point where they were prepared to actually go – to follow that call – even though they had no idea what they could bring to the mission field. Perhaps this was their greatest strength.
From the very beginning, the Fesers set themselves to learning. They came to Kinshasa, Zaire desiring to help. Under the leadership of Alexander Adini Abala (pictured, with Sig, above), they began an introduction to African life and faith that served as a foundation for the rest of life. The intention was that after 9 months of language and culture acquisition, that they would move north and begin to train pastors in the city of Isiro. During their time in Kinshasa they experienced overwhelming revival with signs and wonders, and they also saw the incredible need for training and resources. In over 3,000 churches of that one church group alone, there were not even a dozen trained leaders.
When, a little more than half a year later, they were kicked out of the country by the government, the Fesers moved to Nairobi, Kenya to regroup and refocus. They never did move to Isiro, but their ministry spread even beyond there. Sig was moved for the pastors he had been working with, and wanted to provide them with whatever help he could, so he set out to produce a 16-page guide for those pastors, giving them simple topical references for various topics they might want to preach about. The memory of Maimona was clear – totally entranced with a topical teaching in a magazine on their coffee table. When asked what fascinated him so much, he told Sig & Joy that to prepare a teaching on a subject, he had three options: remember scriptures, ask a friend, or open the Bible and hope that it would fall open to a passage on that topic. Maimona was not alone – the leaders had no reference materials available to them, not even a concordance.
When, after another eight months, the door opened for Fesers to move to Mwanza, Tanzania, they did so. It was there that they encountered World MAP, who had heard about the little concordance Sig was working on and who asked him to extend the scope of it so that it could be put into Ralph Mahoney’s excellent 1,000-page minister’s manual, The Shepherd’s Staff. The concordance grew to more than 100 pages. Having heard from church leaders in China that their biggest lack was a training manual, Mahoney spent years putting together his ‘magnum opus,’ only to be denied the concordance he had expected to use because of doctrinal issues. Completed by Sig’s concordance instead, a half million copies of “The Shepherd’s Staff” have been distributed to house church leaders in China, and tens of thousands have been distributed across Africa. This project connected Pamoja to World MAP’s worldwide literature ministry.
Since 1989, we have partnered with them, first doing the concordance and leadership seminars, then translation and distribution of their books and ACTS” magazines. We have sent over 50 issues of “ACTS” magazine in Swahili to 70,000 leaders. These days, we supply books in Swahili, English, French, and Portuguese to more than a dozen countries in Africa. We can attribute our own focus on literature for leaders to a seminar spent discussing with church leaders how we missionaries could best help them. As with Mahoney’s experience in China, the African leaders told us that the most important thing we could do would be to provide them with training materials so that they could lead their congregations well. In the decades since, we have attempted to do just that. The strategic importance of this leadership book and magazine ministry was pointed out in the Tanzania section of the 2001 edition of “Operation World,” which states, “A wide range of evangelistic literature… [has] impacted the nation.” It also mentions the “overall growth of Christians from 34% to 48%.”
We at Pamoja Ministries are thrilled to be a part of that growth. When we visit pastors in villages, most, if not all, of the literature (other than the Bible) that is on their shelf has come from our office. Resting at a resort in Mombasa, we were approached by three different hotel staff people who each recognized Sig and reviewed what he had taught at the World MAP seminar in Nairobi a decade earlier. Nearer home, we asked a pastor who was carrying his carefully wrapped “ACTS” magazine why he chose to teach from the magazine, having been to Bible school. He considered his words carefully and said, “that was Theology; this is Life!” Whether through literature, video, or other media, as we move forward in ministry, we will continue to create and distribute tools and resources that bring life to those who receive them. We’re driven on by the many leaders calling us, asking for help to disciple others.