Terry and Amy Ruff – Disciple Making Movements in Africa and Oral Cultures

Episode Description

Terry and Amy Ruff have a long history of movement leadership in West Africa. Their leadership team has been training Zúme before it was Zúme, but now with Zúme they overcome the challenges of illiteracy, poverty of media or internet access, and other challenges to see fruitful multiplication.

People who do not read and write can be underestimated regarding what they can do as disciples. But Terry and Amy are seeing these oral learners succeed in faithfulness and disciple-making, if time is taken to serve them in ways they can access the training.

Training cross-culturally requires patience and discernment and ends up meaning investing in the few.

Episode Transcription

Narrator: Let’s kick it off by hearing what you are excited about right now in your Zúme ministry.

Terry: Well, about the time COVID hit a year ago, or a little over a year ago, I was wondering when we would come to the US. Because of health issues I have to come every 6 months to have the doctor checks and stuff. What we were going to do? I knew we could do some meetings with Zoom. But I immediately found out that with Zúme coaching I was coaching people all over the continent of Africa. The excitement we’re both having is those that are committed and get it and implement it. And you have to sometimes train and coach a lot of people before you find those but that’s what I’m most excited about. What about you?

Amy: I just finished a session with 4 ladies in Kenya and they had already started some simple churches. Like a DBS. We trained in the tools in Zúme, they were very excited and started implementing them right away. They’ve already started training several of their leaders and multiplying the simple churches there in their area in Kenya. Really exciting stories of transformation. It’s pretty exciting.

Narrator: That’s great!

Terry: There’s about 7 people that are implementing of the ones that I’ve been coaching. The one I’m most excited about already has a district set up in Rwanda where he has leaders in those areas. He said he’s like to the second or third generation and some of them are going to third generation. He’s just a young kid but he does everything that Zúme says to do. He’s just so excited that he’s seeing results like that.

Narrator: Amen! So how did you all first connect to Zúme?

Amy: Well, we were trained in February of 2015 with Curtis Sergeant in Burkina Faso. We took two of our main leaders and they were just super excited developed their vision and went back to implement it. We’ve been connected with Curtis, Eric Darry, and different people with Zúme. Zúme incorporates all of the tools that we use in our disciple making movement but we don’t use Zúme on the field per se.

It’s all oral so we’re not using the the app or the online training but we are using all the same tools. So they started doing that and
then Terry and I got connected to being Zúme coaches. That’s when we got involved, when Zúme came online.

Terry: The thing that’s hard for a lot of people to understand is that, particularly in our context where it’s a village context where 80% of the people can’t read so it’s a totally oral culture, people know several languages so they’re very intelligent. It’s not an issue of whether or not they can do it, it’s an issue of they didn’t know they had permission. So when you approach a Muslim background person and they’re living in a village, they just want whatever help they can get to survive. Because where we live the poverty situation is pretty extreme as well. Mud huts and thatched roofs are very common. And they’ll have phones but they don’t have smartphones, so all of our key leaders in the different countries that we’re in have basically memorized Zúme by listening to it over, and over, and over. Then they repeat it with with the people they’re training until they have it memorized. Sometimes that’ll take a while. You have to have monthly meetings and use a tool called the coaching checklist to see how they’re doing and also different tools. But what we’re finding is they just run with it and when they find out that they can baptize people, they have tools to lead someone to Christ, to facilitate a discipleship group, etc. then they go out and share it with their friends. So it’s pretty neat to watch that at work.

Narrator: Amazing. So how has it gone from you all having the training before Zúme existed and you were putting it into practice by sharing with others and then Zúme came online and you all have been running with it and coaching others? How has it spread, like you said, all over Africa? How did that happen?

Terry: Well, when the Zúme coaching started and we went back home to the US because of COVID over a year and a half ago or whenever COVID first hit, we came not knowing exactly what was going to happen. And in that process they started assigning me people that they had in Africa. They run ads and people check that they’re interested in a coach and if they’re in Africa, they send them to Amy and I. Amy’s approach is different than mine, but I personally I like the one-on-one. So I have one-on-one appointments once a week to go through the 10 lessons. Then I go to a monthly coaching after that. I encourage them to follow up on the the 3 month plan that they’re to do at the end of the training. To those that implement, I continue to pour my life into but to those that don’t I tell them “sorry”. From the beginning I tell them “if you don’t implement then I will not waste my time or your time”.

I mean, I’m at an age where I could care less if they don’t agree with that because we got to get the job done. That is, reach all of the continent of Africa and africans, and finish the Great Commission. I think that they’re very capable of doing that.

Narrator: Amen. How about for you Amy? What’s been your approach?

Amy: Well, I like the class with the group. I like the interaction between the participants when we go through the discipleship training. It is difficult sometimes to find implementers, but everyone really appreciates the training. So if they’re implementing their 3 month plan at the end then I’ll follow up with them on monthly coaching like Terry does. Terry also gives them a lot of extra tools too. He really helps them because most of the africans are working in oral cultures. So he’ll give them downloads of languages for all the different tools that are out there like the the audio Bibles, the Jesus film, lumo and whatever he has. He’s made a collection of a lot of languages and a lot of oral tools.

Terry: I have them on my Dropbox and I just give them a link to the specific language in their area that they can download (if they have Internet bundles to do that). It’s a challenge, but for the most part our experience has been that most people underestimate somebody that can’t read and write. So why try to help them understand the Bible because they’re not qualified? That really is the belief of the traditional church in Ghana. I think most people would think you’d have to have somebody that at least can read and write. Well, tell that to Jesus! I mean, Peter, James, and John, his inner circle were unknown fishermen. He lived in an oral culture as well and it was a real privilege if you had education like Matthew, Luke, Paul… but the majority of the people were just like the people living in Africa. They had no access to education.

So I spent a lot of time emphasizing playing their strengths. They’re oral learners. If they can hear the Bible they’ll listen to 25 chapters a week if you tell them to. If they’re muslim background believers, they ask “What am I supposed to do?”, and you tell them and they do it. It doesn’t always work that way with church people in Ghana because we have a lot of traditional churches that meet right there where we live.

But there’s no unreached people going to them. Members are all from tribes that have a high percentage of Christians and are open to Christianity. However, if you’re from like a tribe like the Gonja which is the tribe we’ve been focusing on, they resist. I mean, they will reject you from the family if you go to a church building.

It’s been interesting seeing how things work. The focus is on the many unreached people that are in the same position where they can’t read and write, also there are so many ministries that have spent decades creating oral materials. They can listen with their ears in their mother tongue and they understand it instantly.

So I spend a lot of time making sure that people I coach have access to those languages in their mother tongue so they can help people that are oral learners.

Narrator: That’s so cool! So you look at Zúme and there are words involved either in the videos or in the text pieces. But what I’m hearing you say is that they’re getting to see the videos because they can listen to them. And so the Zúme biblical discipleship course even works for those who aren’t able to read and write. And it’s being just as effective.

Terry: Yeah, I mean that’s the beauty of Zúme. It’s in 40 languages now and they’re going to keep adding more languages. That increases the access for people to listen to it for themselves in their mother tongue.

I’ve been coaching some people from Somalia and how would I ever do that? That’s a very dangerous place for somebody like me to go to. But here I am coaching people from that culture over the Internet that know that language. They’re Christians, they’ve already accepted Christ, and they found Zúme online. So I’ve been able to coach them. There’s a lady in a hotel that one of the people that I coached met with and she wanted to start training so that’s how I that’s how I started training her. So, who knows? I mean, it really feels like you’re a part of God moving the pieces and connecting the players to get the job done. That’s another exciting component about this, because then God connects you with who he wants reached and who he wants trained. He even has connected us to organizations that are have representatives in all of Africa that we can say, “This person is implementing, do you have somebody there that you could send and would you go, model it, observe them doing it, see where they are and how we can take them to the next level?”

So in all of that, God does the arranging. It’s not any of my ideas. I’m sitting here just responding to what God wants me to do. It’s pretty neat.

Narrator: I think that’s awesome. What cross-culturally people coaching tips would you give? Or what are some helpful things that you’ve learned?

Terry: [to Amy] Go ahead, your turn. [laughs]

Amy: I think patience and finding the people that are truly sincere is important. That is, people that are not just looking to get another training or people who are looking to connect with a westerner or whatever other motive. But investing in the few that really implement. Just being patient and understanding Internet issues and language issues. They can speak English but it sometimes requires a bit more patience to truly understand what they’re saying.

Terry: Also reflective listening or asking them to repeat what you just said. Because if they can’t repeat it then they didn’t hear it. But in their culture they won’t admit they didn’t hear it. So you gotta you gotta think in terms of “how can I make sure they heard it” and, like Amy said, have patience.

In our culture in in in Ghana they’re always 10 to 20 minutes late for an appointment. Well, we’re living there and that’s them. Also, africans many times (at least Ghanaians) say they’re on their way or they’re coming. That means that sometime over the next day or two they’ll be there. [Laughter]

Because it’s a relational culture. They may run across somebody they have to help or they have to talk to and socialize with on the way. So if they say that they’re on their way or that they’re coming, usually that means they will be there shortly, but it still can be an hour or two late.

That’s the thing. Whatever culture you’re in, you just have to move with that with that culture. From an American perspective with my time consciousness I would look at that as almost a negative intake that requires a lot of patience.
But Africans, on the other side, they’ll drink the water, they’ll eat whatever’s put before them, they know 5 to 7 languages, they’ll go without being paid, they have what it takes, and they pray beyond whatever I’ve ever known as prayer. They have what it takes to finish the task.

It’s worth figuring out how you can invest into African people so that you’ll get the fruit of the the the Kingdom God and the Great Commission finally finished. And that’s what we’re shooting for.

Narrator: Amen. Something fun is that you both are getting to do this as a married couple. Both of you are engaging in Zúme and are seeing God use it and multiply it, not only across a city or country but a continent. I would love to hear about what that has been like; the highs and the lows.

Amy: [Laughter] Well, Terry’s really hard of hearing and when he starts coaching and he gets excited and gets passionate he gets louder and louder and louder.

Terry: She has to move to another room.

Amy: Yeah, we can’t coach in the same room because we can’t coach have coaching sessions at the same time. But he’s very
passionate about about this discipleship coaching and helping people who really want to finish the Great Commission.

It’s been good. It’s good that we can do Zúme coaching because we’re aging and it’s something that we can continue to do as long as we’re up right. It’s a good feeling to know that we can still have some some usefulness in the Kingdom.

Terry: With the original training by Curtis Sergeant from that point until now we have around 4000 discipleship groups with about 25000 people attending those groups in a Muslim context. The two of us have been able to watch that. At first we were very much involved and now at this point nobody hardly even know knows. There’s many of the new people that don’t even know we exist, which is what we want because we want it nationally led, we don’t want it led by foreigners.

Amy and I have watched that process and I think that’s helped in the in the coaching process too because we have watched even though we are now not on the ground necessarily in the bush. We have listened to the stories and we know what works and what doesn’t work, at least in an oral context.

There’s been a lot of things we’ve watched happen and then we feel God brought the discipleship coaching as an opportunity to expand without having to go anywhere. We could continue being where we’re at there in Ghana or if we’re in the US. And we could continue impacting Ghana and that has worked out beautifully.

Narrator: So good. What has surprised you or maybe shocked you or what aw something unexpected on this journey of getting to use Zúme?

Terry: The first thing that I would say surprised me the most was that when we first started working with churches trying to train pastors, but that’s a different model than what Zúme is talking about. How to do church doesn’t with Zúme doesn’t require Bible college trained pastors, doesn’t require buildings, doesn’t require a ton of stuff. If you’re from a traditional mode, and especially in Africa they’re even more traditional than the United States, if you don’t have a Bible college trained pastor, then it’s not legit. So that surprised me.

I remember the there was a great guy named Nathan; he’s a trainer for Big Life. And we said we needed the second
module of the of the the Zúme training. So he offered to come he paid his own way and everything and trained our guys. When he got there he asked us how many of all the pastors we had trained. It was literally hundreds. And it was also very expensive because it included transportation, feeding them while were there, giving them diplomas at the end (they’re all big on these diplomas).

Nathan asked us how many were implementers. Isaac, the main Ghanaian that is head over all the the movement, and I looked at each other and we couldn’t think of one person that implemented. Not one person. Because after the training was through, they went back to doing things as normal.

If you’re from some churches, you can’t serve communion unless you’re a pastor, you can’t baptize unless you’re a pastor, etc. So a lot of the things in traditional churches by some denominations (because we work across the nominations) you couldn’t do. That really surprised us.

We thought this wouldn’t be like this since they live in an oral culture. We though it would be something that they would really latch onto. But there are lot of the traditional church people. We bless and want them to continue doing what they’re doing, but it’s not going to finish the Great Commission. This is because the “legacy approach” is not multiplying quick enough. My focus is we’ve got to figure out ways of multiplying at a rate that exceeds population growth. And what Zúme does is it gives an opportunity to do that.

That’s what surprised me. I thought that the local pastors would be really excited, and a lot of times they are at first. But then when they start thinking that they have to go check with their district superintendent and then they say “no, you can’t do that.” You have all this red tape. Then you have to decide you’re not trying to proselytize them or steal them; you don’t want to do that ever. So we just focus more with Muslims. They have no background and they seem to be wide open to doing whatever they’re taught to do.

What would you say surprises you, Amy?

Amy: Something that’s a joy it hearing the stories of transformation. That’s what I get excited about. For example, a life that got changed because they prayer walked and met a person of peace. So that’s exciting to me.

Terry: Yeah, when one of our main leaders, Moses… Isaac and Moses are like the two main leaders over the movements. Moses just last year started a full-blown disciple making movement in Burkina Faso, Benin, and Togo. In one year. During COVID. [Laughter]

And when you listen to them… When they get back we have them come and just talk and then Amy types and I read it. And when I read it, I go “Wow! This is like reading a book of Acts!” All these people that they meet, all the miracles that happen along the way, the people that come to Christ, the groups that spawn immediately once they find the people or person of peace. And they just focus on helping that person peace reach their household, which is a natural connection.

It’s not like going to every house and knocking on every door. Actually, in Luke 10 and Matthew 10, where it talks about the person of peace it says “don’t go from house to house”. I actually left out those two passages as applicable to us when I lived in the United States. But they’re all about everything we do now. So it’s just been neat watching and reading what looks a lot like stories you read in the book of Acts or in the in the Bible.

Narrator: What do you wish more people knew or understood about Zúme?

Terry: I feel like I’m talking too much.

Amy: No, that’s alright. I wish that they knew how simple and how important it is for every believer to be a disciple maker. That it’s simple it’s just a matter of doing it. And the enemy doesn’t want it done so there’ll be lots of excuses why not to do it. And so I wish that they could grasp the transformation that happens with Zúme and get excited about the
advancement of the Kingdom.

Terry: Yeah, I think the biggest criticism I get about Zúme is always from traditional church people. Because it’s so different. “You mean I have to make disciples? I thought that’s what I paid the pastor to do.”

And really, they’ve been faithful. “I was told to come to church every week, faithfully hear the sermon, implement it as much as I can but there’s nobody to hold me accountable. So I can implement or I can not implement. I was told to give an offering, I was told…” And they’ve done all those things! They’re doing everything they were told to do but nobody’s ever told them how to go and make disciples, how to win somebody to Jesus and how to teach them to win people to Jesus, lead discipleship groups that make disciples, groups multiplying groups, forming movements that multiply movements and the Great Commission is done! In our generation!

But the Great Comission won’t be done if people said “that’s not my job, that’s the master job”.

So a lot of people look at Zúme from traditional churches and they just don’t see how it works because it’s expecting things that we’ve never expected before. And to me, in a big way, that’s the downside. I mean I’ve served in megachurches for over 25 years. I’m not trying to say that megachurches and traditional churches are bad it’s just that we’re not finishing the Great Commission. 2000 years have passed and we’re further behind because the population is growing way faster than we are growing.

So it’s going to take everybody to be in love with Jesus so much that if he said go and make disciples of all nations that we’re going to learn how to do it and do it. Everybody. Every Christian. And if we can’t get that done to the magnitude that we’ll get it done it means the Great Commission will not get done either.

And that breaks my heart because God deserves so much more than what the Church is doing as far as obeying his Great Commission. So our retirement is to finish the Great Commission and to die doing it.

I and look at a lot of the people that I’ve worked with in traditional churches that reached retirement, they go golfing all the time, they come to church weekly to pay their dues to God but they don’t really get it.

God intended every person that goes to hell to be around his throne receiving his glory and sharing in his glory for eternity. So we’re cheating God! How can we say we love God and let that happen? So we can go golf?

The older I get, the more passionate I get and the more vocal I get trying to challenge people, you know? And that’s why I’m in Ghana, because I work with people that are open to this more. I love the people here and I’m utterly amazed what people that can’t read and write are doing in comparison to the megachurch experiences I’ve had in the US. I mean, so what if you have 5000 attend? COVID shuts it down and you can’t even go in to the church building.

For like a year everything was shut down yet during that time we kept meeting in groups. They were all meeting outside under a mango tree with social distancing, so things kept multiplying.

Some people will be frustrated with what I just said but in reality it’s not going to get done with one approach. It’s going to take something that multiplies like crazy. Curtis has done it in India, he’s done it in China… He’s trained people all over.

Right now I have a guy that I’ve been coaching that’s not that well. I’m not going to mention the country but he’s in a very closed country. He’s a retired guy paying his own, he’s using retirement to go. And it’s beautiful watching how God prepared him since and to think that I had anything to do with encouraging him… I sent him to Curtis’s MetaCamp training. That was a huge impact on him and then this guy came to Africa and spent a few months with us there and that’s where I started coaching him on Zúme.

Then he started using it online with people in that area, and boom! He has a whole team! He goes there, and I hope it all works. Hopefully he didn’t get put in jail because he could if they find out what he’s actually doing. All of that because God wants it more than I do. So He opens up the doors, makes the connections, and boom! That’s what’s most exciting about this thing. Just watching all the things that God’s doing.

Narrator: What would you say to encourage and strengthen those that are using Zúme but maybe going through a rough season or just having a hard time and feeling discouraged?

Amy: Keep going. Keep coaching. In the parable of the sower there were four seeds and only one of them produced fruit. If people implement, work with them. If they don’t, keep looking for more people to train. Don’t get discouraged with those who don’t implement, but focus and pour into those who do.

Terry: Yeah, those that are teachable and you can see they’re trying are the ones that will produce fruit. It’s almost like the “person of peace” concept where it applies to everything, even those you coach. Even if they accept Jesus and all that stuff but when it comes to it they don’t make disciples, well then at a point… I love that in the training, Curtis emphasizes a lot that you’re actually causing more judgment to come down on them the more you pour into them and they don’t obey. So it’s better for you to stop than to fill them with so much knowledge that God will judge more harshly
for their disobedience. Focus on those that are obedient and realize that you can’t make people obey. So work with those that will, basically. That’s the bottom line: work with those that obey.

Amy: And keep casting the seeds.

Terry: Yeah. I’ve had some people that I have been coaching that went through lulls too, but then all of a sudden I stopped coaching them. Then all of a sudden they got a call and they had a breakthrough. So then we started back up again. The ingredient is, if they’re excited and obeying then continue to pour into them. But just leave it to God; be faithful training those that are obeying and invest in them. Curtis always says, “invest in the few”.

We have two people, Isaac and Moses, that are overseeing all of what I talked about. I’ve trained hundreds but those two were able to get nationals to buy into it much better than I was. Now they’re in like 8 other countries and working with even other organizations, helping them in disciple making movement stuff because they want to reach the whole continent of Africa.

So that’s our goal is that we’ll have DMMs in every country in Africa and Africans will finish the great commission in our lifetime. I didn’t write in a strategic plan, “meet with this organization and recruit them” to let Isaac train up their people. They met Isaac because they were invited I mean, it was a God invitation.

Through all that we watched how it blossomed into where now he can see very easily how that happened. With my coaching I’m always connecting him and this organization with people that I coach in various countries. I think it’s like 17 countries were I’m coaching people. So watch God do it; it’s just amazing. Be faithful though, if he gives you an open door; walk through it.

That’s worked for us so far. We’ve been super excited about it.

Narrator: So good. So as we wrap up, are there any last moments that you’d like to share?

Amy: Just implement, you know? Be a practitioner. Don’t give up. God is in this; we’ve seen God do amazing things through the Zúme. Just be patient with yourself and with Him. He’ll open the doors, you walk through them as as he opens them and you’ll see amazing things happen.

Terry: Yeah. To me it keeps coming back to: “God wants this more than we want it”. So be available and then he will use you to accomplish the task. Don’t take yourself too seriously. If you have to wait a month longer or two months where it seems like a dry season and nothing’s happening, trust that God wants this more than you do. When the time is right He’ll open the door and you walk through it. That’s what you have to focus on. That’s our focus totally.

November 8, 2021