Good Friday morning ...
"When you stand in the doorway of my home ... it will be blessed."
Those were the words of my friend Philipo ... spoken in his heavily Tanzanian-accented English. We were having chai together at the Naaz Cafe in Arusha. We had been in conversation for about an hour discussing his plans to follow God's call upon his life. It was then he invited me to his boma some 45-50 miles to the northwest.
I first met Philipo Elineema (his name means God's grace) in 2005. He was leading worship in a small bush congregation where I was asked to preach. I was awed by the wide, ever-present grin on his face which somehow perfectly matched his tall, lanky frame. Reserved and quiet by nature, it took a while to warm up ... but I found him to be a very solid man of God ... and one with a mission.
Philipo came to know Christ in 1988 as a twelve-year-old boy who happened upon an evangelistic youth group singing songs under a tree in his mountain village. As he put it, "God opened my eyes" that day. Later, in November of that year, he was baptized ... but not without harsh consequences.
His mother and father could not understand and rejected his newfound belief as a boyish whim. He was rebuked by his family elders ... chastised by his peers ... shunned by his best and closest friends. His fellow morani (young warriors) beat him repeatedly for wanting to become a Christian. Their leader cursed him ... calling down tribal spirit gods to harm him. When no harm came to him over a period of time ... they came to respect him for tolerating their harassment and harsh treatment. Another older Christian, Lazaro (who would eventually become his brother-in-law), taught Philipo how to worship and how to be a servant. Within two years ... at age 14 ... Philipo knew God had a plan for him and was calling him to serve.
It was that plan which brought us together in the Naaz Cafe and that plan which prompted his invitation for me to come to his village home.
"When you stand in the doorway of my house ... it will be blessed."
Two days later I stood in that doorway ... where I met Philipo's wife, Deborah, and his four sons, Shaath Seti, Isaya (Isaiah), Elieneza (God supplies) and Christopher (Christ bearer) ... where I sat on a Tonga stool in his thatched hut eating flat bread and sipping chai ... where I squinted in the darkness of that two-room hut and marveled at the story of this young Christian couple ... where I heard both Philipo and his very shy Deborah profess a faith that shames the most serious of western Christians ... where in the simplest of words Philipo declared how God knew him before he was born into a pagan family.
It was hard for me to accept that Philipo's home was blessed by my presence that Sunday afternoon ... though he, in typical Maasai politeness, would mention ten ways in which it was.
But of this I am sure: I was blessed that afternoon! I was touched by the strength of his faith! I was moved by his dedication, his commitment, his heart desire to do what God had called him to do. It was I who received the blessing by standing in the doorway of Philipo's home. It was I who came away humbled and encouraged at the same time. It was I who was challenged to do whatever I could to see this man fulfill God's plan. The blessing that day was mine!
Two days later it was my privilege to take this young man a day's journey east to the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro where we toured Mwika Lutheran Bible School and made arrangements for his enrollment. Now fifteen years later, Philipo pastors a congregation of 33 bush village churches including the mother church in Loolera, located some 150 miles from his home in Ketumbeine. He successfully completed four years of study at Mwika, was ordained into the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania and has continued to follow God's plan as it unfolds in his life.
God's plan for this man was to call him, ordain him and dedicate him to serving among his native Maasai ... all because he paused, as a young boy of twelve, to listen to a group of young Christians singing praise songs under a tree. And the blessings continue to unfold again and again!
I know personally that this man has stood in the doorways of many huts, many homes ... and those huts and homes have been blessed. And so, he will continue to be a blessing to many!
"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light." [I peter 2:9]
Have a great weekend in the Lord ... receiving and being a blessing to others ...