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 Café 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 39 miles to the west.
I first met Philipo Elineema (his name means God’s grace) in 2005. He was leading worship in a small bush church 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 body type. Reserved and quiet by nature, it took us a while to warm up … but I found him to be a very solid man of God with a mission.

Philipo is now a thirty-one year old evangelist of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania. He came to know Christ in 1988 as a twelve year old boy who happened upon an evangelistic youth group singing Christian songs 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, taught Philip how to worship and how to be a servant. Within two years … at age 14 … Philipo knew God had a plan for him.
It was that plan which brought us together in the Naaz Café and that plan which prompted his invitation for me to come to his village home.
“When you stand in the doorway of my home … 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 is 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. Currently we are waiting for his test scores to make formal application. Then through the generosity of family and friends who support these East African mission trips … this man’s education will be fully funded over the next three years. And Philipo will become a pastor … called, ordained and dedicated to serving God among his native people … all because he paused to listen to a group of young Christians singing. And the blessings continue to unfold over and over again!!!

One day Pastor Philipo will stand in the doorway of another home … and it too will be blessed! And he will 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 … receiving and being a blessing to others.

Service Times

8:30 AM - Traditional Worship Service

9:40 AM - Sunday School & Bible Study Classes for all ages

11:00 AM - Contemporary Worship Service

Holy Communion is celebrated at both services on the first and third Sundays of each month.


Grace Lutheran Church & School

12200 McCormick Road
Jacksonville, FL 32225

(904) 928-9136