Homepage
Home Read stories Africa maps The Project Resources Our Writers News

Tómaz Phiri
1934 to 2005
Church of the Nazarene
Mozambique

Tómaz Phiri was born at Kapinga Village in Tete Province, Mozambique. His parents, Kaole and Gome Phiri, were not Christians. He attended school at Miwanga Nazarene Mission, Furancungo, from 1949 to 1953 and was married to Miss Nadies Kampione in 1952. The following year he found work in Harare, Zimbabwe, as a cook for a white settler and returned home in 1959.

He tells about what happened on October 9 of that year during the District Assembly at Miwanga:

I listened to the preacher from the back seat of the church. There, deep down in my heart I saw the big hand of the Lord and He said, 'Come to me, My Son.' I tried to ignore it but the word came again, 'I mean you, My Son.' I found myself on my knees at the altar at the front of the church as if carried by the wind. I realized that the Holy Spirit had taken me there. I received Christ as my personal Savior. The missionary, Rev. Norman Salmons, often visited my home, encouraged me and gave me work with his family until they left for their overseas assignment.
The Rev. Oscar Stockwell and his wife Marjorie came in 1960 and encouraged him to go to Bible College in Gaza at Machulane, Tavane. He went there with his family in 1961 and taught in the College after his graduation. In 1966, he began serving as pastor at Furancungo, Macanga, and was ordained by Dr. V. H. Lewis at Tavane in 1969.[1] Around September 1970, as the War of Independence escalated, the missionaries had to leave. Phiri continued as leader of the church in that area.

Mrs. Nadies Phiri tells her story:
I was born in 1938 here in Furancungo. My parents were not Christians so we never went to church. However, I had some friends who went. Some days I followed them to church but still I was not a Christian for I had not repented. When my husband and I were married neither of us were Christians, but we found Christ as our personal Saviour in 1959. Our marriage was blessed by Rev. Stockwell before we went to Tavane to Bible School and then we started serving the Lord at Furancungo Church of the Nazarene. With this new life we forgot all the beer parties which we used to have. All we had was happiness until the war in 1970.
Government soldiers came to the mission to protect the people and they spent many sleepless nights due to the noisy gunfire as opposition groups attacked. One morning, Nadies went with their daughter to the garden. About an hour later, shots rang out from that direction and there was heavy gunfire. Tómaz said: "I couldn't hold back my tears as I wept for my wife and daughter. We all thought that they had been killed. The shooting stopped by mid-afternoon and the enemy left. That evening there was a quiet knocking on the door and there they were, alive. The Lord showed me His glory by protecting them and we just stood together silently for a long time."

By 1971, the church was occupied by soldiers so the people had to worship quietly in their homes. Phiri wrote to the missionary and Rev. Stockwell and Rev. Spencer came in a helicopter. The army commander allowed Phiri only five minutes to speak to them. When he asked Rev. Stockwell what they should do the reply was, "Do what the Holy spirit tells you to do." The plane then left and Phiri stood with tears in his eyes. The Christians prayed and fasted in their homes. After three days they felt compelled to escape to Malawi and left on the morning of April 3. It was a very harrowing experience. They traveled for four nights with the children through the bush. For fear of meeting soldiers they only traveled at night, when lions were a great danger, and hid during daytime.

They were received by very friendly Malawians and Chief Kaponda gave them land on which to live in the village of Mitundu near Lilongwe. They worshipped with the Christians there. Phiri conducted services under a tree and eventually he met Rev. James Graham preaching and giving out tracts at the market in Lilongwe. The missionary praised the Lord for their escape. He encouraged them and visited them frequently at their camp where there was a large number of refugees. Some were sick and others injured from coming through a bombing raid. They planted several Nazarene congregations at camps in that area. They were Chadika Misale, Nsinde Misale, Nsumba, and Kapiri at Mchinji. These four became established churches and were still functioning in 2005.

In 1974, Phiri was asked to teach at the Bangwe Bible College, Limbe, Blantyre, and he became the Vice Principal working with Rev. Hagens. They once experienced a serious disruption with striking students who were politically motivated. The police were called and Rev. Spencer came to settle the problem. When the college was moved to Lilongwe in 1985, Phiri was elected to lead the church at Bangwe where he continued for five years. In 1990, he was asked go to Dedza in the Central Region and he served there for six years. Tómaz Phiri was characterized as a very strong Nazarene minister.{2}

In 1996, he returned to Mozambique with the help of Dr. Ken Walker and Dr. R. F. Zanner and settled at Furancungo, Macanga, in Tete Province. He became the superintendent of the newly organized Macanga District and continued in that capacity until his retirement at the 2005 District Assembly three days before his death.{3} Phiri concludes his story, "Let us hold His name up for His wondrous power through all those experiences we went through."[4]

Nadies concludes her account with these words:
I thank my Lord for He is very wondrous and gracious. We could have been killed in the war, but He rescued us and now I am serving him at Furancungo. I am helping my fellow ladies to know this Christ who has done wonders for me. I never look backwards but always forward looking for His coming again. My children and my grand children have all been introduced to this Christ and Saviour and I know that when I die they will hold up and spread the good news.[5]
Rev. Tómaz Phiri died on July 13, 2005. He had suffered from tiredness and dizziness for several days and at the District Assembly in Macanga and on July 11 he experienced shortness of breath and discomfort in his chest. A colleague wrote: "We are praising God for the testimony and life of this great Mozambican Christian and the influence he has had on the Church of the Nazarene in Africa.[6] Field director Rev. Eugenio Duarte said, "This is a big loss in the Nazarene family. The church will miss him and I pray tnat even after the passing of Rev. Phiri, the path of this faithful servant continues to help many to know, love and serve the Lord Jesus.[7]

Paul S. Dayhoff


Notes:

1.Lebone la Kgalalelo, (The Lamp of Holiness), Pedi/Sotho/Tswana magazine of the Church of the Nazarene in South Africa, (Florida, Transvaal, South Africa: Nazarene Publishing House, vol. 3, no. 2, 1970), 9.
2.Hughlon R. Friberg, Like a River Flowing: The Church of the Nazarene in Africa and the Republic of Cape Verde, (Kansas City, MO: Nazarene Publishing House, 1982),39. Trans African, (Florida, Gauteng, South Africa: Africa Nazarene Publications, March-April 1990},11. Rev. Enoch Litswele, letter, (April 10, 1993). Agnes Graham, letter, (January 29, 1996). Marjorie Stockwell, telephone conversation, (June 21, 1996).
3.Weekly Summary, (Kansas City, Mo.:Nazarene Publishing House, August 16, 1996).
4.Thomas Phiri, written autobiographical report, (May 6, 2001).
5.Mrs Nadies (Kampione) Phiri, written autobiographical report, (May 6, 2001).
6.John and Carol Fillmore, E-mail report, (July 14, 2005).
7."Celebrating the Life of a great Mozambican Christian," Out of Africa,(Florida,Gauteng, South Africa: Africa Nazarene Publications, 18 July 2005), 1.

This article is reproduced, with permission, from Africa Nazarene Mosaic: Inspiring Accounts of Living Faith, first edition, copyright © 2001, by Paul S. Dayhoff. All rights reserved.