Rev. Augustine Billy Thomas Phiri was the eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. Dennis and Jane Phiri, who were originally from Malawi. He was born on August 1, 1946 in Sharpeville, Gauteng. His primary education was at Sharpeville Primary and Bophelong Community Schools. He went on to Wilberforce College where he completed his Junior Certificate in 1967.
Thomas gave his life to the Lord Jesus Christ under the ministry of Mrs. Whittington in 1966 and he started a Sunday School class at the Bophelong Community Hall. In 1967 he felt God’s call to the full time ministry and enrolled the following year in the Lula Schmelzenbach Memorial Nazarene Theological College near Bushbuckridge, Limpopo Province. He was a keen student and earned his ministerial diploma in 1970 and his diploma in theology the following year.
There he met Miss Patricia Mongale (?-1985) daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J. Mongale from Ganyesa, Northwest Region, and both of them graduated from the four year course of study. They married on January 16, 1971, and pastored at Khutsong, Carletonville, Gauteng Region, on the Southeastern (now Gauteng) District. They went on to pastor at Katlehong, Natalspruit and then at Thokoza, Alberton.
While they were pastoring the Thokoza Church Patricia Phiri passed away on December 31, 1985. She had been suffering for several months from cancer. The funeral was a victorious praise service. They had three sons, Papi, Thabo and Tshepo.
Phiri later married Bongi. They had two daughters, Nokuthula and Phumzile.
Phiri was a faithful and successful pastor and went on to serve the Thusanang (Witbank), Mpumalanga Church on the Kwandebele (Highveld) District). Bongi was the district NWMS (Nazarene Women’s Missionary Society) president. In 1993 she pastored the Hlalanikahle Church for a while.
In 1994 Rev. Thomas Phiri was elected superintendent of the Highveld District in Mpumalanga. Stricken with glaucoma he found it difficult to continue with this work and had to resign in 1997. Bongi pastored the Zwelihle Church near Witbank till they moved to Soweto, Johannesburg, Gauteng where she pastored the Meadowlands East Church. Thomas Phiri continued to support her in these ministries.
He went to be with his Savior whom he served, on February 9, 2008, having served with distinction in the active ministry for twenty-five years.
Paul S. Dayhoff
“In Sympathy,” Trans African, (Florida, Gauteng, South Africa: Africa Nazarene Publications, March-April 1986), 13.
Funeral Obituary (February 16, 2008), sent by Rev. Enoch Litswele.
This article is reproduced, with permission, from Africa Nazarene Mosaic: Inspiring Accounts of Living Faith, first edition, copyright © 2001, by Paul S. Dayhoff, Florida, South Africa: Africa Nazarene Publications, 2002. All rights reserved.