Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Celebrating Life of Bishop Phillip Karanja: Servant of Jesus Christ

Celebrating the Life of Bishop Phillip Karanja: A Servant of Jesus Christ
Celebrating the Life of Bishop Phillip Karanja: A Servant of Jesus Christ

The act of serving Christ is either a calling or a profession. There are those who join the ministry of Christ because it has something material to offer.

A benefit Paul the apostle noted in Philippians 1:15-18. “Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preaches Christ out of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defense of the gospel. What then? Notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretense, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice” (KJV). Bishop Phillip Karanja was preaching the Gospel out of the second category. The Apostle Paul called that LOVE.

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Bishop Phillip Karanja served Christ because he loved Christ. His story goes back to Kijabe High School, where as a young man he first encountered Evangelical theology.

In Kijabe, it was required that the students attend church services without fail. For four years he heard about the good news of a gracious Redeemer.

He tells of an old pastor who was the first pastor of AIM Kijabe Mission. Bishop Karanja would say, “Niwe,” which in the Kikuyu means, “Let me tell you”:   “There was this pastor, Johanah Nyenjeri who used to preach to us. He would pray for us for hours” Bishop Karanja would testify.

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He and the Rev. Macmillan Kiiru, his high school buddy and colleague, laughed about their experiences in Kijabe High School. Though they moved to other denominations, they liked to call themselves, original African Inland Church (AIC).


Bishop Karanja would not shy away from testifying that he was originally a Mukorino. He was an expert in the Wakorino history and theology, having been the first youth pastor in the Wakorino faith.

However as he would explain, the experience of Kijabe mission and what Rev. Johanah Nyenjeri taught him would never let him remain a Mukorino.

He finally moved away and returned to the evangelical faith. His relationship with Christ was based upon the Good News (the evangel), which rescued him from a life of alcoholism.


When he was young, before he became a Christian, the good bishop testified that he loved to have a drink. He told stories of being a schoolteacher and struggling with alcoholism. One day, he drank so much alcohol that he collapsed in front of his rented apartment.

He spent the whole night there. In the morning, the headmaster sent for him and he was found asleep at the door. It is this experience that reminded him of his father’s faith.

That night reminded him of the gospel preached to him in Kijabe. He called upon Christ to rescue him. The grace of Christ and the prayers of Rev. Johanah rekindled in him the message of Christ: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, NKJV).  He was born-again and never went back to alcohol.


This love by Christ, his gracious Redeemer and his friend propelled him to the calling as a minster of the Gospel of Christ, called out of the Kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of light—the light of the Son of God who died on the Cross for him and all who believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God who died for their sins and resurrected so they could have life eternal with Him.

Bishop Karanja did not want other young men to fall into the darkness of alcoholism that had devastated his teaching career—the darkness that would have kept him away from eternal life.

Therefore, he committed himself to serving his Redeemer and friend, Jesus. From Kisumu to central Kenya, from Kenya to Europe, to his time in United States as a theological student, Bishop Karanja preached Christ. He touched many people with the Good News.


In his service to Christ, Bishop Karanja founded the Victory Centers in Kenya. Through this church, he continued the call to those who came to Christ to join in the ministry of rescue, a ministry that now has many pastors.

I am part of that ministry. He and I were involved in several pastoral conferences aimed at teaching pastors to remain in the knowledge of Christ.

Also, in his effort to remain faithful to the call of Christ to show love to young men who were tempted in Kenya to join the darkness of alcoholism, he and I joined the vision of Her Excellency Pastor Dorcas Rigathi to rescue the Boy Child.

Celebrating the Life of Bishop Phillip Karanja: A Servant of Jesus Christ
From left: Rev. Christopher Mutai, Bishop Philip Karanja, Pastor Dorcas Gachagua, Dr. Teddy Kamau, Timothy Kamau

He and I spent hours together discussing the word of God. Last year we were on a mission for the Boy Child. We met in Chicago and decided to drive to Florida through Georgia and South Carolina where we were to speak about the Boy Child and the need to rescue these young men in Kenya from alcoholism and addiction.

Our SUV broke down in Indiana at the university town of Lafayette. We could not wait for it to be fixed. Therefore, I rented a car and proceeded to our meetings.

Since we had to make up for lost time after our breakdown, I drove all night. Bishop Karanja decided to keep me awake by getting out his Kikuyu hymnbook, which he carried everywhere.

He sung all day and all night in this 18-hour drive towards Orlando, Florida, breaking into prayers of thanksgiving.


Recently I took him to Kijabe Hospital when he had a serious sinus infection. As a diabetic he was treated and recovered. But on going back to Nairobi the infection resurfaced with vengeance and spread further than expected. It was causing him to have major headaches.


I am grateful to have known this servant of Christ, as a true elder brother, an incredible husband to his wife of many years, a father to wonderful children, and a spiritual father and elder in the service of our gracious Redeemer Jesus Christ. He served Christ in his generation; and those who he touched call him blessed.


No more headaches elder brother. Rest in the hands of your Savior and friend, Yesu Kristo. I will follow his lead and carry that Kikuyu hymnbook, sing as I go forward with our mission to rescue those in darkness into the light of Christ, our Redeemer and friend.


Rev. Teddy Njoroge Kamau (Ph.D.)



Celebrating the Life of Bishop Phillip Karanja: A Servant of Jesus Christ

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