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A Deeply Rooted Disciple

Saitoti's story by Adam Hillis

The greatest influence a child can receive is the investment of their parents, and a faith instilled within the home. This family legacy started in Tanzania several decades earlier. A seed of faith was buried in two hearts, pushed roots-deep, and spread its branches across a family tree.

Lemmy and Anna lived a couple villages apart, both raised by parents who loved Jesus and taught them the importance of faith and serving others. Though they were only a couple hours from each other, and eventually both attended the University of Dar es Salaam, their paths didn’t cross until they individually moved to Canada to study for their Master’s Degrees. Eventually, they fell in love, married, and started a family.

After college they moved to America with their young family and continued the legacy of faith and serving they were shown by their parents half a world away. Among the children in their family was Lemmy and Anna’s youngest son, Saitoti. He’s since grown into a young man full of infectious joy.

He carries a love for people and a desire for relationship that is rare amongst most 19-year-olds.

Whether he’s walking down a school hallway surrounded by peers, or through a hallway of offices at his church, he’s constantly stopping to say, “Hi!” and ask how you’re doing. It’s not a formality or an obligation, but a curiosity about what is happening in your life. He’s genuinely interested.

This eagerness to connect with those around him showed itself at an early age. In 2005 Saitoti felt called to serve those younger than him. Being only 8 years old at the time his options were limited, but he stepped into a Kindergarten class that ultimately influenced his future and the future of others.

For the next 7 years, Saitoti was a teacher’s assistant helping to love, teach, and corral 5-year-olds. It was a responsibility he took seriously, knowing he held a place of importance with these little ones. There was a weight he felt. He had been given a voice into such impressionable souls, teaching them about the Word of God and following in his parents’ footsteps of investing in young lives.

Like many boys, Saitoti loved sports. Growing up he found himself participating nearly year-round. Football, basketball, and baseball seasons seemed to all run one right after the next. Games sometimes landed on Sundays and the pull between serving these young people well and staying committed to a team forced Saitoti to learn responsibility that many boys older than him had not yet grasped.

He was committed to sports and ministry—and doing both well.

Some Sundays there was inevitably a conflict between game times and church times and Saitoti had to let his team know he couldn’t make the game. Though both were important, he felt his commitment to being a consistent presence in kids’ lives outweighed participating in a game and was his greater responsibility. He said, “It was about finding a comfortable balance between wanting to progress with my team and be there for them, but also knowing I have a commitment I made to the church and the kids.”

As Saitoti got older, playing multiple sports slowly faded to the background and friends moved to the forefront, as well as adding the responsibilities of a job. Saturdays seemed to “be the night everyone wanted to do things,” and those things seemed to go past reasonable bedtimes. Once again finding himself caught between multiple priorities, Saitoti rose to the challenge. He put the call he originally felt to serve the families of his church before his social life.

Saitoti had determined what he valued the most—serving others in the name of Jesus.

A regular comment to his friends on Saturday nights became, “Hey guys, I gotta go. I got church in the morning.” His work schedule was built around his church schedule. While meeting the demands of the rest of his life, Saitoti had determined what he valued the most—serving others in the name of Jesus. Everything else was structured with that as the center.

What made this season of serving a little different was that Saitoti now had his own class. No longer was he the assistant, but he was the primary teacher with his own teacher’s assistant. It wasn’t just showing 5-year-olds the early tenets of faith, but also bringing along another young person in leadership.

During the next three years as Saitoti invested in young leaders he
started to see the fruit of his previous seven years. Kindergartners he taught were now closing in on Jr. High and coming back, wanting to serve those younger than them. He’d often see students he had the privilege of teaching now serving at camps on activities teams and as junior counselors. Many were assisting on Sundays in other classrooms. The first assistant he had in his classroom was still there with him taking on greater responsibilities. People Saitoti had led were, and are, now becoming leaders.

Where did all this come from? How did an 8-year-old boy get bit by the bug of serving and teaching others, ultimately passing along the same desire? Discipleship.

Anna, his mother, was the Kindergarten teacher in the classroom that Saitoti first assisted in. His parents discipled and invested in him at home. He learned what it is to have faith and pass it along to others from the strongest influences in his life.

The biggest influence on a child’s faith will most often be their parents. The Meekisho family has lived out the value of sharing their faith at home for multiple decades in multiple countries and has created a lineage and legacy not just in their own family, but in the greater family of Beaverton Foursquare.

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