Ezra Mpyisi: A Centenarian Pastor’s Legacy in Rwanda

Ezra Mpyisi

Pasitoro Ezra Mpyisi, a centenarian and esteemed figure in Rwanda’s Seventh-day Adventist community, passed away at the age of 102. The news was confirmed by his family, as reported by Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA), a state media outlet.

Born in 1922 on the hill of Gishike, near Nyanza, the then capital of Rwanda during King Yuhi V Musinga’s reign, Mpyisi’s life spanned a significant period of Rwandan history. He completed his primary education at Rwamwata, near his home, and Gitwe Mission, about 20 kilometers away. In 1934, he was baptized as a Seventh-day Adventist, adopting the name Ezra.

Mpyisi’s early career involved teaching at local schools before transitioning to full-time pastoral work. His marriage at 20 was marked by tragedy when his first wife passed away, leaving him with an eight-year-old child. He later remarried and had eight children with his second wife.

His pastoral career took a significant turn in 1951 when he was ordained in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He spread his ministry across five countries in the region, starting in Congo. His theological education was furthered at Solusi University in Zimbabwe, where he became the first from Rwanda, Burundi, and Congo to earn a theological degree from a university.

Mpyisi’s influence extended beyond religious circles. During King Mutara III Rudahigwa’s reign, he was appointed to the national council, a body akin to the current legislature, to represent the Adventist Church. His close relationships with Rudahigwa and his successor, Kigeli V Ndahindurwa, positioned him as a trusted advisor. Notably, Mpyisi played a significant role in the final years of Kigeli V, the last king of Rwanda. After Kigeli’s passing in 2016 in the United States, Mpyisi was involved in the discussions and legal proceedings regarding the king’s final resting place. It is reported that Mpyisi’s influence was instrumental in the court’s decision to have Kigeli’s remains repatriated to Rwanda for burial.

Despite the turmoil of the 1959 revolution that ended the monarchy and led to the flight of many Tutsis, including Mpyisi, he continued his pastoral work across East Africa. He returned to Rwanda in 1997 after retiring in 1992.

Even in retirement, Mpyisi remained active, focusing on evangelism, establishing Adventist schools, and teaching the Bible. He was especially visible in the late 2010s, sharing his teachings on various Kigali radio stations and YouTube.

On his 100th birthday in September 2022, Mpyisi reflected on his life, saying he had witnessed everything from beauty to tragedy, including war and peace. His philosophy on longevity centered on divine grace and avoiding harmful behaviors and thoughts, emphasizing a life free from strife and malice.

Mpyisi’s legacy in Rwanda is multifaceted. He is remembered for his candid and humorous approach to preaching, his fearlessness in speaking his mind, and his contributions to education and the spiritual lives of many. His teachings, often centered around Jesus and the Bible, left a lasting impact on the Rwandan Seventh-day Adventist community and beyond.