Mzee Ezra Mpyisi: Rwanda’s oldest pastor

Mzee Ezra Mpyisi is the Pastor who presents Bible teachings on City Radio F.M. He has lived to see the different regimes of Rwanda since the kingdom era.
Mzee Ezra Mpyisi together with his sixth child, Martin Mpyisi.
Mzee Ezra Mpyisi together with his sixth child, Martin Mpyisi.

Mzee Ezra Mpyisi is the Pastor who presents Bible teachings on City Radio F.M. He has lived to see the different regimes of Rwanda since the kingdom era.

At 89 years, the pastor is famously known for his comical style of preaching. Soft spoken, he said that he was born in 1922, in Nyanza which was the capital city of Rwanda at the time.

“Since there were no records because no one knew how to write, birthdays were determined by the great events of the time. It could have been during a drought or when the King was enthroned,” Mpyisi says.

He was born during the great drought known as Rumanura, to the late Rutarira. It is taboo in Rwanda’s culture to speak your mother; he declines to disclose his mother‘s name.

He attended several primary schools during the colonial era such as; Rwamata Adventists School and Gitwe Missionary School.

“During our time, primary school was eight years and that was the highest level of education. At 18years, I completed school and started work,” he says. 

“My first job was writing and keeping record of things that the Belgians needed. I worked in Gitwe Missionary office while I pursed secondary education,” he said.

When he got into contact with missionaries from United States of America and South Africa, he moved in several parts of Rwanda in the rural areas to spreading the gospel.
“We preached the gospel beyond borders, for example in 1953 I went to Zaire the current Democratic Republic of Congo in Western Kasai region. I spent three years there before returning to Rwanda,” he explains.

During the reign of King Mutara III Rudahigwa Pierre Charles, civilization had transcended in Rwanda. The King decided to change the parliament system to represent all religions.

“Catholics were given priority because the King was Catholic. It was mandatory that Rwandans became Catholics if they wanted to get jobs,” he says.
The King then ordered all religions to be represented in parliament.

“I was selected to represent the Adventist religion in parliament. However, after the parliament sessions, we would go back to our daily work,” Mzee Mpyisi disclosed.
However, in 1959 after the King’s death, Rwanda became unstable which forced him into exile.

“The missionaries had organized my transfer to Zimbabwe were I had to join the Solusi Adventists University. While there, I pursed a Bachelors Degree in Theology,” he says.
This laid foundation for Mzee Mpyisi who opened up several Adventist Schools in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“At that time, French was the official language of instruction in Burundi and Congo. My children had an English background therefore I took them to study at Bugema Adventists School in Uganda. 

“I could not stand being away from my family, and so I requested the mission to let me work within the East African region. I was moved to Tanzania where I opened up a School for Pastors,” he says.
He later retired from missionary work in 1992 while serving in Nairobi.

“I returned to Rwanda in 1996 and set up The Adventist University of Central Africa Mudede—the first privately owned University in Rwanda,” he stressed.

When he sees the progress of the University, Mzee Mpyisi says, “I feel like dancing, but at my age, I joyfully stamp my feet.”

The institution started with 60 students currently holds 6,000 students. Comparing Rwanda’s ancient Culture to today, he said:
Cultural traits are important and the youth need education in this area. We need them just as much as they need us although they avoid us saying that what we teach them is outdated.

“The most vital fact in culture is one’s love for their country. The core foundation of a country is its history, but if it’s not emphasized, the future is doomed,” he explains.

Culture is characterized in three categories;
‘Umucyo Uvaho’ literally meaning ‘culture that fades’, this is when the cultural traits are phased out by civilization.
‘Umucyo Ugororwa’ is the kind of culture that can be streamlined.

‘Umucyo Karande’, the most important, is the original core culture.

He says the later, ‘Umucyo Karande’ should be protected because it is what defines a country.

Mzee Mpyisi got married in 1944 and was blessed with eight children, seven sons and a daughter. Unfortunately, two of his sons died.

Martin Mpyisi, his sixth child said, “I have never seen anyone as busy as my father. He wakes up at 4:30 a.m to go to Bible School in Nyamirambo and goes to sleep at around 11:30 p.m. He does this, five times in a week.”
In 1997, Mzee Mpyisi started the Bible school in Nyamirambo.

“My students attend the Bible school daily just as I do and everyone is always welcome regardless their religion,” he says.