Sparrow, Cyril Ebden (1898–1962)

By Godfrey K. Sang


Godfrey K. Sang is a historical researcher and writer with an interest in Adventist history. He holds a B.A. in History from the University of Eastern Africa Baraton and a number of qualifications from other universities. He is a published author. He is the co-author of the book On the Wings of a Sparrow: How the Seventh-day Adventist Church Came to Western Kenya

First Published: May 2, 2024

Cyril Ebden Sparrow was a pioneer Adventist literature evangelist, farmer, and businessman in South Africa.

Early Life

Born on December 4, 1898, in the Bathurst District, South Africa, Cyril Ebden Sparrow was the fourth son of Elder Charles Sparrow and his wife Ellen of Frasers Camp, Grahamstown.1 Charles Sparrow (1865-1938) was a first generation Seventh-day Adventist, being one of the foundational members of the Rokeby Park Seventh-day Adventist Church from 1889. He had been active in the ministry as a church administrator. He also founded mission stations in South Africa, working primarily among the African people.


Cyril Sparrow attended Union College and Spion Kop College (now Helderberg College). Upon completing his college education, Cyril engaged in canvassing in South Africa. He worked at the Natal-Transvaal area, becoming a leading literature evangelist before moving to the Cape area.2 Unfortunately in February 1920, his elder brother, Ellis Sparrow, passed away at the Grahamstown hospital following a short illness. He was just 25.3 It was a devastating blow to Cyril who at that time was just starting out.

Shortly after this, he received a call to serve in the Zambesi Union Mission to lead the colporteur work there. He moved to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), where he would remain for the rest of his life. During the challenging years of the 1930s Depression, Cyril transitioned to private work, excelling in various fields, including farming, mining, and ranching, leaving a mark of success in each endeavor.

Ministry and Legacy

Cyril’s dedication to God's work extended beyond his career. He played a pivotal role in supervising the out-station work at the Lower Gwelo Mission, showcasing his commitment to the mission and ministry. His successful business ventures allowed him to support the ministry through his giving. He also visited his older brother in Kenya – Hubert M. Sparrow (1891-1960), who was the president of the East Africa Union from 1942 to 1950.

Cyril Ebden Sparrow’s passed away suddenly on May 19, 1962, during a visit to Inyazura Mission in what was then Southern Rhodesia. His death was a moment of profound loss for those who knew him. He was 64.

Cyril Sparrow’s life was marked by faithfulness, generosity, and versatility.4 As an evangelist in South Africa, he helped deepen the work through his ministry. He also used his considerable funds to support the work of the church in what is today Zimbabwe. His funeral was conducted by Pastor W. Duncan Eva, who was the immediate former president of the East Africa Union. He was laid to rest on May 24, 1962, at the Fort Victoria Cemetery. The funeral drew numerous relatives and friends, including his four children and their companions, grandchildren, three brothers, his only sister, and various other mourning relatives.


Dawkins, Ms. M. B. Southern Africa Division Outlook, March 15, 1963.

White, Nettie G. Southern Africa Missionary, March 15, 1920.


  1. Ms. M. B. Dawkins, Southern Africa Division Outlook, March 15, 11.

  2. Nettie G. White, Southern Africa Missionary, March 15, 1920, 7.

  3. Ibid.

  4. Dawkins, 11.


Sang, Godfrey K. "Sparrow, Cyril Ebden (1898–1962)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. May 02, 2024. Accessed June 18, 2024.

Sang, Godfrey K. "Sparrow, Cyril Ebden (1898–1962)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. May 02, 2024. Date of access June 18, 2024,

Sang, Godfrey K. (2024, May 02). Sparrow, Cyril Ebden (1898–1962). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved June 18, 2024,