Thomas Rukiko Lisso served the Adventist Church in Tanzania as educator and administrator for 38 years. He translated Voice of Prophecy lessons from English into Kiswahili.
Thomas Rukiko Lisso was born to Ibrahim Chabhura Lisso Chikwakara and Elizabeth Nyakwesi Machumu on October 1, 1921, at Bwasi village (Majita), Musoma district, Mara region, in Tanzania. He was the first born of four siblings. The others were Elias Bwire Lisso (1923-2017), Daudi Lisso (1926-1945), and Neema Lisso (1930-1935).1
The father of Thomas Lisso was among the first African evangelists who were sent to Ukerewe Island to spread the Adventist message.2 Ukerewe is the largest island in Lake Victoria and the largest lake island in Africa, with an area of approximately 530 square kilometers.3 The island is situated in Ukerewe district, nearly 50 kilometers north of Mwanza, to which it is linked by ferry, and it takes three to four hours to travel. A shorter vehicle ferry crossing of only 3.8 kilometers links the island across the Rugezi Channel to a dirt road on the eastern lakeshore which runs to Kibara and Musoma. Thomas’ father is remembered for having a love for mission and working in God’s vineyard.4
Education and Marriage
Thomas Rukiko Lisso attended Bwasi Bush School (primary school) from 1928 to 1931, and then he attended Ikizu Middle School from 1932 to 1935. He also took a one-year teachers training course. He married Zebida Nyamabara Karilo on November 24, 1942, at Bwasi Mission. Zebida was born July 16, 1929, at Bwasi village, Musoma, in Tanzania. From 1953 to 1955 he attended Bugema Adventist College for his secondary education, and from 1958 to 1963 he attended Solusi University in Zimbabwe, from which he graduated with a BA in theology.5
Thomas and his wife Zebida were blessed with 11 children: Boniface (1944-1945), Dorah Nyamjunga (1946-1948), Jared Kamoga, Tumaini Magesa, Ellen Nyabutwema, Rose Nyamagere, Margaret Nyamata, Edward Maiga, Praise Mtaki (1960-1993), Samson Karilo (1963-1995), and Dorah Nyasatu.
Thomas Lisso served as a school teacher in Adventist schools, including Suji, Bwasi Middle School, Bugema, Kibumayi, and Ikizu Middle School. He served as headteacher from 1936 to 1952. He was then given the position of director of education, being the first African to hold that office in Tanzania. In this position, he visited each school each year to ensure that the standards were kept and the mission of the church fulfilled. He was committed to his work and to the church. One minister who served with him said that Thomas Rukiko Lisso was a hard worker, a good teacher, a good preacher, and had a good appearance and a good personality.6
From 1962 to 1965, he served as director of the home missionary and Sabbath School departments of the Tanganyika General Field.7 In 1964 he was ordained to the gospel ministry.8 From 1966 to 1969, he served as the education and lay activities director of the Tanzania Union Mission.9 From 1980 to 1991 Thomas Rukiko Lisso served as head of the Voice of Prophecy (V.O.P.) department at Morogoro, Tanzania. He retired in 1991.10
After he retired, Thomas Rukiko Lisso continued to serve as a Sabbath School Bible lesson translator from English to Kiswahili until 2001, when he was knocked down by a car while crossing the road in Morogoro town. This left him paralyzed and he died on May 20, 2009, at the age of 88, at Morogoro Regional Hospital, Morogoro town, in Tanzania. He was buried at Misufini Seventh-day Adventist Church on May 24, 2009. His widow lived another 11 years and passed away on September 14, 2020, at the age of 91.
Service record of Thomas R. Lisso, folder 1991, Northern Tanzania Union Conference office, Arusha Tanzania.
Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. https://www.adventistyearbook.org/.
Rose Nyamagere, interview with the author at Mara Conference office on May 25, 2021. Rose is one of the daughters of Thomas Rukiko Lisso.↩
Ukerewe Island, accessed on May 23, 2021, https://www.tanzaniatourism.go.tz/en/destination/ukerewe-island.↩
Lameck Mwamukonda, telephone interview with author on May 23, 2021. Lameck Mwamukonda is a former President of Tanzania Union Mission, now Northern Tanzania Union Conference.↩
Service record of Thomas R. Lisso, folder 1991, Northern Tanzania Union Conference office, Arusha Tanzania.↩
Lameck Mwamukonda, telephone interview with author on May 23, 2021.↩
Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, 1963, accessed on May 22, 2021, http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Yearbooks/Forms/AllItems.aspx.↩
Service record of Thomas R. Lisso.↩
Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, 1967, accessed on May 22, 2021, http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Yearbooks/Forms/AllItems.aspx.↩
Service record of Thomasi R. Lisso.↩