Tasso Hebena was born and raised in the Bolosso area of Wolaitta, Ethiopia. Soon after he heard the gospel and became a follower of Jesus, he attended the annual spiritual life conference held at Soddo, Wolaitta. The conference speaker was Mr. Walter Ohman, a Sudan Interior Mission (SIM) missionary, who challenged the listeners to share the gospel with those in the Sidama province. Tasso knew that the Sidama people group had no love for the Wolaitta. Previously three Wolaitta evangelists had been martyred by the Sidama. Even though his education was limited to two years of primary education in a local Kale Heywet Church (KHC) school and two years of Amharic Bible School at Soddo , he volunteered to serve in Sidama.
With his wife Lalore and their one child, Tasso travelled in 1947, together with thirteen other Wolaitta evangelist families, to serve among the Sidama people group. They were commissioned and paid a small stipend by the Wolaitta KHC. These thirteen evangelist families served in cooperation with the SIM missionaries located at Aletta Wondo. Tasso experienced various spiritual confrontations with local diviners, and a number of the Sidama with physical infirmities were healed through his prayers. After a Bible School training centre was established in Aletta Wondo in 1958, the thirteen Wolaitta evangelists were recalled by the Wolaitta KHC.
Back home in the Boloso district of Wolaitta, Tasso voluntarily served several KHCs as a Bible school teacher and itinerant pastor/encourager. During this period in Boloso he became a successful farmer; his abundant grain produce was the envy of his neighbours. Tasso enrolled for two years in the Ambei KHC Bible school, which was within walking distance of his home.
In 1966 Tasso and his wife were assigned by the Wolaitta KHC to serve in the Kafa region along with 20 other Wolaitta evangelist families. Through the tactful negotiations of SIM missionary Alex Fellows residing in Bonga, Kafa, the evangelists were granted permission by the Kafa Ministry of Education to serve throughout the area as literacy teachers. In the Sharadda district Tasso Hebena experienced opposition from local authorities which led to his arrest and imprisonment for several months. Later he and his family were assigned to the Chenna district of Kafa where he had an effective evangelistic, healing and teaching ministry.
Tasso Hebena had an exceptional gift for building relationships with local community leaders plus learning the local language and culture in any place where he was assigned. He left a lasting legacy of a number of church plants in both Sidama and in Kafa. His nine children are well educated and are making their own contribution to their respective local churches and to the greater Ethiopian society as teachers and medical practitioners.
E. Paul Balisky
E. Paul Balisky, *Wolaitta Evangelists: A Study in Religious Innovation in Southern Ethiopia, 1937-1975, *Eugene OR: Pickwick, 2009
Raymond Davis, *Winds of God, *Toronto: SIM International Publications, 1984.
Malcomu Shanqo, Tape recording of 1987, translated by Woyita Woza.
This article was researched and written by E. Paul Balisky, former lecturer at the Ethiopian Graduate school of Theology, Addis Ababa. He and his wife Lila serve as members of the *DACB *Advisory Council and now reside in Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada.