The body that washed ashore this week in Cape Elizabeth has been identified as Evariste Munyensanga, a man who had been missing from Portland since November.

Munyensanga, 29, was reported missing by family members on Nov. 21. He was last seen Nov. 18 at his Cumberland Avenue home.

A person walking a dog Tuesday night on Cliff House Beach in Cape Elizabeth found the body, which police described as heavily decomposed and without identification.

Police initially thought the person was white and had ruled out Munyensanga, who was black, as a possibility, but that confusion resulted from the condition of the body, Portland police Lt. Robert Martin said Friday.

Munyensanga was an avid long-distance runner who frequented the coastline north of Portland, where he enjoyed taking cellphone pictures, police said. He was also a regular at the Portland YMCA and the Salvation Army Church.

Munyensanga had a medical condition that required him to take medication every day. Munyensanga, who was originally from Rwanda, was featured in a documentary, “Into the Heart of Rwanda,” by filmmaker Rajah Bose. In the film, Munyensanga described how a heart surgery performed by a team of American doctors saved his life and allowed him to comfort and support others facing the same surgery.

Rheumatic heart disease is almost unknown in the U.S. because it’s caused by untreated strep throat. It is treated by open-heart surgery to repair heart valves that are damaged by the disease.

Before having the surgery, Munyensanga couldn’t walk without becoming exhausted easily because of the disease.

“They think the people with heart disease can’t produce anything in society. We are rejected. Even in the family, they reject … us because they think of us as a burden to them,” he said in the film.

Annette Lock, an official with the Salvation Army in Portland, said Munyensanga attended the organization’s church and was thinking of going to the Salvation Army seminary so he could work for the group.

Lock said Munyensanga had been involved with the Salvation Army in Rwanda and came to Portland last spring with the help of Healing Hearts, the organization featured in the documentary.

“He was extremely intelligent, capable and caring,” she said. “He was using his life to help others.”

Munyensanga had recently attended a Salvation Army retreat for young adult members of the church, she said.

When he initially went missing, Lock said, Munyensanga’s friends and church officials didn’t suspect anything was amiss because he often traveled in his effort to support Healing Hearts, speaking to groups about his experiences.

He was last seen on a Friday, she said, but church officials and friends became worried when he didn’t attend church the following Sunday and wasn’t around at the beginning of the week.

She said there were no signs that Munyensanga might have meant to harm himself, so church officials hope law enforcement continues its investigation to find out what happened.

Lock said she contacted Cape Elizabeth police the day after the body was found, but was told that it appeared to be Caucasian.

When the body turned out to be Munyensanga, after all, “we were shocked and surprised,” she said.

The medical examiner’s office is still investigating his death, but said it did not appear to be suspicious.

Portland police are asking anyone who saw Munyensanga around the time of his death and has not yet spoken to detectives to call 874-5424.

Staff Writer Gillian Graham contributed to this report.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

[email protected]