earthen vessels, East Africa, and the gospel
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Anthony Sollo

Anthony Sollo came to the tent in Usagara for Sunday worship a few weeks after starting services. Already committed to finding a church which preaches so that people may know God rather than getting cars and wealth, our little group instantly appealed to him. Since then, I’ve come to recognize him as one of the most interesting Tanzanians I’ve met so far. Let me introduce him to you using a few recent episodes.

Anthony Sollo and his wife at Bible Institute class

Anthony Sollo and his wife at Bible Institute class

Bible Institute

About two weeks after he started attending Sunday worship services in Usagara, he asked for the opportunity to study the Bible with us. This has been an interest of his for some time. Anthony’s primary occupation is volunteer work with an organization which defends human rights. Among other matters, he advocates for victims of accidents and accused criminals who would otherwise become victims of vigilante justice. He believes that a better understanding of the Scriptures will help him serve his neighbors.

I failed to mention it in the video about our recent Bible Institute class, but we were joined by five students from the church plant in Usagara; Anthony and his wife were among them. We believe that he heard the gospel clearly for the first time that week. Though he grew up going to church, he says that what he learned at Bible Institute convinced him that he had yet to be born again.

Butimba Prison

In a way, he has returned the favor by revealing to me many aspects of Tanzanian life that I know little about. Part of his job is to educate his fellow Tanzanians about the less-known details of the judicial and civil systems (most details such as basic rights are not understood). It’s all appeared pretty opaque to me, so Anthony proposed taking me on a visit to the nearby prison.

Butimba Prison is “home” to over 2,000 inmates–very few of whom have definite sentences. Once you’re locked up, it’s very difficult to get you out. We went in for two purposes: to distribute informational materials provided by Anthony’s parent organization and to explore the possibility of starting a gospel ministry the prison. Regarding the first, the prison staff officers were very receptive to receive any information and training regarding legal rights, admitting that “many [of the inmates] had no reason to be locked up.” (!!) Regarding permission to preach the gospel to the inmates, we would have to get permission from higher-ups in the corrections system.

Jumanne

Anthony is currently in the next major city south of Mwanza locating a home for an abandoned boy that showed up on the doorstep of one of our friends in Mwanza City last Sunday. This boy is about 12-yrs-old; he is originally from north-eastern Tanzania; and he answers to Jumanne, which is Swahili for “Tuesday.” There are procedures and systems for helping abandoned children, but, unfortunately, I’m not that familiar with them. Tumaini Children’s Home is already at capacity, the police have turned Jumanne away and social service system is overwhelmed (they weren’t happy to see us bringing them another child). So what do you do?

Anthony stepped in to help find an orphanage that could care for “Tuesday.” He has received an invitation to stay in Shinyanga where some close friend will vouch for the boy’s wellbeing. But since “Tuesday” is not in the welfare system, somebody will be needed to track down any relatives to confirm his biographical details and the truth regarding his abandonment. That somebody will be Anthony.

Shinyanga

Take-Aways from a Few Laps with Anthony

  1. Great commission work touches a staggeringly large swathe of life. Let’s pray that, where it isn’t already, the Lordship of Christ may reach into areas like parenting and legal matters.
  2. As demonstrated by the comments of the prison staff, the line between guilty and innocent is so much more blurry here than it is in the West.
  3. Even after 3.5 years here, it is still fitting to be the learner. It is good to lean on Tanzanian friends as resident guides.
  4. God is sovereign in building His church. He is drawing people from different walks of life and equipping them in various ways to accomplish His purposes. It’s a beautiful thing.

April 8, 2016   No Comments