Antonia Silvini was 12 years old when she began living on the streets.
An orphan, with two younger siblings, she was being raised by her grandmother, who struggled to provide for her grandchildren because of her poverty and her age.
Silivini, who is now in Grade 11 at Smithville Christian High School, spoke at a school chapel recently, explaining how fending for herself on the streets of Mwanza, a city in Tanzania, was easier than the hard labour of doing laundry by hand for rich neighbours.
“Life was so difficult for me and I started walking around on the streets. I met other children like me and they taught me how to drink and smoke,” Silivini said. “I didn’t have anything to do so I started a new life, like those children on the street.”
But her grandmother, who wasn’t able to feed her, decided that she still wasn’t willing to let her grandchildren go.
“She looked for people who were able to help us,” Silvini recalled, arranging to have the director of a local orphanage take the children in.
At the orphanage, Silvini stopped smoking, obeyed the rules, and started going to school. More importantly, “they started to teach me about the word of God, and to pray.
“When I got to the orphanage, I didn’t know anything about God, but then my life changed.”
Silvini was in Form Four at school (equivalent to Grade 10) when her education came to an abrupt halt – there was no more money for school fees.
Instead of giving up, the teenager “kept my time in prayer and God responded to my prayers.”
Like fellow orphanage resident, Lau Mussa (read his testimony here), Silvini met Dunnville’s Bethany Ricker and her uncle, David Emiry, who were in Tanzania in 2015, volunteering at Watoto Wa Orphanage.
“Through David and Bethany, God made a way for me to be here in Canada,” Silvini said. “I thank God that he made a way for me.”
Silivini said she couldn’t believe that Bethany’s parents in Canada (May Lynne Emiry Ricker and Brian Ricker, whose children attend Smithville Christian High School) were willing to host her and make it possible for her to go to school here.
“I was wondering, is this true or a dream? But I kept praying, because it was so amazing to me.
“And now I am here in Canada for further education,” pursuing her dream of becoming a nurse. Now Silvini knows that “God can make a way for me.
“I love you,” she told students at Smithville Christian. “Thank you. I am so thankful to be studying at this school.”
Spiritual Life Director Gord Park told students that Silvini’s story demonstrates that whatever their situation, “God is still the God of miracles.” Park said many times God’s miracles flow through human hearts of love, “and whatever your situation is, no matter how desperate your situation, just take it to God in prayer.” Just as going to high school in Canada was beyond Silivini’s wildest dream, he said, “God can do immeasurably more than we can ever imagine.”
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Chapel also featured a time of worship. A student praise team led in singing "Glory Bound," "I Surrender," and "Tell the World."
We also watched a video to remember the sacrifices made to secure our freedom, and thanked God for the blessing of Canada.