A Volunteer’s Experience in the SBC Library
Just the other day I was struck by the wealth of knowledge we have here at St Barnabas College, both with respect to the educational capacity of our resources, staff and volunteers, but also in terms of the lived experience of those who are involved in the life of the college.
The moment, I think, that crystallised this knowledge was when, at the recommendation of our librarian, Katrina, I was told to talk to one of our volunteers, Tacito Pinto, for a possible news story or blog post. I was certainly intrigued by what would be coming my way, having talked to Tacito in the past, knowing that he had a unique and fascinating perspective on the world. Tacito has lived in three countries, originally coming from Brazil, moving to Italy for missionary work, returning to Brazil and finally making his way here to Australia in his retirement. He has spent much of his adult life involved in student ministry and missions work, speaks at least four languages (or, as he puts it, he can “preach in four languages”), regularly involves himself in outreach to homeless people (cooking for them) and spends some of his time teaching and assisting on Wednesday nights at Life Christian Centre in the city, preaching at the Italian language service at least once a month. The impression that I get from him is that, to say the least, he has lived a storied life. This was only just confirmed when he took me on a trip down memory lane.
“This very ordinary world of putting labels in the books makes me remember several passages of my life and several places where I have been. ” He continued, “for instance, I was labelling some books of Paulo Freire, this very famous Brazilian in the education field, I thought, ‘oh, what a coincidence, I was a former professor at the same university where he was a professor, and I have a friend that got married to one of his nephews!’ and then I remembered that friend and my time at university and so on.”
After hearing a few of these sorts of stories, and being a little gobsmacked, I couldn’t help but ask if this was a common experience for Tacito. Apparently so! He responded, “every time I’m here, in general, something has caught my attention,” then proceeding to regale me with a story of his time with the well-known Latin American theologian, Samuel Escobar.
“Some weeks ago, I was just putting a label in a book of Samuel Escobar. He was in the 1974 commission of Lausanne and was a speaker. In 1978 I went to Italy as a missionary to work with students. The movement IFES (the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students) provided one month of training to talk to people and then I went to Argentina and spent one week or ten days with Samuel as a guest of his in his house! He spent time with me and my wife during the day. He gave us classes for the two of us and he let us study in his library. We would have a class in the morning, we would study during the day and then spend more time together at night. So we spent a week in his house in Córdoba.”
Most interestingly, to me at least, he continued with a story about an experience with a rather famous Anglican priest: “I think the year was 1979 or 1980. There was a conference apart of the Lausanne Covenant and I went from Italy there and when I arrived in the surroundings of London, there were some people in a reception team to show us our rooms. John Stott was there with the group; I arrived there with some suitcases and he carried my luggage to my room! I had met him one or two times in big groups before, but this was the first time one on one. I thought it was incredible, a man who was so famous doing such menial work.”
I mentioned to him that he seems to have had a rather storied life. Tacito responding, in rather humble fashion, simply said “I have met many people. I have made the most in each place I have been to meet people and make opportunities. Being here in the library helps me remember these stories. Someone once said to me ‘oh, it seems that everything happens to you.’ I said to him, ‘no, no, no, these things happen to everybody but I pay attention!’ I pay attention to the people I meet, the places I am, the things I see in the streets. I can see stories happening in front of me.”
A charming response, no doubt, though I’m not sure that late John Stott carrying your luggage to your room could be called an everyday occurrence.
If you’re ever in at the college, feel free to pop in and say hello to our volunteers (provided they’re not too busy of course). Tacito particularly loves to have a chat and is in on Thursdays!
Written by Anthony Bondarenko