Growing into a Calling

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Tolu Sosanya shares her transformation from apathy to passion as a student at the Center for Reconciliation
Wednesday, December 1, 2010

When Tolu Sosanya came to Duke Divinity School, she wasn’t interested in the ministry of reconciliation. But her focus shifted after she spent two summers interning with New Song Urban Ministries — a ministry with the mission to “love God and love your neighbor.” New Song seeks to fulfill this mission through providing weekly worship services, affordable housing, quality education, job placements and other services to build up the Sandtown community located in West Baltimore.

After graduating from Duke Divinity School with a Master of Divinity in 2010, Sosanya got a full-time job at New Song.

“Reconciliation has become a huge focal point,” she said.

Sosanya co-directs the recently formed New Song College & Career program. She hopes to help tutors and visitors see and understand the community more authentically. There are great challenges to overcome because it is easy for visitors to make judgments about Sandtown based on perceptions.

“I don’t want visitors to come into the community or to come into the program under the auspice of ‘I’m the person coming to give and that’s the only thing I’m coming to do,’” she said. “I really hope to set up interaction with people outside of the program in a way where volunteers can see the gifts that are offered by the kids, the community, and the parents.”

Sosanya said that Sandtown is a community that has been “oppressed by the structures and systems that are supposed to govern and care for the people in the community.” While that has led to poverty, oppression is not the whole story. In the last 25 years, Sandtown has grown and developed. There are still problems, she said, but those problems are being addressed. “I’m seeing the flourishing of the people in the community. And so when I see the flourishing of the people in the community, I can’t say that I see poverty,” she said.

Breaking down the stereotypes that nudge their way into perceptions is Sosanya’s goal as she develops her ministry of reconciliation and invites neighbors in the Baltimore community to invest in authentic friendships with the people who live in Sandtown.

“If we think of ourselves too highly, that says something about how we receive God’s grace, and it says something about how grateful we are for the grace that has been shown to us through God sending his only begotten Son to die on the cross for us,” she said. “And if we don’t understand that gift, and that it is given to all humanity, then we’re kind of missing the picture.”