THE visit of General Linda Bond to Sri Lanka, to celebrate the 130th anniversary of Salvation Army ministry in the country, was a time of great excitement and blessing.
The General's time in Sri Lanka began with a meeting with the Hon D. M. Jayaratne, Prime Minister of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. The gathering included fruitful discussion as well as the presentation of a new postage stamp and first-day cover, featuring a photo of the General alongside the logo of The Salvation Army's International Vision.
The vision itself – One Army, One Mission, One Message – was the main focus of the anniversary celebrations, which began with a colourful welcome parade. The General, territorial leaders and Christian leaders were accompanied by colourfully dressed Kandyan dancers and drummers, the Oriental Band of The Salvation Army's Dehiwela Girls' Home and three grandly-dressed elephants.
A congregation of around 2,000 people gathered at the Cathedral of Christ the Living Saviour in Colombo for the anniversary celebration service. Greetings from the wider Church were given by the Rev W. P. Ebenezer Joseph, General Secretary of the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka.
The General enrolled 75 junior soldiers and 74 senior soldiers, telling them that they need to be 'soldiers of Jesus Christ before being soldiers of The Salvation Army'.
The meeting included a sung version of the International Vision Plan by residents of the Dehiwela Girls' Home, a welcome song from Salvationists of Talampitiya Corps (church), and the testimony of a Salvationist from Rawathawatte Corps.
The General’s Bible message, translated into Sinhala and Tamil, was based on the One Army theme of the International Vision. She told the congregation that, even though there is a great diversity around the world, The Salvation Army must remain united. 'We know who we are,' she said, 'we know what we believe and we know why we serve.' She called on the young and the old to give themselves afresh to the Lord.
Thirty-four people went to the mercy seat in response to the General's words.
The next day, around 350 people gathered at Colombo Central Corps to witness 12 cadets of the Proclaimers of the Resurrection Session being ordained and commissioned as Salvation Army officers by the General.
A drama item, sessional song and testimony paved the way for the General’s Bible message. She challenged the new lieutenants to look for the hurt, the broken, the lonely, the dispossessed and the lost, bringing them to God to receive salvation.
After leading officers councils in the afternoon – attended by 130 active and retired officers – the General faced the cameras of the national television broadcasting station, Rupavahini, for an interview. The visit was also featured in TV news reports.
Between the main meetings, the General visited the training college, The Haven Children's Home and Rajagiriya Boys' Home. At Rajagiriya Elders' Home, the General met and prayed with 101-year-old Lieut-Colonel W. James Wickramage.
Report by Mrs Enoka Fernando