Photo of Cpt Charles ChalrimawiaCpt Charles Chalrimawia, from Mizoram, India, trained to be a Salvation Army officer in the Canada and Bermuda Tty

Border Crossing

What I learned during my time as a cadet in Canada.

February 7, 2017 by Captain Charles Chalrimawia


I landed at Winnipeg International Airport at 10:45 p.m. on a Wednesday night, after flying for 23 hours. It was the first time I had ever left my home in India, and I looked around in excitement, eager to catch a glimpse of Canada and begin my journey to officership as an international cadet in the Ambassadors of Holiness Session.

I’m from Mizoram, a state in northeastern India bordered by Bangladesh and Myanmar. Mizos look quite different from other Indians—our ancestors are believed to have migrated from China. Although India is a predominantly Hindu country, Mizoram is 98 percent Christian and I am a fourth-generation Salvationist. I dedicated my life to God as a junior soldier, and felt the affirmation of my call to officership as a teenager.

In 2009, I was working at territorial headquarters for the India Eastern Territory, when I met Commissioner William Francis, who was visiting India to participate in a Brengle Institute. He invited me to train in the Canada and Bermuda Territory, and God opened the door, despite all of the challenges. I am grateful to him and Commissioner Marilyn Francis for all they did, and to the leadership of my territory and the international secretary for the South Asia Zone who gave the approval.

When I arrived in Canada, everything was so new and different. I experienced a lot of culture shock. In Mizoram, people live together in big families; at first, Canadians felt much more reserved than I was used to. Speaking and studying in English, my third language, wasn’t easy. I often felt lost in class, especially when the discussion related to the Canadian context. It took time to process what I was learning.

From left, Cpts Charles Chalrimawia, Fred Reid, David Bond and Joyce Downer volunteer at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver

From left, Cpts Charles Chalrimawia, Fred Reid, David Bond and Joyce Downer volunteer at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver

The people I met were the lights that helped me see—my session-mates, as well as the Prayer Warriors and Friends of Christ sessions, and the training college staff. They left a deep impression, and I remember them with warmth and affection. They taught me that relationships give us hope, which helped me to become an effective officer, to be the giver of hope.

Along with our academic work, field placements were an important part of our training. Some of the highlights were volunteering at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver; travelling to Newfoundland and Labrador for the Atlantic congress and commissioning of the Prayer Warriors Session; and joining my friends, Captains Fred and Carolyn Reid, at their appointment in Bracebridge, Ont.

Each placement was an opportunity to build relationships with the community. I was involved in many different activities, from preaching, to visiting a nursing home, to standing on a kettle, to sorting and packing toys and Christmas hampers. The son of my field supervisor, Captain Peter van Duinen, even took me to his school for show and tell!

Although there were many times I struggled and found it hard to understand a different culture, God used these struggles to stretch and mould me, to teach me to trust and rely on him. I learned to persevere and hope for the future. And there were many fun experiences along the way—playing floor hockey, enjoying Starbucks and Tim Hortons and seeing “white sunshine” (snow) for the first time!

My experiences in a multicultural and multi-faith country shaped me to offer the love of Christ depending on the needs of the context. It is a privilege to take up this commission as an officer in The Salvation Army, starting from Canada and Bermuda, to India, and beyond—wherever God appoints me to go. I will remain faithful and obedient to his call upon my life to serve him wholeheartedly and to be the giver of hope in a community where hope does not prevail.

Captain Charles Chalrimawia is the public relations officer, territorial children’s officer and event and hospitality officer for the India Eastern Territory.

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