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Sep29ThuHow growing up in a Salvation Army boys' home set me on the path to officership. September 29, 2016 by Colonel Nihal Hettiarachchi
If it were not for The Salvation Army, I have no doubt that my life would have ended in disaster.
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I was only a toddler when my father left, and my mother found it difficult to look after me, my sister and my brother. Having no other option, she took me to the Salvation Army Haven, which is a home for destitute children in the Sri Lanka Territory. At the home, I was cared for by many Salvation Army officers and, because of this, I consider The Salvation Army to be my parents. At The Salvation Army, I was given love, care, security, good health and an education.
I stayed at the Haven until I was five, when I transferred to the Rajagiriya Boys' Home to begin my schooling. When I was eight, I decided I wanted to become a Salvation Army officer. With that in mind, I used to draw the “S” from the Army uniform on a piece of paper and often imitated the officers who came to the home on Sundays to conduct services. In the boys' homes, the officers were our role models—their love and their caring spirit touched my heart.
During our school vacations, some of the children went back to their own homes. I had no place to go, but I was fortunate to meet a Canadian officer, Major Avril Halsey, who was serving in Sri Lanka as a missionary. She was kind enough to take two girls from the girls' home and me and another boy from the boys' home to her house for vacations. Years later, one of those girls would become my wife. Colonel Rohini and I have been married for more than 20 years and have been blessed with two daughters and one son.
Major Halsey still calls me putha, a Sinhala word that means “son.” I call her suduamma, which means “white mother.” Even though she is retired and living in Vancouver, she still cares for me and is in touch with me and my family. She came to my wedding in 1994, all the way from Canada. I also had the privilege to visit her in Canada in 2005. I thank God for this Canadian officer who has had a great impact on my life through the love of Jesus Christ.
Serving Children in Need
I accepted Jesus as my personal Saviour when I was 10 years old. Today, it gives me great joy to share my testimony as a Sri Lankan who was adopted by The Salvation Army—through the Army, I developed a strong faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
As a young man, I applied for Salvation Army officership and entered training college in 1983 as part of the Guardians of Truth Session. When I entered the college, Major Halsey was the training principal.
Over the past 30 years, I have served in various capacities: in corps, finance, candidates and youth, and social services. I have been divisional commander, training principal, social services secretary, program secretary, chief secretary and now territorial commander. Out of all these positions, it was a blessing to serve needy children throughout Sri Lanka as the social services secretary, because I grew up in a Salvation Army home and have experienced the loneliness of not having a father or a home of my own, and being separated from my siblings.
God has been good to me over the years and my heart's desire is to serve him faithfully, wherever I am, whatever the task, until the Lord whispers to me, “Come home.” I am determined to show love and care to the most needy people, to pray for the sick and the suffering, and to lift up the children to the Lord, asking for his blessings.
Colonel Nihal Hettiarachchi is the territorial commander of the India South Western Territory. For more information about The Salvation Army's child sponsorship program and how it helps children such as Nihal, click here.