The visit to Sri Lanka by the Chief of the Staff (Commissioner William Roberts) and Commissioner Nancy Roberts (World Secretary for Women's Ministries) included public meetings and private gatherings that gave the visitors opportunity to share their experience of the Army's worldwide mission.
Territorial Commander Commissioner Malcolm Induruwage, with other senior leaders, met the visitors at the airport in Colombo on Thursday. The next day began with a visit to The Haven, a home which provides services to the socially marginalised. From there the visitors went to the training college where they met staff and cadets, and took time to look at the historical records and photographs on display.
Later, the international leaders had dinner with five heads of churches in Sri Lanka and representatives from the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka, the Bible Society and Colombo Theological Seminary. The Bishop of Colombo, the Rt Rev Dhiloraj Canagasabey, spoke on behalf of the church representatives. He talked with enthusiasm about being influenced towards Christ by The Salvation Army when he was a student attending a Salvation Army Sunday school.
The Chief of the Staff offered appreciation to the church leaders for the way they work alongside The Salvation Army. He spoke about about The Salvation Army’s mission and the forthcoming 150th anniversary celebrations, explaining how the International Congress came to have the theme Boundless.
The next day the international visitors travelled, under police escort provided by the Government, to the Booth Tucker Memorial Hall in Rambukkana – more than 100 kilometres from Colombo.
After a brief public meeting in Rambukkana with religious and Government dignitaries, Salvationists and friends marched to Booth Tucker Memorial Hall, accompanied by Kandyan dancers, elephants, flag bearers and Colombo Central Corps Band. In a show of unity and support, the gathering was addressed by the Chief Incumbent of the Rambukkana Buddhist Temple, Ven Halpitiyae Rathnawansa, Roman Catholic Priest Father Roshan and the Deputy Minister of Industries and Commerce, the Hon Mr A.D. Premadasa. The Chairman and Vice Chairman of Rambukkana Provincial Council were also present.
At the meeting in Booth Tucker Memorial Hall, Commissioner Nancy Roberts adressed the congregation of more than 1,700 Salvationists and friends. She stressed the importance of trusting in God and experiencing him as refuge and fortress.
In his Bible message, the Chief of the Staff told the congregation that if God was not with his people they would have got lost long ago! He emphasised the command found in Psalm 124: 'Do not forget God; love him and serve him always.'
Later in the day the Chief spoke to 350 young people at the youth rally. He reminded them that when Jesus called the disciples, they followed in obedience, not stopping to worry what would happen to their work and families. He encouraged the young people to listen to the voice of Jesus and follow him.
At the territorial women's rally, Commissioner Nancy Roberts’s message to the 700-strong congregation was to 'go to the people, live by example and share God’s boundless love with humanity'.
The next day, Sunday, included the commissioning and ordination of the cadets of the Heralds of Grace Session by the Chief of the Staff. His words of advice to the new officers were, he explained, the same advice given by the apostle Paul to Timothy: stay close to God, preach the gospel and continue to serve God.
In her Bible message, Commissioner Nancy Roberts encouraged everyone present to be passionate for God. She explained that God gave his begotten son because he was passionate about saving his people. In the same way, she said, we too should show our passion for others by learning and teaching God’s word.
During the meetings through the weekend, around 60 people showed their passion for God by kneeling at the mercy seat.
Returning to Colombo, the visitors led officers councils attended by 125 retired and active officers. Then, shortly before leaving to head to Bangladesh, the Chief and Commissioner Nancy Roberts were interviewed for state TV.