Couple from Georgia are new COs at Verwood Salvation Army
THE Salvation Army Corps at Verwood has new Commanding Officers to lead its members, Captains Eka and Giorgi Salarishvili with daughters Ketevan and Mariam took up residence in the village during July and are already settling in. The family is originally from Georgia, the independent State on the crossroads between Asia and Europe which was formerly part of the USSR – the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Relatively small (about twice the size of Belgium) it is bordered by Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and the Russian Republic with the Black Sea forming its western boundary. Dominated by towering mountains and boasting a fine coastline, their homeland is described by the new C/Os as: “Very beautiful” and is known as a kingdom full of history and hospitality.
Eka and Gia (an easier version of Giorgi) were brought up in the capital Tbilisi under Communist rule and it wasn’t until 1989 when Georgia declared itself independent ahead of the dissolution of the USSR in 1991 that many restrictions were lifted. Gia, then a student who sometimes went to the Orthodox Church, was given a Salvation Army leaflet at an open-air meeting. He read about Jesus and, at the end of 1994, became a Salvation Army soldier. In the meantime Eka was growing up in the same city with her family and first encountered the Salvation Army when, in 1993, some American officers came into Georgia bringing food and other supplies as times were hard for many people. She and Gia met – he by this time was Corps Sergeant Major – and Eka found the God she had been seeking and became a soldier in 1995, the year that they were married. The couple (Eka laughs that he is older than she is but it has worked out) had a daughter Ketevan but were soon moved to Finland where they stayed for two years. Describing it as: “A challenging time” with language difficulties and cultural differences, they returned to Georgia in 2000 where they took over a city Corps as Commissioned Officers. From 2003 until 2008 Gia had heavy responsibilities as Commanding Officer of a region and Eka was looking after youth/children and candidates but a move to the UK brought them, in 2009, to Sholing, Southampton. Once again a challenging time – Ketevan had a younger sister Mariam by this time and both started school speaking no English – and Eka and Gia themselves had to work hard at the language. Gia smiles ruefully and remarks that he is still struggling but two years in the area have made a great difference and, after a spell at Southern Division HQ, the family has quickly integrated into Verwood life and chat easily with the locals.
Describing England as: “Our second home,” Eka and Gia are great fans of traditional food, especially roast dinners, pies and puddings, while even the weather gets an enthusiastic response after the wonderful Summer. What do they miss about Georgia? Family, of course, both sets of parents still live there plus other family members whom they visit whenever possible. The world is a smaller place now with many forms of communication and Katy (easier to pronounce that Ketevan) and Mary (Mariam) plus Mum Eka embrace Facebook and Skype to keep in touch. The girls also help out with technology at Sunday morning worship and have soon made friends. Mary who has just turned 12 is happy at a local school and loves photography while Katy, soon to be 17, has started at Brockenhurst College. Studying dance, drama and psychology, she is sociable and outgoing which means that she – plus her beloved younger sister – can reach out to form a bridge to the youngsters in the village. All the family like Verwood and have found the people open and friendly, it is their fervent wish to be part of the community. Eka and Gia speak passionately of the desire to bring people to God and share fellowship and friendship with everyone, they promise that a warm Salvation Army welcome is guaranteed. Sunday morning worship takes place at the Memorial Hall at 10.30am and the entire family looks forward to meeting new friends.
Report and photo by Pat Scott
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