As it is with the regular military, serving as an officer with the Salvation Army means frequent moves from one community to another.
Now in their 10th year with the Salvation Army, Capts. Pradeep and Priscilla Ramaji are finding their fourth assignment different from the previous ones.
The Ramajis arrived in Columbus at the end of June, but this is the first week they’ve been in their new office in Columbus.
For the couple, who immigrated to the U.S. from their native India in 2000, this change means leaving behind not only relationships in the communities they served during assignments in Virginia and Maryland, but moving away from family.
The Ramajis have two adult children, both of whom work in the Washington, D.C. area, who had always been within a short drive of their parents.
“We left our country to come to America,” Pradeep said. “Now, we’ve left our children, too. But the relationship is still in our heart. We can still call each other, but saying goodbye is always difficult.”
The parting does not appear to have dampened the couple’s enthusiasm for their new assignment, though.
“We are brand new to Columbus and excited to come here,” Priscilla said. “We love people and we love to serve God and we’re very happy to be able to do that in Columbus.”
The Ramajis take over from Lt. Christian Smith, who served as the commander in Columbus for almost two years.
Smith was something of an exception. Most commands are held by married couples. For the Ramajis, that means they’ll divide responsibilities.
“My husband will be doing the administrative work and I’ll be doing the programs,” Priscilla said.
The administrative work includes overseeing the operations of the Salvation Army thrift store, fund-raising programs like the Angel Tree and Red Kettle campaigns and handling the finances.
“My attention will be on our programs like our back-to-school, outreach and youth programs,” she said.
And, of course, as pastors, the Ramajis will be conducting regular worship service at its chapel as well as a youth service.
“COVID-19 has been a challenge for the Salvation Army since so much of what we do is face-to-face with the people we serve,” Pradeep said. “But we are excited that we can hold our regular service, if we limit the number of people to 20. We want to hold that service, but our youth service will continue to be (virtual).”
For Priscilla, the biggest difficulty COVID-19 has presented has been the lack of intimacy.
“We have a lot of love for people in our hearts and it’s a great joy to express that,” she said. “I miss personal contact. That’s the hardest part of it all for me.”
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is email@example.com.
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