Semi and Elizabeth Ratu are in their second week overseeing the running of Salvation Army Corps services in Ashburton and are fast making friends and settling in.
It is the first appointment for the husband and wife since graduating from the Salvation Army college in Wellington last ear.
Both are in their early thirties and have three children, aged nine, five and eight weeks and previously lived in Queenstown, where Elizabeth grew up.
Semi was raised in Fiji, where the couple married in 2012. His parents are Salvation Army officers over there.
Elizabeth’s family ties with the Sallies go back five generations and her parents are currently officers working in Tonga.
The couple said they were very excited by their first appointment and had been made to feel very welcome in their new home town.
“We’re driven through Ashburton many times, but didn’t know too much about until we checked it out and looked at schools over Labour Weekend.
“Our first impressions were very positive and we are so happy to be able to be a part of this community,” said Elizabeth.
The couple are co-officers and share the broad role, as did their predecessors, Mike and June Allwright.
They are responsible for the running of the church, the foodbank, community services and the family store.
Profits from the family store are used to support community services.
Semi said he was looking forward to networking and getting to understand the needs of the community over the coming months.
The couple hoped to partner with more local agencies and were investigating introducing the Salvation Army’s Aspire programme, which provided useful life skills to intermediate and college aged students.
supported people in the community and weekly church services were an important part of his role.
The Ratus posting in Ashburton could be for up to five years. One day in the future they hope to work in Semi’s homeland of Fiji.
For now the couple are making friends and looking forward to checking out the food and culture on offer at Multi Cultural Bite on Saturday.
-By Mick Jensen