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July 25-Faith Journey-Ariarani Ariaratnum

Summertime by George Gershwin; Bob Hudgins

You are Mine by Douglas Haas; Sandi and Bethany McMullan

My Faith Journey 

Ariarani Ariaratnam 

I was born in 1938 in a small village in the northern part of Sri Lanka — which was then called Ceylon. Most of the families there were Hindus, but a small number (including mine) were Christians. We worshipped at a small but lovely church that rang a bell to remind us about services. 

My parents had eight children — two girls and six boys. My mother was a fourth-generation Christian but my father was a Hindu who had become a Christian in order to obtain an English-school education. My father eventually became a non-believer but my mother was very pious and concentrated on raising her children as Christians. She would gather all of us at the end of the day for prayers and made us memorise many psalms and hymns. We grew up going to church and Sunday school regularly. This was a strong foundation for the beginning of my faith journey. 

When I was thirteen years old, I was sent to a Christian boarding school for my grade 11 and 12 education. The school was supported by the Church of England and we followed the Anglican hymn and prayer books. The boarding students had daily evening prayers as a group and personal devotion in the mornings. On Sundays we had communion service and evensong at night. This was the second step in my faith journey — strengthening my earlier years of Christian life. 

After grade 12, I experienced a big life change. I left home and entered Women’s Christian College in Madras for my university education. I was only 15 at the time and was very homesick. So I spent a lot of time reading the Bible and praying. The college had a beautiful chapel and we had chapel service every morning before classes began. For those of us who stayed in residence, we 

attended chapel service every evening as well. An interesting activity for student volunteers was to go to the local Indian villages and conduct Sunday school for the Hindu children. I was one of the volunteers who taught the village children and it was a joy to see them wait happily for the arrival of our bus. It was a very rewarding experience. I was also involved with the Student Christian movement and it was nice to interact with students from other colleges. Another part of my faith journey in college was that I was elected to represent religious affairs in the Senate, which was the student body that oversaw college affairs. This was the third step in my faith journey and I was able to grow a lot in my faith in college. I returned home to Sri Lanka a mature woman, having earned a Bachelor’s degree and a better understanding of my Christian faith. 

After college, I became a high school teacher for boys and girls not too far from my home. It was a Christian school and I was able to teach Christianity, however most of the students were Hindus and they did not attend the Christianity classes. As I prepared my lessons, I was able to gain a deeper understanding of the gospels. After a couple of years at this school, I was transferred to a Hindu school with only four teachers and five students who were Christian. The school had an assembly with a Hindu worship. We Christians were excused from the assembly. Instead, we would stand under a tree and have our own worship service for 30 minutes. We would recite a psalm, sing songs and pray. This was an important part of my faith journey as I was exposed to another religion and was able to continue to practice my own religion. 

My life took a major turn in the summer of 1965. Ariam had come to Sri Lanka to visit his parents that summer on his vacation from the University of Waterloo. He was an eligible bachelor and I was a smart teacher. We got married in our small country church and the papers for my immigration were obtained without any problem. 

I arrived in Canada on a Saturday night. I had always attended Sunday church services. So I woke up Sunday morning and told Ariam to get ready for church. In the three years he had been in Waterloo as a bachelor he had never gone to church. He had no idea where to go. But then he had the bright idea of looking in the yellow pages for the nearest church to our apartment. He called Parkminster and the minister, Reverend John Moore, answered the phone. He told us they had two services every Sunday at 9:30 and 11. So we quickly got ready for the 11 o’clock service, me in my Sri Lankan sari and Ariam in his Sunday best. We were given a very warm welcome that day and I was very happy that God had brought me to a church where I could continue on my faith journey surrounded by kind and loving people. 

In my early days at Parkminster I taught Sunday school, and was President of the United Church Women and a leader for the CGIT. In addition, I served as an Elder for the church and participated in many retreats and workshops. I was also able to extend my faith by getting involved in race-relations and multi-cultural work in the community, refugee settlement and job training for immigrant women. All of these experiences were part of my journey and I thank the Lord for guiding me through this phase of my life. 

My present day faith journey has changed not only because of the pandemic but also because I have a hard time hearing and walking long distances. However, I’m thankful that I can continue to worship and practice my Christian faith from home with the help of technology. 

Finally, I owe 56 years of my faith journey at Parkminster to the many ministers and other women and men who have supported me, cared for me and my family, and shown their love in so many ways. Some have departed this world, setting examples of good discipleship. To one and all, a big thank you and God bless you!