One year on - we find out how a well known Ripon couple are finding teaching in Uganda

Cathie and John Rutter.
Cathie and John Rutter.

It's been almost a year since Ripon residents Cathie and John Rutter travelled to Uganda to start two years of teaching - but how are they getting on, and how was their visit home for Christmas?

After 36 years of living in Ripon, the Rutters flew out to Kajo-Keji Christian College to relive their African dream and help others, having already lived in Nigeria for two years in their twenties to teach at a secondary school.

Through the Church Mission Society, John has been teaching biblical studies and preaching at the college, while Cathie has been working for the principal and helping out in the diocesan office.

Their original plan was to be based in South Sudan, but the college had to be relocated to Uganda due to ongoing violence and conflict.

Cathie and John's time teaching there has certainly been interesting and varied - with a visit from the Archbishop of Canterbury, and visits to a nearby refugee camp housing 185,000 people.

As well known faces around Ripon - John serving as a minister at St John The Baptist Church and teaching at St Aidan's High School for 21 years, with both playing an active role in the life of Holy Trinity Church, many friends, family members and residents have been closely following newsletters and web updates from the couple, who have been busily charting their adventures.

Their return to Ripon over Christmas brought mixed feelings for the Rutters, who return to Uganda at the end of the month for the final year there.

Cathie said: “Being back in Ripon has been a joyful and yet in some ways unsettling experience. We’re thankful to have been so warmly welcomed back into this community and we’ve experienced huge interest and support, yet it’s also challenging to suddenly be in the midst of so much provision and choice.

"It’s so familiar and yet so alien to the world we currently live in. We no longer fit in as we used to, because we are different."

But although they are so far from home with many differences in culture, Cathie and John do draw some comparisons.

John said: "We live in a 'Ugandan Ripon' - a small market town in the remote rural north of Uganda near the South Sudanese border, where we can meet and greet many familiar faces as we wander from our house along rural paths, edged by tukuls, round traditional thatched houses into town, with its daily market, bank and many small shops."

The reality of life at the college has been a reminder to never take anything for granted.

Cathie said: "We teach and work with over 30 South Sudanese students who are in exile in Uganda. Many of their families live on the refugee camp nearby in inadequate temporary housing, with insufficient food, water, health facilities and education.

"Their hope, prayer and dream is to return to their homes and land. Yet, as conflict continues, there seems no possibility of that in the near future. How much we take for granted our homes, security and facilities."

There have been both highs and lows a-plenty over the last year, but the experience has been unforgettable for Cathie and John.

John said: "A high point has been developing friendships with these amazingly resilient people who endure so much, yet miss family and friends back home, and having the privilege of visiting the camps on several occasions and experiencing the joy of people worshipping in the churches there - yet seeing the depth of pain in their eyes.

"Thank you to all the folk in Ripon who are supporting us with prayers, messages, and donations - we are very grateful.”

To stay up to date with the work that the Rutters are doing, visit: https://cjrutterss.wordpress.com