A well known couple from Ripon have completed their first month of teaching in north Uganda.
Cathie and John Rutter flew out in February to pursue their African dream and teach through the Church Mission Society for two years, after living in Ripon for almost four decades.
The Rutters were originally going out to teach at Kajo Keji Bible College in South Sudan, but due to outbreaks of violence and unrest in the town, have only been able to go as far as Moyo in north Uganda, residing at the college's temporary premises.
Speaking to the Gazette from Moyo, Cathie shared their experiences so far, and said it is likely they will have to stay there long term.
She said: "There is still active fighting, the nearby town has been virtually destroyed, so it's still far from safe. So our temporary shelter in Moyo is likely to be long term.
"People are very friendly and welcoming, though there is a lot to adjust to. We have a large house but with limited facilities - no fridge, only a one ring camping stove, and no furniture on arrival.
"But we are blessed with running water which is a huge gift here, and now have solar panels supplying power - except in thunder storms when we have to turn it off. So we are very thankful.
"We've learned to appreciate simple things, like an occasional cold drink, the joy of a cold shower at the end of a hot day, receiving our first letter and parcel from friends in Ripon, the kindness of a local Archdeacon visiting us regularly with gifts of mangos.
"It's been a challenge to find the right level teaching here, and there is a lot of variation in their English skills. They are certainly very appreciative of us being here, but it's hard to assess impact. If the political situation isn't resolved it is likely several will be ministering in refugee camps - others will return to less troubled but very poor areas of South Sudan, where pastors are unpaid."
Even in their first month, Cathie and John said some of what they have seen and heard has been really eye-opening and shocking at times.
Cathie said: "Hearing stories from staff and students about conditions for their families in the camps has been shocking. Schools of 2000 with hardly any teachers or space, one latrine for 87 people - as well as a lack of water, food and medicines. We've yet to visit a camp but hope to do so soon and will send a report."
After living in Ripon for 36 years, Cathie is very aware of how far away from home they are.
"Ripon does feel a long way away - mentally and emotionally, as well as physically. Though we have been welcomed, we are strangers to the culture, customs and language here , so in some ways we feel quite isolated - though work takes up most of our time, which is fine.
"We enjoy walking into town together, doing our market shopping, greeting many people, and just enjoying being here - it's a beautiful place."
After featuring in the Gazette before flying out, the Rutters were contacted by a number of readers who have come to known them over the years through serving Ripon in various roles over the years.
John taught at St Aidan’s High School for 21 years and has also served as a minister at St John The Baptist Church, Bondgate. Both Cathie and John have worked at the Holy Trinity Church, where a special farewell service was held for them.
Aware of the support back home, Cathie had this message for readers: "Life here is simpler but much harder, so we would urge readers to remain aware of and open-hearted towards people escaping from violence and poverty."