The group gathered for the last time as 10 people at the 2 ACET vans with Emma and Ken for a "word" and a prayer led by Heather and Beccy. Ken was taking the Apac people, Andrew, Chris, Heather and Brian to the PAG offices in Kampala for the trip to Apac. There had been a change of plan (!) to take the group to Apac on Monday afternoon and spend 2 nights with Bishop Richard. Andrew will provide updates by text. We heard that when Ken arrived at the PAG offices no one knew that the group were to be picked up and it was a surprise to everyone that they were there! Welcome to Uganda!
The others, Beccy, Judi, Mandy, Nigel, Jill and Frank set off with Emma down the Jinja road to Kampala. There was lots of lively conversation, the trip flew by and the world was a much better place when we arrived at the Rahab refuge. Sophie, one of the older girls ran along the road to meet us as even Emma couldn't find the new house. Annette is in the US speaking about human trafficking so we were greeted by Alin (Spelling?) who is her deputy and Mummy Maureen who many visitors will remember. She did a wonderful job of hosting us and showed herself to be an excellent deputy to Annette. We sat round with the girls in the home, introduced ourselves and then Alin briefed us on the history of Rahab (about 300 girls have been through the home) and the current residents. There are 17 girls, 6 in primary school, 7 in secondary school (including Sophie and Faith who many visitors will remember) and 4 girls in rehabilitation as Alin termed it. This means the girls stay in the home, away from their former lives, learn crafts, play games, have their health checked, take part in the Bible studies and life of the home, in preparation for going to school. This can take 6 months or more and the girls are free to leave if they wish. Alin explained the re-settlement process of girls who graduate from the Rahab home. They go back to their homes to visit with Alin or Annette and possibly a social worker to make an assessment if the girls will be able to continue their new life away from prostitution. If not, Rahab works to re-settle the girls independently with their new skills.
We had some unstructured time when the girl talked in small groups with the visitors and looked at pictures from home, pictures of family and snow were particularly appreciated. The girls really opened up especially to the ladies and new bonds were formed. Judi, Beccy, Mandy and Jill agreed to be letter writers for the new girls. Leaving was difficult. Jill gave us a "word". She told the girls how the first time she visited Rahab Faith and Sophie hid, the second time they jumped into the van before it stopped and hugged and kissed everyone, this time they greeted the group like mature young ladies. Jill told them how they were represented in Philippians 1, 3-6 about he who began a good work. It was interesting that Alin challenged Sophie and Faith to respond to the other girls about what they had learned from what Jill said, and the Bible verse.
Just as we left Fiona arrived (the Scottish girl!) who many people will know. She is a very composed young lady who has just graduated with a BA in Business Administration and is looking for a job, what a triumphant transformation in her life!
On the way to the drop in centre we visited the hairdressing salon that a St James family funded Rahab to develop. It is a well fitted out shop staffed by Pauline and Zam the day we visited. The shop is a way of employing the girls with the hairdressing skill they have learned at the home or drop in centre. We also stopped at a market to buy Christoph 3 rolls of typical Ugandan material for the Christmas services.
The drop in centre was BUZZING when we arrived. 28 girls plus small children and babies, staff and volunteers, all actively involved in basket making, candle making and hairdressing. Our group was ushered into the office for introductions and a briefing by Alin and Chida (the accountant) before we met the girls. These girls are much more fragile in their relationship with Rahab. They come 2-3 times a week to learn income crafts and skills, discipleship, life skills training and counselling from the staff and volunteers. The drop in centre is still principally supported by St James with some personal supporters and support from local Kamapla charities. They seem to be making the St James money go further by using some partner American charities ("Arise")and volunteers to deliver programmes, e.g. life skills for free rather than being paid as in the proposal.
We moved in to the main room to be introduced. Alin asked all the girls to introduce themselves and say what activities they did, mostly basket making and hairdressing (closely linked in the African culture - think about it for a moment) Even the girl who was in the centre for the 1st time with her sister was encouraged to say her name in public by Alin, real tough love. I think only Mandy and Judy had introduced themselves and said they loved the babies and would love to hold one when all the mothers rose up in a single coordinated move and gave each one of us a baby to hold, and they got on with their work. So, our group learned about the activities of the centre while holding a baby (note - nappies are optional in Uganda culture) The introductions dissolved but the atmosphere was tremendous as our ladies learned to make baskets and braid hair and make candles, Nigel and Frank were a bit sidelined but still kept the babies.
It was so difficult to leave, but after a group photograph and emotional farewells we were back in the ACET van on the way to the hotel. It was just Frank and Jill who were booked in to the Sheraton but with some negotiation we were able to get towels for the room and passes for the pool changing rooms so the travellers, Beccy, Judi, Mandy and Nigel could get cleaned up for the flight back home. We had a final meal together under the stars, again lots of lively discussion and reflection on a wonderful trip, concluding with a true Ugandan pantomime as we tried to split the bill among everyone! Emma, God bless him, took the group to the airport for the trip home. On Tuesday Frank and Jill have meetings with ACET while the other group are in Apac.
By the time this email arrives the travellers will be home, we trust fit and well and excited by Love Africa!
Please pray for
The work of Rahab in reaching out to girls caught in the sex trade and transforming their lives one at a time.
Give thanks for the girls who have been transformed in faith, lifestyle, education
For Annette and Alin as they lead Rahab, that they are well funded and supported to develop this ministry
For the group in Apac for safe travel and that they may be an encouragement to the PAG staff, volunteers and beneficiaries
For the discussions with ACET staff, Paul, Emma and Amos the new accountant