December 14, 2017

Debbie Hough

Director of Christian Education


By the time you read this, we will be very nearly half way through Advent. It does not seem possible that the time of waiting can go so fast and yet so slow. For myself, I am still somewhere in late October or early November. My trip to Pakistan was fabulous, but I came home sick and am still dealing with this viral thing now four weeks later. I missed Thanksgiving!

But, even with the time spent blowing my nose and sleeping, I wouldn’t have changed anything. This was my second trip to Pakistan, and returning to a place that was familiar, yet different, was remarkable. I was reacquainted with old friends and made a few new ones. My traveling companions included mostly Friends of PEB board members (Margy Trimble, Jamie Williams, Molly Hundley, and me), Molly’s sister, Nancy Ege, Rev. Diane Fitch (from Abingdon Presbyterian Church), and Derry’s own Dr. Tom Davis.

Tom was the rock star on this trip:  he was the only man, a doctor and retired military, what a combination in Pakistan! Tom got to see a few things that the rest of us didn’t, so he will have to tell you about his experience. But I also got to do some things that the others did not. This was because I represent the Friends of SHE. Friends of SHE is Nicola Burke and myself and includes most of the contents in Room 13. All of the products made by the women in Pakistan that SHE/SHA (a part of the Presbyterian Education Board of Pakistan) works with are shipped to Derry Presbyterian Church and then we ship them to churches all over the country.

My private excursions left me in Sangla Hill as the others went on to Martinpur. I had the opportunity to spend time at the SHE headquarters and meet all the staff. These amazing people travel to villages to help the women learn life skills and the men learn better ways to treat the women. They also run a shelter on the Sangla Hill campus that helps young women who have escaped horrific situations at home and gives them skills to better themselves. I had the chance to sit in a room with these young women and their mentor, Agnes, and all I could offer them was some encouragement and to call them brave. I really can’t imagine what they have gone through on their way to this shelter.

I was also taken to someone’s home in a village and a crowd was waiting – not only to meet me – but to watch a demonstration on how to tie-dye. The electricity went out as soon as we got there, so they did it mostly in the dark. Young women presented me with a welcome dance and an older woman came and sat beside me to give me some baskets she had woven. It was very humbling! When we got into the van to leave, women came to the door and asked if they could give me a hug. Back out we went and the gifts of hugs was again humbling.

From there we drove to another village and somehow got through on something that might have been a road at one time, but was now an obstacle course! From an opening between buildings, we viewed a small green field. I was told that the person who owned this field had given it to PEB to build a Village Primary school. There are no schools nearby, so the children playing there would face a life of illiteracy if no school was built. I was the dignitary present, so I got the privilege of cutting the ribbon and opening a lock with a key. Then I offered some words on behalf of the Friends of PEB and the Presbyterian Church (USA) – words I hope SHE/SHA director Gulnaz Rauf  was able to translate and make meaningful to those present. We had tea in the tiny, tiny one-room Presbyterian church on site and then drove away.

Back in Sangla Hill, the women of the SHE Project presented me with a gorgeous salwar kameez they made just for me – I will wear it proudly to show you some time. They also took the time to show me how they embroider, block print, hand paint, and bead. We couldn’t share much with words, but they said a lot!

These were just a few of the experiences I had on my trip. I am looking forward to a time or two in the upcoming months when I can “take” you to Pakistan, too!

It will be wonderful to think of those Christians in Pakistan, our brothers and sisters, who will be celebrating Christmas a little earlier (about 10 hours actually) than us. And now a new waiting begins during Advent – waiting for a time when I can return. Would you like to go along?