We have just returned from Ameva where we went with a small team for three weeks from 19th Jan - 10th February 2006. I haven't written a newsletter like this since I went out for the first time 17 years ago but what I've experienced I would like to share with all the friends who support, practically and prayerfully, Ameva.
My first encounter with Chegutu this year was a shock that a town could change so drastically in one year since I was last there. Shops had shut; there were a lot less people on the streets than normal when shops had food in; people were down to buying essentials only. The British pound to the Zimbabwe Dollar was £1 to Z$169,000 when we arrived; when we left it was £1 to Z$178,000. Going up to Ameva from the town, the roads had deteriorated terribly (as it was the rainy season the roads became worse while we were there).
It was lovely to be back at Ameva, but the situation in the country has affected the farm. People we know well looked thinner, and some of the children (remembering that they come from surrounding farms and Chegutu) were in rags with no shoes - a real backward step, but still better off than the other farms in the area. I went over to the primary school to see the children having some milk. One teacher pointed out children she knew that, by the look of them, were malnourished.
I was involved in giving out clothes to orphans and their extended family mums, ladies and babies from the compound, and some secondary school boys who had no uniform for school. I cannot remember feeling so humble, especially when they were so grateful.
John and Celia are amazing - there are continue knocks on their front door. People are often coming for help - either food or medical help. They do what they can. They have to be careful what they do as they will be labelled as supporting the opposition party which is untrue as they are not involved in the politics at all. It is such a shame there is so much we could do but at this moment in time they are very wise and look to God in what they should be doing.
On the second week of our stay the transformer for the electricity was struck by lightening, causing the whole of Ameva to be without electricity for 6 days plus no drinking water in one of the houses we were using which was still the same when we left. We had borehole water filtered or boiled and friends from a neighbouring farm and dear Ian and Elsie supplied us with churns of water. In a way I think it made us realize how folk in Africa have it so bad without water. For myself I think it was the first time I appreciated water so much and realized its importance, instead of taking it for granted. John went to Harare three days running and managed to get a temporary transformer while they repaired his (this is the job of the Electricity Board but there wasn't one in the country). We still had power cuts through the storms and when the electricity came on again we were absolutely delighted.
There are many things I could say about what we saw that was upsetting, but I bless God because spiritually it was a wonderful time. It was wonderful to go to the church in Chegutu on a Sunday morning and see the place packed out, remembering there are no students there at the present time; it was wonderful to be there. After that meeting, we would go off to the township and speak in the churches of young ex-students from Ameva, who are now taking the responsibility of pastoring churches. It was a real privilege to be there. In the afternoons a few of the team would go off to a local farm with Ebenezer, and they all came back blessed by being there. We had a three-evening crusade where people came up from Chegutu and surrounding farms. Mickey Wright and Jim spoke and God really blessed and challenged us.
The three weeks went very quickly. The Bible College Hall was painted and new electricity was instilled by Brian Molyneaux from Warrington with the help of John Quigley from Tralee, south Ireland. The painting was done by Kenny Dixon, James Haley and Richard Wakeford from Eltham. Kenny also went around the schools, with James and Richard, coaching the boys football, at the end he had another competition with the schools, I am sorry to say Ameva came second, but the best team did win, Micky Wright and Mike Haley (Eltham) fitted about a dozen doors in the primary school plus other bits and pieces that came up. Jane Haley was in charge of the assemblies for both primary and secondary school, and most people on the team had an assembly to do. James and Richard enjoyed it immensely acting out roles from the Bible and the children enjoyed it even more. Jane and I helped with the cooking and tried to be available to Celia as best we could. Jim was involved with various churches, taking Bible studies plus lots of catching up with old friends and generally organizing activities and taking us shopping (which is a big thing with such a lot of money on you because of the exchange rate). Members of the team visited a youth reformatory in Kadoma and also a blind children’s home in Kadoma with Pastor Anderson, who is very involved in prison ministry. We are hoping he gets the support he needs to continue in this valuable work.
We were really encouraged by a conversation with the primary school headmaster who told us that teachers were keen to join Ameva because of the facilities made available from the two containers sent at the end of last year. Jim realized, as he spoke at the secondary school assembly on our last day, how much God had done in this district by providing a school where there was nothing. He encouraged the children not only to make it the best school in Chegutu, not only in Mashonaland, but in Zimbabwe. These schools have been such a tremendous testimony of Christianity in action.
Thank you, friends of Ameva, for your continued love and support. Please pray for Zimbabwe as a whole that God would come and turn the country around. We know that He is the only answer.