Mike & Jane Haley write of their reflections after their arrival in Zimbabwe February 2006. This was a working party of quite a lot of guys with building skills, to do specific work in various area of Ameva Farm. It had also been very hard to get materials in Zimbabwe and was very costly. This did not stop John because on a visit to the UK, he noticed that a school was being knocked down and asked the site manager if he could have the materials. The guy said yes if he came and collected them himself. John got a loads of very good quality doors, lighting units and lots of other equipment, which came by container and took a long time.
Getting off the plane we were greeted by John which made quite an impression on us. John and his wife are beautiful people who made our stay so special. We landed in Harare and were told we all had to pay an entry fee of £50. We then went through the Xray machine and of course mine went off, the only airport in the world where this has happened. I had to go into a room and strip off. It was because I had had a hip replacement several years before.
Some of us who had not been before were very nervous because our bags were filled with tins of food that we had been asked to take out for Celia, also some had bibles. If we had been stopped it would probably have cost us a bribe or worse, but thankfully we went on our way without charges. On the journey from Harare to Ameva. On the way John stopped at a small shop to get some refreshments. This was the first shock because a can of coke started with a three and had a lot of noughts after it. This was the high cost of inflation on all products bought out there. When we arrived at Ameva we were introduced to Hebenizer the farm manager and his lovey wife and family. Jane and I met Eb in England when he came over for a trip with the secondary school head Shepherd.
It was amazing what Celia managed to serve up every night in the way of food. I remember we had a little bottle of Piri Piri sauce that although it was used by so many it managed to last the whole time we were there. A small miracle. The following day we were allocated jobs to do round the farm and I paired up with the infamous Mickey Wright, which was a real highlight for me, and although we have not met much it’s has been an enduring friendship. We were also allocated a lovely local lady who washed our clothes and cooked breakfast, which consisted of a porridge but was certainly a bit grittier.
I remember Mickey and I had to knock down a brick construction, which was without power tools, very hard work. There were some over tools but of course electricity was in short supply and could be off up too easily twelve hours. Jane and I were allocated a room in Johns farmhouse, which had not been used for a long time. Jim and Margaret also had a room in the main house with some other church leaders. After looking around our room we found that the walls were covered in spiders which were large round things that move sideways, and I mean covered the walls. We did not ask how old the bed was but probably pre-Victorian.
Evenings were spent together eating a meal that Celia had prepared and then meeting in one of the brick-built huts about fifty yards away from us for a bible study and worship, then some board games. Jane was allocated the job of organising the assemblies in both the junior and senior schools, and also giving out clothes that had arrived in the container. Mickey and I were asked to change the doors at the junior school. This should have been a simple job apart from the fact that nothing was square, and the frames were made from metal with concrete poured inside that was like a donkey’s hind leg, because they had blown in various areas. This was when Mickey came to the fore and although very slow we got the work done.
Another issue was that if we wanted some screws or drills if electric was on, was to find John and go to his store to get it. Finding John became a game that took a long time, reason being everything was under lock and key because of pilfering. On one occasion i went to the store with John which was an old container. Inside was loads of insects flying around that ours in England look minute. Not pleasant. Among this stuff was a very old settee that as you touched it crumpled under you. I asked why he keep it, and he said he had promised to store it for an old lady who had left the farm, but hopefully would come back. Just the integrity of the man stuck with me.
Of course, Mickey and I were carrying out the work during the school times with lots of kids in them classrooms. They were very interested in what we were doing and came out and watched during break times. I got them to say Lovely Jubbly and rub their hands together as we did the work. So all the kids were going around saying Lovely Jubbly, and of course John came up to me and said that they was trying to teach them English not slang.
One morning I led an assembler at the senior school and talked about Moses and the Red Sea with Pharaoh chasing them. I had one group being the Israelites and another being the Egyptians. The final bit was the Egyptians being overcome by the waves, which was another group of lads. What could have been carnage turned out to be a lovely time with these boys. Imagine trying to do this with some of our secondary kids.