I have visited Ameva on five occasions, the first was in 1995, then 2002, 2010, 2011 and 2012. the first two I went to join work parties and help with building work but there was scope to share the gospel too. The last three trips were to teach the BTCP programme in the Bible school; although I was able to stay on and do two weeks practical work at the end of the 2011 visit
I995…this was for five weeks and was made up of a large team whose main task was to build a large accommodation block on the compound, although other work was undertaken.
My lasting memories are of our team leader Jim Bailey’s Hawaiian style shirt which he wore in the airport so we would all spot him [needless to say we did], the large Africa sun which was just rising as we walked across the tarmac on arrival at Harare and journey to the farm on the back of an open truck crammed with people [or so I thought at the time].
The project went well, and good progress was made on the building using a method of interlocking blocks made from compressed mud…its great to learn new things! It took me a while to get used to the fact it wasn’t going to rain all the time we were there [a big factor when you undertake building work in the UK]. I got to help fight a bushfire too along with my roommate Lawrence Richardson, it was something we both wanted to do and were able to on our last weekend there, I was also involved in a much more dramatic one in 2011.
As well as the building work there was outreach to the local farms, on one never to be forgotten occasion we set out on the open truck and picked up people on the way, they came through the bush singing and gladly climbed on board still singing. We kept stopping and picking up more and more, there were loads of happy children, I don’t know how they all got on board, but they found space somehow. Then there was the weekend preaching trip, we left early Saturday morning to drive north, I was in the first team to be dropped off at least that was the plan. I hadn’t seen very much of my dear friend John Valentine as he was extremely busy, and I was delighted to be seated between him and Jim Bailey in the front of the Land Rover. It wasn’t very far to the first place so my delight was only going to be short lived, however, we were short of fuel and every petrol station was closed, the gauge was going lower and lower and I was enjoying the exchanges between John and Jim. Eventually we were directed to a fuel depot, it wasn’t a retail place, and it was also closed. Undeterred John the master negotiator shouted until he got attention but was turned down flat and didn’t get any fuel, a container was thrown over the gate though so one of our party was sent off to walk to the road, wait for the bus into the nearest town and come back with the fuel, it all took hours so we had a wonderful afternoon of fellowship. Team one had a great time at their drop off preaching and sharing as did the others, we were picked up Sunday evening and shared our experiences and rejoiced all the way back, I got to catch up with my old friend after all.
Our trusty team leader had got a great deal on the tickets which included a free trip to Victoria Falls before we boarded for the UK, that was amazing.
My part in the 2002 trip was to work on the secondary school, I shared a room at the farm house with my friend Mickey Wright and he showed me how to use the mobile phone my family had supplied, we had a great time sharing together and had opportunity to preach on Sundays. On my first trip I had the pleasure of being invited to Ian and Elsie Gibson’s house, the swimming pool was pristine and the huge plants in the garden I recognised as the tiny house plants we had at home. Mickey took me swimming on one of the farms and assured me that most of the weed had been removed, I wasn’t so convinced but did get in only to get out quite quickly when I realized that we were sharing the pool/pond with creatures that were clearly resident there!
On the third and fourth trip I was accompanied by my wife and we travelled together with Terry and Fran Watson. The 2010 trip was delayed nine days by the Icelandic dust cloud event but we got there in the end, teaching in the Bible School and the Pastors Conference that year along with Peter and Sue Moffat from Liverpool. We were all able to visit Victoria Falls together before coming home. In 2011 Terry and I were able to do a full session in the Bible School without interruption and had a precious time with the students, we also got to speak at the CMC Ladies Conference that was being held at the farm. When the Watsons left for Malawi Shelagh and I stayed on and helped with practical things as well as various Bible studies, meeting up again with the Watsons in Johannesburg on the way home. The fifth trip in 2012 was with Peter Skinner from the Longcroft Church, we made a good team teaching together in the Bible School, again the students were a pleasure to be with and a delight to teach, I was invited to speak at the Ladies Conference again which was very well attended and it was a great experience to be amongst them.