Extract from “The Story of G.W.North” by Judith Raistrick
During his years at Auchenheath, GW's itinerary continued to expand to include Malaysia, Sicily, and perhaps most notably, Zimbabwe. Some of the leaves from the tree had fallen there in the form of John and Celia Valentine. True to form, GW. was a great encourager of the work there. Previously he had been to preach at John's invitation when John had been a missionary in Nigeria. Now GW enthusiastically took up the cause of Ameva Farm, as the place in Zimbabwe had been named.
'At Cliff Conference,' John reflects, 'he encouraged me to tell the people what my vision was for the work in Zimbabwe. He assured me that he would get behind me and felt that other people should do the same. It was really because of this that the whole thing became a possibility.'
G.W. gave the work a boost by taking up offerings, as well as publicising it by taking part in a promotional video.
John and Celia had gone from Liverpool fellowship in 1982, purchased an old tobacco farm near Chegutu in Northern Zimbabwe and set up an agricultural, chicken and cattle farm. On the farm they set up a Bible School, Primary school and a Weaving shed. later a Secondary School was added to this work and a building known as The Straw Church. All this was in conjunction with the Christian Marching Church of Zimbabwe. The farm has a huge acreage and includes a compound for the workers and a dam which supplies all the area's water needs.
John tells how the first time that GW went to teach at the Bible School, 'he said, "Give me one session" - there were four sessions every morning. The next day he said, “Give me two sessions” – there were four sessions every morning. The next day he wanted the whole morning' In the end he was doing all the teaching while he was there. In the evenings we'd have a general meeting, when everybody would come in, and that was wonderful, because he was really in his element. He loved that. They were tremendous times and I thank God for him because he was certainly an inspiration to me. He was my spiritual father. He had such a tremendous grasp of the Scriptures. Lots of people went out from the Bible School all over Africa. GW was instrumental in getting that work going.'
The Bible School at Ameva was run for five years by Martin Williams, GW's son-in-law. He and his family moved from Solihull to work at the farm. Marian Williams helped with the teaching in the Primary school and Bible School, at the same time providing hospitality for some of the many workers from various fellowships who were working temporarily on the compound.
After his 1993 visit to Ameva GW wrote an 'update' of his activities in which he reported: 'l was struck by the fact that over near the Kariba Darn among the Tonga tribe a great work is going on for God. These people were displaced from the valley in which the big Kariba Dam is storing up precious life-giving water for the people. These dear displaced people have received the Gospel, chiefly through the lips of two ex-students from Ameva. lt is reported that there is almost a revival going on there, in that within twelve months or so some forty preaching stations have been set up and a large building holding about two hundred has been erected.
The work is so encouraging, not only to the people there, but to everyone who, by labour or by giving of their substance, has enabled it to proceed in the name of the Lord. Dear John [Valentine] was very blessed by it, saying, "Man, Les like a Revival going on out there!" He intends to visit the place. They need encouragement; they need our prayers; they need what we cm, give them. What a wonderful opportunity!'
During a message preached in Warrington, GW stated, 'Ameva Farm and Bible School is one of the most wonderfully productive works I have visited in the world; it is an investment for God.' In the same message, in which he is appealing for workers for Zimbabwe, GW became rather scathing about people needing a 'call' before going to the mission field: 'The trouble with everybody is that they think they're very important. How many people in the Bible got a call? I don't think you'll be able to count to twenty. If you compile a list you'll find they were the very important people. Without saying so, or without thinking about it, you're saying, 'I'm very important!' Proof of this is that you think you must have a call like Paul or Elisha, or Hudson Taylor, or some other great man. Did you wait for a call to stay in England' God doesn't accept excuses. You and I are under a command. He said, "Go!" He did not say, "Wait for a call."'
It may be gathered from this that GW perhaps wished he were young again and able to go and work abroad, so great an impact did the work in Africa have on him.
'He loved teaching the students,' says John. It was indeed one of the great joys of his life to be able to have a part in the success of Ameva, which became a highly prosperous farm, as well as teaching centre, neighbouring farmers sometimes expressing a wish that they could send all their workers to Ameva schools. Although the work has suffered much during recent troubled times it is still continuing, though sadly at a reduced pace.