We thank the Lord that He called us to be part of the work that He was doing at Ameva in Zimbabwe. We had opportunities there which we would not have had in the U.K., e.g. selling eggs and chickens at Whiteheads and the mines at Chakari, taking the school pupils in an open truck for a tour around Harare Airport which included speeding down the runway in a fire engine. Also, preaching the gospel in the reserve lands with Kasbert and Nathan Gombakomba and visiting remote areas of Zimbabwe to minister to churches with Ebenezer and Kasbert.
However the greatest privilege was to have a daily input into the lives of the children. One of the earliest memories of our time at Ameva was seeing Mr. Chambo with his hand on his daughter’s head, listening intently as we talked about setting up the school on the compound. Mr. Chambo later became a Bible school student at Ameva Bible college. His daughter Twape later qualified as a teacher and has taught at Ameva Secondary School for several years. The success of the school’s project throughout was due to the prayerful support of John Valentine’s leadership and a devoted team of workers from those who taught and those who built and equipped the schools.
We were involved in the early stages of the primary school when we were helped on the compound by Kasbert Magaya and Nathan Gombakomba, two Bible school students. We were also helped at the school in its present site by Alice Mamu and Chenai. Later Kasbert helped Celia for several years in the primary school.
We returned to Ameva in 1991 to set up the Secondary School. We started using the Bible school hall with the help of Sarah and Toni who had come from the U.K. to help with the science and English. Later other visitors helped and once the school was registered the building programme had to keep up with the yearly additional pupils.
While giving us a free hand to develop the educational side of the school John Valentine gave his tireless support to the project. His negotiating ability with the African authorities was memorable. The Lord gave him favour with many. Mr. Tshuma was willing to drive thousands of kilometers to collect the necessary wood and cement.
The Lord gave us some African Christian teachers and a dedicated staff to work with us. Two experienced specialist teachers came from the U.K., Julian Seaton came and set up a metal work department and Bryn Vaughan designed the lay out of the science laboratory and he set up the department. All the equipment and furniture for the school was kindly provided from UK.
My greatest asset for the school was when we acquired Shepherd Ziramba to come to the school as Deputy headmaster. Prior to this he was the Headmaster of a school out in the reserves. He was a real brother in the Lord as well as a loyal colleague. His grandmother had come to the Lord through Pentecostal missionaries and he was actively involved in the Youth for the Assemblies of God.
The school developed up to Form 4 level at which stage the pupils took their “O” level exams. By 1998 it was evident that I should hand over the headship to Shepherd and we had plans to stay on in an advisory capacity and develop projects for the school- leavers who had been unable to find employment. The education authorities supported this but the Immigration turned down our application for permanent residency. So in 1999 we returned to the U.K.
It is the Lord’s work and He chooses our path.
Shepherd Zirbamba has steered the school through the difficult times in the country and has developed ‘A’ level courses in the school. Despite offers of promotion he has chosen to stay with the school.
We did further visits to Ameva to help and at times taught in the Bible school. Lasting friendships and fellowships were cemented through our time there and the Lord was always faithful to us.
A memory from one of our more recent visits was when there was no fuel available. John and Celia were in the U.K. and we had to take a vehicle to Harare to get to the airport and to leave the vehicle for John&Celia for when they returned. We tried for days to get fuel without success and then we heard that John Eastwood one of the few white farmers, still on his farm had some diesel. Martha and I went to ask if he would kindly sell us 50 litres of diesel. He replied, “I will give you the diesel because you gave my son some maths lessons years ago. Martha shed tears of joy and relief.
Life moves on and as we go on this journey of life perspectives do change. Some things surface in our minds as a result of our experiences in that life.
My, indeed, our experience of life at Ameva farm was as a result of our obedience to God. Part of it for me was a fulfillment in my personal life.
We loved the work of the schools and the interaction with parents, children and indeed colonials. Most people in our churches at home know about the farm project with schools, bible schools etc which were originally founded by the Valentine family in conjunction with Bishop Gobvu of the Christian Marching church (CMC).
So when we were called by God to go there, there was already a house for us to live in and also we were part of a happy Community with the farm, and fellowship all in place and run by capable people.
We spent in all, twenty years there of our lives, and today, we just thank God for the opportunity to have served in that place. Everything suited us, ofcourse in the Christian life, it is the rough with the smooth!
Carol German once wrote a hymn, “Jesus Thy cross is sweet to me...”
Indeed Ameva was a sweet experience.
One comment is etched in my memory: On one occasion the Bishop said, “Martha is a mother.” That was the best compliment that I ever had had.
Not having ever had had children of my own, I was satisfied with the bishop’s testimony of my life.