Martin & Marian write “1988 was the year when having sold up in the UK and waited for about 18 months for permission to come to Zimbabwe from the authorities, Marian and I plus our 11 year old daughter arrived at Ameva Farm. It was a totally new experience for the ‘ ladies’. John and Celia made us very welcome and our accommodation was part of the old farmhouse with a kitchen, large living room which had once been a sort of dance room, and three bedrooms. There were eggs and milk from the farm. One of the best times in our lives was about to begin! And I believe we would still be there had it not been that after the expiry of our 3 year permit, and a long ‘fight’ to try and extend our time,(which we managed to do for a further 3 years) and gain permanent residence the authorities gave us 3 days to leave Zimbabwe or become prohibited immigrants.
It was such a blessed time back in the day. From every corner of Zimbabwe young men came for interview in answer to our newspaper adverts. In those days most made their way to Ameva following a written application and provided they had a working knowledge of English, (which was usually the case), following an interview they were accepted. In those days the fees were Z$50 per term for lessons every morning, Mon to Fri, from 8.00am to 12.00 pm. The afternoons were occupied by the students helping with farm work to contribute to their upkeep. There were eggs and chickens and meat from a local butcher available and after a while I oversaw the production of a flock of goats which where shepherded by a couple of students in the afternoons and which from time to time were killed for their meat.
Life was good for the students and although there were occasions grumblings about food, (students being the same all over the world), they generally left for their homes fatter than when they arrived! If any student wanted to work for pocket money this could be done on a Saturday. To me the Bible School with its lessons, practical work, compulsory attendance at fellowship meeting in Chegutu, opportunities for evangelism on surrounding farms, discipling etc. seems just about the best that could be under all the circumstances. Our course was for two years with about 20 students when I arrived and which we doubled over the next years. We were much aided by gifts and equipment sent regularly from the U.K. It was for me a real joy to be able to ‘kit out’ poor young men with jackets, shirts and trousers so that they could be presentable at their graduation.
Meanwhile my wife did some teaching in the primary school and attended frequently to the medical needs that presented themselves at our kitchen door! Binding wounds, administering anti-malarial drugs, even filling teeth temporarily! Thankfully there was a kind registered nurse who popped in every now and then. Marian formed a student choir and also taught some to play guitar. The acting out of Pilgrim’s Progress was hilarious at times.
Ameva Farm and Bible School was run in association with The Christian Marching Church of Zimbabwe which came out of the Salvation Army’s work in the country. The CMC often provided candidates for the Bible School who would then be put into ministry with their churches. But others came from Assembly of God, Baptist, Presbyterian backgrounds to name just a few. After a while I began to visit these ex-students travelling all over the country. It was great to see them operating in their own sphere with their flocks-sometimes just a handful of people sometimes hundreds. I believe it became known that Ameva was a good place to train. The Lord was helping us greatly at this time. Sadly within a few years some of the best ex-students succumbed to Malaria.