I made my first trip to Ameva with Dave Weatherly back in January/February 1986. A long time ago now. I traveled from the US to London, met up with Dave and we traveled together to Germany, Italy, Zambia and finally Zimbabwe. We were there to help with things at the Bible college. I also pitched in wherever I could with things around the farm and school with construction of any sort. The Valentines were back in England for a few weeks then but Keith and Christine Kelly were there. I remember their little son with them also. I recall how they always called him “little treasure.” I greatly enjoyed my experience with the bible school students. I think we had 12. Teaching in the mornings and working in the afternoons.
I remember rooming for a week or so with a lad from England. I think his name was Andy.. And also meeting a teen age boy from the compound named Shephen Mbewe. Hello Shephen.
During a few of the open air meetings I spoke at my good friend from the Bible college interpreted for my. Kasbert Magiyah (spelling). I also remember running into a local which doctor at the open market. We had quite a dialoged. The first of his kind I had ever met. I did my best to persuade him he needed to trust in Christ alone and not a false god or spirit.
I was there for 5 weeks with Dave. What a blessing my time with Dave was. I remember the night before we left there was a small sendoff party and Dave at his usual stood up and said he and I would bless the group with a duet. The problem was as I stood up to join him in song, he began a song I did not know.. I tried my best. The last few days the Valentine’s returned so I was able to meet them and visit with them a bit. A great pleasure and honor.
I loved the students and all the folks at the farm and compound. I found as I left I had been blessed far beyond what I may have delivered. This was a reoccurring theme of my visits. Always being for blessed than the blessing I gave.
I was able to return the Africa in Jan/Feb for a 5 week stay again and this time I was so happy to be able to bring my wife with me. We remember stepping off the plane and hearing this booming voice come across the tarmac, “praise God Tom.” John Valentine greeting us from the upper patio at the Harare airport. What an wonderful welcome. Someday we will hear our beloved Masters voice booming across the universe to us, and may I hear, “Praise God Tom.”
What a blessed time we had. Getting to reconnect with the Valentines, and met John and Martha Shaw, also a couple with the last name of Lileu (I know this is the wrong spelling so feel free to change in or delete it.) Introducing my wife to the dear folks on the compound and at Chegutu was a pleasure. Visiting Elsie and Ian Gibson was always a treat as well.
Again I taught in the Bible college in the mornings and worked placing a roof on one of the school buildings during the afternoon. I believe this time Kasbert and myself teamed up again a few times in out door preaching evangelism.. (this may of only took place in 86 but I think it happened at two visits???) At the end of our 5 weeks here we took several days off and traveled to Victoria Falls by Rhodesian Rail Road. Accompanying us was a young lady from England named Rose Street. It sounded like a very romantic trip, John and Celia would take us to Bulawayo as they had business to do there and we would go from there, traveling across Zimbabwe in an old coal power steam engine. But it did not quite turn out that way. It was to be an overnighter. But every 15 – 20 minutes it seemed the train would come to a jerking stop and sit and wait for another train to pass coming from the other way, at which time it would make another loud and jerking motion to begin up again. All night long, not too conducive for sleeping. Also we had left the window open to get some air moving through and by morning we were pretty much covered in soot. Oh well the falls was beautiful and so relaxing. Again we were so blessed to do what we could at Ameva and trust that we left blessings behind in Christ with them all.
We came back to Africa and Ameva again in 1990, however this time I not only brought my wife, but also our 2 year old daughter, Rebekah who turned two at Ameva on Jan. 22.
We also brought with us 3 lovely people from the church here in the US. Kevin and Karla Anundson and Joe Tillemans. This was by far the worst travelling experience any of us had ever encounter. Many many delays and problems with planes etc., and we finally arrived in Harare 58 hours late from the scheduled arrival time. We were all sick when we arrived and needed some days to recover before we were able to pitch in. What a group we made, all busy doing whatever we could to help. I again taught in the Bible school and did afternoon work of any sort. I remember Kevin working with the farm and the cattle, the ladies helping wherever they could and Joe equipping and making a water treatment tank for the dorms.
On this trip we met Martyn and Marion Williams and had a great time getting to know them. They were a blessing to be with. Again at the end of our 4 weeks at Ameva we took a few days off and went to Victoria Falls again. Such a blessed time we had there as well. Elana kept having nightmares about our daughter falling over the edge of the falls so she made sure Rebekah never went to the falls. She did fall into a pond there behind the Victoria Falls hotel, which terrified mother as she was sure Rebekah would catch something from the impure water. But alas, all was well. We left shortly after this trip to the falls and as usual more blessed than when we came, having received much more that we gave.
This would be my final trip to Ameva. I came with two men from the church. Again Kevin Anundson who was with me in 1990 and then Mike Tillemans, Joe’s brother. Kevin and Mike spent 3 weeks at Ameva, I had left after two and went with Chris French to Malawi to work there with Miles and Liz, ( don’t recall just now the last name.) From there we met up with Kevin and Mike and continued on to Mozambque and the orphanage there. Great times in both places. Back to Ameva at for our last week. My time was spent again at the Bible college in the mornings, teaching what I was able and hoping to pass on to the students a passion for Christ, a love for His word, and a love for His Church. How rewarding it would be to touch a life, to make a difference in one or two that would bear fruit for both in eternity. What a privilege it has been to partner with John and Celia and the rest of the workers there at Ameva. It has been one of my greatest joys in life, even as I look back after 30 years.
John and Celia have been such an encouragement and a blessings to me, my family, and our church and to countless folks across this globe. In closing I am reminded of two verses which came to my heart and I want to pass on to John and Celia. 1 Cor. 15:58; Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. Matthew 25:21; His lord said to them, ‘Well done, good and faithful servants; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’