– by Sue Fuller

African Enterprise was founded by Michael Cassidy in 1961 as an interdenominational Christian ministry committed to evangelising the cities of Africa through Word and deed, in partnership with the church.

Spiritual retreat and training
The vision began to form for AE to one day have a facility that could be used as a place of spiritual retreat as well as for training. Over the years, the team looked at various possibilities, from mountain retreats to urban complexes. Finally in 1981, almost as a last resort, the team was taken to see a property on the outskirts of Pietermaritzburg. They knew immediately that this was the place that the Lord had provided for such a facility.

Best kept secret!
What lay before them was 20 stunningly beautiful acres of land, tucked away at the end of Townbush valley, surrounded by streams and waterfalls, natural bush, and wildlife. It was the ideal place! It is secluded, but only 9km from the city centre, making it one of Pietermaritzburg’s best kept secrets. Through the Lord’s supernatural provision, this property was purchased and plans were drafted to develop the property and existing farm house into a suitable training facility and headquarters for the ministry. 

Harmonising with natural surroundings
In order to ensure that the development would harmonise with the natural surroundings, renowned US conference developer, Carl Johnson wall called on to design the facility. Finally in 1986, the AE Christian Leadership and Training Centre was officially opened.
John Tooke (after whom our main conference room is named) was appointed as the first Centre Director, and in 1987 the first two formal training courses were launched. Over the years many top international Christian leaders came to share their knowledge at various events hosted at the Centre.

Safe haven and refuge
Obviously the Centre’s primary initiative was to equip Christians and future leaders, but we were living in difficult times. The leadership grappled with the challenges of living in the apartheid era, and so the Centre became a safe haven and refuge for many. During the apartheid years, the BBE (Bridge Building Encounter) programme was developed, which transformed the minds and lives of many young people as lasting relationships were developed across racial barriers.

Back to its original vision
The Centre has had its ups and downs over the years, but we are actively and consciously moving back to the original vision for this facility. The training department are booking more and more Christian leadership and teaching courses, and we have connected with many of the local churches, reminding them of this jewel on their doorstep. Last year, a company called Vita Foam donated a brand new mattress and pillow for every bed! Generous donations such as this help us to uplift and upgrade the Centre. 

Great accommodation & facilities
The African Enterprise Centre can accommodate a maximum of 98 guests, some in chalets with shared ablutions, and others in private en-suite rooms. We have four conference rooms, the smallest being able to comfortably seat 10 guests, while the John Tooke Training Wing can seat 120 guests. We also boast the Jabulani Lapa, which is a large thatched venue with canvas roll-down sides, which can accommodate up to 250 guests. We have many local people who pop in for a time of quiet in our quaint little prayer chapel in the middle of the pond.

The ideal venue for retreats
We do not aim to be a cheap venue for business getaways, but rather an affordable refuge for Christian groups, conferences, meetings, or quiet retreats. Should you have a family camp, a youth camp, an Alpha weekend, an Elders (Church Council) planning retreat, or if you would like to bless your pastor with a time to re-charge and re-connect with the Lord, then we are the ideal venue for you.

Call us today!
For more information or bookings, please contact reservations on 033 347 7048 or e-mail us at centre@ae.org.za or contact the Centre Manager, Sue Fuller on 033 347 7049 or sfuller@ae.org.za


Article source: JOY! Magazine

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