I met Martin when I first travelled to Botswana in November 1996. This was my first travel to a foreign place and as you can image I was a little nervous about what would confront me when I arrived in Botswana. It was an overnight flight and recall the first person to greet me at the airport – it was Martin – this was our first meeting. I immediately felt at ease with a sense that I was not alone and would be guided through my first stay there. I still recall his enthusiasm and rigour for getting things done. This whole project was a very new venture for me, I travelled to Botswana 13 times over a three and half year period. During these visits I was regularly welcomed at Martins home by his wife Ok-keong and his two children Thomas and Sain. During these visits which were typically 2 – 3 weeks in length I grew very close to both Martin and OK-keong, they made me feel just like one of their family and that helped me deal with the inevitable feelings of loneliness which often occur when you are away form home on business for extended periods – visiting them was a welcome replacement for the solitude of the hotel room.
Professionally, Martin was a real breath of fresh air. He had so much energy and was so committed to making a real and lasting difference. We worked very closely together and travelled all over Botswana visiting Colleges of Education and Education Resource centres as we established a country wide email system – which was a first for Botswana. In the end we had 9 locations outwith Gabarone connected to the email system and installed computers (Apple Macs of course!) and software in each location so that the people there could have immediate access. In addition to this Martin was responsible for setting up a learning resources centre where teachers could access all manner of learning resources. The amount of energy Martin put into this work was nothing short of inspirational.
I learned so much through working with Martin. He made it his mission to know all the right people in the country when we needed to get permissions to get things done. Getting things done in Botswana was often a real challenge because of the government bureaucracy which was cumbersome to say the least! Because of his input the part of the project we worked on did succeed in meeting its objectives. Without his support and influence I cannot imagine how I would have been about achieve a fraction of what we did.
In addition to being a great professional Martin was a really good friend. From day one, we seemed to get on really well – as if we had along association from the first day that we met! Martin was very caring and knew what it meant to be away from home in a strange country! He and Ok-keong welcomed me to their home more times than I can recall. We had such good times together – they made me feel that Botswana was a home from home. I can not find the words to fully express my gratitude for the care they took of me, which went way beyond any expectations that I could have had.
The Botswana experience was certainly a huge influence on my professional development and that was due in no small way to the impact of one person who guided, mentored and supported me throughout the entire project, Martin.
Of course after the project came to an end, our ways parted and we kept in touch only infrequently. But at each telephone call or meeting it was like we had never been apart. We seemed to be able to pick up from the same point we left off! That is a hallmark of genuine friendship I think 😉
The picture below show the Davies family when we attended a “first communion service” of the child of another one of the in country project workers.
I was delighted to hear at the memorial service that Martin became a professing Christian just a few weeks before he died – this is sometime that we talked about a number of times both when in Botswana since then. Although we did not spend a huge amount of time together in life long terms, I will miss him and I am certain that that his close family will feel the pain of this loss for some time to come. But as Christians we should hold to the great hope of a great reunion sometime in the future after time as we know it comes to an end.