Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hebron memories

Long time, no blog. It's been a busy few weeks with moving house, my housemate's wedding and the end of term. But here are the summer holidays. 6 weeks until school restarts.
At this time of the year, I would normally be in Dinas Powys in South Wales, a few miles outside Cardiff, leading a Scripture Union camp called Hebron. I've been to Hebron ten times, but 2009 was the final time we ran it. For various reasons, it was decided that Hebron would cease to run from 2010.
I heard this news in November 2009. It has taken me this long to write about it because I wanted to let the news sink in completely first. This has taken a while because of the deep impact Hebron has had on my life over the last decade.
I first went to Hebron in July 1999. I'd had a rough year at school (year 9), and did not enjoy my church at all. I was vaguely adolescent which just made me feel weird too, as it does to all teenagers.
I went to Hebron that year with 2 friends, Daniel and Tom. I won't try to describe what the camp was like, partly because I am nowhere near eloquent enough to do it justice, and partly because each Hebron year tends to fade into several others. But I remember a few things specifically, from that first year and the following two.
  1. I met a whole bunch of people who were in the same situation as me – struggling at school, trying to hold together a faith, and just looking for some support or even just someone to say 'me too'. Rob, Kirsty, Jo and Paul are all people with whom I am no longer in touch, but they had a deep effect on my life over those three years.
  2. My friends from camp, and also the leaders, loved me for who I was. This sounds cliched, but I hadn't reached the stage at school (an all-boys grammar school) where proper friendships had formed. At Hebron they did, and I was accepted for being me, not bullied into being someone else. The leaders in particular were inspirational in their love, service and respect for us.
  3. I really connected with the worship times at Hebron. The worship at my home church was a complete turn off but at Hebron, like at Spring Harvest, I met with God in ways that I didn't elsewhere.

Hebron 99, 2000 and 2001 saved my faith, for the reasons above and for other reasons. It changed my life. I remember the 5-a-side football competition, the puppet workshops and performances (Heavenly Pie!), the BBQ on the lawn, round the table table tennis, going to see Shrek and The Phantom Menace at the cinema, visiting the Big Pit, Nexus, Rob climbing inside the pool table, buzz groups, wallball (the greatest game you've never played), Paul's hair, the shadow wall at Techniquest, breakfast talks, pitch and putt at Barry Park, Colin yelling 'Freedom!' and nearly giving us all a heart attack, Phil and Becky just sitting with me for about an hour on the last night of 2000, Matt's underwear theft, signing notebooks (in the days before MSN!), trying to sneak into the girls corridor, and last-night testimonies showing how it was my no means just me who owed their faith to that camp.

For the next seven years I returned to Hebron as a leader. I'd done a bit of youth work before, I was in love with Hebron, and I felt like I owed about 50 weeks of leadership and service to it. I knew leading would be different and tried not to draw comparisons with being a camper. But, me being me, I inevitably compared and the conclusion was clear. Being a leader was what it was all about for me. I was wired just right to be a leader on that camp. It was completely natural for me, and, while I've done youth work in lots of other contexts, I've never felt the same way about it as while I was at Hebron. Many of the most emotional times of my life have been when leading at Hebron. What made it so significant?
It was a chance to give back to the place, the people and the event that had changed my life. It was a chance to work with teenagers, who are far more interesting and exciting than adults. I worked on a team with some great friends like Becky, Dan, Dave and Ruth, Paul, Jenny, Amy, Matt and Phil. And worked under two of the most amazing Christian leaders I know, Colin and Margy, learning from them and being guided and encouraged by them. I could to use my gifts in preaching, organising and puppetry(!). I saw so many lives changed over those seven years. I saw people meet God for the first time, meet him in new ways, recommit their lives to him, discover his calling on their lives, grow in knowledge and giftings, and build such strong friendships with each other.

I remember blaring music on the minibuses, powerboating in Cardiff bay, the prayer tents, death swimming, shower pranks, washing up teams, the animal game on the sofas, running the bank, building towers of squash bottles, trying to learn the names of 65 teenagers on the first day, wandering round Cardiff city centre, sardines, football on the beach, piggy-backs in the sea, telling the doughnut story and explaining that God owns all your jeans, late night walks with other leaders, early morning prayer meetings, booking cinema tickets for 80 people, getting a turkey at tenpin bowling and beating Tom by a point, sleepovers in Rising Brook church, finding out that Dan lived with Aaron from Strangeday, Father Abraham, the prayer evening in 2007, sleeping in the tiniest room with Dan and Paul, the lying down game, fancy dress parties, Phil's 50th birthday. Most of all I remember watching kids worship. This is still one of the things that is most guaranteed to make me cry – seeing teenagers worship. My favourite photo in the world is of one of the worship times at Hebron 2005.

Hebron had an unexplainable impact on my life. Colin and Margy were like parents to me when I was there, and I can't thank them enough for all the support and opportunities they gave me. I am still very sad that Hebron is over, but very grateful for the effect it has had on me.

1 comment:

Phil Trainer said...

This one's worth a comment. I won't go on otherwise I will cry and I have never even been!