A few days ago I came back from 5 days camping in Peterborough for Soul Survivor! The night I came back, I slept for 14 hours straight - if that doesn't show you how exhausted I was, I don't know what will. Despite the exhaustion, this year of Soul Survivior was one of my favourites. Here's why:
- The teachings this year were really great. Mike Pilavachi and Andy Croft were up to their usual top standard, Tim Ross was hilarious and powerful, and a friend of mine was preaching on main stage, which was crazy! She spoke amazingly and really hit the heart's of the young people, and I'm sure many youth leaders too.
- I'm very much an observer. During SS, I loved watching the young people chat with each other, share stories, joke, play endless card games, have a water fight, dive deep into worship and take notes through the teachings. I loved how patient and kind they were to each other, even when tiredness crept it.
- Similarly, I learnt a lot from observing the other youth leaders; how they interact with different young people, youth work styles, creating conversations, asking questions, organisation....
- having long and deep conversations with the young people and youth leaders
- the worship was incredible. Worship is one of my favourite things to do. I find it much easier than other spiritual disciplines; meditation, reading my Bible, praying... However, I'm a picky-worshipper. Perhaps because I'm Gen Z, I find it so much easier to engage in worship when there's lots of people around me lifting their hands, when it's loud, when there's harmonies and lots of instruments. This is actually something God is really challenging me on, and is another blog post for another day. That aside, the Worship at Soul Survivor gave me space to surrender all, sing, shout, dance and jump.
- a favourite and least favourite was cooking. A favourite was the sense of achievement when I had cooked a meal (for 18, in a marquee may I add) by myself, as well as the love I felt when people offered help, and intervened and was patient when I made mistakes. But when I did make mistakes, I found it really hard. When I underestimated how long sausages would take to cook, or when I hadn't realised the gas had blown out, or I forgot about a vegetarian sauce, I felt like I had totally failed and I was showing everyone just how stupid I am. That was tough.
- After a long chat, I sat in the cold marquee with a young person at about 11pm, drinking hot chocolate and waiting for the others to come back. This young person said to me, "you've made Soul Survivor for me. You're actually alright". That made me feel pretty special.
- at meal times, we tried to create a space where we could share the highlights of our day and what we were enjoying most about Soul Survivor. I really loved that; hearing the young people's thoughts and seeing their faces light up as they tell a funny story. It felt very family-like.
- I started each morning by reading my Bible and praying. I loved hearing the chatters of the early-risers coming from the marquee as I read the Psalms. One morning, I felt a need to pray for each young person and youth leader individually, and as I did I had an image in my mind that I later shared with the group. This year at Soul Survivor, I really heard from God daily.
- the people I went with made it one of the best years. Their craziness, intelligent insights, their patience and kindness towards each other, and their growth through the week
- Finally, the journey home. All but one young person slept the entire journey home, and me and my Placement line manager chatted about the past year, the danger of comparison, church politics, holiday and age. As someone who loves road trips and deep conversations, these two hours were definitely a highlight.
I've had an incredible year with this Youth Group. Soul Survivor was the best way to end a perfect year.