This year’s England Summer Experience was serving at Haslemere’s ‘Summer Reach’. The first challenge we faced was to locate the main venue ‘The Wey Centre’ which was best achieved by trusting Google rather than the directions provided by someone who’s normal place of work is about 1/4 mile away from it! But one thing I have learnt doing DNA (amongst many) is exercising discernment in the face of false witnesses.
The 6 of us were paired up as team leaders of 3 groups of young people who had signed up for the adventure that Summer Reach promised to be. A fourth group was led by a pair of Haslemere locals and our second challenge was to get to know the local team (which was relatively easy as it included some old DNAers), the team numbers (harder as Haslemere seemed to follow the Japaneses convention of avoiding the number 4 in series progressions, so we had teams 1,2,3 & 5) and the names of the young people who were to be in our respective groups.
This much brain work called for refreshment which meant an early trip to the legendary Dylan’s, the local ice cream parlour and general hub of everything local that needs hubbing! Then before our first meeting with some of those young people who were to be our charges for the rest of the week, it was a guided tour of the various churches involved in the event, and a chance to pray over their buildings, ending at our night time base known as ‘The Link’ where we able to set up our beds and associated personal paraphernalia.
Each day was divided into morning and afternoon sessions, with some evening sessions also. One session always being a time of praise worship & teaching with the young people at the Wey centre, the other an outreach/serving opportunity, and the evening either a more social event or joining in a joint churches event. We also had ‘team time’ to share our reflections on the day and pray for each other.
The different teams cycled through a range of outreach events on different days which included; helping clear the gardens of those unable to manage it themselves, litter picking, street evangelism and helping with a Holiday club for 4-11 year olds. In all these the young people had an opportunity to serve, and we had the opportunity to support and lead them in this. With chances to get alongside them and get to know them better.
However for both them and us the highlight of each day was probably the praise, worship & teaching sessions. We had the challenge of ministering to them and the joy of seeing them step out in new and challenging ways usually under the leading of ‘guest’ speakers. These included our very own Guy Bevir as well as a visiting evangelist and a free church minister who we knew from his DNA session on the prophetic.
The week culminated in the ‘Family Fun day’ on the local village green. This proved to be probably the most practically challenging of all because of somewhat less than ideal weather. There was Sumo wrestling, bouncy castles, slip’n’slide, facepainting, tea & cakes and a BBQ that all needed looking after with our young people and us DNAers all getting stuck in to our allocated activities with a determination not to let the weather put a damper on the week for any of us.
We had seen so much of our heavenly Father at work, rejoiced in the growth of our young charges, been lovingly stretched by Him ourselves. Grown closer to each other, made new friends, enlarged our boundaries, dealt with invasions of wood lice in our bedding and cold showers in the morning. Eaten plentifully and eclectically (although weetabix with sugar cube chasers was a new one on me), learnt a bit more about ourselves and generally had an awesome time serving an amazing God in the company of some wonderful and inspiring people.