Taking a group of young people to Soul Survivor can be an amazing experience. Yes, there are ups and downs; just getting the group there – luggage, food and camping equipment is a military operation, but once camp has been set up, a leader’s prayer can often be the simplest – a safe and blessed time please Lord.
For St Edyth’s Sea Mills, that prayer was a little bit too close to the truth as youth worker, Matt Holman writes (pictured here with Revd David Izzard).
When taking a youth group to Soul Survivor, you prepare yourself to expect the unexpected. Day one passed successfully albeit with a lot of rainfall. Even day two was a great success, despite more rain and increasing levels of wet and muddy belongings.
However, day three began at 7.30am as I emerged from my tent to help prepare breakfast. Within seconds “Fire!” was yelled and as I turned around, Eugenie, our children’s worker, shot out from her caravan with her two year-old son in her arms. Their caravan was on fire!
Eugenie quickly grabbed a fire blanket and returned into the caravan but the fire was too much to control. As emergency services were contacted, Eugenie, being the quick-thinking person she is, disconnected the gas bottles as the rest of the group appeared from their tents, wondering what was causing all the commotion.
The emergency response team arrived very quickly and the fire was put out in minutes. A trip to First Aid followed for Eugenie, her son and me. Thankfully, we were all OK, with the only injury being a slight burn to the boy’s fingers. Later it emerged that the boy was lying in the bed that was right on top of where the fire had started.
Once the dust had settled, we realised the full extent of the damage. Along with the caravan, we had lost all our food and other personal items. The devastation was the greatest for Eugenie, as it was her caravan and they had lost all their personal contents.
The incident took the majority of that day to sort out, but we weren’t alone in it and despite the tragedy, we felt incredibly blessed. The on-site chaplaincy team were amazing. Dan Jones and Joel Preston who were camping nearby came to our rescue and within hours we had all our mealtimes arranged for the entire week. Other groups invited us in for the essential coffee, tea and refreshments. Revd Richard Priestley, vicar at All Saints Oakhill, also heard of our tragic news and, thanks to social media, clothes and money were donated to Eugenie and her family. One little girl even gave her treasured teddy away because Eugenie’s son had lost his in the caravan.
As I look back to that eventful morning, the devastation could have been much, much worse. By God’s grace everyone walked away unharmed and we were blessed beyond imagination. Our young people certainly witnessed God in action and were overwhelmed by the love, compassion and generosity that the whole group experienced.
The icing on the cake was one of the newest members of the youth group committing their life to Christ on the last day.
We are all incredibly thankful to those who looked after us and we praise God for his blessings in abundance. Next time I may not pray so earnestly for God to “rain down” or for His “holy fire” to fall!
Matt Holman, St Edyth’s Sea Mills