Waking up at 4am to what sounds like an elephant singing the song of his people about 5 metres away, and suddenly realising you should’ve packed those ear plugs. No this isn’t an African Safari, it’s festival camping in the UK! I hadn’t slept in a tent for a good 2 years so I’m pretty sure I had forgot the general inadequacy that is camping life, but I’d committed to a total of 3 weeks of it and there was no going back. Sitting wide awake trying to pluck up the courage to kindly ask the person in the tent next to me to ‘turn over’, whilst also repeating the phrase I often use on call (‘the sun will eventually rise Nick...!’), had me thinking why I was here.
The first of 3 Christian camps I attended was Momentum, this is the 18-30s follow on to the Soul Survivor festivals born out of Soul Survivor church Watford. Most of the 18-30s group in my Church headed down. Each day consisted of 2 services with a variety of seminars in between. Teaching sessions ranged from ‘Should I become a vicar?’ to ‘If and who should I marry?’, which sparked some really good discussions between us all. Taking 5 days to purely focus on God massively helped me realign my faith and life priorities!
A few days later I led at a youth camp called Sparkford 2, run by CPAS Ventures and Falcons holidays, at a boarding school in Somerset. I was signed up to be healthcare coordinator for the camp, the closest medical professional they could find, which I’m pretty sure scared some of the teenagers! But with only a few broken bones and no fatalities all went well. The camp ran through the gospel of John over the course of 9 days. Routine heavily focused on personal work, with a lot of space for group discussion and room to grow in Christ together. It was a huge privilege to be part of seeing the essence of the gospel story preached from start to finish, and helping teenagers to understand that for themselves. I also greatly enjoyed channeling my inner teenage self. The terrible banter and epic games (human battleships and colour ball OF DEATH being a few highlights) was all amazing fun to join in on!
Finally, I found myself at David’s Tent, set in the Sussex countryside with its main focus being the main tent hosting a 72-hour nonstop worship session. Worship leaders from all over the world headed down, including Bethel Church and Martin Smith, all to glorify God in a tent set out purely for His presence. At hearing of the event I was concerned about the lack of biblical teaching. Just worship for 72 hours? When does the sermon start? I then read more into the purpose of the festival, which is to glorify God and pursue His presence - something that I learnt to hugely appreciate, having possibly previously side-lined. I did carry on my personal bible readings during most of the worship sessions, and did make sure I took a good chunk of time out to sleep! But I realised that sitting with God and just being in His presence is a great privilege that I often, especially in working life, don’t do. He doesn’t just want us to learn about Him, He wants us to know Him personally. Psalm 27:4 states ‘This is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life’.
As I sat there unable to sleep, knowing in 3 hours’ time I’d have to brave the assault on the senses that is the portaloo, I told myself it was all worth it. No matter what current trial or stress I am in, it pales in comparison to being and personally knowing the living God. His work is what we strive for, no matter the situation. A practical tip I will be definitely be taking back to that 2am dystocia callout!