See that picture? That, right there, is the scene of a spiritual battleground. While nearly 60 teenagers were having the holiday of their lives (including the six from Wellfield), huge forces were at work behind the scenes. I don’t know the details. I don’t know the precise outcomes of it all. But I can tell you what we experienced.
The ‘venture’ is always a highlight of the year. Lots of work goes into it. There are always some setbacks along the way, too. But this year was exceptional.
During the last year, several of our most experienced leaders felt it was time to move on to other things. That happens, and is healthy; but it left us a little short. For various reasons, too, numbers of ‘members’ (teenagers) and ‘taskforce’ (the practical helpers’ team) were slightly lower than last year. But our first real sign of something sinister came when the theme was announced.
It’s just a bit of fun, to bring humour to the particular venture. But that’s when two more experienced leaders announced they would no longer come. (Turns out, that was just the presenting issue for them.)
Then other leaders started pulling out for reasons of health and the like. We were left with an absolute minimum.
The venture started in good spirits. But then a handful of leaders felt sick. We introduced a super-hygiene regime. Yet the sick-bug spread. In the end, of a total of 43 leaders and cooks, 21 were quarantined for 48 hours.
The seven cooks work hardest of all at Sparkford. Yet they were stretched beyond capacity with two or three out sick. Then one had to leave for home, following a family crisis. And then the head cook cut her hand so seriously she needed plastic surgery.
A spiritual battleground? Or just bad luck? All I can say is that while ‘surviving’ leaders stepped up to take responsibilities with competence and courage, the members were able to carry on having a great time, virtually oblivious to the fact that anything was wrong. (Just the occasional comment like, ‘Where are my leaders? Why are you looking after us today?’!)
I can tell you that whilst the sick bug seemed to spread like plague, not a single member became infected.
And I should mention that when the cooks were about to hit total crisis, they were informed that an experienced cook was just coming back from holiday and would pass the front gate in about half an hour… and would they like her to stop for a couple of days?
The good news of Jesus was preached at Sparkford; the teenagers received it with joy. Could we conclude that where enemy fire comes hardest, that is where the most critical ground is being taken? Could it be that a great battle was waged for the souls of some of this years’ teenagers? Could it be because of those from council estate backgrounds, whom Satan does not want to lose from that particular stronghold? I don’t know. But I certainly feel privileged to have been in such a battle as that.
Jesus said the gates of hell will not prevail against his kingdom - try as they might.