Center Parcs Reflections
After a refreshing Christmas holiday in our respective homes, the ID team took on a week of infamous rapid racing, playing brutal board games, oh and spending some time with God within the wooded surround of Elveden Forrest, Center Parcs. This training week was slightly different to normal; opposed to simply gathering with those on the ID training year, we were surrounded by young people who had given up their year to serve the Church throughout the New Frontiers family which was really encouraging.
Now I can’t lie, after coming back from a relaxing Christmas I was not overly excited about the prospect of a full week of intense training, and yet all expectation was blown out the water. From talks on singleness and transgender to church planting, there was such variety of topic and speaker there was no time to get bored. Throughout the week it was so clear that God was speaking clearly, and just amazing to be in amongst so many young people passionately praising Jesus. One of my highlights was definitely the vulnerability that the speakers brought. The fact that such well renown speakers such as Wendy Mann were not afraid to express their journeys of pain and hurt, brought comfort to me especially in making me feel as though it was okay not to have it all together ALL the time. I was reminded that it doesn’t matter how dark the circumstance you’re walking through, God is SUCH a good father and is with you through it all. Don’t lose heart when you feel isolated and lost whilst God is seemingly working in everyone else’s lives, because our expectations of how we think God works doesn’t always line up to how He does so we’ve got to stop limiting Him. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” How amazing that even when we feel weak and vulnerable we can remind ourselves that God has got our backs and He is ALWAYS working for the good of those who love Him. Our identity is in Him, not in what people think of us, not in our grades, not in the world’s definition of success but in the God of the universe who loves us unconditionally.
Center Parcs was a really incredible week. I started with a sense of distance and scepticism about what God was going to do. I’m always conscious that I don’t want hype, I want to authentically meet God, and as the week went by I surely did. God comforted, challenged and renewed things in me and in others, which was just so exciting. It took me a while to get used to the format of the sessions, but as my eyes lifted from my surroundings He spoke to me with clarity that I hadn’t known before. Wendy Mann spoke brilliantly on identity and Stef Liston’s talk on leadership, particularly self-leadership, was a provocation to continually check our hearts as, in my experience, our motivations to serve can easily be swayed from the original Godly intent. It was so clear to me that God was there amongst us and I was stirred and excited about His plans for myself and everyone there. I was powerfully reminded that we can bring his kingdom’s hope and life into this world. That’s just so exciting!
I also really enjoyed getting to know the rest of the guys on ID and spending time with them, whether that was in prayer, eating together, or beating them at FIFA. I left with a real excitement to press into God’s plans, particularly with the students here in Canterbury, and I look forward to seeing everyone again at our training base in Maidstone in March.
The serene forest at Elveden turned out to be the ideal setting for the week because the teaching for the week was extremely intense. After discussing the Biblical approach to singleness and transgender in one morning, an afternoon on the rapids was much needed relief before an evening on mental health and media.
For me, God spoke throughout the week, not through new revelations, but by bringing up things that have been revealed to me before but never explained. Things that I didn’t even realise were from God were linked into everything else that was going on, which was very weird but surprisingly encouraging.
It was so uplifting being with all of the other gap-year teams as well (there was roughly 120 of us) as we were able to support each other, and have our faith renewed and blessed together. We all witnessed healing’s and prophesy, and I’m sure that most people there had some form of personal encounter with God. The only thing I feel disappointed about the week is that there weren’t more opportunities to get to know everyone, because there were so many wonderful people there that I would have loved to get to know better.
About the Authors
Andrew and Ruth are currently serving City Church students this year through ID. Ellie is also on ID and is based at Ramsgate, and is teaching herself cross stitch in her spare time.