Every year, across the beautiful coastline of the UK (and even on the continent), people in bright red t-shirts give up a week of their life to sleep on a church hall floor and tell people about Jesus.
They are on “Beach Mission” and it was my privilege to get involved with one in Mablethorpe back in 2011.
We were living in Nottingham at the time and, without a recent connection to a CYFA camp, I needed some way to get stuck into church mission.
Ed and Anna from our church ran a Scripture Union camp at Southwold in Suffolk but the dates didn’t work for me so, after a bit of research, I signed up with United Beach Missions and looked eastward to the windy Lincolnshire town of Mablethorpe. Here we go!
The group of people I worked with, some UBM veterans, other less experienced than I, were dominated by a terrific bunch of guys from Sheffield and the Christian ghetto which is the Oakes. Fronted by Andy and Andy, it was a fantastic team who were really friendly and welcoming to me as a newbie and fantastic at just getting alongside people.
I remember Stephen Fry, no not that one, being able to relate to absolutely anybody, usually involving some kind of terrible pun or joke – which I really loved. Then there were the Oakes interns, Harry and Enoch who were full of energy and enthusiasm. Or their former boss Craig who had them under complete control. Sometimes.
And Jonny and Becky with their amazing song to help us remember Revelation 1: 3-8. I can still remember it even now! (So can my wife I’ve sung it that much!). And here’s the video of us singing it.
I got on very well with Annette, a “shy and retiring” teacher, who simply made me laugh. A lot. And her sister Mags who was really friendly and kind. I also got to chat Childwall and Liverpool with Megan while Ruth was excellent at knowing exactly what was going on – and she got picked on by the Andys! Sam and Naomi played the role of mine and Rosie’s children in the car on the way to the beach. Giddy, hyper, hilarious, and also extremely good at doing Beach Mission!
Our job was to provide entertainment for the numerous children on the beach and chat to their families about their beliefs. Being a teacher in Nottingham at the time was a real gift for me as many folk from the East Midlands head out to that coast for their holidays. I was instantly able to talk to them and have a sense of familiarity which really helped avoid awkward conversations. It did have its drawbacks though…two brothers from Nottingham actually attended my school, including one who was due to be in the sister class to mine in the September. Yikes!
Evening entertainment? Well, after we’d planned the following day’s activities, the leaders had a bit of downtime in which to indulge in some amazing circle games. The usual suspects were there: Signs, Mafia, Empires (although I enjoyed couples Empires a lot!) but the highlight of the social time had to be Stations. One person puts a blindfold on, grabs a pillow and then the people sat round the circle need to switch seats at the time their station is called out. What a hilarious (and perilous!) game. Not for the fainthearted though, nor those who aren’t comfortable climbing all over furniture!
For much evidence of what we got up to, check out this rather dangerous sketch we performed on the beach. It comes with a health warning though – will I get wiped out?
We were able to see amazing fruit for the gospel that week. Lots of really open conversation. We found that people are generally more willing to discuss deeper issues when they’re on holiday, perhaps because they’re more relaxed and not bogged down by day-to-day concerns and the stress of work. There were also people who specifically came on holiday to Mablethorpe each year to correspond with the UBM team and have their children entertained and talk about spiritual issues. Fascinating.
It really was a fabulous week. It felt amazing to partner in gospel work with so many great people and to see how God was working in the lives of holidaymakers. I’d never thought I’d enjoy that kind of discussion but I found it really stimulating and engaging – if rather challenging.
So did I go back? Well, I was signed up to do the 2012 version but fell ill with pneumonia (after a very sickly summer term at school) just two days before we broke up. On strong antibiotics and with a move to a new city also taking place, we deemed it wise to take a year out. By the time summer 2013 rolled round, we were firmly settled in a new church, had teamed up with Joe and Gail and had mega CYFA links with Sibford. The rest, as they say, is history!