A year after Space Station Sibford folded, I was back at the Summer Camp.
And this time, I’d brought my wife and 4 month old daughter!
I’d spent a year waxing lyrical about the fabulous time I’d had at Sibford and, probably just to shut me up, my wife had agreed to join me there.
We were part of a team of 20, all of whom were returning leaders. There was a huge hint of nostalgia across the Leaders’ Room, and many of them I’d never met.
It was clear there was a great amount of camaraderie though (even without the missing Pete!) and I fancied getting involved.
Ellen had big plans for me this time. After the strange outing of Seamus O’Leary last year, I was down as an Ents act and apparently I was cut out for the part of Sibford Holmes. Holmes, no relation to the famous detective, had been called in to investigate the jewellery heist at Lady Porpington-de-Gaga’s mansion although, with the clock ticking, his reputation was on the line.
With the help of his bumbling colleague John What’s-his-face (Ellen) and the detective dorms, he needed to find the jewels before the week was out, as well as uncovering the greatest mystery of all hidden in the gospel.
Who thinks of these storylines?!
All this while trying to take care of six “rowdy” teenage boys in the Tarrant dorm, keep fellow leaders Joe and Sam in check (!) and look after my wife and tiny little girl who were floating around the camp.
I loved it actually – Sibford got arrested every night, usually for interrupting Lady Gaga’s soirees and upsetting her celebrity friends, but most memorably when Matthew and Chris, under Joe’s careful guidance, shackled him at theme meal and dragged him away to jail, suspected of stealing the jewels.
This travesty of justice was only sorted following Sibford’s miraculous escape from jail, broken out by “a blonde floozy” (my wife!) overnight while his brother Ferris, Gaga (aka Sarah)’s butler was outed as the real thief.
Ents characters Suze McCluse, MartIn-Quest and of course Sarah’s nature-defying Lady Gaga were welcome additions to the ranks.
The usual suspects were there: an amazing Dorm Tournament (involving skateboards and drama of course), Water Wide Game which required us to launch water bombs at each other via the medium of bedsheets and bin bags (love the idea Josh and Ellie!) and a Wide Game which even recruited my wife and buggy as a clue to help solve the puzzle!
All the while we were getting stuck into the Gospel of John and the amazing book of Philippians – handy, as that was the book I decided to learn over #GetGoodSummer last year. It was a real privilege to teach the famous passage where Paul unpicks what life is really all about: Philippians 1v21 “to live is Christ, to die is gain.” Even more thrillingly I found out one of my dorm members had that as his favourite verse a year later. It really struck home with him and God is doing incredible things through him.
We also got an insight into life as a family on camp. My wife came as full-time Sophie carer and, with six other children charging round, the legendary Connie was an official families worker.The overall leaders were so thoughtful in working out how to integrate families and make provision for them. Family Church in the morning was epic and became part of our staple Bible teaching at home. They even put together a rota for the cooks to look after the baby monitors to allow my wife to attend the evening meetings by the end of the week.
Our difficulty was just the sheer youngness of Sophie. The other children were 18 months or older, mobile and able to do things for themselves. Sophie was literally shackled to my wife and, with a bedtime routine starting at six and long complicated feeding patterns it made it really difficult for them to take a full and active role.
Plus, because I signed myself up to do tons of stuff, I wasn’t massively free to help. Any available space in my timetable was swallowed up by bookstall or music practice or frantically trying to plan an Ents sketch with Ellen. Not to mention hanging out with my dorm, having chats with members and getting stuck into everything that was going on.
I did miss Crocker though to pack our car! Is that a sacrifice for the gospel? Or just for my family? Whichever way, my lack of skills meant it was really no loss to the usually* victorious leaders!
It was a fantastic year yet again on camp, hilariously funny and amazing to see young people grasping the truth of the gospel. Sophie loved being the centre of attention – and acquiring one of the members as an uncle?! – and it was so wonderful to have my family there with me.
As for Sibford Holmes, he ran off into the sunset with his new girl on his arm.
And his faithful colleague John What’s-his-face? He bumbled into a relationship with Suze McCluse and never looked back.
What on earth would Sibford Jones make of that?!)
* for ‘usually’, read ‘never’.