This is the text of an article I wrote for the CPAS newsletter a year or so ago - I've updated it for this year and thought it would give the back story as we embark on our 10th Falcon Camp!
Whenever I’ve been on a Falcon Camp, those early hours with the team all together, getting set up are always supercharged…in the venue with lots of do, a feeling of excitement and nervousness, the time together always seems to be focused on telling stories…how come you’re here? Who roped you in? Have you been before? Wonder what will happen this year? What’s your story?
My story begins back in 2001 when I was a youth worker in Scarborough and involved in a Diocesan youth event in York Minster. Through the planning team I met Nigel Chapman, the Children’s and Youth Adviser for York Archdeaconry and overall leader of Scarborough Falcon Camp that was starting that summer. Now that I am an overall leader, I’ve come to realise that you are always looking at people and wondering whether they would fit into your team – and sure enough, Nigel mentioned the possibility of me and my then fiancé Andy serving on the team. With contacts through our church and youth groups in Scarborough as well as in schools work, we also brought a few members along and had a fantastic time getting stuck in with the onsite activities and supporting and delivering the worship programme.
I’d been on Ventures before as a new Christian around the age of 16/17 and had a whale of a time. Falcon Camps were different – smaller numbers and more focused because of that, but there was a yearning within me which I had never had before. In many ways, it seemed more urgent and clear cut that these children and young people needed this time away more than any others – in some ways to find themselves, to shake off the pressures of home and the shackles of their circumstance and to know the love of Jesus in a real way, with relevance and sensitivity. I’d never experienced anything like it before, even working in the tough Castle Ward of Scarborough!
And that was that, we were hooked – further years saw us move to the North East and now down to Essex but apart from one year when I had to work and Andy went on his own with a group of year 7’s from his school, and 2006 when I was pregnant with our daughter Matilda, we’ve done every year since 2001. For us, being part of a local camp has always been important as it complemented our ministry in youth work and schools work. Bringing along a group of young people extended the possibilities of how we could work with them through the rest of the year and we were always amazed at how supportive Andy’s schools were in allowing him to work in this way.
For obvious reasons we had a year off from leading camp when I was pregnant and we’d just moved, but along the way and in the midst of getting to grips with our new community, we realised that there was a distance issue for young people in this area of the country. Many would not consider leaving their hometown let alone going up North for a week away. Gateshead to Scarborough was a reasonable distance, but 5 hours drive was not cutting it with the young lads Andy was now working with in Basildon (and now Maldon).
Falcon Camp gets in your blood and consumes a huge part of your mind, not only through the planning, preparation and panic but also in the weeks and months following when something reminds you of a conversation or a particular personality. It’s not just the young people, although that’s a huge part of it. It’s also the ethos of the way Falcon Camps are run, the focus on giving opportunities that might not otherwise come to these kids from disadvantaged backgrounds, the absolute acceptance of them as individuals. Weaving through it all is the amazing and dedicated team who are gathered through each year, always the same few but different newbies each year aswell, complementing and bringing new ideas to the old hands who have the mountains of experience. We now realise how nerve wracking it is to be an Overall Leader, waiting for confirmation of which leaders might return and praying fervently for the right people to be on team!
So, in 2008 we launched Falcon Afloat! Set on board a light vessel in the Blackwater Estuary in Essex, we work alongside and partner with the Fellowship Afloat Charitable Trust, who own the ship, to offer a fun packed five days to 20, 10-13 year olds! Day sailing, trips to a Discovery Park, swimming, team building games, climbing, archery, BBQ, wide games, crafts and staying on board in teeny weeny cabins!
In 2010 we’re welcoming back Team from the first Falcon Afloat who have had a year off, 2 new members of Team with us for the first time as well as the old faithful’s who come back, year in year out. We’re missing a few others too, who for various reasons have taken a year off.
It’s been an amazing journey and in our 10th Falcon Camp year, we’re grateful for the opportunity to serve in this way, through CPAS and FACT. I am particularly indebted to Bishop Laurie Green who allows me to offer this event as part of my Youth Adviser job for the Diocese of Chelmsford. What a job!
We’re expectant, God will do great things – not only in the young people as always, but in us as leaders too. And with the values of FUN, BIBLE, CREATIVITY, SAFETY and JESUS – what could go wrong??!!