Lee Musson found God on a Christian holiday as a child. Little did he know that one day he’d work for Rock UK, the organisation that owned the campsite where he first said yes to Jesus
I grew up in Chislehurst in the 1970s. My parents weren’t Christians but, for some reason, my mum sent me to a Pathfinders Explorers group at our local Anglican church. My dad had a jaundiced view of the Church, but my mum felt it was important I had the opportunity to decide for myself what I thought about faith.
That weekly group – which was a bit like the Scouts but more overtly Christian – set some Christian foundations, but the key turning point came when I was invited to a CPAS Pathfinder camp when I was eleven. I remember taking the brochure home and feeling excited about going. Thankfully, mum was supportive and, crucially, willing to pay for it.
Games and the gospel
There were various camps I could have gone to. I have no idea what made me choose Climping Camp in West Sussex, and I’m pretty sure I went on my own without really knowing anyone.
I have vivid memories of playing lots of crazy games and going to the beach. Essentially, it’s a bunch of Christian leaders and young people going away for some fun activities and to learn more about Jesus.
I remember one game, called Niagara Falls, which probably wouldn’t pass a risk-assessment these days. A chair was precariously balanced on top of a table. You ran up with a bowl of water, climbed onto the table, then the chair. The person who had gone before you stood underneath holding a bowl. You had to tip as much of your water into their bowl as possible, and they would then run and pour it into a drum. The team with the most water in their drum won, but it was obviously much more fun to completely soak the person underneath!
Going away for a week was quite an intense experience but I really enjoyed it. I was interested in what the leaders were saying about their faith because I liked them. I thought they were good people and I wanted something of what they had.
Over the course of the week, the gospel was presented in a way I could understand. George Lihou, who led the camp, told us a story about ‘Climpers’ [named after Climping Camp] whose lightbulbs were either switched on or off. When Jesus comes into your life, he said, your lightbulb switches on.
If you’d asked me at that point: “Are you a Christian?” I’d have said: “Kind of…” I hadn’t come to the camp completely cold, but I was quite happy sitting on the fence. What was presented to me was: Actually, you can’t do that – you’re either switched on or off. I prayed a prayer of commitment with George in his caravan.
I don’t remember my parents’ reaction when I got home; they were probably neither excited for me, nor hostile. It was more like: “OK, good for you.”
My conversion was a slow burner – both in terms of the time leading up to my decision, and afterwards. But I continued going to a CPAS camp every summer; it was always a spiritual highlight of the year.
My faith has matured since then, and I now have a much deeper understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Christ. Ultimately, after working in the telecommunications industry for 15 years, my faith caused me to leave in order to run an outdoor centre for Rock UK. We have 60,000 young people come through our four centres every year, and I run our instructor training programme, which is essentially a discipleship programme for young adults.
When I first joined Rock UK, I didn’t realise they owned Climping Camp, where I became a Christian all those years ago! It really makes me smile to think: Wow, I’ve come full circle, working for the organisation that ran the site where I found Jesus.
Having it all
The opportunity to take young people – or adults – away for a residential is so valuable. It’s possible in church to never get beyond the: “How are you?” “Yes, I’m fine, thanks. And you?” If you want to avoid going deeper on a Sunday morning, you can. When you’re away together for a week, it’s a lot more difficult!
You can achieve more on a one-week residential than you can in a whole year of weekly meetings
It’s true that we can go on a residential, get fired up and then go home and, very quickly, forget all about it. But I don’t believe that means it’s of no value. I’ve always thought you can achieve more on a one-week residential than you can in a whole year of weekly meetings. But it’s not an either/or. The gold standard is having both the weekly ministry and the residential.
In 2011, I went to a conference run by the Christian Residential Network. I sat on a table with this guy and we were introducing ourselves. When I told him my name, he said: “That rings a bell.” We discovered he had been a junior leader on the camp in 1983 when I’d become a Christian! It was amazing that he remembered me. He said: “I’ll tell George. He’ll be chuffed to bits.”
Most of the time we never know the impact of our ministry but, once in a while, God gives us a little glimpse. I hope that George was encouraged when news got back to him.
Lee Musson was speaking to Sam Hailes
Rock UK run activity centres in Kent, Northamptonshire, Wales and the Scottish borders. Find out more about residential stays and instructor training at rockuk.org
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