John Walker's Electronic House

by on Aug.22, 2004, under The Rest

Hopefully this is the last post from here.

Moving has been utterly hideous. So slow, drawn out, laboured. A tiny little Punto is no car for transfering large amounts of everything from one side of a valley to another, and having a week away from doing it, while somewhat welcome, has dragged the entire process out beyond anything reasonable. That I am still here terrifies me. That I still have to shift lots of heavy items scares me further. (A fat lot of use burglars turn out to be. An open invitation is ignored, while my friend’s flat is burgled in Uncivilised London. Sort yourselves out, theives. You’re acting like a bunch of ruffians who don’t care for people’s wellbeing – think of your reputation for goodness sakes).

If I can get some help today (ie. another, bigger, car) I might just make it by this evening. Of course, that only means that all my boxed and bagged Stuff is now in another place, and I have to entirely reverse the process, but fitting it all into half the space. I appear to have developed some sort of safety barrier preventing my acknowledging this properly, or I might just break down completely. And getting help won’t be easy, as all the hulking men I know were… I don’t know any hulking men. All the potential stuff carriers I know stayed up all last night playing computer games at Tim’s house. Without another vehicle, I’m stuffed.

I left for Soul Survivor a week ago with the statement, “I am still not sure about the answer to [why I’m going]. I hope that it will be revealed in my time there.”

I kind of knew that it would be. And it was.

I had the most extraordinary week – I went to something incredible, something that reminded me why I do my job (youth work), and something that reminded me why I’m a Christian. Soul Survivor deserves celebrating. Telling someone about the previous week’s Soul In The City project, it was remarked that it was terrible that such a thing got little publicitiy, when the plentiful ill-actions of Christians get widespread coverage. So I’ll let another fifty or so people hear about it…

Soul Survivor is a Christian festival for teenagers, with the intention of inspiring them to identify the injustice and problems in the world, and give them the support and means to do something about it. It encourages young people in their faith, or introduces them to one. It’s difficult, and it’s honest. Most of all, it’s not freaky or attempting to brainwash kids into becoming Good Little Christians who do their homework. Which was what I was scared it might be. It’s quite extraordinary, and I think the best thing I can do is suggest going along next year to see it. Sian, who has been going for years, was the very best company for the thing. If you can take one of her with you, I’d recommend that too.

But more excitingly, Soul Survivor has been more that talk. It’s been going for over a decade (this year including separate venues and seminars for 20 somethings who have grown up with the project), and in 2000 developed something called Soul In The City. That one was in Manchester, this year’s was in London.

So this year, 11,000 teenagers went to the poorest, most run-down estates in London, and worked. They cleaned parks, painted buildings, cleared people’s gardens, visited the elderly, litter-picked, tidied, helped whereever help was needed. Rather than standing outside the estates announcing how money would soon be invested in improving property prices in the area, they went in and got on with it. 11,000 of them, giving up a week of their summer holiday to do crappy jobs that no one else wants to. That deserves some attention.

It’s a lot to do with an incredible guy called Mike Pilavachi, big of belly and bad of shirt and hair, and one of the most extraordinarily caring men I’ve come across. In a world where I cannot turn my head for seeing people being hateful and cruel in the name of Christianity, he is a man who gives me hope. And best of all, he’s quite a big idiot too. The best sort.

For all my complaining, and despite the agony of the move, I’m very glad I went. I got to be reminded that God is actually real, and to stay up late eating potato wedges with way too much mayo every night. It just about gives me the strength to look at the pile of Stuff in the hallway, the Stuff I somehow have to magically transport to Jonty’s, without crying.

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