There is no doubting my mind that Soul Survivor is just a wonderful experience no matter how many times one ends up by going to England.
While this year's trip marked my second time in going up to Shepton Mallet, I really felt that this time I went up knowing that I shouldn't really be in line for any unpleasant surprises or difficult times and that I could see this trip as an opportunity to just relax, forget about all my worries and just receive instead of serve, which is the position that I willingly find myself positioned in all too often while in Malta. I knew how Soul Survivor worked now, as opposed to having to venture into the unknown two years ago; and therefore, could see this as a different experience to that which I passed through back in 2008, which was primarily an experience of healing and confirmation.
And indeed, for the most part, my thoughts above were confirmed. Having said that, however, nothing is ever plain sailing and of course, there indeed had to be a hitch or two along the way just so that I would have endured a test. However, I found that even though some of these 'tests' did initially worry me, keeping a calm head - something which I don't think I would have even been able to envisage around a year ago now - managed to help me plough through them with flying colours. Being sick for the majority of the trip, for example, was something that I found immensely frustrating, especially when this culminated in me not being able to speak for most of the second day, all of the third day and part of the fourth. However, especially during the praise and worship sessions, this made me realise that you don't necessarily need a voice to worship Him - if you just keep focus in your heart, it's more than enough and just as effective.
Sickness and poor health aside, however, I found that the biggest test was not having my best friend there for a week. It made me realise a couple of things in particular - primarily, while Mark and I still communicated on a daily basis, it meant that personally, I had to make it my mission to ensure that I could just 'let go' and rely on other people; and secondly, it also allowed me to form some bonds with people that I would not have previously imagined I would indeed 'bond' with. I'm obviously not speaking about the obvious culprits, people who besides Mark, I can always be found with; but people that I was friends with before but I now feel that I've brought back to Malta a stronger friendship. The experience really served well for that purpose.
Also equally amazing, and I say this being an older member of the group, is the maturity levels that the majority of the younger members of the group have. While I already knew this, I really found Soul Survivor to be a confirmation of it, and a real fantastic way to find out about these people's characters. A lot of those who are four or five years younger than people like myself have their heads screwed on really well and they really do have their priorities set straight. That aside, they are also exceptionally intellectual and caring people, and I believe that the majority of them indeed do display a maturity that belies their age. I know that when I was 16/17, acting like this was more of the exception rather than the norm. Now, I can only see it from the opposite perspective, which in my eyes, is encouraging. The best thing about it all though is that such maturity is not being achieved at the expense of having fun and not enjoying teenage life - these people just have enough in them to go and find a balance in this regard. Kudos.
Perhaps I might not be as charged up as I wanted to be coming back from Soul Survivor, but I do understand and appreciate that the experience served me in good stead and that I would have no regrets in going up again. And again. And again. It's just something out of this world, outstanding, titanic; something that cannot be missed. Indeed, for me, just being one of out 12,700 other people who are there for the same reason is humbling and overwhelming enough.
God Bless You all!