Soul Survivor is epic. Awesome. I love it! It’s not a ‘perfect’ camp, and has made some mistakes, but if it was perfect then I wouldn’t be allowed to go – and quite rightly. I’ve been leading groups to Soul Survivor for years now, and it consistently draws us together as a group, and deepens our collective and individual relationships with God. This will be my 9th or 10th trip leading… I forget.
One of the things I’ve learned the hard way is how to keep your group – and yourself – healthy! This is really important. I used to think ‘it’s only 5 days, and it’s camping anyway – let’s rough it!’ And there is ‘some’ truth to that. If you want your kids to have the fullest possible experience, however, there are some dangers to look out for.
Soul Survivor is a bit of a melting pot. Groups gathering from all over the country with all their local plagues in a field. And the ‘free hugs’ guy doesn’t help either! You mix cold, damp, lack-of-sleep, high-energy activity, emotional intensity and homesickness into that and you have a propagator for some real issues.
Bad health can also cloud and disrupt genuine experiences with God. God moves in powerful ways at Soul Survivor – but just a tiny bit of rational thinking will say ‘no wonder everyone’s crying in this emotional-physical-spiritual mass of bodies!’ God does move(!), but we should do all we can to keep people healthy so they can take stock and carry those God-experiences into the rest of their lives.
God always gives meaning and clarity to his experiences, but if all we remember is ‘the feeling’ without any content, then there was probably something else mixed in. Something easily preventable and solvable, that – as youth leaders – we can manage.
There are two ‘Ds’ that the medical tents deal with every year: Dehydration and Damp. I’m an experienced camper, climber and first-aider, and don’t exaggerate one bit when I say these two are the two biggest killers in the mountains.
This one sounds simple but gets really serious! Not getting enough fluid in – and loosing more through sweating (heat & activity) means your body’s natural mineral balance goes out of wack. The salts, sugars and natural joint lubrication deteriorate leaving your bodies immune system in overdrive.
This is often accompanied by vomiting… next to your cooking tent!
You know you’re dehydrated if you start getting dizzy or a bit lightheaded, tired at strange times, and are not peeing much – or when you do it’s a dark (and smelly) colour! Oh – and you might feel thirsty and dry too – but not necessarily.
So drink! Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! We don’t let any of our group leave our camp village without seeing their full bottle of water or squash. They get into the habit right away and keep it all week. They have a full drink with each of their meals and go to bed with a full bottle too.
Even if you – or they – don’t feel thirsty. Have a bottle and sip, especially on those long hot afternoons.
I once had a lad get his onesie soaked in the rain – and – leave his tent windows open all day. He crawled into his damp sleeping bag with his damp onesie in a damp tent. He spent the next few days very ill. Mixed fevers, a bad head cold, dizziness – and had to be bought back by the medic van twice.
Getting and staying wet is a nightmare! At least you’ll get a cold and be uncomfortable for the week – but you could be looking at maceration too – which is when the outer layer of skin (especially on your hands and feet) gets so saturated it separates, cracks and blisters.
So a few basics. If you get wet (you will), then go get dry! Take off and replace all your wet clothes and leave them somewhere outside your sleeping area to dry. If your tent leaks, take everything out, dry it fully with towels, let it vent and then put things back in (once they have dried).
Make sure you have a clothes line and pegs with you – or a gazebo to hang things up in the rain.
2 More things: Sleep and Food!
Make sure you have everything you need for a comfortable nights sleep! When we meet with parents before our trips we go through sleeping-bag ratings and what insulation (mats etc.) to use. We teach the young people how to set up and manage their tents and we do insist on our curfews.
And if you’re one of those groups that doesn’t impose a curfew, and your group is still running around the villages screaming at 4am while your snug up in your tent. Please don’t come. 🙂 Thank you!
Food wise, we make sure that they eat a good breakfast and a carbs-heavy, slow-release-energy meal in the afternoon. We watch them for overloading on sweets and make sure they are having some kind of actual meal from the cafes/trailers in the evening. Soul Survivor is not an excuse to eat crap, and by day three you’ll notice if you have! Proper diet means you have a group that stays positive and open, rather than cranky and surly.