It’s hard to believe that this photo was taken a year ago. We’d picked up the keys for Davina the camper-van many times before, but it had always just felt like we were baby sitting her…we could always hand her back when she misbehaved (as she often did). This time, however, was different.
There’s that look in my eyes…the sense of excitement, pride and disbelief – simultaneously pleased as Punch and scared witless. In many ways it reminded me of that first journey home after being discharged from the labour ward, but in a sense we were actually taking care of a beautiful old lady. Originating from Germany and having spend most of her life in Rhode Island, U.S.A., she found her way to Scotland in 2010. She had the appearance of a weathered traveller when she was discovered harbouring in Ayrshire. The Scottish Bible Society (SBS) had the vision to restore and commission her as a means of journeying, of creating sanctuary and retreat outside of traditional places of worship.
We stumbled upon a promotional leaflet in 2011, got in touch, bounced around some ideas and threw out a bunch of invitations to head down to the beach on a sunny August Saturday afternoon. Over 60 people from different parts of our lives turned up – people we knew through surfing, through our local community, through our daughter’s school, through church and a host of folks we didn’t know at all. There was no particular agenda, but throughout the afternoon we heard little snippets of conversations that just made us smile at the very notion of sharing life simply and authentically out in the open rather than behind the confines of the walls of buildings that we often congregate within. In my mind there is one story from that day that became a catalyst for everything that followed and you can read that by clicking here.
Little did we know then what would follow. In 2012 Steve, who had been the original pioneer behind the Exit:Van project that the camper had been associated with, moved on to a new job. Having applauded SBS for the great project they had initiated, they then began to explore whether or not we would play any role in continuing to develop that. Despite my own enthusiasm, all I could really see was obstacles. In an enormous act of generosity, SBS suggested that Vicky and I volunteered for them – that way we would be covered by their insurance and could help ourselves to the van whenever we wanted to as long as we simply put some fuel in her! We could barely believe it, but it enabled us to test drive some ideas. A year later SBS decided they were going to sell the van and wondered whether we would like to buy her to develop our ideas and continue her legacy? Once again we could see so much potential, but an £18,000 price tag was a barrier to entry. How on earth could we make that happen? Maybe we needed to fix our eyes on things above?
Having thought and prayed about it for a couple of weeks and sought the wisdom of our church leaders, the leadership of Christian Surfers UK and a few close friends, the only way that I can describe it is that “it seemed right to us” to pursue it. Within 10 days we had been pledged £10,000! Upon telling SBS this, they suggested we paid them £7,000 as a down-payment in recognition that the van needed some essential remedial works. They suggested that we paid another £3,333 each year for the following three years. Our home church offered to administer the funds in order to remove the administrative hassle from us and to provide accountability to anyone who wanted to pledge financial support.
A couple of further generous one-off gifts and a small number of monthly standing orders from other individuals who shared something of our vision enabled us to pay for some key remedial items and insurance. This past year has enabled us to get Davina back into good health and running well and to use her as intended. We hope that the blog and social media have been platforms to faithfully tell something of her ongoing story and how that is shaping other peoples’ stories too.
Truthfully though, there have been plenty of times this year when I have been anxious about the repayment. It has felt like a big step of faith and no-one likes the burden of debt. As we approached the first of our three further balancing payments to SBS, I was amazed at how the funds had been provided. Once again, a series of generous gifts or acts by others combined with our own personal giving and resources had come good. Just as I was about to contact our church about releasing the next payment of the funds that they administer on our behalf for the van, they got in touch with us. They in turn had been the benefactors of others’ generosity. It transpired that we actually had about £5,000 amassed in the Soul Surfers kitty. The elders at our home church decided to match that out of the gifts they had received form others and, therefore, pay off the balance of the van in full! As has so often been the case thus far, we were completely blown away and left fairly speechless. Praise be!
So, what next? Well, we hope that people will continue to support us as the upkeep of a 47 year old Camper-van involves a fair bit of TLC. We want to steward and look after her well. We continue to use her in partnership with Soul Surfers, CSUK and Scripture Union in terms of the ongoing development of SUrf Camps after the success of our pilot project this summer. We want to enable others to find ways in which she can function for the purpose she was created – as a mobile sacred space. If you would like to explore that, then please drop an email to email@example.com with the heading “Davina”.
A huge “thank you” is due to everyone who has played a part – from words of support or encouragement and to financial contributions. “Thank you” also to those who faithfully pledge monthly support which assists us greatly in the annual maintenance and insurance to enable us to continue to run the van, facilitate the things we have progressed and to look to new opportunities.