On Saturday 7th September, over 450 People gathered at the Wycliffe Centre to attend a celebratory goodbye service. I was unable to be there due to our current African location, but it got me thinking about my memories of the site. I have LOTS of fond memories.
I first moved there April 15th 1985, a few months before I was 5. I lived longer at our house there than anywhere else in the world (so far). After university I started my real working life there (unless working a summer job at a distribution warehouse for nine weeks counts as 'real work'). In fact, almost all my memories are attached to that place.
On the whole I have happy memories… Long summers messing around in the woods or the swimming pool… Earning money in the kitchen at the weekends… Making some of the longest lasting friendships I have.
Many of us started our sporting careers on that site. For some the never-ending locations to kick a football around. For others the table tennis or the foosball… and dare I mention darts? Every summer evening there would be volleyball. Some of us grew tall enough to be of some use at the net, others not so much – but it did lead to representing universities, (yes it wasn’t a very big club)! Cricket also featured, if you were daring enough to face the fastball of Dr. Crozier!
In the later years, Ultimate Frisbee began to appear. Fast and ferocious, if you didn’t get out the way, a disc could leave scars, both emotional and physical. (It's okay, friendships are intact.)
Many of us learned to swim in that tiny, tiny, FREEZING pool. Somehow, as a kid, the temperature didn’t matter too much.
I remember many, many discussions over the rules of half court. Does the scorer retain the ball at the start of the next point, or not?
Bonfire parties and carol services were chances to connect with the local community and schools. Both were often so well attended that it was easy to feel anonymous for a while. Funny to see my son in my school uniform, causing as much hilarity as I am sure I did, trying to sing on that stage.
For some, the Wycliffe Centre isn’t full of happy memories. Some kids were evacuated from their homes overseas and landed there, confused and hurt. It seems strangely similar to the kids who occupied the school on the site during the Second World War. I had the privilege of working with some of our modern day evacuees. Seeing God at work in their lives, I realised that they can hate Horsley’s Green all they like, but it wont change the situation or heal the pain of having to leave their homes overseas.
The site has meant so many things to so many people, but I am glad someone has been brave enough to make the extremely hard decision to sell the place and take Wycliffe UK into the next stage of it’s ministry.