Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Salt and light

Ibizas main industry used to be salt. Salt at one point was worth as much as gold! Many artists come here because of the great light, it is so clear.

Now it's tourism. We want to be salt and light to tourists.....

This is difficult as they are such a transient group.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Winter on the White Island

Well for the first time in months we have had a day of torrential rain, fantastic for the land as everywhere was so dry.

Life here continues for the resident community, we continue to meet with people but not in the West End as the whole place is like a ghost town. We have the opportunity to take more time with people and enjoy the company of our friends here on the island.

We meet to pray everyday and this is starting to develop nicely, this week we are going to start to work through the whole of the Psalms in our prayer times. Should take us about 200 days!

This week we have focussed on our official 24-7 ibiza website and also started the ball rolling for the printing of our cigarette lighters that we hope to be giving away next summer.

Right now our time is about planning, preparing and building ourselves up.

We will post on this blog weekly.


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Church Times Aritcle: July 18th

During our time with Team 2 we were visited by Brian Draper from the church times. Here is a copy of the article he wrote about his experience. It's long!!! but worth a read.

A slim, young British girl in red hot pants and a white crop-top straddles a squat concrete bollard, with the poise of an Olympic gymnast. How she manages is a mystery, as she’s very drunk. As a flood of white-water noise – all colliding beats and football chanting – spews down from San Antonio’s notorious West End on the party island of Ibiza, she leans back and hoists her legs high in the air, parting them to simulate an acrobatically challenging sexual position.

Five yards to her left, Craig - a spindly 16-year-old who’s given his parents the slip and drunk too deep of the party spirit with some new ‘friends’ - doesn’t have the same sense of balance. He melts from his perch on a wall into a pool of his own warm, stinking vomit.

The gymnast sees him, and promptly dismounts. Rushing over, she exudes not concern but excitement. “I wish I had my camera!” she shouts as others gather, for a moment, to watch and laugh at the sideshow, before swaying back into the neon haze.

Not everyone departs, however. Two young people in black, ‘24-7 Ibiza’ t-shirts have moved in soberly. Jamie is a 23-year-old Australian with the looks of a Bondai surfer and the balls of Dame Edna Everage, and is already working out how to get an ambulance here quick-sharp.

Danni, meanwhile, is a diminutive 21-year-old nanny from rural Indiana. Before last week, she had never even seen the sea. Neither had she drank alcohol, been to a party, ventured inside a bar or danced at a night-club. There’s no time to reflect on culture-shock for her now, however; she’s focused on propping up, and mopping up, young Craig as he continues to suffer.

Minutes earlier, as we toured the West End together, Jamie explained enthusiastically what he was hoping for from tonight, as his two-week stint with the Christian organisation 24-7 Ibiza was coming to an end. “We’re at the business end of this mission now,” he shouted above the noise. “And we’re expecting God to do cool things tonight.”

Two more black t-shirts arrive from the darkness and also set to work, unprompted. They’d spotted Craig a few minutes earlier and had run to fetch water. Craig can’t keep it down, though, which means he’s in danger of dehydrating in the oppressive 1am heat. Jamie’s ambulance arrives and Craig is dispatched to have his stomach pumped.

As three turn to leave, they realise they’ve left Danni, on her hands and knees with a single paper towel, to clear the vomit from the pavement. There are more bars here per square mile than anywhere else in Europe, and you see many extraordinary things – such as the gaggle of six-foot glitter-encrusted ‘angels’ who spend the night hovering around the streets to advertise a club night at Eden - but seeing Danni at work is one of the more gut-wrenchingly moving.

* * *

Jamie and Danni are part of a team of six young Christians who have come to Ibiza for a fortnight to help a permanent presence of five people, led by Brian Heasley and his wife Tracy, who believe they have been ‘called’ to the island to live. Not all of the newcomers were quite prepared for the experience, however - which focuses on offering prayer to late-night revellers. They take to the streets with blank ‘prayer cards’, which they invite people to complete (in the hope that they also spark a deeper conversation, which frequently happens) before returning to a prayer room in the heart of the district, to keep their end of the bargain.

Katrina, a 23-year-old dental nurse and swimming instructor, had arrived from Australia expecting to engage in more traditional forms of ‘evangelism’. Like Danni, she’d never been to a club or a pub either, and prefers country and western to the house beats of the world’s most famous clubbing island.

“Going out in the West End on the first night was really freaky for me. But God gave me peace, and I really love it out here now. To speak to people, hear their stories and pray for them. There’s no pressure to preach to them.

“Most of the time people are really positive. Last night some guys called us over to speak to them. Three of us girls had a really good conversation with 10 of them. I was talking to one guy who’s been here three days and he’s already fed up with drinking. “Pray for me” he was saying. “I want to get rid of these habits.”

Johanna, 22, from Germany, is the only member of the team who really looks like a clubber. She’s a theology graduate who loves the ‘scene’. “Last night was really cool. I saw a guy sitting there and started talking to him. He said he believes in a mixture of gods and things.

“He told me that he’d arrived yesterday to visit his brother, but his brother had been jailed the night before for possession of drugs. He didn’t know what to do. So we offered to pray for him, and did so - right down there on the street. It was a heavenly appointment. He was crying, and really thankful.”

Indya, 19, is from Bambridge in Northern Ireland. David, 21, is from the US, and has more than a hint of Forrest Gump about both the way he looks, in his over-sized baseball cap and cut-offs, and speaks. But he hasn’t let that put him off.

“This guy sat next to me the other night,” he drawls, “and I knew he was Spanish. Sometimes there’s a language barrier. I thought ‘What the heck, I’ll try to talk to him.’ He wrote his prayer request in Spanish.” David doesn’t know what he wrote, however, so Fiona, on the permanent team, takes the card and translates: ‘God, thank you that through this great person you’re going to hear my pleas. I really want to leave all my addictions and become totally free.’

* * *

Down at the harbour side, at10.30am, Brian Heasley sips a double-strength coffee and tries to wake himself up. The thick-set 36-year-old, who once led a successful charismatic free church in Diss, Norfolk, sports a shaven head, a pink t-shirt and a tired air. “I guess you can’t live on Red Bull, Pro-Plus and coffee for ever,” he sighs, “but I am at the moment.”

The day before had begun at 5.30am when he and his wife had gone to the West End to see if they could help any stragglers. They hadn’t been able to do much, he explains – except help a few lost souls back to their hotels, and look away while one couple made love on a bench surrounded by fast-food cartons.

As we speak about the challenges facing the small but growing team of Christians who have moved to the island, a teenager in a Celtic shirt limps by nursing a half-empty glass of beer. He clearly hadn’t been to bed yet.

Mr Heasley explains that yesterday afternoon, he helped his team to give out 30 kilos of oranges (and 24-7 cards) to sun worshipers on the beach, before working the night on the streets and finally heading to the world’s largest club, Privilege, in support of an acquaintance who was DJing to a near-empty hall. He’d got back to bed 24 hours later, at 5.30am.

Mr Heasley has lived on the island with his wife and two young boys, Daniel and Ellis, for 18 months now. He has spent a year acclimatising and befriending locals. “We feel like we belong, now” he explains. “Locals take us seriously and treat us like one of them, because we have premises in the West End.” The premises comprise a single office and ‘prayer room’, the trade-mark of the ‘24-7’ prayer network from which this Ibiza project has sprung.

‘24-7’ was started by Pete Greig from Revelation Church in Chichester. Originally, Mr Greig’s vision was to inspire young people to pray around the clock for their town. He set up a prayer room with low lighting and background music, believing they would find it more exhilarating to pray at 3 in the morning than 11am in church. He was right: the vision spread, and now there are 24-7 prayer rooms in over 64 countries.

“Spaces were created where people felt they could express themselves to God,” explains Mr Heasley. “Out of that grew the ‘boiler room’ concept – a monastic approach to having a more permanent place of prayer, mission and justice.” Mr Grieg invited Mr Heasley to set up a boiler room in Ibiza. For the previous four years, under Mr Grieg’s leadership, 24-7 had only been sending out temporary teams for the clubbing season, from June to October.

Fiona Roberts came out with one such team three years ago, but quit her masters degree in social work to move permanently to the island when she heard that the Heasleys had set up shop. They were also joined by Steve and Dawn Jeffery. Steve was a DJ in Britain, but now works as a marketing manager for a property company on the Island. He still owns his own small record label, though, and on the night we meet, he’s filled with nervous anticipation as he’s due to have one of his records played on BBC Radio 1Xtra.

Only the Heasleys work ‘full time’ for the organisation, as funding remains thin. The single office and adjoining prayer room they have rented costs around £600 a month, and this, plus the Heasley’s salary, is funded mostly through donations from churches back home. Most charitable trusts like to see quantifiable results, of course, but when you’re basing a ministry around praying for a transient bunch of lager-louts and clubbers, it’s hard to offer solid ‘results’.

“Success is a funny word,” reflects Mr Heasley on his first 18 months. “We haven’t seen anyone become Christians yet, though we have plans for some ‘Jackass evangelism’ – offering roses to prostitutes with a card saying, ‘You’re worth more than this’; making cigarette lighters for the many people who ask me for a light, with the words ‘Jesus is the light of the world – 24/7’ emblazoned on their side.”

But he points out that “We’re not primarily here to see conversions.” Instead, “We are here to ‘be’, to bless and to build - to be with and bless the kind of people Jesus would have hung out with: the drunks, the prostitutes, the lost - and to build a creative community on the island in the longer-term.”

Ibiza has been attracting a peculiar mix of visitors since the first hippies arrived in the 1960s and experienced a tolerant welcome from the locals. The island became a haven for gay people thanks to that same spirit of tolerance in the 1970s (it’s still the fourth most popular ‘gay’ destination in the world), before becoming a world-class clubbing island in the 1980s. Its club culture remains strong, though the beautiful people who prefer to sip water and take ecstasy in pursuit of a more spiritual form of hedonism have now, infamously, been joined by a steady flow of binge-drinkers, since cheap flights began discharging a cargo of Club 18-30 holiday-makers and hen- and stag-parties since the turn of the decade. Elsewhere on the island, among the uber-rich who flock here too, Zinadine Zidane is reportedly recovering from the shock of his World Cup exit.

Revd Bob Short, the vicar of the English Speaking Church in Ibiza and Formentura, is relieved to have been joined by the permanent 24-7 team and the 7 teams who will fly in, each for two weeks this summer, to assist. He admits that he is more at home on the cricket field than the dance floor. “So I’m delighted they are here,” he reflects as he drops by to visit the new team. His broad Anglican church of ex-pats, a few locals and visitors, doesn’t appeal directly to the bingers. The two Christian communities aren’t officially linked, but he’s glad to be able to refer people on to 24-7. “We work well together,” he says. And immediately, he’s garnering details from Johanna about the man whose brother is in prison, as he’s visiting jail this afternoon and wants to track him down, to help with Spanish translation and offer any help he can.

* * *

As the sun begins to set across San Antonio harbour, thousands gather on the sandy beach in front of two world-famous café venues. To the left is Café del Mar; to the right, Café Mambo. The 24-7 team has re-grouped in front of the latter, to enjoy the spectacle (the sea, of course, is a novelty to wide-eyed Danni) and to chat with anyone they find. A hefty set of loud-speakers begins to play the kind of ‘chill-out’ music that makes this ‘Sunset Ibiza’ event so popular – ambient, tuneful beats by a leading DJ, Erick Morillo - that set a relaxed and spiritual tone, as the masses sit in hushed reverence to savour the sun set before they party.

A trendy 20something girl rolls and lights a huge spliff; the smell wafts across the beach, to meet and mix with the aroma of barbecues and perfume and sun-cream and petrol - the fire juggler is loading her batons for the moment the sun has gone and the music steps up.

As she scores a firey trail across the sky to herald another night of partying, a trio of girls from the world’s best club, Pacha, appear out of nowhere, dancing on a podium on the café’s terrace. They wear very little, but they wear it very well. “You’ve got to be careful what you set your sights on in Ibiza,” warns Mr Heasley, turning without delay.

And he knows what he’s talking about. This is the man, after all, who is wondering how he can befriend the dancers and bar-staff at ‘Sin’, the latest lap dancing club to open in San An. His team has already developed a relationship with a pole-dancer from Temptation, whose prayer card sits proudly on the wall of the prayer room, requesting prayer for ‘inner peace’.

“How do you break into a club called ‘Sin’?” asks Mr Heasley to his group on the beach. But the question is left to hang in the scent-laden air, without reply. No one, it seems, is yet willing to offer an answer.

* * *

In a small, dimly lit upper room, a tiny band of disciples gather to steel themselves for the night ahead. You can almost smell the fear. It’s approaching the witching hour, and an earthquake of a beat is already shaking the street below.

“In the beginning was the Word,” proclaims Mr Heasley, “and the Word was with God and the Word was God… In him was life, and that light was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”

The leader sparks a candle made of salt into life, and for a few minutes, the disciples reflect on what it means to be salt and light in a dark world. A gentle Delirious? track plays out. And then another CD is slipped on, and the volume cranked as a house track begins to pump. ‘My joy. My peace. My strength. My life. My brother. My soul. My faith. My friend. Yes he is! Yes he is! He’s my joy, he’s my prayer, he’s the one who’s going to be there…’

It’s a track called ‘He is’, by Copyright featuring Song Williamson – a song they’d all been dancing to along with 4,000 others in Pacha earlier in the week. “The atmosphere was amazing,” Danni had told me of her first taste of the clubs. “It was one of the most worshipful experiences of my life.”

The disciples start swaying to the now familiar sound as they lift their prayers high above the music, asking for chance encounters, good conversations, answered prayers, strength and courage to face the night ahead. On the walls, 300 prayer cards from the past six weeks also provide the focus (“It’s a bit Bruce Almighty” Mr Heasley had earlier quipped). Some are serious, some less so – all, however, tell a story. ‘I want to find the truth’; ‘I never want to hear those wee voices in my head’; ‘Please let me get laid’; I am frightened of dying’. One barman from Temptation wants prayer for his liver.

And at the stroke of midnight, they head out in pairs, passing under the words that Johanna has been painting over the door – ‘Que la force soit avec toi’: May the force be with you. As they emerge into the flow of human traffic, they meet and greet the others who work this patch nightly – Cocoa the bouncer, Adie the bar-worker, Amy the PR. They’ve prayed for them all. John, a bar owner, sighs to Brian in exhaustion, “We have to provide 165 Saturday nights on the trot.” They’re tired, here, and the season is only just under way. Amy works till 4.30 every morning, seven days a week. “We’ll pray for you,” the guys assure her. “Thanks,” she responds, without flinching.

It’s the kind of response they’ve now grown used to. Mr Heasley was heartened and amused to be accosted by one bar worker recently who shouted across the street to him: “Fuckin’ hell, every fuckin’ prayer you prayed for me was answered!” Johanna reports that one girl asked, “How many prayers are we allowed?” Someone asks Jamie how much each prayer costs, and he’s glad to report that it’s all for free.

The Angels from Eden shimmer by – apparently last week they’d cracked a whip on Dave’s Forrest-Gump behind – while PRs shout to advertise the latest offers from the bars: “Two for one inside right now!”; “Free pint of vodka and Red Bull with every pint of lager!”

Jamie and Danni push through a gaggle of England shirts singing “Ten German Bombers” (to the tune of Ten Green Bottles), and towards Tim, who is sitting, apparently asleep, in a plastic chair, oblivious to the maelstrom of heat and light around him. He can’t be woken, however. His friend laughs nervously. “Has he been like this before?” the Christians ask. “Before? He’s like this every week! Another pill will sort him out…” Two hours later, Jamie will be phoning for another ambulance.

In the meantime, a group of three girls and a lad are sat on a wall, quietly. “Hey guys!” says Jamie. “Can we pray for you?” he’s clearly got the knack. Within moments, all four are filling out cards without a fight (in fact, the team only get two rejections all evening). Matt, from Basingstoke, writes: ‘I want to be happy with what I have. To be successful in the things I try, and to be able to have the power to help those in need who are close to me.’

Cards safely gathered, the pair make their way to the prayer room for the half-time rendezvous. As they turn a corner, they’re greeted with the sight of a girl in red hot pants and a white crop top, who’s straddling a squat concrete bollard…

* * *

“It’s slightly addictive, isn’t it?” beams Brian Heasley as they re-assemble in the prayer room. He was meant to be staying back to pray but he’d got itchy feet tonight, and had followed the others outside. “Is it wrong to be addicted to all this?”

Again, his question hangs in the air. Silence falls on the band of disciples, before they ready themselves to pray. Some time later, Danni, still emotional, will finally get the chance to reflect on her cross-cultural experience. “I can say that my heart grieved for this 16-year-old-boy and that I felt a love for him that came from somewhere I don’t know. And it was strong.”

But before she can, it’s pretty clear to everyone that she needs to find a sink to wash herself down. The whiff of fear has clearly departed from the upper room; in its place is the lingering aroma of young Craig. It’s a fragrance that, at the end of another long Saturday night, is strong enough, one senses, that it might just reach beyond the doors of Sin and Temptation, past the PRs and the bouncers, the fighters and the music, and all the way to heaven.