20 Years of Blessings

Written by Billie Thaw


On the 12th May this year, it was the 20th anniversary since The Oakes was purchased by the Oakes Trust, the charity that owns and runs the centre. We decided to mark this milestone by having a small service of thanksgiving for a few of those who were involved at The Oakes in 1998.

As we reflect back on the last 20 years, it is hard to put into words our thanks and gratitude to God for His many blessings.

These blessings have arrived in many forms.

The physical gifts of the house and grounds and all the ways in which these have expanded and improved over the years.

The team, both the gap team members who arrive each September from all over the world, and the permanent team who work so hard, without salary, for the sake of the Gospel.

But surely our biggest thanks to God is for the many young people who have visited and opened their eyes to see the truth about Jesus and chosen to live their lives for him.

Last February, we received a copy of an article, written by Gill Brackett who is Reader and Team Leader for Children’s, Youth and Families Ministry at Holy Trinity, Heath Town (Wolverhampton).

If I could have read this feedback 20 years ago, when we were just starting out, I could think of nothing that I would have found more encouraging. Her description is exactly what we hoped and prayed that The Oakes would become.

We share it below as a tribute to all those who have worked so hard, or provided generous support, to make The Oakes what it is today, but most of all, as a tribute to our gracious Heavenly Father, who has supplied and exceeded all our needs.

To God be the Glory!

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine a place where you can take your youth group away on a residential and have a retreat for yourself at the same time. That’s what it is like when you visit The Oakes Holiday Centre near Sheffield an interdenominational charity that runs holidays for various age groups from 8 to 18s where the Christian message is shared, Christians are encouraged in their faith, and everyone will have a fantastic experience.

Those aims were certainly met when we went with ten 9-13s from Holy Trinity Church, Heath Town, in February half term. Whilst there, our young people joined in with more than 50 other youngsters and had a wonderful time. It was encouraging to see some of our more timid young people step out of their comfort zone and have a go at activities like ‘the Mudder challenge’ which involved jumping into a pond and, as the name suggests, getting very muddy as they crawl and climb through various obstacles.

Out of their beautiful Georgian manor house and grounds on the southern edge of Sheffield, centre staff lead a complete programme containing two interactive sessions of Christian teaching and other activities each day. When we went, our young people took part in the Mudder challenge, ropes course, archery, climbing wall, craft, radio controlled cars, ball games, indoor and outdoor games, a movie night and bonfires.

Staff cook and serve all meals, wash muddy clothes, and even sleep in the dormitories with the youngsters* – while you as leader, if you choose to stay, have a hotel style room away from all the noise of the night! Churches can even drop off their young people, leave and pick them up at the end of the holiday, if they want to, so we were the only home-church leaders staying that week, and were told we could join in as much or as little as we wanted to.

Many of the team at The Oakes are young people from all over the world, several on a gap years, and all were excellent Christian role models, and even after just three days many of our group had built up close relationships with their dorm leaders.

The Oakes run camps throughout the year (all indoors – no actual camping involved!) for different age groups e.g. 8-12, 11-15, 14-18, and also run mother and daughter, and father and son weekends.

At the end of the time there, every one of our youngsters were asking when they could return to the Oakes – and we’ll definitely be booking up another residential there next year.

 Gill Brackett

*Staff sleep in separate rooms on school residentials

Oakes News (July 2018)

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