This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
If you've recently found yourself in Ibiza, stuffed to the gills with ecstasy – so much ecstasy your eyes flipped round and round in your head like wheels on a fruit machine, and your jaw turned into a slackline for your tongue to wobble on; so much ecstasy that you sicked up in the bogs, lost your phone down the pan and ended up face down in the street, occasionally being kicked by passing hen-dos – then you may have already met Charlie Clayton.
Charlie, along with his wife Abby and a team of volunteer Brits, runs 24-7 Ibiza.
Around the West End of San Antonio, the 24-7 are a familiar sight – wholesome, corn-fed British Christians in black T-shirts: sober, smiley God-fearers in the eye of the pukestorm. They spend every night, between 11PM and 7AM, rescuing the most obvious casualties of the island's losing war on drugs. Somewhere in all of this, they try to nudge these souls towards The Lord.
24-7 Ibiza has been going since 2002, beginning life as a more insular entity that was all about praying. "But you can't go to a place and pray, and ignore the needs of others," is how Clayton frames the shift.
In 2015's Ibiza, the Christians work the strip as hard as any nightclub touts. But is it paying off? Can the same people who assuage their post-capitalist alienation by wolfing down £10 San Miguels in Pacha, before having aggressively pornographic sex in package hotels, actually find meaning and truth in a 2,000-year-old death cult? Is God going large in Ibiza this season? I called up Charlie Clayton to find out.
VICE: Hello Charlie. Were you out on manoeuvres last night? I believe you guys have your own vehicle – is it actually called The Vomit Van?
Charlie Clayton: "Night time assistance" is probably the best way to describe it. How it works is: half the team is in the prayer room praying. The other half is on the streets. Then, every hour, we swap. So if someone has drunk too much, or taken too many drugs, we will either walk them home – sometimes we'll take them in a wheelchair – or if their home isn't immediately accessible, we'd take them in our Vomit Van.
How many people do you encounter every night?
We helped over a thousand people last season.
Do you go straight in with the Jesus stuff?
If someone's drunk and not really with it, that's not the time to talk to them about their faith. But in the midst of that, when we're not helping people home, we'll ask people in the street: "Is there anything you'd like prayer for?" Which they do, surprisingly often.
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Really? What sort of things do people ask to pray for?
Family, jobs, future – if people are ill, or things are a bit difficult. [We sometimes take] prayers that are a bit silly. But that's fine. We're not looking for structured, perfect prayers. I think, because we've been here so long, that prayer is not weird in the West End.
Do you get much abuse?
It's very rare. Even if people don't quite get why Christians are here, they still seem quite open to the idea – the culture here is very open, and people are on holiday anyway.
Do the people you're helping ever turn nasty on you?
Not in any intentional way. Sometimes people can just be a bit confused. But they're often with a friend, which helps.
Footage of the 24-Ibiza team in action
You must see a lot of pretty heavy things on the streets. Does it depress you, these drugged-up narcissists lost in their sex-binge culture?
No. What we would say is that we liken [it to] the fact that Jesus came into our personal mess and cleaned us up and helped us home.
But how do you feel about the club culture that surrounds you? Is it alienating to be surrounded by something you're avowedly not a part of?
We're not anti-the culture. Personally, I'm not a clubber. But our teams will go clubbing. They will drink alcohol – just not to excess. They won't do illegal drugs, but it's not like we're anti-the culture. We're a part of it, in our own way.
Do these teams have any favourite clubs?
Every two weeks we have a changeover of team, and we take all of the new teams to Ushuaïa, we take them to the Ibiza Rocks hotel. So we very much want people to come in and experience island life in all forms.
Would you say you've had many successes? Are there people who've come to Ibiza for a drug holiday and left with a Jesus habit?
There are definitely people who've come to Ibiza and become Christians. Most people we meet here, we will help and then never see them again. But that's not how we measure our worth.
Is there a recent-ish case study where that's happened very directly?
We do Orange Wednesday – every Wednesday, we go out and give out oranges on the beach, then ask people if there's anything they want prayer for. There was a guy, and I think he'd already been thinking about faith. So our team met him, and by the end of the conversation he personally wanted to become a Christian. I think we were probably the last piece of the puzzle for him.
Are you a fan of the music out there?
Clubbing's not my thing, but what I do find in the music – last year you had that [Swedish House Mafia] song "Don't You Worry Child" [the following lyrics are "See Heaven has a plan for you"]; there was that other song, "Hallelujah"; and even "God Is a DJ" – is that there is a lot of very spiritual imagery within the music. And Ibiza's a very spiritual place. Even if people aren't Christians, there's a real openness to faith here.
Do you think taking five ecstasy tablets and then dancing to a song with "Hallelujah" in the chorus might be a legitimate way to manifest a religious epiphany similar to Christianity?
I'm not linking someone taking five pills and dancing in a club to any kind of faith.
But at the same time, many people find that taking lots of ecstasy tablets makes them more positive, more aware of their place in the order of things, and generally, I guess, just better people. Are you ever tempted towards that, for those very affirmative reasons?
That is a very difficult question. I don't think you can endorse any illegal drug, per se, just because it's illegal. Yes, of course, people on ecstasy seem happy. We meet a lot of them, and the atmosphere it can create is… interesting. But I'm not sure a drug can make you a better person. Often the people we take home have taken too much ecstasy. And often that isn't helping their bodies, even if their minds are having a wonderful time.
If ecstasy isn't the answer, could you perhaps describe the effect of Jesus on the human body?
Oh, let me think… the effect Jesus has on the heart is that my full belief is that humanity was made for a relationship with God. That satisfies the soul. There are a lot of people here searching, trying to fill that hole with alcohol or drugs. It doesn't matter what people are trying to fill the hole with, Jesus is the one that does it.
Is it good?
Sounds a lot like double-dropping. Thanks, Charlie.
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