A few weeks prior to leaving for St. Croix, we were informed that our first week here, one of us would be helping staff the NIKO program and the other would be staying back at the base with the kids. We prayed about what to do for a few days and finally came to the decision that I would be the one to go. Cory knew this would be more challenging for both of us, and thought it was the right thing to do.
NIKO is a program designed to teach leadership, surrender, teamwork, and service. Basically, we spend all week outdoors stretching people to their limits and giving them opportunities to grow and overcome challenges they never thought possible. Ever since my first NIKO (way back in 1998) I have been passionate about this program and how it’s able to change people’s lives. I was thrilled that God was providing an opportunity to help staff one in St. Croix, but I knew it was going to be quite the challenge for me as well!
We arrived at our house on the base in St. Croix and I had just set my bags down when the NIKO leaders knocked at the door. I was completely jet-lagged and exhausted, but there was no time for rest, NIKO was beginning in an hour and I needed to get updated on what the plan for the evening was.
My first night was a whirlwind of attempting to learn 30 new names, figure out where I was going, and what I was doing. I returned to our little house late in the evening with just enough time to pack my hiking pack for the week and set my alarm clock for 4 hours later. As I said… It was going to be an exhausting week!
Every morning I was greeted with an amazing sunrise, and every evening I would watch the stars, in awe of God’s creation. NIKO provided me with a unique opportunity to discover parts of the island I would have never seen before.
The wildlife here is very mild. I ran into a few termites (literally ran into a branch covered in them), saw a few centipedes, gongolos, ants, and spiders, but nothing too scary. The biggest annoyance all week was actually a plant lovingly named the “hitchhiker”. It doesn’t look terrible, but when you brush against it, it leaves burs behind that tend to sting when they stick you.
The weather is what you would expect of a tropical island. Consistently around 82 degrees (Farenheit) with some surprise rain showers here and there. One night, just as I was about to fall asleep, the wind started howling and the rain was pouring. It seems as though when it rains here, it never falls down, but always sideways, soaking everything possible! I was a little frightened with the intensity of the weather and found myself seeking reassurance that it wasn’t a hurricane!
As you might imagine, we did a fair amount of hiking. On Wednesday, I was hiking with my group, when my hip started to bother me. It wasn’t too bad at first, but as I continued to walk, it continued to get worse and worse. I continued to push on, but I was battling an enormous amount of emotions. It became apparent that I wasn’t going to be able to finish the hike and would have to quit early and I was frustrated, upset, and struggling with my pride.
I couldn’t understand why God would bring me this far to help out, only to develop a completely random injury that would prevent me from doing what I came for. Not only did it not make sense, but I was worried everyone would be disappointed in me for not being able to follow through with my commitment. One of my biggest fears leading up to this whole trip to St. Croix has been that I would be more of a burden than a help, and I felt like that was coming true.
We stopped for a lunch break and I let Jason and Cherilyn (the NIKO leaders) know what was going on, and that I wouldn’t be able to continue the hike. By this time, every step I took was incredibly painful. They were incredibly gracious and understanding, but I still felt so horrible about the whole situation.
As a last attempt to try and fix my hip, one of the YWAM staff who just happened to be a chiropractor offered to look at me to see if he could help. I agreed, and ended up having the most memorable first chiropractic visit of my life! I laid down on the tailgate of a pickup truck while he inspected my hip and adjusted my back. He wasn’t able to fix my hip, but my back has felt incredible since then!
The next two days I ended up joining the “logistics” team doing the behind the scenes work to keep the camp running. My hip was so painful on Thursday I couldn’t even put pressure on my leg without being in pain. It was frustrating to miss out on the things my team was doing, but God had different plans for me.
Because of my injury, I was able to spend quality time with several people I would have only met in passing before. Their friendship meant the world to me.
God also used this experience to teach me about my worth. Whether it be my every day life back home raising my kids, or doing a short-term mission trip, I feel like my job is to be a servant. If I ever stop to take time for myself or to pursue my own interests, I feel guilty and selfish. This whole week God has been teaching me that He values me as a child of God, not just a worker.
It’s a hard lesson for me, but I’m trying daily to remind myself that it is okay to be the one who is blessed, to be served, and to receive more from God. I am not stealing it away from someone else because He is a BIG God who is able to take care of everyone.
It was a challenging week for me emotionally, physically, and spiritually. God worked in ways I didn’t expect, and it was so rewarding to not only see the changes in myself, but to watch the transformations of the students that came.
As for my hip… It was drastically better on Friday and I was able to continue serving in my previous role.
Please continue to pray for our time here and for my hip so that I can fully participate in ministry. More updates soon!