What follows is a blog post by Cory regarding his time while I was away at NIKO
Arrival – As our family arrived in St Croix we were met by one of the YWAM staff Raymond, we arrived at the base and Raymond showed us to our living quarters. We were in shock, this was one of those times where we were expecting to make some sacrifices and got blessed. Now, it’s not the Taj Mahal but 3 bedrooms, running water, and hot showers? This is awesome!
That first night was a bit of a whirlwind, there was just enough time for Cherilyn and Jason (Niko Directors) to come in and whisk Jayme away for the week. And so with that it began, it was just me and the kids serving by surviving 🙂
Figuring it all out – At dinner the night before, we met Vanessa who is from Puerto Rico, she manages the kitchen and pretty much makes the base work from day to day. She turned out to be my lifeline for the next few days by teaching us all of the day to day necessities and keeping us involved. She is a genuinely caring person who seems to know just about every person on the island.
We then met the rest of the staff and families. All of the staff here are both kind and genuine, many times it is easy to find one of those two qualities but having both can be rare. These men and women have traded “things of this world” to serve the savior in humility. I have been blessed to get to know them.
Why YWAM St Croix is great for families – One of the reasons we chose this base was that they really understand what it takes to do mission builders with kids. Many of the staff here have children of their own so they understand that to accomplish this, one parent works while the other manages the children. The staff made sure I knew this and told me that my job for the week was to be a dad and raise the kids while Jayme staffed NIKO.
There are several children of staff members who live at or spend much of their time at the base. The staff kids hit it off well with Connor and Jenna and they spent much of their time running around the base looking at bats, chickens, gardens, swinging under a giant tree etc. Pretty much kid paradise here.
The base here has a pool! The kids have been excited about it since we first showed them a picture on the internet. They spent as much time in the pool as I would allow them to.
The base here is beautiful and safe. It is situated on an old plantation site with grand structures and a great island feel. It’s fenced so kids can play and there is no worry about them wandering too far. It’s no wonder I have run into several staff members who said they came here for mission builders and came back. What a great place to call home for the next couple of weeks.
Adjustments – Sleeping has been perfect! Flying through the night on our way here turned out to be the ticket as the kids went down at 7:00pm and slept until 7:00am. They have adjusted to the time difference without a hitch.
With everyone at NIKO we were responsible for our own breakfast and lunch and the base would make dinner. Vanessa graciously took us shopping so we could empty our savings and buy a few days worth of food (everything on the island costs more.) Overall, the kids are being very adventurous with the food here and trying everything. Connor has to eat PBJ sometimes but Jenna is really eating most anything she is given. I am proud of them for trying to assimilate into the base living and being flexible.
Chickens and Garden – Here at the base they have a few ways they grow their own food. It does not fully sustain the base of course, but it provides a good amount of food for them to use in meals and share with staff members. The kids have gotten to help out with feeding chickens, collecting eggs, and cutting some herbs in the garden and they love it.
School – Even though we are away, it is still important that we continue with school. So it was up to me to make this happen. Jayme did an excellent job organizing everything. Connor was more engaged than I thought and really is starting to do well. Jenna is starting to get used to the fact that her school is more intense but is sometimes easily frustrated. It is a fun challenge to try and motivate and teach them. There has also been a lot of opportunity for them to observe things here. Tropical Plants, lizards, bugs, bats, even some animals that were being prepared for a meal.
What do I do when not taking care of the kids? – I was able to be mildly helpful fixing a few odds and ends and helping out in the kitchen a couple times.
One benefit of taking care of the kids is during naptime I have an opportunity to read. I have been reading both my bible and a book called Beyond Opinion by Ravi Zacharias. If you haven’t read anything by Ravi Zachairas, I highly recommend it.
One of the things I haven’t mentioned to this point was a “fast” I am doing on this trip. For this two weeks it is fasting from Facebook. I must look at that thing 12 times a day and waste more time than anyone should, so this will be a good chance to step away. I haven’t really missed it at all and I wonder why we get ourselves so caught up in meaninglessness? Sometimes I wonder if trips like this are meant for my growth and not so much for the people I’m supposed to be here to help. But, I do know God works in multiple facets and that many goals can be achieved by him at the same time.
What does the routine mean? – As things got into more of a routine, I briefly wondered why I was just existing here at the base not being much help. That quickly passed as I remembered Jayme at NIKO and how I know how life changing that program can be. Somehow in a small way I am doing what she does for me everyday. Taking care of the everyday while I go play Detective and SWAT Cop. But in this case there are actual things that matter going on. How can I not have a joyful attitude about it? This also fostered in us a need to pray for Jayme. We prayed for her whenever we were praying. I also realized just how much I love my children and how good a job Jayme has done with them. I honestly thought it would be really tough over these days and I would be on my knees five times a day praying for patience, but it hasn’t. God has really answered my prayer in this area and we have been just content in our situation, loving each other, and making the best out of it. I’m blown away by how well the kids are doing here and this time with us here together living a simple life has been a blessing.
Beach Trip – After a couple of days of routine base living we decided to venture out to the beach and experience the island. So I made some inquires, did some research, and made a packing list. With no chores until the next afternoon, it was beach day. I was told by Vanessa that I needed to take a Taxi, it was inexpensive and was a way to “really experience the island.” It was recommended we go to the Pier beach in Fredriksted as it is closest and there was a good sandwich shop there. So we flag down our “taxi”, blaring out of the speakers was what I later determined to be island Jesus music. Yes, it sounds exactly like it is described. The driver was in his best button up island shirt and it reeked of incense. He was a jovial man named “Jerry.”
So we arrived at the pier. The waterfront was a beautiful mix of old island structures and beach front. The kids discovered a clock tower with stairs around it and declared it their stage to perform their grand performances on. I wrangled them and prepared them for the beach. We spent the next two hours playing in the sand and braving the ocean.
Pretty soon it was lunch time and we hit the recommended sandwich shop, Turtle Deli. It was right on the beach and we ate some great sandwiches.
We then waved down our second Taxi which was less of a good experience than the first, but it got us home. One thing I realized on this beach trip was taking opportunities when possible. I gave each Taxi driver a substantial tip and said “God bless you.” One seemed thankful and the other seemed unimpressed, but hopefully God works even in the smallest of gestures.
What did I learn this week? – Now it sounds all fun and rosy but it wasn’t without it’s challenges. The kids took several spills and needed their boo boo’s and psychological health tended to. There was also one time where Jenna couldn’t find me and just figured I just left her on the island all the while crying like a lost puppy. Mix all that in with some general disobedience and there was plenty of opportunity for me to have a bad attitude. In the end though I have greatly appreciated this time to bond with the kids. It has been a greater blessing than I could have anticipated. Rather than a survival time this has been a growing time for us and I really thank God for the answered prayer of patience. I looked forward to Jayme’s return and the unfolding of the rest of our trip.