NIKO Salem 2017


Sometimes God calls us far away to serve in missions serving other cultures and nations… And sometimes God sends us a bit closer to home.


Last week, the kids and I packed our bags and headed two hours south to the YWAM Salem, OR base to help serve as staff on a NIKO. (pronounced knee-coe)

niko old days
My First Time Staffing a NIKO – Summer of 1999 (Yellow bandana)

Niko is very difficult to describe, because there are few programs similar to it.  Niko is not a ‘camping trip’ but neither is it a ‘survival camp.’   It has the elements of both, but its purpose is not sheer enjoyment or to teach survival tactics.  By challenging participants physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, they are pushed beyond their personal, self-imposed limits- but not for the purpose of survival or pride.  The purpose is to see them discover God in new ways through their experiences.

                In a Niko, there are three main components developed as a result of pushing the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual limits.  These are: Servanthood, Team Building, and Leadership Development. (borrowed from the NIKO website)

In short, NIKO is a program that I have been passionate about since experiencing it for the first time many years ago (19 to be exact). So, when I found out the NIKO team was short-staffed and looking for help, I prayed about it, and volunteered to come.

Now, that might sound simple enough, but in reality, it was a big decision. Cory was unable to take time off of work, and that meant it would be just me and the kids. For five days. Sleeping in the wilderness. Late nights, early mornings, and far from the comforts of home. A recipe for bad attitudes and disaster… So we packed our bags and got ready to go!


One of the easiest parts of the trip, was that NIKO provides a very simple packing list that you follow. I am a classic over-packer, but sticking to a very simple list made it possible to pack everything the three of us needed for the week in just a few bags. The sleeping bags took most of the room!

The YWAM base in Salem has an AMAZING ropes course, and during a lull in our work duties on the first day, the kids got a chance to explore a little bit.

I was worried about how well the kids would do on NIKO. I was worried I wouldn’t have the patience needed to take care of them, AND get all of my duties done while running on very little sleep throughout the week.

As the week progressed, I knew for certain we were being covered in prayer. All of my worries were for nothing.


The kids thrived at NIKO. They spent all day working hard and playing hard. They never complained about the food they had to eat, not having any technology, and not once did they say they were bored and needed something to do.

Imaginations ran wild as they spent their days building habitats for caterpillars and worms, playing on bucket drums, and making “recipes” while playing in the creek.

We served in the position of “camp mom” and “camp kids” while we were at NIKO. That meant that we didn’t join the participants on any hikes, but worked on all of the “behind the scenes” duties. Filling water jugs, making dinner, keeping camp clean, transporting people and supplies, running errands, and so much more.


One of the kids’ favorite adventures was getting to ride around in the back of the truck on our many trips to and fro. (only on the private roads)

The participants that came to NIKO was a group of Korean Americans from the Los Angeles area. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to spend the week with. Jenna and Connor made many new friends, and it was hard to say goodbye. In the words of Jenna, it was a very “sour-sweet” ending.


At the end of NIKO, the participants share about what they learned and what lessons they are taking home with them. Listening to their stories about how God worked in their life through the past few days, and how He has changed them, is why I keep coming back (This was my 12th NIKO).

Like many mission trips, I leave feeling physically exhausted, but my soul is refreshed.

**If NIKO is something you’re interested in for yourself or a group, check out their website! (or search for a NIKO program closer to you, they have them in many locations)

NIKO Salem:





Nehalem Bay

IMG_20150905_191647610This past September we took our annual Labor Day weekend camping trip to Nehalem Bay. It’s always a tricky weekend to camp on the coast because it inevitably rains, but trailer camping makes it easy!IMG_20151217_161618.jpgI’ve been camping here since I was a baby, so this campground holds a lot of fond memories for me. And as a side note… I know it was the eighties, but what was my mom thinking when she gave me that haircut?!IMG_20150904_172501313_HDRIt’s a great campground to go to with the beach just a short walk over the dunes, crabbing in the bay, hiking, and shopping in cute little towns.

We camped in the E loop the past two years, but next year I plan on staying in the A,B, or C loop because they have a better playground for younger kids. Even if you aren’t close to a playground, there are beach trees (I don’t know what they’re really called) that the kids love climbing.PicMonkey CollageWe met some new friends from the campsite next to us last year, and thanks to Facebook, we were able to stay connected and book campsites somewhat close again this year. The kids love having friends to play with and they are such a sweet, fun family!IMG_20150904_193658096We don’t bring a lot of toys when we go camping, because as you can see, the kids find entertainment in the simplest of objects!

We did bring bikes because they spend HOURS riding back and forth in front of our campsite.IMG_20150904_195359098There had been a fire-ban in the campground since August because of our extremely dry summer this year. There seemed to be no end in sight, so we didn’t pack any firewood or s’mores ingredients. The first evening we were there, the rangers came around to let us know the ban had been lifted! My mom had a bag of mini marshmallows stowed away in her trailer, so we had some unique marshmallow roasting the first night.IMG_20150904_165759808The ocean was a short 5 minute walk from our campsite. The sand dunes work well to protect the campsites from the ocean winds, but you still get the wonderful sound of the ocean to lull you to sleep at night.IMG_20150905_111628149_HDRWe left the kids with my mom for a couple of hours one day and hiked to the top of Neahkahnie mountain. It’s a great little hike, but too long for the kids, and it was incredibly foggy so we didn’t get to enjoy the view of the ocean.PicMonkey CollageNo trip to the Oregon coast would be complete without stopping by the Tillamook Cheese Factory! Labor day weekend is probably the craziest weekend to go, but we braved the crowds. It’s always fun to watch the workers packaging the cheese and wonder if we might be watching one of the very blocks we will buy later in the store.PicMonkey CollageThe best part of visiting the factory is going through the cheese sample line and then enjoying an ice cream cone!IMG_20150906_100743026_TOPIt wouldn’t be a traditional Labor Day weekend without a bit of stormy weather! Cory took the kids out onto the jetty and they tried to not get blown away.connorCamping with kids is always an adventure… Connor made his own “breakfast” the last morning of our camping trip.PicMonkey CollageClimbing sand dune “mountains”, flying kites, building sand castles, searching for seashells, and playing in the freezing ocean. The beach holds endless opportunities to keep everyone busy. It’s no wonder this campground has been a family favorite for so many years!

Family Camping – The Cove Palisades

Last week we hauled the trailer across the mountain to go camping at The Cove Palisades campground. We try to make our reservations 9 months in advance as this is a popular place to go and fills up quickly!

PicMonkey Collage2

One of the first things we did when we arrived at camp was let the kids ride their bikes. We were camped in a great area with almost no traffic, and Jenna was thrilled to finally have a flat spot to do some bike riding on!


We got to the lake early to secure a good spot that would have both sun and shade later in the day. We almost always camp at the upper campground (Crooked River), but when it’s time to spend the day at the lake, we drive over to the day use area next to the Deschutes campground. I’m sure there is a bit of tradition behind this decision as it’s where we’ve always gone since I was a kid, but it’s also because the day use area next to the Crooked River campground has a horrible problem with being overrun by duck poop.

PicMonkey Collage

Cory brought his raft and we spent hours paddling around in the swim area. The kids did a great job learning how to paddle on their own!


When the kids wanted a break from swimming, we had shovels and buckets for building castles in the sand at the edge of the lake.


We had our usual visit from the overweight squirrels at the lake. These poor creatures live off a diet of discarded picnic food and are VERY brave. Make sure you keep all of your food secure or they will get into it!


We camped from Sunday through Friday, so we had ample time to fit in more activities than just spending the day at the lake. We spent one morning hiking to the top of the plateau via the Tam-A-Lau trail.


I tried to not look like a complete dork while biking through the high desert. I was a little freaked out after seeing a snake (most likely a rattlesnake) slither off the trail right in front of me!


Cory joined me for our ride through somewhat non-existent trails.


We watched beautiful sunsets…


…And had to get creative when we realized nobody had brought chocolate bars for the s’mores!


This is by far my favorite campground to go to. Besides the fact that  it is filled with memories from the yearly trips we took when I was a kid, it’s just an awesome place to go! The weather was beautiful while we were there, the campground is well taken care of with newer clean facilities, and there are plenty of things to keep everyone busy!

Family Camping – Thousand Trails Chehalis

This Memorial Day weekend we braved the grey weather and went camping at the Chehalis Thousand Trails Campground. This is quite a large campground, and when we stay here, we like to camp in the very first loop. It has water and electric hook-ups, but it’s quite woodsy and rustic. For some reason, not many people stay in this loop, and this weekend we had it all to ourselves. It was awesome because the kids had plenty of room to run and play.


Connor loves to “help”. This is the face he gave when he was told not to play with things on the trailer. I also woke up one morning to find someone’s little fingers had turned the knob on the fridge, adjusting the temperature, and everything was slightly frozen. These are just a few of the hazards of camping with young children!


We chose to stay at this park, because a few weeks prior to Memorial Day weekend, our whole family thought it would be fun to go camping, and this was the only place that had anything available. If I did my math right, there were about 13 adults and 14 kids (ranging in age from babies to teenagers). I hardly saw Jenna at all this weekend as she was off playing with her cousins for most of the day!


When we go camping, we don’t bring very many toys for the kids. Inside the trailer I have coloring books, movies, and a few small toys in case the weather is too stormy to be outside. For outside toys, we keep this little golf set in our trailer.

IMG_20150525_081436280Connor decided the clubs work well at attempting to chop down trees too!


The campground has outdoor pools for kids and adults. They were in the process of chlorinating the family pool, so we got to swim in the adult pool. It was quite convenient as the adult pool is located just a short distance from our campsite! The kids loved swimming even though it was cold outside.


There is also a little golf course just a short walk from our campsite. They are in the process of repairing the course, so it was a bit unsafe for little kids. Jenna was playing on one of the repaired holes in this picture, but if you look at where Connor is, the surface is covered in slippery moss and the bricks are falling off. He slipped and fell a couple of times. It didn’t matter what condition the course was in for the kids though. They absolutely loved going down to play golf!

There is also a playground and a family game room further up in the park. When you check in to camp, you receive a schedule of the different activities they have going on for the week. Uncle Brian took the kids on the “hay ride” and they loved it.

IMG_20150525_092111171And never underestimate the entertainment value of a simple dump truck and a pile of pine needles!


We camped from Friday night until Monday morning. There was no internet or cell service at our campsite. We stayed up late roasting marshmallows and smelling of campfire smoke. We woke up early to the sounds of birds chirping and excited kids ready to get out and play. We got to spend quality time with moms, dads, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Overall it was a great camping trip!