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 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: http://www.ywamsalem.org/niko/