Sunday, September 25, 2011
Some members of my team awaiting to pack up and head back to the YWAM base (Friday morning).
Picture of the home located on the large property of NIKO, near Cartago, Costa Rica. This house is actually part of the property of the parents of one of the base directors, Giacomo Coghi.
I’m back and I SURVIVED NIKO!!!! Five days of intensity, brutality and being stretched beyond imagination while being kept bound by rules that any strict person would disagree with BUT I have been changed by NIKO in ways that could not have happened without going out in the middle of nowhere and being completely dependent upon God for everything. From shelter to strength to our next meal, there were things that I did that I never thought I could do, never mind live through but I did do it, I did it all and only by the grace and strength of God did I do it all!
I’m including some pictures of the location of the camp but I am not able to disclose a lot of information on particulars due to the honoured tradition of NIKO and its ultimate goal, to bring you into a deeper relationship with God while adhering to complete and total surrender of all things. Now when I say surrender, I’m meaning it in terms of coming forward and, essentially, giving up ALL your rights. If you don’t, you will be miserable and you will break without ever learning a thing that this experience is intended to teach you. I did break, not emotionally, but spiritually and it happened the second day we were there as I was still holding on to certain rights I didn’t realize I needed to give up. NIKO broke through all of that and brought me to my spiritual knees and into a greater faith and strength that I never knew could be obtained.
One thing I can tell you, and I’ve included a picture of, is that I scaled a mountain. A LITERAL MOUNTAIN! MY MOUNTAIN I’m going to call it because my teammates and I hiked this mountain from one end of it to the other, following markers that would lead us through. It took us six hours of hiking to get through it and it was brutal to say the least. The hiking up was vertical, I kid you not, and it had us climbing waterfalls, an ant hill and tree roots on the vertical!!! I even had the experience of belaying down the face of a mud wall that was more slimy than solidly formed. WOO HOO!!!! I can’t believe that this old body climbed up and down that gigantic mountain and all the while I prayed....every second we were out there, I prayed. I prayed for God’s help to get me through it all and for His strength when I felt like I just could not press on anymore. Our team leaders kept encouraging me when I was struggling getting up the next vertical face of a path that seemed to go on, vertically, FOREVER!!
One of the rules of the week was that we could not be without another person next to us further than an arm’s length away. For me, a person who truly embraces her personal space and solitude, this was a stretch but that was the point. To take me, even MORE, outside of my comfort zone and challenge me in every way. There were also elements of little sleep, little food and a lot of physically demanding activities that had me working in a team to solidify the importance of working as one body, like the body of Christ. That one part of the body could not work, effectively, without the other parts. As difficult as it was to always remain acutely aware that we had to always be together and no further than an arm’s length away, at the end of the week, I became wonderfully aware that my team had become closely entwined and strengthened through each NIKO rule.
Some ‘highlights’ I can share without giving away too much detail are: being surrounded by mountains on every side while having the view of a volcano and the bustling city of Cartago in the distance; sleeping on the ground underneath a makeshift tent made out of a tarp and a team built latrine not far from our tent; carrying heavy backpacks while hiking; activities with the themes of teamwork and service; and NO SHOWERING during the week! As brutal as some moments were, I couldn’t help but be captivated by the beauty that surrounded me in this place even while climbing my mountain. :D
At the end of the week, I found myself feeling sad about leaving for I had come to the clear realization that I had been taught so much by God in His lessons, that don’t always come in neatly wrapped packages with a pretty bow on top. Sometimes a person has to experience discomfort, brutality and intensity on many levels in order to fully realize that God’s will isn’t always easy to follow and, sometimes, we will be taken far outside of our own comfort zones by God in order to reach the lost or serve the destitute. And those who are thirsty for a drink from the fountain of life may not be your neighbour next door to you. No, they may be in a foreign land, living in a remote village that is located at the peak of a mountain reaching thousands of feet in elevation and they have NEVER heard the name of Jesus Christ and because Jesus lives in you, you are compelled to travel to that person, no matter what the cost may be to your personal health or safety. You may have to leave for the location in the middle of the night and it may have to be done in absolute secrecy because the place you are travelling to is heavily persecuted for any open proclamation of the Gospel. In fact, you may very well lose your life if anyone in that area were to find out you are a Christian.
I learned all these things, and so much more, during my week at NIKO but I survived and I became stronger because I was pushed to my limits; physically, mentally and spiritually. And what I didn’t realize is that I was being observed, by the NIKO leaders. I didn’t come to know this until our last night in camp when I was pulled aside and brought before all the NIKO leaders. They began encouraging me for the transformation they had seen in me during the week and that I had been an inspiration to them. I didn’t know what to say except ‘thank you’ and shed some tears at hearing this from people who had been inspiring me the entire week.
But before this happened, we had spent time within our teams to speak words of affirmation to each other and to pray for each other and I was not only blessed by the many words from my mates but also humbled by the things they said to me. Following are just some of the things I was affirmed in; willingness, strength, mother, strong woman, protector, fighting spiritual warrior in spiritual world as a powerful intercessor, woman of virtue and character, Proverbs 31: 10-31, spiritual mom, biblical warrior and mother, compared to Deborah in the book of Judges, peaceful presence, never complaining, always seeking God, steadfast woman of God, always praying, strong example, God sees me as a special woman just as the king from the book of Esther saw her as being the most beautiful woman of all. All I can still say is, “Wow.” How do you reply to any of that?? I didn’t, I just received it all and was completely humbled by it all.
So God was faithful as always this week, keeping me safe from harm in every conceivable way and He paved the way for me to grow closer to Him while becoming more like Him in this unique week that I will probably never forget. I couldn’t stop looking at that mountain I had climbed and conquered and recalling the verse from the Bible that tells us that we are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus. I had overcome so much in a week and I can still feel the difference in me. A strength, confidence and growth that I would never get in a classroom but that will now help me to prepare for the outreach phase that is to come. Imagine, an almost 40 year old woman doing physical things that I never thought of ever doing but when put in a situation where I had to do it, overcame unbelievable obstacles and obtained great victory! I still can’t believe I did what I did last week!!!! I also decided, on our last day as I looked out at the majestic valley strewn with layers of hills and mountains that I was dedicating the NIKO week to my son.
Speaking of outreach, we’ll be spending our first week in and around the city of San Jose as the base will be celebrating its seventh anniversary on Friday, so they wanted us to be close to the base to participate in that. After this coming week, I don’t know of our schedule so here is what I do know that I can pass on to you all; Monday – Prayer ministry at Irazu Volcano and Roman Catholic Basilica; Tuesday and Wednesday – Ministry in the province of Heredia; Thursday – Local ministry (San Jose); Friday – Debrief of week’s activities and base anniversary celebration; Saturday – Youth ministry in San Jose; Sunday – Briefing for trip to Puerto Viejo for a week to do ministry (Puerto Viejo is a high tourist area with a need for the love of Jesus). As I mentioned earlier, I don’t know what comes after Puerto Viejo but I am hoping that our leadership will give us a weekly schedule so that we can plan and pack accordingly. That is my hope, anyway. Just like NIKO, outreach is a time when we will be stretched, challenged and thrown into the unknown while having to be totally flexible in expecting the unexpected at all times. :D
I just want to take this time to thank all of you who regularly check my blog to read my updates. Even though I may not get that many comments on what I post, I do know that many of you read the posts and I wish to tell you that it means so very much to me that you take the time to see my life at YWAM and share this incredible journey with me. I hope that you have enjoyed the ride so far! There is much more to come and it is my hope that I will be able to take you with me on outreach....as often as I am able to post if for no other reason than to show you pictures. :D