Monday, August 16, 2010

Rite of Passage: Baptism

A mere two weeks after the "rite of passage" that our week of Niko Survivor was for our DTS, and here we were again, poised for another significant rite of passage for five young adults.

This time, instead of wandering the desert wilderness south of Ensenada, we were in the frigid waters of the Pacific Ocean on the outskirts of Rosarito. For one DTS staff member, and four students, this was to be a memorable step of obedience in their surrendered lives of following Jesus.

For Andy Ortega and myself, it was great honour to be part of their baptisms. After a hoarse-throat-inducing reminder to everyone in the DTS who was gathered on the windy beach about the significance of baptism, Andy and I braved the crashing breakers and COLD water -- and when the Canuck says the water's cold, baby, it's cold.

One by one, each of the five -- Sergio, James, Seong Won, Victor & Estefania -- joined us in the water, as we held firm against the surging waves, and tried to time our ritual in between the biggest waves breaking over us. It was a solemn moment for each one, as well as somewhat comical between the coldness of the water and the power of the waves crashing against us.

A unique and memorable blend of deep and profound spirituality, lightly seasoned with joyful laughter. Especially for young Estefania, from Guadalajara, who was so shocked by the coldness of the water that she didn't even fully submerge. As she gasped back upright, I looked at her and said, "you're not done yet", and dunked her a second time (thoroughly).

Later that night, at our regular Sunday evening worship & prayer time to prepare ourselves for the coming week, the night air was filled with the loud and exuberant singing of worship songs in English and Spanish. Our freshly-baptized worship leader, Sergio Montes, led us in perhaps his most passionate style that we've yet heard.

Truly, a memorable rite of passage.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

NIKO (sort-of) Survivor

Four days. 20 miles. Full back-packs. Steep trails. Limited food. Hard ground. Cold nights on the hard ground. A recurring midnight stampede of mice attempting to find warmth in our sleeping bags. While we were in them. Blisters. Burrs. Heat exhaustion.

"How can it possibly be uphill both ways?!?"

"No freakin' idea. But look, somehow, it is!"

Part of the NIKO experience in YWAM is dealing with the unexpected. Learning how to function in teams -- even in adversity. Choosing to serve the other at the expense of ourselves. To be challenged and stretched. To give and receive help. At times to be strong for others, and at other times, letting others serve you when you are weak.

It's probably best compared to Survivor -- except nobody gets voted off the island, and there are no commercial breaks. (And no treachery either, come to think of it.)

Day four. Slogging up to where we left the YWAM vans, tossing our dirty gear in. Dragging our dirty and tired bodies into the vehicles for the 100km trip home to Tijuana. Giddy. Singing silly songs. Wistful longing for imminent showers and "real" beds.

Later, during our debrief at St. Arbucks in Playas de Tijuana (where else?), showered, in clean clothes, "normal" meal at the YWAM base recently consumed, it hits us:
We did it! We really did it!