Pete and Carly Nichols are a husband and wife team who balance each other's strengths and weaknesses almost perfectly. Carly is a detailed administrator, while Pete, as he puts it, is more of a 'do-er'. They use this balance to run Off the Grid, a program designed for anybody interested in learning more about missions and their part to play in God's plan, without having to go overseas.
Off the Grid is a weekend away at the New Tribes Mission campus in Durham, Ontario. Guests of the program stay in the rough structures constructed by missionary candidates during the Jungle Camp component of their curriculum.
The idea began during campus open house events. Visitors often wondered what happened to these houses, and Bill Meerstra, a representative who showed them around, thought people could potentially come stay in them for a weekend. Carly and Pete, newly married at the time, were suggested as the perfect team to take charge of this initiative. At first the Nichols wondered why they were picked, but they ended up brainstorming all night. They became more and more excited, and called Bill the next day with their plans. By the summer of 2011 they hosted their first pilot weekend.
The purpose of the program is to make Christians more aware of God's overall plan and work throughout history, and each person's placement in this grand plan. They aim to challenge people to think about their faith with a new perspective, and even to consider serving overseas.
Says Carly, “Our emphasis is on expanding people's worldview, and then we zoom in on missions and what New Tribes Mission is about. We realize a small percentage of people who come will actually feel called that way, so we encourage people in the bigger picture. You don't have to go to be involved; we're all called to the Great Commission. We ask, what can you do in your community? How are you reaching where you are now?”
Adds Pete, “We think of God as the builder, and we're just co-workers with Him. It's not as daunting a task when we realize it's really not about us. It's what God Himself claimed that He was going to do, and now He's using people and their circumstances to accomplish that. We want people to grasp that they're part of a bigger thing.
The program accommodates 15 to 20 people at a time, and the weekends consist of scheduled learning sessions, meals and free time. Missionaries who have worked with unreached people groups are brought in as guest speakers, and the guests come away from the program feeling refreshed, energized and excited.
Says Carly, “People are pumped when they come back. For some people, it's such a unique weekend, that they want all their friends to come.”
Adds Pete, “ People say 95% of what they learned, they never heard before, and they wish they could come back and absorb more.”
Both Pete and Carly feel very strongly about the importance of the material presented during the Off the Grid weekends.
Says Pete, “I think our curriculum covers a basic big picture that every Christian really can take ownership of. Most churches aren't going to sit and do an hour session just covering the history of some of the movements of the church, and we do. We have the time and the ability to do that. That affects people. It's surprising.”
Says Carly, “It's surprising at times to hear how local people's thinking is. Sharing His word with other people, especially people who wouldn't otherwise know, is a core part of our beliefs as Christians. It's interesting when people haven't heard that before.”
Almost all the comments left behind from past guests are ecstatic with new found energy to take part in the Lord's work which He still carries out today. Here are just a few:
“the challenge was to look for people and ways to serve in this time in history. What impact am I having? Am I being open to this? What is God presenting to me? It was a strong reminder that God is building His Church- not me. And nothing will thwart Him.”
“Powerful, true and relevant. I personally liked how it didn't just focus on tribal missions, but rather missions in general for everyday life.”
“I wasn't sure what to expect but it went far beyond anything I could have expected. Unbelievable!”
“What I found was a group of people concerned about living everyday as Christ representatives starting at home. Praise God. Thank you guys so much for the encouragement.”
“I want to go home and serve people in MY community.”
Check out the OTG video: