Volunteers of the Week: Mika and Nikki
Our Volunteers of the Week are Mika & Nikki! This amazing couple serve together in children's ministry. We appreciate them, and their passion to reach the next generation for Christ.
Nikki, Tell us a little bit about you, your family, and how long you have been attending illuminate?
I am a native Floridian, born and raised in Jupiter Florida near Palm Beach. I grew up in a christian home with two amazing parents, Bob and Dari and was the youngest of 5 children. I attended the King's Academy all throughout my elementary, jr high and high school years. I have always had a passion for music and started playing the organ when I was 5. I also have sang, what seems like my entire life and have been in numerous choirs, stages, and competitions. I have also performed in Carnegie Hall twice in my lifetime, which was such a cool honor. In college, I attended the University of Central Florida here in Orlando and received by BA in Advertising and Public Relations with a minor in Sociology. I have worked for Universal, Reunion Resort/Hammock Beach Resort and Disney Event Group mostly in PR roles or in Event Planning roles. I currently work for Panache Events, an event rental company, which enables me to design stunning events, but also provides a chance for me to work from home so I can have a great work/life balance. I am so thankful for that because I can now make sure I don't miss any of "life's" moments with the girls and it helps as I cart them around to dance, voice and piano lessons. I am married to the love of my life, my high school sweetheart, Mika Hyytiainen. And while we were high school sweethearts and have known each other for 25 years, we haven't been married that long! Combined we have three beautiful daughters, Taylor (almost 10), Hope (8) and Rhylee (7) . With a redhead, blonde and brunette, we have a set of "Charlie's Angels". . .and Daddy is in trouble when they get to be a little older. I have been attending illuminate church for almost 6 years now, but no one ever knew because the first 4 years of it, I just came and sat in the "pews" and went home. The last couple of years my life changed dramatically and as part of that change, I have finally been able to serve as my heart always wanted. I jumped in head first and started serving in illuminate kids and joined an amazing life group this past year, which now both Mika and I do as a family.
Nikki, Where do you and Mika serve, and why?
Both Mika and I serve in illuminate kids in the Elementary classes. I serve typically as the lead for the overall group and in breakouts usually teach the kindergarten and 1st graders, and Mika does mostly the 2nd and 3rd graders in the small groups as well as helps when we have them altogether. We have also jumped in when needed with preschool. We specifically serve in these locations as we have a passion for children and an even larger passion to ensure those children learn to love Christ. It's hard to explain, but in my past life my children have been the target of verbal, mental and physical abuse from adult figures that should have been protecting them and as part of that, both Mika and I have seen first hand what it does to young minds. The girls have struggled, but each day gets a little better and the hope they find in their relationship with their Savior becomes more tangible to them. Many people say I should have been a teacher instead of an event planner, so heading over to the children's ministry was a wonderful way to quench that hunger to teach. When I started, Mika also joined in to really support me and so he and I could do something together. He will be the first to tell you, teaching didn't come as easy for him. Honestly, after a couple of weeks, he was ready to head for the hills, but we had many nights of praying over these amazing children in the church and he stayed. Today I look back at the changes we have seen in these young ladies and men in illuminate kids and my heart cries for joy. There is a true need within our own church family for adult leaders that are willing to get on the level of our children and be examples for them, to be someone they can talk with and not worry about being judged, to be someone they can learn from and see the true joy that comes from being in an engaged relationship with Jesus Christ. We both are honored to be a part of these children's stories and we know that we may not see the totality of how God is using us now. . . we may never see it, but our hope is that one day when these young minds are older and in need of God's grace, mercy, hope and love, they remember the lessons we taught them inside the walls of illuminate kids.
Mika, What advice would you give to someone who is interested in serving?
First and foremost, when you are called, even if it seems like something out of your comfort zone or something you never imagined doing, answer the call . . . always. I have learned that if I delay the call, it doesn't go away . . . it comes back and usually even louder. If God wants you to be in that specific role or place within His plan, He will equip you with the tools needed. I am a heavy equipment mechanic. . . I work with my hands on Caterpillar machines that are huge. In no world did I ever imagine this to be the area Jesus would ask me to step up to the plate. But here I am, and you can be in whatever area He calls you to as well. Too often we worry about what we are lacking- trust me I doubted, but we have it all. We have everything we need if we just lean on Him. I never in a million years expected to serve in a children's ministry. But today, I would do it all over again and I can honestly say, my wife and I have received so many blessing because we answered His call and simply obeyed.
Nikki, Why illuminate church?
It's really simple why we serve at and love illuminate church. The bottom line, this church is authentically real. I have gone to church my whole life and I was raised in a church-going, God fearing family, as well as a private-Christian school. I had heard God and the concept of God my whole life. I attended one home church almost my entire childhood, but learned at the age of 16, that even Pastor's can fall hard. Too often I have seen church leadership that isn't authentic. They position themselves in a clique or give off a feeling that they are above reproach. Being a shepherd is also knowing when to seek forgiveness yourself. Only Jesus was and continues to be perfect. We are all human. Those of us that serve and lead must remember that we serve others and when we are open and genuine with our failures, those watching us (i.e. our church body, the kids, our friends) will see that they too can have the joy of Jesus. We lead through example and I believe that illuminate church has leaders that serve through great example. You don't have to be perfect to be loved by our perfect God. I also love illuminate church because many church's forgot about the relationship piece of the body of Christ. . .they focus too much on the religion and pay no attention to the relationship. I do not need to go to other saints or people to speak with my God. I have a direct line 24/7! I appreciate an authentic church that loves all of their people, flaws and all. I have been divorced, they still love me. I am not perfect, they still love me. I love that our pastor is willing to step up on stage in front of the church and be real, letting us know when he has fallen like when he punched a hole in the wall. The leadership is authentic and they are genuine and I truly believe they haven't forgotten that they too are human. The only "perfect" one among us is the Almighty Father. Even the best leadership has moments where we simply fail. Owning it and asking for forgiveness marks the sign of someone who leading by example.