By Alan Ch'ng
Developing new Navigator leaders often requires patience and perseverance. Just ask Rusty Bean, who faithfully led many military men to Christ for 20 years before he found a man who would also become a leader and disciple-maker.
Rusty, who directs the U.S. Navigator Army ministry, says that his long search for another disciple-maker was like Abraham’s long wait for God to give him his son, Isaac (Genesis 17:19).
For Rusty, it has been worth the wait, one that has taught him to trust God and His timing.
Rusty has discipled many soldiers over the years, at Fort Benning and Fort Bliss, among other places. These men have gone on to live godly and meaningful lives, making significant contributions to the kingdom through their work and families.
“I have had some good guys God used me to help, and they’re more like Jesus,” Rusty says. “They are good disciples, but for a long time I had been praying and hoping that God would call some of them to become disciple-makers who influenced others for Christ. For many years, I didn’t have the joy of seeing that.”
Then, while living in Illinois, Rusty met Allan, an Air Force ROTC student. As Rusty began discipling him, God uprooted and moved Rusty to the Navigator military ministry at Fort Benning, Georgia. Allan asked if he could come to Georgia with the Bean family and help with the ministry there. Enthusiastic about discipling other soldiers alongside Rusty, Allan quit his ROTC scholarship and transferred to Georgia.
After three years of work at Fort Benning, God led Rusty and his family to Fort Bliss, Texas. Again, Allan wanted to stick with Rusty, so together they moved to Fort Bliss. After a few years working together, Allan moved on to start his own Navigator work at Norfolk Naval Base.
“I think he’s my spiritual Isaac,” Rusty says. “For me to find Allan was almost 10 years, and then to train Allan and to send him out was another 10 years. It was 20 years from looking to sending. Now, Allan’s doing with others exactly what I did with him.”
Today, Allan is recruiting and training military men and women who live and work among non-believers. In the military, the Gospel flows through natural work and life relationships. So, Allan has been reaching out to sailors at the gym, food court, barbershop, or wherever he meets them. He also helps the key laborers identify ways to love and serve the non-believers around them. When they enter this authentic biblical community, they experience real love and care as well as accountability and challenge.
To see Allan catching the joy of discipling other men, and to see the Gospel advancing among non-believers through Allan’s influence has refreshed Rusty’s soul.
“The ironic thing is, when I found Allan, I was almost done [with discipleship],” he said, adding that God’s promise to Abraham helped him persevere. “The water was right up to my nose and I was not encouraged. So, God brought Allan at the right time when I was ready to quit. . . . What a privilege [discipling men] is! I’m hooked. This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”
Throughout the Army, Navigators are taking the Gospel to those who don’t know Him, discipling soldiers, and developing Navigator leaders. There are military men and women who follow Christ everywhere. Some go abroad, and some spread out around the U.S. They too will be looking for spiritual Isaacs.
Discipleship is the heartbeat of The Navigators. As Rusty says, “Our historical contribution to the kingdom of God has been making disciples and raising up leaders. . . . That’s what I want to see The Navigators continue to do well: raise up the next generation of leaders.”
Canadian Navigator Brendan Danielson provided the reporting for this article.
Alan Ch’ng is an International Vice President. Before joining the International Executive Team, Alan led our Asia-Pacific Region for more than six years. Alan and his wife, Connie, moved to Colorado Springs in April 2013. They have three grown sons.