January 2017

A Hidden Life with God

By Mike Treneer

Roots.png

Over this last few months, I have had the privilege of meeting and speaking to Navigators in many parts of the world. As we interact, I wonder with joy about the potential of their lives, and about what is going on below the surface.

I know from my own life experience that what is visible about me is often not what is most important! And while we need to stress the importance of community in serving the Lord, we know that life direction and fruitfulness are the result of what’s hidden below the surface.

The secret of a tree is its roots, and roots are hidden. They belong underground! When we see a beautiful, strong, fruitful tree, our attention is not drawn to the roots. But if we stop to think, we know it is the roots that make its strength, health and fruitfulness possible.

As a young Christian, I was deeply impacted by Elizabeth Elliot’s book The Shadow of the Almighty, which is the biography of her missionary husband who was killed taking the Gospel to unreached people in Ecuador. In a chapter titled “Behold Obscurity,” she describes the importance of “hiddenness” in Jim Elliot’s life. This is how Isaiah describes the unseen work of God in Isaiah 49:2-4.

He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver. He said to me, ‘You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.’ But I said, ‘I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing.’

It is in hidden times of quiet intimacy that we hear God say, “You are my servant,” and it’s where we can utter our frustration, “I have labored to no purpose” as we battle alone to determine which voice to believe.

It is in the secret place, alone with God, that we are sharpened and polished like David was as he cared for his sheep in the wilderness. He was hidden from the public eye as he meditated on the greatness of God and forged his character in unobserved battles with lions and bears!

Have you ever noticed the brief mention in Luke 24:34 of a very important meeting of which we know nothing, except that it happened? "The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon."

Luke mentions it, almost as an aside, as he more fully reports the encounter Jesus had with the two disciples on the Emmaus road. Paul refers to the same little-known meeting with Simon in 1 Corinthians 15:5, using Simon’s better known nickname: “ . . . he appeared to Peter and then to the twelve . . .”

Of course, in John 21, we are given a full account of a later meeting in Galilee between Peter and the risen Jesus; but of that first meeting, just a few hours after the resurrection, we know nothing except that it happened. I find this deeply meaningful!

We can guess at the significance of that meeting for Peter—the heartache and tears as he poured out the agony of his failure, the words of Jesus as he ministered grace to His broken disciple—but we can only speculate. The truth about this meeting is a secret between Peter and his Lord. And so it should be! I doubt that, even when all is known in heaven, we will ever know what was said. I take heart from this.

I, too, have the incredible privilege of an intimate, personal fellowship with the One who alone knows me utterly and completely.

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you (Matthew 6:6).

Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6, “Your Father sees” and “Your Father knows,” invites us into an intimacy with the Lord of the universe who alone holds our fate and the fate of the world in His unimaginably powerful and unfathomably loving hands. We can pour out our heart to him in absolute confidence, expressing all our longings, all our fears, all our failures, hopes and dreams. We need hold nothing back, for He knows and He sees. This dialogue is only between Jesus and me. There is no other audience to worry about!   

Mike Treneer served as International President of The Navigators from 2005 to 2015. He and his wife, Chris, lived in Kenya for 16 years where Mike helped develop our Africa ministries and became our Africa Director. Mike served on the International Executive Team before becoming International President.

Reaching a New Generation in Rio

By Raul Ortiz

Rio.jpg

Miguel Fleck, a 68-year-old successful businessman in Rio de Janeiro, in late October, prayed that God would give him a sense of ease and peace. He then headed from his house to the nearby State University of Rio de Janeiro.

Under the bright Rio sun, he sat down on a bench and prayed for the students who entered and exited through the university’s main portal. Watching their faces, he asked God to lead him to those who were seeking a relationship with God.

It’s not every day that Brazilian students talk with a stranger, let alone with someone who is much older. But as Miguel struck up conversations with them that October day, and on two other occasions in November, they all responded to him with warmth and receptivity.

During the conversations, Miguel asked them what they thought about God. He listened. Then he asked them what they thought about the Bible. He listened again. Then he asked them if they would be interested in participating in a small group meeting to read the Bible more carefully.

“In the three times that I’ve gone to the campus, I spent about two hours each time talking to students,” said Miguel. “And in that time, nine of them agreed to study the Bible with me. God has a lot of people in that place!”

Miguel and his wife, Claudette, are now in the process of forming two study groups with this new generation of Brazilian students. They want to keep the groups small, to keep it personal and relational. They envision the Gospel taking root in the hearts of the students, to see them become laborers for Christ, and to see the Word spread to many others through them.

Before starting this campus effort, Miguel began sending email to his friends around the country asking for prayer. He has also been sending updates about what’s happening at the university. As a result, Miguel’s forays on campus have been a Spirit-filled, God-powered partnership with many people in the 52-year Brazilian Navigator movement.

Miguel says prayer is the key. He is motivated by the truth of Ephesians 6:12, which says: For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

“Even with prayer, we know how difficult it can be (to reach people with the Gospel),” said Miguel. “Imagine what it would be like without prayer.”

Miguel himself is an example of God’s work through spiritual generations. In the early 1970s, as a young college student in southern Brazil, he met Jim Petersen, who started the Navigator work in the early 1960s. Jim, along with his friend and colleague, Aldo Berndt, started to read the Bible with Miguel. Miguel soon came to Christ and started a life-long contribution to God’s work in the region.

Working with people has always been on his heart. As a college student, Miguel decided to go through his business administration course at a slower pace. That way, he said, “I could get to know more of the students around me.” In 1980, he moved to Rio de Janeiro, where he and his wife initially went through some rough financial storms. Life started to change in 1994, when Miguel and Claudette built a successful sales business that continues today.

Throughout their history, they have worked hard to advance the Gospel in personal ways among secular friends in Rio de Janeiro.

Miguel says that recently God had been prompting him to reach out to a new generation of Brazilians.

“I was feeling a deep inquietude,” he said. “I realize that I’m getting older and that I’m going to die. I don’t want to feel like I haven’t left anything good behind. So, I decided to try and start a new generation of students.”

Please pray that God would nurture the seeds that Miguel and Claudette are planting among students in Rio.   

Raul Ortiz is the Regional Director of the Navigator work in Latin America. For many years, he helped pioneer the Navigator work in Uruguay. Today he and his wife, Paty, live in their native Mexico.

The Power of Seed

By Mike Shamy

 Bernie Marshall in South Africa

Bernie Marshall in South Africa

In the late 1980s, with the Apartheid system still in force in South Africa, a Canadian mining engineer in his late-20s moved to Johannesburg at the behest of his company. Quietly, with almost no one noticing, he planted some Gospel seeds among a small group of black college students.

Decades later, the seeds he sowed continue to bear fruit.

Not long after his arrival in South Africa, he noticed a group of black students playing soccer. He stood by and watched for a while, and then he approached the group, asking them if he could join the game. They guys thought it odd for a white man to interact with them, but they let him play.

The engineer, Bernie Marshall, kept showing up to kick the ball with that group of guys. For a white man to initiate social contact with black South Africans at that time was a radical move. But trust developed and then sincere friendship.

Bernie eventually invited the young South Africans into his home for meals. And over the next four years or so, Bernie and his wife, Nancy, began to read the Bible with them.

One of those young men was Manfred Molomo, who for over 10 years served as the national director of the Navigator work in South Africa and is a Ph.D. candidate in management.

“He just loved us,” Manfred told me, remembering those days with Bernie and Nancy. “He took us to his home. That was the first time I had ever been to a white man’s house. Not only that, he came to our village and he sat on the floor of our homes with our families.”

The day came when Bernie and Nancy had to return to Canada. The South African students put together a small farewell party for them, after which Bernie and Nancy said good-bye and got on a plane for Canada.

“That night, while they were on the plane,” Manfred told me, “I gave my life to Christ.”

Manfred began to carry his faith into his network of friends and family. He got to know a Navigator couple, and through Manfred and his friends’ connections, they watered and nurtured the seeds that Bernie and Nancy had planted.

Out of that community the first South African national ministry team of The Navigators emerged. Through seeds planted in obscurity by a young Canadian couple, many people in Manfred’s community came to Christ: kids, parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, neighbors. A whole generation of young people came to Christ. Professionals in the South African workplace have also come to Christ.

Bernie and Nancy have long since left South Africa. But the work of the kingdom of Jesus continues to grow there because of the small seeds they planted. For a white man to initiate social contact with black South Africans at that time was a radical move. But trust developed and then sincere friendship. Manfred told me that Bernie’s impact in South Africa wasn’t because he was a brilliant teacher with an amazing ministry program. What made the difference was that “he loved us; we knew he loved us.”

Jesus said, This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come (Mark 4:26-29).

Jesus also said, in Matthew 13, that we, his people, are good seed called to grow and bear fruit among the lost. He adds that His Word is good seed, the message of the Gospel. As ordinary men and women, our lives can have generational impact as we love and serve those around us in simple ways.

How many seeds are in an apple? Four, maybe five or six. But how many apples are in one seed?   

Mike Shamy was born in New Zealand. Mike and his wife, Audrey, became Navigator staff in 1980. From 1989 to 1996 Mike led and coached ministries in New Zealand. In 1999 he led the U.S. Metro Mission. Mike joined the International Executive Team in 2004 and is co-author of The Insider.

Equipping New National Directors

By IET Communications

In December, a small team of seasoned international Navigator leaders met with a new generation of national directors who are leading in our Africa and Asia-Pacific regions. The primary purpose of the week-long gathering was to equip, orient and encourage 11 new national directors and their spouses as they assume new levels of responsibility.

International Vice-President Mike Shamy said that God used the time to help these new leaders better understand the role of national director and to help each leader clarify personal contributions toward fulfilling that role. In addition, the gathering forged strong relationships between the national directors, which strengthens the Navigator Worldwide Partnership.

Please pray, in thankfulness to God, for these new Navigator leaders.