July 2014

The Champion Father

By Esther Waruiru

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Sarah Imbuye Mutua, one of my dearest friends and peers, plays an influential role in the Navigator work in Africa. She serves many people in a personal and Christ-centered way.

Sarah and I have been co-laborers since the 1970s. She is a woman of great faith and great passion for God. About a decade ago, Sarah lost her husband in a terrible accident, leaving her to raise two sons without a father. The following letter from Sarah expresses how God has fulfilled His promises to be a faithful Father to her and her children. I trust that Sarah’s experiences with God will encourage you as much as they encourage me.

A Letter from Sarah Mutua

Just last month I entered a house filled with mourning. A woman’s husband had died that week, and many people had come to console her. Next to the bereaved widow was her 22-year-old daughter who had just arrived from the U.K. to mourn her father. I asked if I could take a moment to share an encouraging thought.
 
I briefly introduced myself and said I wished to share one blessing, something I had experienced since my own husband died ten years ago. I told them that the Bible contains numerous references to “the fatherless and the widow.” In each reference, God positions Himself as Father to the fatherless. One such reference is Ps. 68:5, which says: "A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling."
 
As I spoke, I could see that the daughter was bright-eyed and eager to hear about this Father who promised to be an ever-present and never dying Father. As I left the house, both the widow and daughter followed me outside. They asked me to visit them soon and to share more. I understood their hearts’ cry for a father figure—from personal experience.
 
My late husband, Simon Mutua, had a special love for his children. Our two sons had developed a deep fondness for their father, who always made a deliberate effort to give them quality time. On the eve of his fatal accident, he had finished a busy day in a school ministry and still needed to prepare for his long trip that same night. But he made sure to prepare the boys’ school kits and to talk with them. He assured the boys that he would be back the next day.
 
That night’s accident led him to his home in heaven instead. The memories of a champion father lingered in our sons’ minds. My sons, ages 11 and 13 at the time of the accident, had already confessed Jesus as their savior. It was an uphill task for me to explain how this same God could allow their father to die in a road accident. But I saw God assume the title of Father in their lives. He was the kind of friend their father Simon had been, and my sons welcomed Him as their Father.
 
In my own cry to God as a widow, I often asked God to look into the detailed affairs of my sons at school and in the community, and to help with rebuke and discipline. He has been faithful, even beyond what my late husband could have done.
 
My sons have fresh memories of a caring, concerned, loving father who would do anything for them. But we also have a Father who is all powerful and who can orchestrate events to work for us. Sometimes He uses circumstances to correct and teach us, but He does this as an ever-present friend.
 
I also have the same Father as my sons. John 1 says that everyone who believes and receives Jesus has the right to become children of God. My widow friend and her daughter can both receive the right to become children of the Father to the fatherless.
 
When Jesus taught us to pray, he said: "This then is how you should pray . . . Our Father in heaven . . ."

Esther Waruiru served with The Navigators of Kenya and the Africa Regional Team before coming to the U.S. Esther is an International Vice President serving field ministries in the U.S., Canada, and Africa.

The Power of Stories

By Neil G.

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"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field" (Matthew 13:44). What a simple, yet compelling story—told by the greatest theologian who ever walked the earth.
 
Most of the time, Jesus taught by telling profound stories like this one. He used stories to capture the hearts of his hearers, or to confound those who rejected him. Some of his stories were based on current events, such as the disaster that occurred at the tower of Siloam.
 
"'Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish,' Jesus said" (Luke 13:4-5).
 
In Deuteronomy 6, God instructs parents to teach His precepts to children. The NIV says to impress them on your children. Moses says this is to be done during the normal routines of life: when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
 
Our family has always made dinnertime special. We ate together almost every day. Dinner was the time when we sought opportunities to impress truth on the hearts of our children. We often did this not with formal teaching, but with purposeful stories and lessons that related to what the kids faced day by day. My grandchildren now tell their own stories, complete with sound effects (like they learned from me). You never merely fall off your bike, you crash with a Slam! Bang! Pow!
 
I learned the power of storytelling while ministering in the villages of Indonesia. There I encountered some of the most intelligent people I have ever known, but many were not able to read. Initially I taught them the Scriptures in a traditional way. My friends would listen politely, but their eyes would glaze over. They couldn’t follow my style of teaching. So I began using the stories of Jesus. As the stories came to life, these farmers took the meaning to heart and began to interact.
 
One of my favorite storytellers is George McBride, an American Navigator who lives in Thailand. George lost his first wife to cancer. He is now married to Awn, who is Thai. George’s storytelling has enabled him and Awn to see the Gospel take root and grow throughout her vast extended family.
 
I was with George and his best Thai friends one warm evening. We sat on mats on the ground under a full moon and cooked our own meals over charcoal while George told stories—with a purpose. His friends were captivated.
 
Chuck Broughton, another Navigator, is also a master storyteller. Chuck came face-to-face with the need for storytelling when he began ministering in prisons. A large percentage of prisoners do not learn by reading, and Chuck began to master the art of teaching with stories. In recent years Chuck has trained many of our Navigator staff in Africa and Asia to use this approach in evangelism and discipleship. He is the best resource that I am aware of on this topic.
 
I am convinced that storytelling needs to be used more widely, even in highly literate societies. According to one survey in the U.S., 42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college. About 80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year. In these days of Internet and social media communication, educated people are reading books less often. This affects the way people learn and think.
 
So as you consider ways of impacting those around you for Christ, do the Jesus thing: tell stories! 
 
Neil is an Associate to the International Executive Team. He and his wife, Susan, have been with The Navigators for more than 40 years. In 1979, they pioneered a ministry in Indonesia. They moved to Colorado to work with the International Team in 1993.

Sustaining Gospel Movements

By David Lyons

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It is one thing to start a movement of the Gospel. It is another to sustain it. And it is quite another to do so in a country where the mainstream religion actively opposes such movements. Yet, despite the dangers, that is what God is doing through Navigators who serve in hostile regions.

In one such country (which I won’t name in order to protect our friends), Navigators are fully committed to reaching the mainstream culture. They have even moved their families into dangerous neighborhoods. This commitment has required them to face their fears and overcome prejudices. They have worked hard to overcome cultural barriers, to convey the Gospel in a way that their neighbors can understand.
 
These efforts to love and serve people, even in the face of opposition, are producing fruit. As a result, national churches have sent people to Navigators in order to learn how to reach people in the mainstream religion. But it has been hard for those who have received training to apply what they’ve learned outside the Christian church culture. It is not easy to become a cross-cultural missionary in your own country.
 
To help with this struggle, local Navigator leaders have learned to more quickly give those in training specific ministry assignments within the mainstream context. These assignments have pushed them out of their comfort zone. In addition, Navigators have also brought the new ministry teams together every six months for fresh training, and every two months for fellowship and encouragement. These initiatives have produced a substantial number of men and women who are effectively reaching out to the religious mainstream. They are bearing fruit.
 
This growth has presented a new challenge: How will these new believers experience ekklesia (i.e. church) in such a hostile context? At first, Navigator leaders brought together people who didn’t know each other. However, in such a dangerous context, it was difficult for them to trust one another. So, they learned to build ekklesia among new believers in the natural context of their families and neighborhoods. The groups started smaller, but trust came more easily.
 
Now there are three growing groups that receive support and coaching from experienced Navigators. They work together. They play together. They marry one another. They learn from the Scriptures together. And they worship together in ways that fit the culture.
 
What does it take to sustain movements of the Gospel in such a country? It takes the courage and vision of pioneers. It takes the love and commitment of local laborers and leaders. It takes the wisdom and encouragement of coaches who provide guidance and support.
 
Now we are witnessing the grace of God at work in a new context, like Barnabas witnessed the grace of God among the pagans in Antioch. "The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord" (Acts 11:22-23 NASB 1995).
 
David Lyons is an International Vice President of The Navigators. He oversees international initiatives, communications, and networking of five thousand staff in more than one hundred countries. David is author of Don’t Waste the Pain.

Pioneers of the Caribbean

By IET Communications

 Joy and Joe Maschhoff

Joy and Joe Maschhoff

After much planning and prayer, Navigators in Canada and the U.S. have joined forces to launch the work in the Caribbean. The Caribbean effort will be led by Joe Maschhoff, who until recently led the Nav20s mission, which serves college graduates.

Joe and his wife, Joy, will move with their three children to Costa Rica, where they will spend a year learning Spanish. Then they will move to the Dominican Republic, working with students and professionals. Please pray for them and the other pioneers who are opening the Caribbean work. Ask God to establish the foundations for generations of Christ-followers.