October 2012

Running with a Cool Engine

By David Lyons

 Photo Courtesy Tim Mossholder

Photo Courtesy Tim Mossholder

I watched the temperature gauge rise as our van climbed a long hill in New Mexico. Before long we were sitting beside the road with steam rolling out from under the hood. Our cooling system had failed under pressure. The stresses of life can often lead our souls to boil over, too. And when that happens, we know that something is wrong.

International President Emeritus Jerry White once told a group of Navigator leaders that a key requirement for his job was to run with a cool engine. His words struck a longing in my heart. God seems to be changing me because recently my wife said to a friend, “I’ve never seen David under more pressure and yet more at peace.” There must be a God in heaven!

One of the things that God has been using to sustain me under pressure is The Daily Examen, an ancient spiritual discipline promoted by Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. Jesuits were called to live out their calling in busy professional settings rather than in cloistered monasteries. But I was doubtful that something so ancient could be useful to me in my fast-moving world. I was surprised.

The Daily Examen is much like the “quiet time” which is so familiar to Navigators. It was originally designed as a routine for ending the day, but I do it as part of my morning quiet time. It’s this simple:

    Become aware of God’s presence.
    Review the day with gratitude.
    Pay attention to your emotions.
    Choose one feature of the day and pray through it.
    Look toward tomorrow.

Here’s a closer look at each step:

First, I find it refreshing to walk through the previous day in the company of the Holy Spirit, looking for God’s presence and movements. This wakes me up spiritually for the new day ahead.

Then, reviewing the day with gratitude often changes the weather in my soul. Recently I woke up feeling grumpy over how some of my colleagues had been pressing me to do something a certain way. But as I reviewed the day with gratitude, I realized that God was actually using them to do my work for me! My whole attitude changed. This type of gratitude is also crucial to one’s character. Through the years I’ve noticed that those I most admire are marked by thankfulness. I marvel at how this discipline gives me eyes to see things from God’s perspective.

Third, I take stock of my emotions. Emotional intelligence is not a natural strength for me. I’m often unaware of what I am feeling. Yet emotions can signal the movements of God’s Spirit, if we are paying attention. So I pause and reflect on what I had been feeling through the day and why. Just this morning I reflected on why I had felt irritated with my wife last night, and God showed me how I habitually slide into self-centeredness late in the day.

Fourth, I pick one element of the day to pray about. I am easily overwhelmed by long prayer lists. But I find it refreshing to choose one feature of the day and pray through it. As I do, God takes a burden off my shoulders and often shows me what He wants me to do next. This can launch me into praying through other things on my prayer list eagerly rather than under compulsion.

Finally, I look toward the new day ahead, seeking God’s specific guidance. This is a wellspring of life for me. There are so many things I could and “should” do on any given day. But receiving specific guidance from the Lord enables me to move through the day with an assurance that I’m focused on what He has in mind for me.

That helps me to run with a cool engine.

Espresso Pioneers in Burundi

By IET Communications

 Photo Courtesy Crew Dates

Photo Courtesy Crew Dates

For Ben and Kristy Carlson, the Gospel and coffee go hand-in-hand, but not necessarily during chats over mocha cappuccinos at Starbucks. For them, expressing their faith is about a high-risk, life-changing, beautiful adventure in post-war Burundi.

While serving with The Navigators in South Africa, Ben and Kristy saw a heartbreaking need in neglected and impoverished Burundi. Ben, a certified international coffee specialist, saw a way to combine his passion for coffee with the advancement of the Gospel. With hearts fixed on helping coffee farmers climb out of poverty and learn about Christ, Ben and Kristy (a talented photographer) moved to Burundi with their two young sons and started a coffee exporting business.

Why start a business? The Carlsons believed a coffee company could help them improve the socioeconomic and spiritual life of Burundians in an integrated way. The business would create jobs, increase wages for coffee farmers, help local communities, and open doors to relationships through which the Gospel could flow.

More than 800,000 Burundian families grow some of the best coffee in the world. But because local farmers often lack the official certifications needed to prove the high quality of their beans, they usually earn only half of what their coffee is worth on the international market.

Ben and Kristy’s business, The Long Miles Coffee Project, is helping to change that. Ben offers Burundian farmers the international quality certifications they need to get top dollar for their beans. He also helps coffee farmers improve farming techniques, provides standardized coffee tasting and pricing services, prepares the product for shipment, and connects Burundian coffee to international brokers. Despite harsh living conditions, political instability, and the demands of having small children, the Carlsons exported three times more coffee than they expected during their first year.

Business has become a natural platform for life-on-life investment in people. God has used the company to open numerous relational doors with farmers as well as influential people in government, universities, and commerce. Ben and Kristy are sharing their faith in personal ways within their relational sphere of influence.

The Bigger Picture: Missional Enterprises

The Carlsons’ approach to entering a country is just one example of how God is using small and medium business enterprises to reach the lost for Christ. Today, Navigators are resourcing and leading more than two hundred business enterprises around the world. Most of these enterprises are not started by foreigners like the Carlsons, but by people who are insiders to their own cultures.

Jack Benjamin, Director of the Global Enterprise Network of The Navigators, says that these businesses aim to achieve a “triple bottom line”: to be financially profitable and sustainable, to bring social improvements such as jobs and economic growth to the community, and to provide a natural context for outreach and generational discipleship.

While it’s certainly not the only way to reach people for Christ, missional enterprises do play a significant role in Navigator efforts. A growing number of countries are politically or culturally closed to traditional missionaries. And, in poorer countries, Christians often find it difficult to finance the pioneers and local leaders they need. The enterprise model is helping to overcome these obstacles. It’s been an effective approach in closed countries, among unreached people groups, and even among former criminals in urban America.

As Navigator partnering countries have launched increasing numbers of small businesses in recent decades, the need for leadership and collaboration has increased. The Global Enterprise Network is meeting that need as an extension of our Navigator Calling, Values, and Vision.

Pioneers like Ben and Kristy face tremendous business, spiritual, and personal struggles as they carry the Gospel to unreached peoples. They can’t do it alone. But with this international leadership and the support of The Navigators, the Carlsons have been able to spread the aroma of Christ in Burundi—right alongside the aroma of coffee.

To watch a video clip of the Carlsons’ coffee project in Burundi, go to this link.

"I've Got Your Back"

By IET Communications

 Photo Courtesy Helena Lopes

Photo Courtesy Helena Lopes

In the fray of daily life and work, Karl and Michelle Wang come alongside their friends to listen, to share burdens, to study the Bible, and to point them to Christ. They don’t have seminary degrees or counseling training, but they are true pastors, people who lay down their lives for a few friends.

Karl, a graphic designer, and Michelle, an elementary school teacher, were discipled by Ken Chi in a Navigator ministry among Asians in southern California. They realized that they couldn’t just sit on the treasure they had received, so they began to pray about how they could serve. Karl realized that within his church there were many people who needed personal attention. He invited some of them to study the Bible and pray together. Since then, Karl and Michelle have personally helped many of their friends work through the substrata of doubts, pain, and sin that so easily stifle spiritual growth and personal joy.

Karl says his heart is drawn to people who attend church, but who aren’t too involved. Based on his experience, these people often don’t get the personal attention they need.

“There aren’t many people today who have the Navigator mentality,” Karl said, referring to the life-on-life personal attention that is so central to our Navigator Calling. “Many Christians today don’t really know how to care for people.”

The need for individual soul care in American culture is acute. Some research shows that 40 percent of Americans feel chronically lonely. Friendship is reduced to virtual realms like Facebook. Many have no one to talk to, nowhere to turn, no direction, no love.

What people need is not just warm-and-fuzzy emotion; they need someone to show them “I’ve-got-your-back love.” They need someone to stand with them through the trials.

The lack of “I-got-your-back love” is not new. As Jesus went through towns and villages to teach and heal, He felt deep compassion for the crowds. He compared the people to “sheep without a shepherd.” They, like many people today, lacked someone who would come alongside them to share their burdens and give them truth. Perhaps, like many people today, they were surrounded by superficial friendships while needing guidance and loving friendship.

The word “shepherd,” in languages like Spanish and Portuguese, is “pastor.” This fits with the biblical idea of a pastor—someone who cares for his or her “sheep.” Jesus said in John 10 that good pastors (shepherds) love people so much that they lay down their lives for them. In other words, the good pastor says “I’ve got your back” and then proves it with sacrificial action. Jesus was, of course, the consummate pastor, having laid down His life for us.

Local leaders in our Navigator movement, people like Karl and Michelle, play a crucial role in sustaining the advance of the Gospel. They stand firm with those God gives them to shepherd. They keep “feeding their sheep” from the Word, encouraging them through life’s hardships. They lay down their lives.

“I don’t think there is an end to this,” Karl said about his and Michelle’s ongoing involvement with people. “All we can do is walk with them. Walking together is the point, so that we can encourage each other to keep going, to keep walking, to not give up, to finish the race."