A West African Journey

By Mike Treneer

In July, I had the privilege of being with Navigators who extend the kingdom of God in French speaking West Africa. Serving Christ in contexts of poverty and militant Islam, these men and women gathered for five days in Abidjan to think and pray, and to support one another in their common mission of seeing the Gospel advance. I was humbled by the dedication and sacrifice of my brothers and sisters who are laboring so faithfully and fruitfully in such challenging circumstances.

During our time together, I had the joy of reuniting with a pioneering Navigator couple I’ve known for many years. I first met Theo (not his real name) in 1974, when he was a university student. After he graduated, he went through a very difficult year. I decided to visit him, so as to encourage him and strengthen him in his faith. It was a difficult trip. The journey was long and I was robbed by thieves on the way. Not only that, a stomach bug made me quite sick. I arrived at Theo’s door needing more help from him than I was able to provide! After a couple of days, I left and wondered if my trip had been worthwhile.

Later, I was amazed to find out that my visit had been very significant for Theo. He told me what he had been thinking about our time together during that trip: “If Mike takes my spiritual growth so significantly that he would come all this way, I had better start taking it more seriously myself.”

Years later, Theo told me that he had mailed me a letter that asked me not to come see him. I never received it. Providence? I believe it was.

After that tumultuous visit, Theo moved back to his home state to start his career as an architect. I continued to visit him there, too, supporting him as he began to share the Gospel with those around him. On one bus journey to see Theo, I found myself surrounded by a poor refugee family. A severe drought had forced many at that time to become refugees. We were packed together like sardines for several hours on the bus. I did not know the family’s language and my French was inadequate for meaningful conversation. There was little I could do except pray for them. I remember praying that God would use the Navigator ministry in Theo’s country to send missionaries to other nations in the region.

I saw a wonderful answer to that prayer in 1998, when Theo and his wife moved to a another country in the region to begin a new Navigator work. Now, at the meeting in July, I was able to meet for the first time some of the people Theo and his wife have discipled over the years. One of those couples is taking over the leadership of the work in that country. This will enable Theo and his wife to expand their influence into other Francophone countries.

All this reminded me of the Apostle Paul’s comments about Titus, in 2 Corinthians 8:16-17. I thank God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you. For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative. What joy this must have been for Paul!

Please pray for Theo, his wife, and the new country leaders. Pray also for Navigators throughout West Africa, that they might experience the Lord’s protection and strength. Ask God to give them many new generations of men and women like Theo and his wife, and like Titus in the New Testament, so that the Gospel can transform more and more people.

Mike Treneer is International President of The Navigators. 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 and led our Europe work before becoming President in 2005.