By David Lyons
Who inspires you to follow Jesus? Who are your heroes?
I recently found some new heroes. Our team gathered a group of emerging Navigator leaders from around the world in Manila in order to help prepare them to lead well into the future. We dove into the Scriptures, into one another’s lives, and into experiencing the Navigator ministries in the most broken parts of Manila. It was a stretch for many of us, a stretch that felt good.
One of my new heroes is Thelma (shown in photo). She leads Samaritana, a beautiful ministry among the thousands of prostitutes in Manila. Where do you go to meet prostitutes there? You go to the bars and clubs. Women who are not prostitutes can only get in if they come in with a man. So Thelma and her team recruit Navigator guys to escort them in and then leave them there so that they can develop relationships with the women.
Remember how Jesus was a friend of sinners? Thelma and her fellow workers build trusting friendships with the prostitutes, inviting them into a new way of life. Many are now in Christ and experiencing the new life for which He created them! We met a former “sinner” who is now a trained social worker and leader in the ministry.
Another new hero of mine is Willy. At this time of year, Willy’s house regularly gets flooded with several feet of water. But he lives there because it’s close to those he serves. Our group gathered at Willy’s local church for an orientation to his ministry. Then we walked to eight neighborhoods surrounding the church. These are the kinds of neighborhoods that you enter through a narrow alley as you step over trash and residents playing cards.
We split into eight small groups and walked into the neighborhoods with local ministry leaders who were born and raised there. In each case, more than half the people in each neighborhood are involved in the weekly Bible studies, prayer meetings and youth groups that Willy’s team has started. My guide was a young woman who is one of the first from her neighborhood to graduate from college. She was sponsored by others in the ministry. Even though she has a degree, she’s decided to stay in the neighborhood and teach in the local school.
The day before our visit, all of these neighborhoods had been flooded with one or two feet of water. Floods come and go. When the water rises, everyone just moves upstairs or out of the area until the water recedes. The Gospel is flooding these neighborhoods every day. Generations are following Christ together, and although it’s messy and there are often setbacks and challenges, this flood will never recede!
Thelma and Willy are heroes helping the Gospel advance. They are living examples of those described in our vision: "What characterizes this movement? A heart for the whole person… climates of grace… compassion for the vulnerable and broken… sacrificial unity embracing diversity… cultural relevance with others in the wider body of God… transformed men and women, fragrant with the humility and aroma of Christ."
David Lyons is an International Vice President of The Navigators. He serves our 5,000 staff in more than 115 countries by coaching leaders and leading change. David is author of Don’t Waste the Pain.