By David Lyons
Last summer Andy Nyirenda climbed on his bicycle with his suitcase and pedaled from his rural Malawian village for many miles to a bus station. He then boarded a crowded bus that took him many more miles to an airport. From there he flew from Malawi to Cambodia to join other next generation Navigator leaders who are being prepared to lead into the future.
Andy is a model of a new generation rising up to fulfill our calling to serve among the poor.
(To watch a video about Andy and what God is doing in rural Malawi, please follow this link: https://vimeo.com/150467525)
The Navigator movement started with sailors in World War II. After the war, the movement spread to college campuses through sailors who received scholarships for young war veterans. Since then, as those students carried the Gospel around the globe, the movement has now spread to 115 nations.
For years, Navigators worked primarily among middle class people. But the Gospel of Jesus and His kingdom also calls us to the poor and marginalized. Today more and more Navigator disciples like Andy are responding to that aspect of our Navigator Calling.
Andy was discipled by Navigators working in a university ministry where they were praying that God would send someone to the rural poor of Malawi. One day Andy said, “We’ve prayed long enough; it’s time for us to be the answer to those prayers.”
Andy went and literally pitched a tent in the rural village of Lushombe. There was no electricity or running water. He taught himself to build a home and a toilet. He learned how to farm. And he lived among the villagers.
Crowds of children would gather at his home to watch Tom and Jerry videos on his phone. But someone in the village began spreading rumors that Andy planned to kidnap and sell their children, so they stopped coming to his home.
One day the village chief asked Andy to preach at the funeral of the very man who had spread the rumors about Andy. Andy laughed at the irony of the situation. He performed the funeral and the village began to see more and more of Christ in Andy.
A year later, God led Andy to marry Wezzie, a beautiful young woman in the village. Usually, couples in this village did not actually marry because customs made it too expensive. But Andy and Wezzie decided to set an example of how followers of Christ could marry without going into debt. Villagers brought simple wedding gifts, enough for Andy and Wezzie to trade for cows. This enabled them to demonstrate how to support themselves.
Andy’s farm grew, and he also began to raise chickens. But twice his chicken house burned to the ground. The village chief publicly urged him to consult the local spiritist to find out the cause. But Andy said, “I won’t visit him because I believe in the one true God who is in control of everything.” Among those watching was an old man who stood and said, “I feel that the God this young man worships is a true God.” Many began to seek Christ.
Today Andy is training 12 disciples in whole-life discipleship that addresses not only issues of the heart, but also health and nutrition and marriage. More than 60 couples have followed Andy and Wezzie in getting married. Andy’s 12 disciples are bicycling to another village to invest in another 12 disciples so that their village can be transformed also. Other village chiefs are asking Andy and his disciples to come to their villages too. But Andy is asking them to wait until he’s sure that the community transformation where they are serving is sustained.
Maybe more of us need to say, “We’ve prayed long enough.”
David Lyons is an International Vice President of The Navigators. He oversees international initiatives, communications, and networking of 5,000 staff in more than 100 countries. David is author of Don’t Waste the Pain.