Africa

A Closer Look: Sight to the Blind

Jeremie Agre (left) performs hundreds of eye surgeries every year in rural areas of Côte D’Ivoire.

Jeremie Agre (left) performs hundreds of eye surgeries every year in rural areas of Côte D’Ivoire.

In a rural area of Côte D’Ivoire, eye surgeon and Navigator Jeremie Agre (left) gives sight to hundreds of people who have been blinded by cataracts.

Jeremie is one of only 30 eye surgeons in a nation with 22 million people. And he is the only glaucoma specialist in the country. In addition to his work in rural areas, Jeremie also treats 15 to 20 patients a day in an urban clinic in Abidjan, the country’s capital. This work includes eye exams, laser treatments, and cataract and glaucoma surgeries.

He also spends a lot of time teaching the Scriptures, discipling believers, and coaching Navigator leaders. A few years ago, his oldest daughter asked him, “Daddy, who are you? Are you a doctor or a pastor, because sometimes you preach and lead Bible study as well as work as a doctor?” Jeremie responded by saying that being a doctor and teaching the Bible are part of the same calling.

“The Lord gave me a gift to care for people whether they are in ministry or sick,” said Jeremie.

What Is "Life-to-Life" Discipleship?

By David Lyons

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Navigators are known for what we call “life-to-life” discipleship. This personal approach to helping people grow in Christ is not a program; rather, it involves long-term friendship—going through all of life together while keeping Jesus in the center. Even when tragedy strikes.

In Nigeria, a small group of Navigators had to withstand a wave of sudden family deaths. As Navigator leaders Jeremiah and Jenine discipled their close friends, Achi and Imara, Jenine’s mother died in a car crash. (The names in this story have been changed.)

Then, a week later, Achi’s father died.

A few months after that, Imara’s parents died in a car accident.

In the midst of this turmoil—as everyone struggled to understand, and as they mourned—Jeremiah and Jenine were able to bring comfort to Imara and Achi. They experienced what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

“My wife, having been through what she had been through [with the loss of her own mother], meant that there wasn’t a better person to comfort Imara,” Jeremiah says. “When Imara comes to the house, they talk, cry together and read scripture together. Because Jenine went through her mother’s death, she could help Imara go through her own pain. When Jenine says she understands what Imara is going through, she really does.”

In the same way, Jeremiah’s experience of losing his mother-in-law enabled him to comfort Achi when his dad died.

“Somehow, I was able to offer him comfort,” says Jeremiah. “It’s a tough, tough thing to do. . . . How we respond to what we go through informs how we can help people going through something similar.”

This is how Jeremiah sees discipleship. “It’s a relationship, but it’s also that I’m interested in you, not just interested in us having Bible studies. It’s you. And in the context of life, let’s seek Christ together.”

That is a great summary of life-to-life discipleship. It might not involve helping people through mourning and death, but it is always personal and transparent. I remember how my first mentor responded when I confessed my deepest sins to him. Despite my failures, he believed in me. He said, “David, God’s hand is on your life, and He has great things in mind for you.”

That touched me deeply. It taught me that influence happens when we love those we mentor. This may be Jesus’ most powerful leadership rule: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34).

Life-to-life leader development is tailored to the specific needs of each person. It’s not a one-size-fits-all program. Disciple-makers understand the Scriptures and know how to help people move toward Christlikeness, but they are part of the story. They lead without being an overlord. They teach without being academic. They share their lives, not just their knowledge.

Matt, who is mentoring me now, tells me to crawl inside the skin of my friends, to get to know what they need. Other mentors say to me, “It’s not what you prepared that matters. It’s what they need when you are there.” Proverbs 20:5 says, “The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.”

Life-to-life leader development takes time. It’s costly. It’s not an efficient program. Sometimes it is hard to measure. But it’s powerful. It’s the way Jesus developed people.

My mentors chose to make a hand-crafted investment in me, and they’ve stuck with me despite my failures and flaws. I’m forever grateful. I want to pass that on. Don’t you?
 
David Lyons is an International Vice President of The Navigators. He serves our 5,000 staff in 115 countries by coaching leaders and leading change. David is author of Don’t Waste the Pain.

Sweet As Honey

By David Lyons

Photo courtesy of Annie Spratt

Photo courtesy of Annie Spratt

Can honey be a tool for advancing the Gospel in Africa? Ask one smiling couple serving with the Africa Navigators and they will give you a resounding “yes!”
 
Peter and his wife, Charity, have long had a heart for serving farmers in their country. These farmers often struggle to earn a living or pay for their children’s schooling. As Peter thought and prayed about how to reach these people for Christ and disciple them, he knew that he also needed to help them economically. But he wanted them to be self-sufficient rather than dependent on charity.
 
One day, after a visit to a beekeeper in Zambia, God gave Peter an idea about beehives. If he could provide beehives to people in the rural villages, he could then buy the honey from the hive owners and sell it for a profit. This would create a business that would bring economic benefits to the community and also fund the region’s ministry.
 
The business started with grants from the British Navigators for the honey processor and from the NavPartners Children Mission for the beehives. Oversight and direction was provided by the Africa branch of the Navigator Global Enterprise Network (GEN), the entity that coordinates Navigator “missional enterprises” around the world.
 
Peter decided to organize the honey producers into groups. He encouraged them to share the responsibility for caring for the beehives, to be accountable to each other. Then he arranged for the beehive groups to save money collectively, and to use the capital to start or grow businesses, and to pay the school tuition for village children. Thus, the beehive industry is producing a generational social impact. Moreover, Peter finds ways to share about Christ among the honey producers. The business has become a natural platform for the Gospel to bring about spiritual transformation.
 
As with all Navigator missional enterprises, business leaders work toward financial sustainability, social impact and the spiritual transformation of people who connect with the business. Peter and Charity serve together in this endeavor to ensure that the business is operating well on each of these three interconnected efforts. So far, they have engaged 233 villagers. Forty-five of these people have either started or are growing beehive enterprises. As a result of the financial growth, more and more children are able to attend school.
 
As for the impact of the Gospel, five young people are being discipled and have been trained as apicultural technicians. Peter and Charity have also trained six group leaders to be ministry leaders. Peter says that the Gospel is shared more frequently now and is better understood by the rural people, in part because they see biblical truth expressed through the business and relationships.
 
Please pray for Peter and Charity as they advance the Gospel through this honey business. We ask God to spread His powerful Word among the nations and to transform lives. As Psalm 119:103 says, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
 
Navigator staff Jodi Hook provided the original reporting for this story.
 
David Lyons is an International Vice President of The Navigators. He serves our 5,000 staff in more than 100 countries by coaching leaders and leading change. David is author of
Don’t Waste the Pain.

Onward to Sierra Leone

By Alan Ch'ng

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On a recent visit to Ghana, my wife Connie and I were picked up at the airport by Richard and Georgina Baa-Poku and their eight-year-old daughter Rinnah. We were excited to meet them and eager to hear more about their plans for the future. You see, Richard and Georgina are gearing up to pioneer a cross-cultural effort to reach Sierra Leone with the Gospel.

Richard is an established architect, having worked in his profession for 13 years. Georgina worked in the tourism industry and now has her own business. In the midst of family and work, Richard helps give leadership to a couple of Navigator student ministries in Accra, Ghana.

As we got to know them, a question began popping up in my mind: What led Richard and Georgina to decide to leave their country, their people, their household and their professions in order to move to Sierra Leone?

The process began in about 2010. With support from the Africa Regional Leadership Team, Richard made several survey trips into Sierra Leone and found that God was working ahead of them. During that first visit, Richard was moved by both the openness to the Gospel among the people and by the poverty and difficult living conditions in Sierra Leone. He could see that God was working in their hearts, but there was a shortage of help.

Then, on his third visit to Sierra Leone, Richard brought Georgina along. God helped them connect with a young woman who was eager to grow in Christ and learn more about the Bible with the help of Richard and Georgina. A discipleship relationship was established between them.

As Connie and I got to know them, three factors for their decision became clear to us. First, God was working in their hearts because of the poverty in Sierra Leone. The crowds were harassed and helpless. Second, they experienced among those they met a sincere longing for and openness to the Gospel. Third, at about the same time, God was speaking to them through Psalm 2:8, which says, Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.

Compelled by these three factors, Richard and Georgina decided to launch a two-year plan to relocate to Sierra Leone. As with any pioneering effort, there are many unknowns. This is uncharted territory. They are honest about the fact that they don’t have all the details figured out. But they are moving forward in courageous faith. As Georgina says, “We will trust God for jobs and for support.”

One thing is sure: It will take a team of friends and mentors to help them be fruitful. Navigators in Ghana are engaged in the process. The Africa regional leaders are also involved. Connie and I had many opportunities to talk with Richard and Georgina about all that is involved in making such a faith move. We were able to help them understand more about what the Scriptures teach about pioneering missions.

It thrilled my heart to see laborers like Richard and Georgina, working professionals doing well in their jobs, respond to the call of God to step into cross-cultural missions. There is still much preparation between now and when this family can move to Sierra Leone. But it is exciting to see them stepping out in faith and obeying God.

The story of Richard and Georgina represents many Navigators who are pioneering new ministries all over the world. In fact, there are some 65 countries in which we have pioneering ministries. We thank God for each and every one of the precious people who have modeled faith and obedience in this way.

Please pray for Richard, Georgina and Rinnah. And, if you are interested in praying for other missionary efforts in our Worldwide Partnership around the globe, you can find a prayer list for each region at this link.

Alan Ch’ng is an International Vice President. Before joining the International Executive Team, Alan led our Asia-Pacific Region for more than six years. Alan and his wife, Connie, moved to Colorado Springs in April 2013. They have three grown sons.