By David Lyons
I had to admit it. During a day alone with God, I had to confess that I had not shared my faith with someone for a long time. Too long. I had to admit that I had wimped out on some good opportunities.
So, I began praying that God would lead me to a spiritual conversation with someone every week—a conversation that would give me an opportunity to pray with a person. I prayed daily for each of our neighbors and for strangers that I hadn’t yet met. Soon I saw God opening doors for the Word!
However, before long, I again began to hesitate due to self-protective worry. God kept prodding me. A while ago, I met with a fellow worker who is still grieving over the brutal murder of one of her teammates. A religious radical had killed her colleague for sharing Christ. She quietly said to me, “It took us a while to get our courage back.” But I could see that courage, joy and power was again flowing in and through her and her team. These warriors inspired me to overcome my little anxieties.
Not long after, I met with other Navigators who face the daily threat of arrest and imprisonment. They asked me to pray that God would help them be strong and courageous, which I am eagerly doing.
Being around them and praying for them has increased my courage. They have prompted me to ask God for help with sharing His Word. That’s what Paul asked his friends to pray in Colossians 4:3–4.
God answered my prayer and opened doors for me, but in those moments, I still froze up. For example, I encountered a gay waiter who opened his heart, but I hesitated. Then I faltered while talking to a technical assistance employee at a large store who shared about her tattoo. After both of those opportunities, I thought of brilliant spiritual things to say. But it was too late.
So, I began praying again, this time based on Ephesians 6:19–20. Paul wrote, “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel. . . . Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”
Finally, the Lord of the harvest gave me a shove, literally. I was sitting at a stoplight while driving friends to the airport in the middle of a snowstorm. Wham! A car slid into us from behind. Out jumped a young man with dreadlocks, swearing at himself. I smiled, shook his hand, and invited him to get out of the cold and sit in my car while we exchanged information. I was able to comfort him, pray for him, and give him an “engager” called “What Just Happened?” (You can find this resource by clicking here and also see the video at this link.)
As we drove away, I started laughing. God had answered my prayer through a rear-end collision! How kind of Him? Yes, how kind. Since that accident, God has opened the door to ongoing conversations about faith and grace with the driver.
I feel like I’m unstuck. But I’m still praying Paul’s prayers in Colossians 4 and Ephesians 6 for myself and for other Navigator disciples and disciple-makers around the world. I’m praying because this will never come naturally for me. I need supernatural help. Don’t you?
David 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.
By Alan Ch'ng
Ted (not his real name) was facing the intense challenges of re-entering society from a New Zealand prison when he met John and Eliza MacClure. After spending extensive personal time with John in the Scriptures, Ted gave his life to Jesus. Ted also began inviting other marginalized and broken men from his hostel to study the Bible with John. He is now working as a support worker with others who have a heart for ex-prisoners. But last year, after five years, Ted succumbed to past struggles. His life unraveled again.
“We were naïve in thinking that this amount of time would be enough to ground him.” said John. “Now, we know to expect to have to deal with problems as they arise and that some things take a long time to sort out, but to never give up.”
John and Eliza didn’t give up on Ted. As a result, Ted is continuing to rely on God day-to-day, strength-to-strength, as he seeks to overcome his past and live a full life.
Eliza has also been helping a recovering drug addict. Although he’s accepted Jesus, his physical problems have caused terrible suffering. Eliza comes alongside him in moments of serious crisis, helping him to cope through friendship and counsel. Because of her refusal to give up and her unconditional love, she is one of only two people whom he trusts enough to share his heart.
Loving well requires staying power. “Wonderful things are happening as, very slowly and little-by-little, men we work with are coming to faith,” says John. “Others are growing stronger in their journey with God. It’s both exciting and sobering to realize we are involved in such weighty matters.”
John and Eliza work with a team of Navigators in New Zealand called “Settlers.” They are dedicating their lives to helping the broken and marginalized make the difficult journey back into mainstream society.
John has seen firsthand the obstacles that ex-prisoners face. Until his recent retirement, John served for many years as a reintegration caseworker for the New Zealand Department of Corrections, working in Christchurch.
“At the time of leaving prison, especially after a long period, it is like someone moving to a new country for the first time not knowing the language or customs,” he says.
Although several other social agencies help released prisoners find housing and work, the Settlers team believes it is paramount for ex-prisoners to be accepted by and belong to a positive network and community. This is the focus of the Settlers team. They provide former prisoners an opportunity to develop circles of support and to strengthen their social capital.
Inspired and motivated by Psalm 1, Isaiah 61 and Isaiah 58:6-12, the Settlers team prays that each man or woman they serve through the love of Christ will go on to produce spiritual generations among others who are broken and marginalized.
The key, say John and Eliza, is perseverance. As Paul said in Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
“We are learning to keep a long perspective and to wait with patience,” says John, pointing out that the word patience comes from the Latin verb patior, which means “to suffer.”
Please pray for these patient, dedicated Navigators in New Zealand, that God would use them to develop the ex-prisoners they serve into future leaders who will help others experience the true freedom of Jesus.
Alan Ch'ng is a member of the International Executive Team. Prior to this role, he served as country leader for Malaysia, and as the regional director of the Asia-Pacific work. Alan is married to Connie and they are blessed with three adult children.
By Our Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa
Scores of refugees, fleeing violence and oppression, crowd into sprawling, poor regions of the Middle East seeking to survive each day.
In one area, a wealthy believer had it on his heart to deliver food and supplies to the refugees encamped miles outside his city. He needed help, so he contacted Anwar (not his real name), who is now a Navigator leader.
Anwar was hesitant. The region was far away. He and his team had no experience with refugees, and he knew that terrorists often lived among them. Taking food and supplies could be extremely dangerous.
Anwar’s fears were heightened by his past experiences. One of his friends, a 50-year-old widower in his ministry, had been killed because of his faith in Christ, leaving his children orphaned. Anwar has been taking care of the children ever since they lost their father. As a result, Anwar sometimes receives death threats.
Despite the risks, Anwar spoke to his team about taking the food and supplies into the refugee areas. They prayed and read the Scriptures, seeking God’s guidance. God led them to Leviticus 19:33-34, which says, “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”
“God hit me with that verse,” said Anwar. “We knew that we had to serve these people.”
Anwar and his team started visiting the refugees twice a week, delivering water and food. Fearful, Anwar at first told the team not to talk about Jesus. But they gradually felt more comfortable and decided to pray with people in their makeshift homes.
In one of these homes they met a man who was known to have been a former terrorist leader. His face was weathered. His eyes expressed his soul’s heaviness, the guilt of serving dark causes. The conversation was superficial and brief, but Anwar told the man that he was a Christian. He even gave the man his phone number.
About four days later, Anwar received a phone call from the former terrorist. He pleaded for Anwar and his team to return to his home because he had had a vision about God and wanted to know more. “Honestly, I was very afraid,” said Anwar about that phone call. “I was worried that he was inviting us into a trap.”
Anwar told his team about the phone call and asked for counsel. What should they do? After much prayer, they decided to accept the man’s invitation. Trembling with fear, Anwar and the team headed back into the refugee area and approached the man’s door. He greeted them warmly and they entered the house. As the man served tea, Anwar watched every move suspiciously, praying for God’s protection.
“He started to tell us about the dream,” said Anwar. “It was about God. God was pressing him and convicting him of his sin, calling him to seek forgiveness for all he had done. He told us in tears that he had killed many people. And he looked me in the eye and asked, ‘Can Jesus forgive me?’”
Anwar and the team shared scripture with the man, assuring him that Jesus had paid for his sin on the cross, and that if he gave his life to Jesus he would be forgiven. That very day, the once-hardened and violent terrorist accepted Jesus as his Lord.
“Today that man can’t stop talking about Jesus to everyone around him,” Anwar said. “He’s having a major influence among the other refugees.”
Please pray for Anwar and other Navigators in the Middle East as they boldly take the Gospel message of Jesus and His kingdom to the hard-to-reach places.