An Ancient and Enduring Discipline

By David Lyons

Photo courtesy of Joel Bengs

Photo courtesy of Joel Bengs

Will The Navigators last 500 years? If so, it will be because we really do live our motto: To Know Christ, to Make Him Known and to Help Others Do the Same.

The Navigators is similar to another Christian organization—the Jesuits—that has lasted nearly 500 years. Although we are fundamentally different than the Jesuits in important ways, we share a passion for spending daily time alone with God.

I became fascinated with this connection a few years ago when our team read Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450-Year-Old Company that Changed the World, by Chris Lowney. What Navigators often call a “quiet time,” the Jesuits call “The Daily Examen.”

For several years I’ve been practicing The Daily Examen as part of my daily quiet time. I recently noticed how this ancient practice is rooted in an even more ancient set of guidelines for spiritual health: Philippians 4:4-8.

There are five elements to The Daily Examen, as I practice it:

Become aware of God’s presence. Look back on the day’s events in the company of the Holy Spirit. Ask God for eyes to see His fingerprints. Philippians 4:4-5 says to “rejoice in the Lord” because “The Lord is near.” I cultivate awareness of God by journaling sentences that begin with phrases such as, “I see You discipling me,” and, “I see You protecting me,” and, “I see You . . .” As I write, I begin to see the day through His eyes.

Review the day with gratitude. We can walk through each day in the presence of God and focus on its joys, delights and gifts. Look at the work you did, the people you interacted with. What did you receive from these people? Pay attention to small things, such as the food you ate, the sights you saw and other seemingly small pleasures. Philippians 4:4-6 says to season our prayers with thanksgiving. The weather in my soul is consistently transformed by making a list of things that I’m thankful for.

Pay attention to your emotions. We often detect the presence of the Spirit of God in the movements of our emotions. Reflect on the feelings you experienced during the day. What is God saying through these feelings? God may show you some ways that you fell short. Repent of those. But look deeply for other implications. Does frustration mean that God wants you consider a new direction? Are you concerned about a friend? Perhaps you should reach out to her in some way. This practice has helped me realize how my work is often driven by anxiety. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of Christ which surpasses all comprehension will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” I meet with my Wonderful Counselor every day, and He untangles my emotions.

Choose one feature of the day and pray about it. As you review your day, ask the Holy Spirit to direct you to something that He thinks is especially important. It may be a significant encounter with another person. Allow prayer to arise spontaneously from your heart—whether intercession, praise, repentance, or gratitude. The Message renders Philippians 4:6 as follows: “Instead of worrying, pray!” It will be settling to commit that concern to God.

Look toward tomorrow. Ask God to give you light for the next day’s challenges. Pay attention to your feelings as you survey what’s coming. Allow these feelings to turn into “prayer and supplication with thanksgiving” as you “let your requests be made known to God” (verses 6-7). As you do, listen for His guidance and write it down. This is crucial for following Jesus through each day as His disciple, as His apprentice.

I’m not too concerned about whether The Navigators (or the Jesuits) are around 500 years from now. But I hope that 500 years from now there will still be “navigators” navigating the seas of life with a passion to know, live and become like Jesus every day. That will last.

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.

Nomads by Faith

The following (lightly edited) is a journal entry written by a Navigator who, along with his wife and small children, is pioneering a work in Asia.

Photo courtesy of Leio McLaren

Photo courtesy of Leio McLaren

The day finally came. We sold our house and left many possessions behind. We said goodbye to family and friends and boarded a jet to Asia.

By faith, says Hebrews 11:8-9, Abraham obeyed and went out. By faith he lived in the land of promise.

Like Abraham, there is so much we don’t know. But we know the important things: God, His promises, and His calling on our lives. So, we obeyed and set our course toward the nation that we were to receive as an inheritance, an inheritance shared with Jesus himself (Psalm 2:8).

Now we’re here. Now we live here. This isn’t like one of our past visits. It feels different. On day one, we didn’t get out to see famous places. Instead, we unpacked, journeyed to the local market, and started figuring things out: SIM cards, house help, where to get food. Lunch was bread and eggs stored in a minimally stocked fridge. Everything seems slow.

The kids are getting into new routines. Baths happen in a plastic tub. The inevitable spilling leaves the bathroom floor wet. For them, continuity is found in their toy trains and blocks, and their favorite lullaby app. But their world is different: new beds, a rooftop to run on, muddy streets swarming with people.

On our way to do some shopping yesterday, we got caught behind a street parade celebrating a local deity. Our son, imagining the parade he’d seen at home, said, “Maybe see big horsey.” We tried to brace him for the fact that there probably wouldn’t be any horses. Well, there were two large, white horses pulling a decorated parade wagon! We even got a picture next to the horses. What an amazing sign of God’s goodness to our child.

The parade progressed slowly. With thousands of people lining the jam-packed streets, we couldn’t exactly pass by. So, we walked a little, ducked into stores, and then walked again. Finally arriving at the market, we tromped through the mud buying potatoes, onions, bell peppers, and other supplies as the kids tried to make sense of it all.

By faith we are living in the land of promise. It is, for us, a foreign land. The meaning of the deity’s parade was bewildering. Finding food is like hunting for treasure. Communication is confusing. The flavors are new and strange. Household routines are unfamiliar. Our local friends are as yet few. We don’t belong here, but it’s our land of promise.

By faith we are living in tents. Even as we set up this apartment, we realize that it’s temporary. We might live here for a month, maybe six months, maybe even a year. But it won’t be long. We’ll move on soon, like nomads who pack up their tents night after night. Nothing we like about this place will remain with us forever. Everything we dislike will not endure without end.

Even in our temporary state, we are assured of what we hope for and certain of things not yet seen. God will bring to pass His promises for the nations here. Our labor is not in vain. God will fulfill His purpose for us in our generation. God has prepared good works for us to walk into. All the nations will worship and glorify the name of Jesus. Our lives are in transition, but the Gospel will endure forever.

Settling Ex-Prisoners in New Zealand

By Alan Ch'ng

The Settlers team, shown left to right: John, Lynton, Anthony, Eliza, and Gerard

The Settlers team, shown left to right: John, Lynton, Anthony, Eliza, and Gerard

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.

A Closer Look

Images of Navigator work around the world

Ana Rosa D’Ercole (right) and her assistant, Nena, in the São Paulo dental clinic.

Ana Rosa D’Ercole (right) and her assistant, Nena, in the São Paulo dental clinic.

As Ana Rosa D’Ercole does root canals, fills cavities, and fits gold crowns on molars, she also looks for opportunities to help her patients with their souls.

About 30-years ago, Ana Rosa converted a small house into a modern dental clinic located near the financial district of São Paulo, Brazil. She lives in an apartment up the street from the clinic, which is also not far from her sister’s language school.

Inside her clinic, the reception area is decorated with vibrant Brazilian art. Upstairs she treats patients in her dental operatory, with her dedicated dental assistant, Nena. Downstairs is a small kitchen, where a table is often covered with Brazilian fare, such as pão de queijo (warm cheese rolls), bolo de milho (a sweet cake made of corn), and robust Brazilian coffee. Around that table her patients, friends and family meet to share life, talk about God, and study the Scriptures.

Ana Rosa was introduced to Christ in dental school, where she met fellow dental student, Michelle Petersen, the eldest daughter of Jim Petersen, who started the Navigator work in Brazil in the early 1960s. Over the years, Ana Rosa has integrated her work and her clinic with helping patients and friends come to Christ and to grow in their faith. Many of the people she has reached are carrying the message of God’s grace to their friends.

“It’s very natural for me,” says Ana Rosa. “Just as I help my patients take care of their teeth, I also want them to grow spiritually.”