The Navigators: Lasting Influences

The two people in the Navigators that most influenced my life were Michael Ryan and Doug Benshoof. Let me start with Doug Benshoof, the Nav rep. I don’t know why, but he chose me several times to go witnessing with in the Marine barracks. I kept thinking that he was expecting me to follow in his footsteps, but sadly I never did, at least not to his caliber. Doug had a wonderful gift of discernment and a way of piercing right through a person’s arguments to their heart. I remember him telling me one time that when a person is most argumentative and belligerent, he often is the readiest to respond to the gospel. And I, personally, more than once, saw Doug bring a very angry and argumentative person to the point of repentance. I’ve never seen anything like it.

He also had a very commanding and authoritative presence. One time I saw him walk into a break room area in a Marine barracks, where about 20 Marines were sitting and watching television. He went boldly up to the TV, shut it off, and directly told them that he had something much more important to talk to them about. And then he boldly shared his testimony and the gospel. I don’t know, but I’m guessing that he had done that a few times before—he saw opportunities to witness to groups and he knew how to pull it off. I’m guessing that maybe the men thought he was an officer, and even though he was dressed as a civilian, they had better listen to him. Well, Doug was (formerly) a Marine lieutenant, and no doubt God used that experience for His purpose.

But Doug wasn’t only a bold evangelist. He was primarily a disciple maker. I’m not sure what his goals were, but everyone knew who he was discipling. And he would find a new guy to disciple every year it seemed. And it was kind of funny to see it. I mean his disciples would turn out to be almost a copy of himself: having the same drive and goals, and even the same stories. And I remember him telling me how he would go about looking for disciples. He would start with a group. He would gather a group of primarily none-Christians that showed an interest in studying the bible. And he would stay with that group for as long as they were interested. Many of them would become Christians but not all. And he would, at the same time, be looking for one man to spend most of his time with—a man that he thought would be faithful, available, and teachable (FAT).

Doug was the Nav rep with us for about half of the time I was there (about two years), and then the Nav organization (in Colorado, Springs, Co.) sent him to Spain to begin a Navigator ministry there. Obviously, they knew of Doug’s gifts and knew he would be the best man for the job.  I stayed in touch with him for a while. It didn’t take him long to begin bible studies and to find people to disciple. And I think his wife Betty was fully involved too.

Michael Ryan was a lot different than Doug. He was quiet and more introverted—like me. He would probably never look for an opportunity to witness to a group, like Doug did. But he had other gifts. I suppose you could say that Doug was like the Apostle Paul and Mike was more like Timothy. And though I was more impressed with Doug, I think overall, Mike’s ministry to me has made a more lasting impression; one reason why is because he had a way of communicating to me that he was benefiting from our friendship just as much as I was benefiting from him. He regarded us as equals, even though it seemed that he was usually the one to lead the way and take the initiative. I remember when we would meet together every morning to read the word and pray together before we went to work. He would always come over to my apartment, and we would usually sit outside in the fresh air. I don’t think we had any high goals of finding anything new in the word during our times together. I think it was more just establishing the habit of having a quiet time every day—and building a faithfulness to the Lord and to each other. We met almost every day for, I think, over a year, until he decided to move back to his home in Kansas.

I miss those times and I miss Mike. But our faithfulness in meeting together has greatly benefited me and has left in me a lasting legacy. For if there is one thing in my life that I would say I am faithful in, it would be my morning quiet times. And I don’t count it as any great achievement, just as something I’ve grown a custom to, or something that I look forward to.

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