The Navigators: A Mentor Picked for Me

I knew nothing about the Navigators, but it didn’t take long to find out about them. After the very first Navigator meeting of singing, teaching and fellowship, Dave Kutche, the Nav leader introduced me to Michael Ryan and told us that we should team up together, that we would work well together. I didn’t know exactly what he meant, but Mike did. From that moment on Mike was my mentor: he would be discipling me. And that is what the Navigators are all about—discipleship.

There is so much I want to tell you about how Mike discipled me, but I think I will tell you a little bit about Sargent John first. He was Mikes mentor and close friend. In fact, they lived together in the same Marine barracks. But John was not only Mikes mentor and discipler, he discipled other guys in the barracks as well. He would lead them to the Lord and then take them through Bible studies. And he was also their Sargent. But he wasn’t your typical swearing, hard nose Marine Sargent. He was strict and demanded perfection, but he was also full of joy and compassion. I remember so well how he would often put his arm around another Marine, encouraging him. You hardly ever saw that in a Marine Sargent, but that was Sargent John. And I saw that same compassion in Mike toward others. Mikes attitude and character was obviously passed down from John.

Now at the time that I ran into the Navigators I had about a month left in my enlistment. And Mike and John were also still in the service, but I think they had more time left to serve than I did. Anyway, I remember that at least once a week me and Mike would walk through the barracks, and attempted to talk to Marines about the Lord. I slightly remember how Mike would boldly introduce the gospel. Mike had a very quiet personality, yet when it came to the gospel, he was quite bold and had a knack of getting to the point. My approach was less bold, but I think it was effective. We were a good team, and I often remember how Mike would try to encourage me and tell me that I was helping him as much as he was helping me. That humble attitude was what I really admired about Mike. He never thought he was in any way better than me, and I remember that he often did little things to purposely humble himself.

Another thing that the Navigators have been known for, besides discipleship, is scripture memory. Almost right away Mike was telling me about the importance of scripture memory, and he introduced me to the Navigator’s Topical Memory System and the sixty verses on verse cards that went with it. I immediately started memorizing those verses. I memorized one verse every two days. The first day I would say it over and over until I could say it from memory. And then on the second day I would learn it better and really think about its meaning. I remember that I was so keyed up for scripture memory. It was something that I was ready for and that God had prepared me for. In fact, as I look back on it, the whole Navigator Ministry came to me just at the right time, when I was primed for it.  Or let me put it this way: God had put the Navigators—and Mike—into my life just at the right time, at the time when I was most ready to accept them and to benefit the most from their ministry.  

After Vietnam: Camp Lejeune and Church Bells

A protestant church at Camp Lejeune.

During the day, every day we would be training for war. Even though I just got back from Vietnam and only had six months left of my enlistment, they kept us fit and ready for combat. Because you never know, they told us, when we would be called back again. After all, we were Marines, and a Marine is always ready, “always faithful.”

But after every day of training, my mind was focused on higher things—on what God had in store for me after my enlistment. I remember wanting so badly to saturate my mind with the word of God. I wrote down all the verses that I knew from memory, like John 3:16-17, 1 John 1:9, Matthew 7:7, and a few others. I had about ten verses on my list. I would start with those. It was my plan to review them daily and then to add to them.

I also had a growing desire to meet God in prayer. After it was dark, I went for walks. I found a place way back behind our barracks, through some trees and by a water bay. It was a secret place that only I knew about. There I sought the Lord. I didn’t ask Him much, I just wanted to be in His presence. Now that I think about it, I think He was seeking me more than I was seeking Him. And every day was the same. He kept drawing me to Himself and wanting me to come to Him.

One day, it must have been a Saturday or Sunday, I decided to go for a walk around the Marine base. My mind was on seeking the Lord for Christian fellowship. I thought it would be good to meet some Christians that I could have fellowship with. As I walked, I quoted Matthew 7:7: “Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

From that verse I ask Him to show me a church where I would find Christians to fellowship with. I continued to walk, and then I heard what sounded like church bells. So, I said to myself, I’ve got to check this out. I walked toward where I thought the sound was coming from, and then I saw the church. I came up to the doors. They were open so I cautiously entered. The pews were all empty, but then I saw a few guys gathered around in front by the church altar. I boldly walked toward them. An older man, about in his 30’s, was reading to the guys from a little booklet. Soon I recognized that it was a gospel track. He was presenting the gospel to these guys, which I assumed were Marines.

After his presentation the leader approached me with a smile and a handshake. He told me that he knew I was a Christian by my smile. God had answered my prayers according to His word. I asked Him to directed me to Christian fellowship and He did. I sought for it and I found the church. I came to the door of the church and it was open and I walked in—I didn’t even have to knock.

I found out later that the man who was sharing the gospel with the Marines in the church was a representative of a group called the Navigators. I would soon be a part of that group.