Standing on Shoulders

The view from above the 2nd building we worked on

On this past field service in Sierra Leone, we worked in Yams Farm Wharf, a small village a few miles outside of Freetown. The primary project was to construct two buildings for a school associated with a local church. They have been functioning with a building about 20′ x 40′ for both church and school, which meant six school classes in one large room. A throw-back to the one room schools of the American West, with a major difference. The Yams Farm classes averaged about 25 students each, meaning 150 students in the room on any given day. Imagine teaching that many kids in a concrete building smaller than many apartments. Yet it worked as the teachers did an excellent job of keeping the kids focused on them and what they taught.

The foundation dug and concrete block ready to be placed

The first week on the job, the pastor found out that I had been a pastor and asked if I would teach a Sunday school class. He expressed his understanding that the church on a whole, and the African church in particular, was weak because people do not understand the need to be a disciple. Thus I was given my topic for the coming Sunday.

Starting the school day with songs of praise

As I prayerfully gave thought to pastor Mark’s request I knew I wanted to pass on something useful, and transferable, especially given the lack of bibles and literacy issues. What might I do that would be visual and communicate simply some of the concepts of discipleship? I decided to teach what is called the Navigator Wheel. It lent itself nicely to the situation. With a little memorization and practice, a person can apply it to his own life and easily teach it to another.

With Pastor Mark

The Saturday prior to the class, as I thought about the day ahead, the situation did not escape me. Here I was in Africa with the distinct privilege of teaching others what I myself had been taught. It started with some older women who taught boys in Sunday school to memorize scripture. One of those boys, Dawson Trotman, founded the Navigators and put those scriptures into the Wheel. Lewis Bock met Christ, became involved in the Navigators, and began discipling a younger man named Jim Hardie. Twenty-five years later Jim worked with Young Life and college students at Washington State University, which included me.

Teaching the Wheel at Word of Life Church in Sierra Leone October 2011

In that train of thought I also recognized that Jim Rayburn had a passion for incarnating Christ in a ministry to high school students. In one of his first Young Life clubs was Sam Adams, who some twenty-five years later started a Young Life ministry at my high school along with a volunteer named Jack Burns. During my college years they taught me more about incarnational ministry–that it’s about relationship. Which in Africa, it really is about relationship.

Talking at the end of the project

From the older ladies to Dawson, to Louie, to Jim, to me and to a small church in Africa-the wheel. From Jim to Sam, to Jack, to me and to a small church in Africa-relationship. What a privilege to think of the shoulders upon which I stand.

What a heritage we have in Christ and in His church


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