When Amari* was 7 years old his family moved from Ethiopia to Clarkston, Georgia. (See below “A Global City to Train Disciplemakers” for information on the unique diversity in Clarkston). He grew up in an Orthodox Christian home and grew spiritually through Navigators Collegiate at University of Georgia.
Amari shares his heart for Ethiopia, “I visited Ethiopia during the summer while I was in college. I prayed for the Spirit to help me see what God sees when He looks at people. As I was driving from the airport into the city, I saw a woman and her children by the side of the road, she seemed to have lost hope. Throughout my trip I saw brokenness, but also hope as I met people who were working to bring change for those on the margins.”
Amari was introduced to Eric Ketcham, Lane Lareau, and the Discipling for Development (D4D) team in Atlanta by Navigators at University of Georgia. Amari joined a D4D Foundations workshop in the fall of 2017.
The whole-life emphasis of D4D resonated with Amari and his heart for his home country. Whole-life discipleship is meeting community members where they are and mentoring them to grow as whole persons into all God intends for them to be. Amari knew that it would take whole-life discipleship and a biblical approach to community transformation that he learned through D4D to alleviate the poverty he saw among the street children of Addis Ababa. Two years ago, he moved from Atlanta to Ethiopia and has connected with Navigators who are there to come alongside their ministry. Eric and Lane are still actively mentoring Amari from a distance, connecting regularly to equip and encourage him in his work and ministry.
Life-to-Life Discipleship Moves from Atlanta, to Portland, to Ethopia
Taye* met Lane and the D4D team through a deacon at his Ethiopian church in the Atlanta area. He resonated with the whole-life discipleship idea and was particularly struck by the idea that discipleship starts with a relationship with God and as He transforms your heart, it transforms your life and your family. Then as families are changed, transformation spreads from homes to communities. The D4D training has helped Taye integrate his faith and work. He was finishing a training program in the pharmaceutical industry while he was being mentored in discipleship principles of The Navigators.
Now living in Portland, Oregon, Taye feels called to apply what he learned through D4D to the Ethiopian diaspora in that city. He also sees his work as a place that God can use him in ministry. He transitioned from working for a pharmaceutical company to providing home care support for families who have children on the autism spectrum. As with Amari, Lane continues to mentor Taye long-distance, helping him integrate whole-life discipleship into his faith and work.
Kofi* lived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, before coming to the United States for seminary studies at Columbia International University in South Carolina. As he was completing his seminary studies, he learned about the D4D residential training experience in Atlanta and was able to extend his student visa for this internship experience.
“For me joining D4D enhanced my understanding about community,” shares Kofi. “I remember the first lesson was about a broken relationship with God, self, others, and creation, and how restored relationships are the redemptive work of Christ. The whole-life discipleship model shaped my perspective about community and God’s plan, which is to create God-glorifying households and communities. It was challenging to move directly from seminary study into the combination of more training and working with the Ethiopian church in Clarkston. Being able to connect with church pastors and the community was encouraging.”
Now back in Ethiopia, Kofi continues to intentionally live out the discipleship principles he learned in his daily life. He is considering ways to serve in the community, even as his next steps have been slowed by the impact of COVID-19 and unrest in his country.
The Life-to-Life connection of Lane Lareau with each of these Ethiopian men is exemplary of the interactions Lane has had with the international community in the Atlanta area since he relocated there six years ago. When he moved to Atlanta, Lane was finishing up a master’s degree in Global Studies and was looking for experience in working with an international community. He connected with the Atlanta Navigators city team which was doing research into the possibility of doing focused D4D training in Atlanta, because of its makeup as a global city. The D4D whole-life discipleship emphasis of empowering individuals to grow as whole persons physically, socially, emotionally, and spiritually was a good fit for the needs in Atlanta. The D4D team in Atlanta was formed in 2016 and Lane became the project leader in 2019.
“Our emphasis is coming alongside the local community and providing training,” shares Lane. “As we bring new people in for training, we are always considering how to release them into their next steps. Sometimes that means a new expression of ministry locally, and sometimes they are called elsewhere to serve. But our role is to come alongside what God is doing through local leaders, mentoring them, and then releasing them to serve.”
Pray that God continues to multiply the impact of the Discipling for Development team in Atlanta and around the world. Praise God for the way He is using those who have been trained to bring whole-life discipleship to communities in Ethiopia and beyond.
A Global City to Train Disciplemakers
The town of Clarkston, Georgia, in the eastern part of metropolitan Atlanta, has been dubbed the most diverse square mile in the United States. Many refugees have resettled in the area, with good access to the Atlanta labor market and affordable housing. More than five years ago, the Navigators World Missions Discipling for Development (D4D) team selected Atlanta as a pilot area in the United States. In addition to the local international communities, Atlanta is a city with linkages around the world. Previously all the D4D ministry had been in other countries, mostly in Africa and Southeast Asia.
The D4D team in Atlanta offers training opportunities that include practical experience along with biblical and community development principles to meet physical, emotional, and spiritual needs:
- 1-week Introductory training program on-site in Atlanta in March.
- Summer program – online 9-week virtual program to provide an understanding of doing whole-life discipleship alongside vulnerable populations in a local context.
- 10-month training program with curriculum, field placements, and mentoring. Currently online, but potentially residential again in the future.