Faithful service to their local communities means that in times of crisis, the positive reputation of The Navigators for service and integrity makes them trusted local partners to offer practical help. Navigators Discipling for Development (D4D) has worked in almost 20 countries in Africa, Asia, North America, and Eastern Europe. The reputation of D4D workers means that local health officials call on them for help in training citizens in sanitation and prevention of COVID-19 spread—especially hand washing and social distancing.
Wency de la Vina and his team have spent 15 years of serving and equipping communities in the Philippines in a way that equips and empowers disciples. Along with their existing ministry, the Navigators in the Philippines have recently mobilized to cook hundreds of meals for health workers who serve those impacted by the pandemic. This kind of spontaneous response is repeated around the world, as Navigators step up to meet new needs due to COVID-19 in their local areas.
The faithful service and care for community started many years ago, in Wency’s garage. He tells the story of how God has been working.
A Light of Hope Shining from Wency’s Garage
In 2005, two small brothers from a nearby community of informal settlers kept coming to our house in the Philippines for free food and recyclable materials. We knew that we had to do more to help them and that we could do move working together as a team. So, we talked with the five couples in our Navigator Bible study group. Each week in our garage, our team—sometimes including our children—provided meals for 15 children from the brothers’ poor community.
Inspired by Isaiah 58:6-12, which is about helping those in need, we saw our efforts expand. Within a couple of months, we had about 50 children coming to our garage for meals and conversations. Lacking space, we transferred to a bigger venue in the village. Then we started providing the children with school supplies. We soon discovered that a small group of believers, knitted together by a common purpose in Christ, could use its resources to help the poor. We started to imagine how ministry could multiply if many small groups like ours started serving and equipping the people in their communities!
In light of the widespread unemployment and poverty in the Philippines, we registered Community Hope Alternatives, Inc. (CHAI). Today our small organization establishes small, biblical communities where people grow spiritually and help one another become economically productive and socially responsible.
Renz Rivera, a health-care practitioner, joined our team. He turned out to be a prolific evangelist. Early on, Renz led a girl named Erika to Christ. At the time she was eight-years-old and living in a poor community. A decade later, at age 18, she rejoined his group. Erika started serving CHAI as a volunteer. Our Study Now Pay Later assistance allowed her to fulfill her dream of going to college. She obtained a degree in social work and passed the national board examination.
After much prayer, Erika has recently decided to work full-time with CHAI. Armed with gifts of leadership and service, plus a happy disposition, Erika is a vital, energetic, innovative, and caring member of the team that ministers to young and old in several communities.
What have we learned over the years?
We have learned that to minister to the marginalized—and even to people who are not materially poor—we need a holistic mindset. Simple solutions that only focus on spiritual life usually cannot empower people. Poverty is complex, the result of broken relationships between God and humans, between individuals, between people and the environment. Many even experience a broken relationship with themselves. We’ve learned that effective ministry addresses all of these areas.
We have also learned the importance of international partnership, which is a strength of our Navigator disciplemaking movement. Through an international partnership with U.S. Navigators Discipling for Development leaders we have received coaching and tools to effectively empower the people we serve. Many of the principles they taught us were ideas they learned from their ministry in Africa. This is truly an example of the effectiveness of our worldwide partnership working together!
Discipling for Development is building on ministry foundations to face the current crisis.
Now, as marginalized communities around the world face the coronavirus pandemic, along with all the existing challenges of daily life, relational ministry is even more important. Navigators in the Philippines and around the world have a strong basis of local trust and connection so they can continue to empower people to transform lives and communities.
Pray that God will use Navigators in communities around the world to bring hope and help to many people!
Wency de la Vina became Navigator staff in the Philippines in 1986. He started CHAI, an NGO that works with the poor, in 2008. He and his wife, Celia, have three adult sons and two grandsons.
Discipling for Development is a ministry of The Navigators dedicated to discipling people, developing communities, and transforming lives in impoverished communities. Many small villages lack even basic necessities like healthy living conditions, sufficient food, and economic hope. We empower people to create solutions for their own communities.
This article was first published in Worldwide, the international newsletter of The Navigators.