Remembering Jim North: The Great Encourager

 The Navigators

It’s impossible to measure how much someone is loved, but when longtime Navigator Jim North passed away June 22, 2010, there were more than 3,000 visits to the website created in his honor. That’s a lot of love. It’s not surprising, really, considering the breadth of Jim’s ministry. At the time of his death, Jim had been in ministry for more than 45 years, lived on two continents, loved two families, and visited more than 35 countries.

Jim was born April 12, 1937, and raised near Detroit, Michigan, in a hardworking family. His father’s fruit stand was a family effort, and there Jim learned the value of determination, singleness of mind, and commitment to family. He first became interested in Christianity when he heard that the local church had set up a boxing ring in its basement. This superficial interest in religion gave way to a sincere consideration of the claims of Christ and he gave his life to the Lord in high school. Jim didn’t begin to develop a deep relationship with Christ until the late 1950s while at Sterling College, Kansas. It was there he was introduced to The Navigators. Jim became more familiar with The Navigators in the early 1960s as part of the fledgling collegiate ministry at the University of Nebraska. He learned from some great mentors, living with wonderful families like Leroy and Virginia Eims.

Jim came to The Navigators’ headquarters at Glen Eyrie in Colorado Springs in the early 1960s. There he met his first wife, Carolyn. While being discipled and learning all they could, they also fell in love, marrying in Glen Eyrie’s Great Hall in January 1963.

They worked on college campuses for the next five years, and by 1968, Jim and Carolyn were in Indonesia, launching the Navigator work there. His daughter, Cindy, tells friends, “Imagine leaving the States in 1968 to go to a country 10,000 miles away, whose language you don’t know, for which you don’t yet have visas, where you have only one contact, with two-year-old and six-month-old girls, and where you’ll be just 1,000 miles from the Vietnam War. That’s a pioneer!”

Jim was passionate about training Indonesians to reach their own countrymen for Christ; he vigorously pursued and trained leaders, discipling relationally. Jim and Carolyn raised three daughters in Indonesia: Becky, Lisa, and Cindy.

In 1985, Jim and Carolyn returned to the United States and developed a program for missionary care, which eventually became The Navigators’ U.S. International Ministries Group.

Carolyn was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 1993, and passed away in 1996 after a long, hard battle. Jim and his eldest daughter, Becky, attended grief healing workshops that fall and spring, and it was there that Jim met Janice Lee, who had lost her husband to a sudden heart attack in 1995. Neither was looking for a relationship, but God had other plans. They fell in love, marrying in November 1997. Jim’s family increased as he helped Janice raise her two children, Melissa and Matt.

For the past several years, Jim and Janice have traveled throughout the world leading Sharpening Your Interpersonal Skills (SYIS) workshops that focused on conflict and grief resolution, developing and mentoring more leaders, especially in Asia and Africa.

While on a three-month trip to Indonesia in early 2010, Jim began experiencing stomach pain and vomiting, but he chose to press on and complete his trip. The day after returning, increased pain prompted a visit to the hospital where it was discovered Jim had cancer; he passed away just seven days later.

When Jim’s diagnosis came, his family created a page on CaringBridge.org, a website for those with serious illness that becomes a central location for communicating with friends and family. Visitors to the site can write a comment in the patient’s “guestbook.” In 10 days, Jim had received more than 150 comments. People spoke of Jim’s warmth and ready smile, his love for the saints. The children of fellow missionaries called him “Uncle Jim.” Many called him friend.

One person wrote, “The time you spent listening to me and asking questions after I had come back from Indonesia is still one of the most significant times in my life and one of the things that God has used to help me continue to walk with Him and labor with Him. Thank you for your patience and humility to listen and help me.”

Another wrote, “How often I have told the story of your visit to us when we were feeling hugely discouraged. Your visit, your words, your counsel, your suggestions, the recommended books—all were a healing balm to our battered minds and hearts. We have thanked God for you over and over and over in the years since.”


Other messages, written in Indonesian or addressed to “Pak Jim,” represented the countless Indonesians forever changed by Jim’s ministry. Since they were unable to attend memorial services in Colorado Springs, they gathered in homes across Indonesia to talk about Jim’s influence on their lives.

Fellow Navigator Bruce Van Wyk wrote, “Jim leaves a big hole in our hearts and in the Navigator family around the world. He lived well and, like the cowboy he was, he died with his boots on. Well done, Jim, for setting the pace and giving us an example to follow.”

Senior Vice President of The U.S. Navigators Bill Tell described Jim as “a missionary’s missionary—bold, courageous, a man of faith, a visionary.” Bill continued, “Most would be happy to be used of God to accomplish just a fraction of what God accomplished through Jim. Yet the overriding characteristic of Jim North that people testify to over and over, and what challenges me the most, is that Jim was a lover of people. Jim majored in two things: loving God and loving people.”

Services were held for Jim on Saturday, June 26. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be given in Jim’s honor to support the Indonesia Office. You may send checks payable to “The Navigators,” designated to account #83105. Send to: The Navigators, Account Processing Center, P.O. Box 6000, Colorado Springs, CO 80934-6000.

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