Every night Doug, Dean, and Ken* meet to pray. They are serving in the Marine Corps in Okinawa. Doug shared, “Our nightly times of prayer have acted as fuel in our lives in order to have the desire, joy, and stamina for ministry. The time has been crucial for my own encouragement and has blessed each of us in our personal walk with Christ.”
A heart for prayer and disciplemaking grew during Doug’s time at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Doug intentionally sought out Ron Koehler, Navigators Military, and asked to be discipled by him. While the Academy has a number of different Christian ministries, including The Navigators, the midshipmen are pressed for time, so unless a midshipman is committed to investing in spiritual growth, it can easily fall by the wayside.
“While at the Academy, the Lord made it clear that if I really wanted to keep growing closer to Him, I should spend time with mentors who really know Him,” says Doug. “I looked for a man who had walked closely with God through his life and reflected the fruit of that kind of life. I knew if I wanted to be more like Jesus, I would need to learn from a man who reflected His love and power. The best way to learn from a man like Ron was to consistently walk through life with him.”
Ron and Marleen Koehler (Navigators Military) have served at the Naval Academy for 21 years. Prior to that they were in Africa and Eastern Europe. As he serves midshipmen, Ron describes his focus, “God has impressed on me the importance of convictions and connections. When I am meeting with a midshipman, I ask the harder and deeper questions, to get to the convictions of their heart. I am listening and coaching, not telling them what to do, but helping them study God’s Word and listen to the Spirit. Also, I want to build connections with them while they are here and connect them to Navigators Military at their next duty station. To be lifelong disciplemakers they need to stay connected to a like-hearted community. When we were serving in Africa, we had the luxury of time to build relationships. Here I have learned to be quick, because they have so many demands on their time.”
In the same way that Doug sought out Ron to learn as a disciple, Marines are seeking out Doug for growth and encouragement. One Marine asked if he could read a psalm together with Doug each day. They are using the time together to read a psalm, pray together (using the sequence of prayer- ACTS: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) and then talk about the psalm.
Life-to-Life® Discipleship is more than a Bible Study
The weekly Bible study among the Marines in Okinawa has been growing as people invite their friends to the study. Along with studying the Bible together, they are catching the vision of sharing life together as well. Marines are sharing Scripture with one another at different points during their workday, in person or by text.
Most of the transformational ministry work Doug, Dean, and Ken partake in revolves around daily life—in the workplace, the chow hall, and recreation. This is the meat of the ministry—walking together through the highs and lows of everyday life just as Christ walks with them. The goal is for men to see that the Christian life involves all of life.
The heart for relationships is evident. Doug shares, “Each of us has grown in disciplemaking. We see our time in prayer and Bible study as part of being the hands and feet of Christ throughout our normal days. So our relationship with Christ is not isolated to Bible study time. As we’ve invited men to events on the weekend—exploring Okinawa, playing soccer or volleyball—we are impacting men who may never step into a church without having real relationships with us. Dean and Ken have taken young Marines under their wings and shown them the love of Christ through Christian brotherhood. They are available to the movement of God in our squadron.”
Going deeper in relationships means being sensitive to the pace of God’s work in someone’s life, and their willingness to engage. It’s being together in life at the pace the Marine needs at the time—walking, crawling, or running.
Walking Together Through Hard Places
Many Marines are dealing with difficult situations in their current lives, or from their past. Many of the men in the Bible study are actively showing the love of Christ to brothers in the squadron who are experiencing trials most young adults would never imagine facing. The everyday encouragement is making a difference in their lives and work. This is an example of the Marines who are willing to go deeper in relationship with those around them.
Ken shares this assessment of the needs: “Please pray for some who are struggling with depression and even suicidal thoughts. For many in our squadron this isolation on their first deployment, surrounded by a dark culture of heavy drinking, vulgarity, porn, long hours at work, and harsh attitudes has made some increasingly desperate for a greater hope. It’s this realization of depravity that I think the Lord can use to reach many!”
As a result of the community of disciplemakers in this squadron of Marines, many who knew God in the past are turning back to Him. God has restored their desire to know Christ and walk in increased obedience. Others have no past experience with God but are refreshed by the love of Christ they experience in the community and are drawn to know more.
Join These Marines in Prayer
Although you may be miles away, you can pray along with Doug, Dean, Ken and other Marines for a rich harvest among those serving in Okinawa.
• Pray for those who are not yet following Jesus, that they will see the love of God and hope for life reflected in these faithful Marines and they will choose to follow Jesus.
• Pray for the leaders of the Bible study, that they will be faithful to serve and invest deeply in disciplemaking relationships.
• Pray for the continued ability to meet and grow as the body of Christ despite time constraints and shift crews on different schedules.
• In the midst of changing assignments and frequent moves, pray that God’s Word will take root deeply and these Marines will be disciplemakers for life, regardless of their surroundings.
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