Spiritual Extended Family: Generations of Marines

With the habit of regularly reading through Proverbs as part of his devotional time, Mike Darnell, Navigators Military, paused on Proverbs 13:22 one day and pondered his legacy. “A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children.”

After many years of marriage and ministry to military personnel, God had already impressed on Mike and Pam (his wife) that their family legacy was the spiritual children they had among the Marines and their spouses whom they had discipled, since they had no physical children of their own. 

Now, as the years passed, Mike realized that the children of their spiritual children were also part of their legacy. While he had been praying for his sons in the faith, now he added prayers for their children. Along with praying for these grandchildren in the faith, he intentionally engages with these children to help their parents train them up in the ways of the Lord.

Spiritual Extended Family: Generations of Marines | The Navigators Military | Family Working Together in Wood Shop

“There are three things I talk to kids about,” shares Mike. “Their vision for their life, how to make decisions, and how to speak like a mature person. For example, I might ask a 15-year-old boy what he would like his life to look like in 10 years, when he is 25. This helps him consider where he is headed and how he might get there, not just his life right now.”

One night Mike was scheduled to meet with Thomas*. The two spend man-to-man discipleship time together each week. Thomas called and asked if he could also bring his teenage son, Daniel*, along with him, “We are struggling in our relationship and at each other’s throats.”

Mike invited them both into conversation. He knew that Daniel had spent many of his growing up years with Thomas deployed. Now, as Thomas is retiring from the Navy as a Corpsman, he is home more, and they are trying to figure out how to relate to each other. After asking some questions and observing, Mike offered a suggestion for them to try in resolving conflict, “Think about establishing some rules of engagement for when you fight.”

Thomas and Daniel went home that night with an assignment from Mike, and also the knowledge that someone cared deeply about their father-son relationship and would keep walking with them for the long haul.

The extended family of spiritual relationships is evident in Mike’s walks around his neighborhood. Years ago, his vision was that as much as possible, he would invite the people he was training and equipping to live within walking distance in their neighborhood. He was aware that for military personnel, part of the sacrifice of service was leaving behind family. So establishing a spiritual extended family ministers to their need for community: “God sets the lonely in families,” Psalm 68:6.   

Now, Mike can walk a few minutes from his home and see Silas and his dad, Jon Martin (Navigators Military), working on an addition to their home. Mike has spent time training Silas in construction skills, as part of Silas’ home school curriculum. Now Silas is putting those skills into practice, along with his dad, on their family home. The Martin family shares the vision of being in an extended spiritual family and will use their new space to host a former Marine as she will go into ministry outreach for women who serve in the Marines.

Praise God that He meets needs for connection and family, along with growing generations of disciplemakers, through Navigators Military. Do you have an extended spiritual family? Who has God placed in your sphere of influence for you to pray for and disciple?

*Names changed.


  1. I spent 28 years in the Marines and I could always count on bible time with Mike at the Protestant Chapel Annex – a warrior of the Word who has faithfully worked with Marines for as long as I can remember – I’m one very appreciative Marine who spent a lot of time away from his family and those times with you and the other Marines helped me through it – thanks Mike!

  2. My spiritual grandmother taught me how to pray, how to trust God and how to care about and pray for my friends and family. She emphasized that there is nothing in life beyond what God can do. Also that He knows what our hearts are concerned about. Her faith was strong and she was nurturing the next generation of believers. I think of her often. Her name was Lady May Stiles, my Sunday School teacher in the fourth through sixth grade. I modeled my time as a Sunday School teacher after her example.

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