The College Connection

 Gwen Sellers

It was June 2006 and Mark and Lexie Day had just moved into their new home in Shawnee, Kansas, when the doorbell rang. Mark opened the door and saw a young woman whom he had never seen before.

“Are you Mark Day?” she asked.

“Yes,” Mark replied wondering how this woman could possibly know him.

“You have a call on my cell phone.”

“How could this be?” Mark thought.

As it turns out, this young woman was Mark’s spiritual descendent. This is a story that was 25 years in the making.

Mark was first introduced to The Navigators in 1965 while he was attending college at Texas A&M. “One of the young men who was involved in The Navigators’ ministry, a guy by the name of Larry Lewis, heard that I was a believer and he came to my dorm and knocked on my door and took initiative to get acquainted with me,” explains Mark. “I had been a believer since my freshman year, but I had not had any help so I was really a frustrated, young Christian.” Larry introduced Mark to the disciplines of praying, memorizing Scripture, and studying the Bible. “He was a tremendous help to me,” Mark says.

After graduating from the university, Mark intended to pursue a career and landed an engineering job with the Texas Water Development Board. He was then drafted into the military and served for four years with the Army Corps of Engineers. During that time, he was assigned to Okinawa, Japan. “On the way over to Okinawa, I sat next to a young airman and was privileged to lead him to Christ,” Mark says. “When we arrived at Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa, I was there with a young new believer friend so I looked up The Navigators. Roger and Jeanie Fleming were the Navigator staff on the island. I told Roger that I wanted to learn to follow up Christians and learn to help my friend who was new in the Lord, but I really didn’t want to be a Navigator,” Mark says. “I just wanted to be an Army officer in the Corps of Engineers and help this new believer. Roger really opened the door for me to get a lot of help there without the pressure of feeling like I needed to be a Navigator.” The Days did many things during their time at Texas A&M. Most recently, they helped to open “Nav Café” in their home. It is a large room complete with free coffee drinks; occasional entertainment such as karaoke, variety shows, game nights, and comedians; equipment for playing music or movies; and a comfortable atmosphere that gives students the freedom to come and go. Mark borrows from Leroy Eims when he says the Nav Café became a “soul-trap.” Students often hung out with friends until the wee hours of the morning or met with small group Bible studies during the day. “We saw students drawn into the spiritual family through the relational connections built there,” Mark says.

After 25 years at Texas A&M, one might think the Days were ready to leave college behind. And they are ready to move off campus, but not out of college life. The Days are now Regional Directors for The Navigators’ Collegiate Ministries in Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, and Iowa. Their schedule is packed as they travel to staff meetings, give training sessions, recruit new staff members, decide on staff assignments, and encourage staff members in their personal ministries.

But God had other plans. Mark met another Navigator during his time in Japan and felt led by the Lord to join Navigator staff. In 1972, Mark left for Thailand for two years of work in The Navigators’ Military Ministry.

While in Thailand, Mark heard Jerry White, former Navigator president, speak at a conference. Jerry, Regional Director for the Western Division at the time, invited Mark to Colorado Springs to serve as his administrative assistant. Once in Colorado Springs, Mark met Lexie. She was involved with The Navigators in singles ministry. Mark and Lexie married at Glen Eyrie in 1976.

At the request of Jerry White, the couple moved to Rapid City, South Dakota, to work at Ellsworth Air Force Base; they stayed for four years. “Being a Texan originally, the weather in South Dakota was intense—the winters were pretty cold,” Mark says. “At one point, we got word that there was need for Navigator staff at Texas A&M so I expressed my interest in that.” Mark, Lexie, and their three daughters (all under the age of four) moved to Texas in 1981 to begin their work at Texas A&M. They were there until 2006.

They have witnessed much change in the campus and the students over the years including increased security on campus and intensified complexity in students’ lives. One thing, however, has remained the same—the need for Christian fellowship.

“One thing we felt was important from the beginning was that students needed a fellowship group—we call them ‘Nav Nights.’ There needed to be a gathering once a week in which all the students could fellowship together, that was community oriented—fellowship oriented—and gave the students a sense of belonging to something bigger than just their Bible study group or their particular dorm ministry,” Mark says. “And we felt like that really helped us over the years at Texas A&M to keep momentum in the ministry, to keep the numbers larger, and to just keep the ministry more healthy. So we had a weekly Nav fellowship meeting on campus every week during the 25 years we were there; we never stopped doing that.” The Days did many things during their time at Texas A&M. Most recently, they helped to open “Nav Café” in their home. It is a large room complete with free coffee drinks; occasional entertainment such as karaoke, variety shows, game nights, and comedians; equipment for playing music or movies; and a comfortable atmosphere that gives students the freedom to come and go. Mark borrows from Leroy Eims when he says the Nav Café became a “soul-trap.” Students often hung out with friends until the wee hours of the morning or met with small group Bible studies during the day. “We saw students drawn into the spiritual family through the relational connections built there,” Mark says.

After 25 years at Texas A&M, one might think the Days were ready to leave college behind. And they are ready to move off campus, but not out of college life. The Days are now Regional Directors for The Navigators’ Collegiate Ministries in Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, and Iowa. Their schedule is packed as they travel to staff meetings, give training sessions, recruit new staff members, decide on staff assignments, and encourage staff members in their personal ministries. But what about the Days’ new neighbor and the cell phone call? Earlier in their time at Texas A&M, the Days met and discipled a young couple. After graduating, this young couple moved to New Jersey where they multiplied the work of the Kingdom and applied the lessons they had learned from their mentors. They befriended their next-door neighbors who, in 2000, moved to Shawnee, Kansas. Six years later, the Days’ old friends saw the Days’ new address and recognized the street name as the same as that of the couple they had mentored in New Jersey. They were quick to connect the two couples.

Now, Mark and Lexie not only had some new friends to help them navigate their new neighborhood, they had an inside connection for ministry. “This just points to the fact that you never know what the Lord is going to do and what doors He will open when you touch a life,” says Mark.

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