May 22, 2014

Part of our Navigator vision is to grow young new leaders into excellent leaders in their communities. One of these new leaders is Andreas Russell in Vancouver, BC. Andreas has been involved with the Navigators for several years as a student, and now as an intern. This past year provided him with some unexpected growth experiences, where he certainly stepped up to the plate.

On Oct. 23, 2013, Richie Speidel, the University of British Columbia campus leader, had a heart attack following a soccer game where he coaches young kids in his community. Speidel then underwent serious heart surgery, leaving the Navigator student ministry at UBC in the capable hands of his intern and the group’s student president, Andreas Russell.

Andreas Russell

Andreas Russell

Speidel says he was confident the group was in capable hands. “I didn’t have to worry about it. I didn’t have to think, ‘I’ve got to rush back in a week.’ There was a sense of ‘Andreas has a good relationship with that group of people and they like working together. I think together they can step up and shepherd the ministry.’”

However, leadership for Russell has been a learning process. During his time at Delta Secondary School, Russell felt God calling him to start and lead an outreach group. “In high school, I wasn’t very comfortable being a leader or speaking publicly. I was ashamed of my faith a bit.” He says that this high school group was a major turning point for him because it forced him to overcome this fear when he realized that even though he wasn’t comfortable leading, God was still asking him to do it.

Russell became involved with the Navigators when he started at UBC. He joined the student executive team in second year, became student president in his third year and is currently a part-time intern and student president as he finishes fourth year.

Russell says his time with the Navigators has taught him the value of discipleship, rather than looking for “quick fixes” for people’s lives. “Faith takes time,” he says. “It’s a process and it is worthwhile to walk the journey with people, and intertwined in that is the value of different people and different ways of doing ministry, how they understand God and how they connect to God.”

When Speidel had his heart attack, Russell was asked to lead the group. “I was comfortable, I had no problem being the point person. I’ve led Christian clubs [before], so that wasn’t difficult or stressful.”

Russell says one of the biggest challenges wasn’t a challenge for him, but for other leaders in the student group. At the time of his heart attack, Speidel was leading three Bible studies, which had to continue on with volunteer leaders. Two of the leaders who volunteered for this role hadn’t led a Bible study before. “It was challenging for them, but it was important for them to learn that too. I really see God’s providence in that.”

Russell says the big lesson he learned from this experience was that he didn’t have to be anxious because God is in control. “If Richie had been gone for certain times of the year, it would have been extremely challenging. Richie was healthy for all our really big events which meant that the events that were going on when he wasn’t there were events we could handle as a team.”

This summer, Russell will be participating in The Navigators’ Global Student Program, a two-month program where student leaders from all over the world come to the Navigator head-quarters in Colorado Springs to learn more about leadership and the Navigator ministry. Russell signed up as a participant, but recently accepted an offer to be a team leader in the GSP instead. He says that even now, “I honestly still don’t know that much about it. But again, part of the fact is that I don’t mind doing things I don’t know very much about. I prayed about it, felt a lot of peace about it. I felt like God was calling me so it just made a lot of sense. I didn’t even put that much thought into it. I really had no hesitations about the program.”


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