JD Sherman, a recent industrial design graduate from Carleton University, spent this past year interning with The Navigators at the University of Guelph. His assignment has been to re-open the campus ministry there and pioneer a new beginning.
In the early 1960s the Navigators came to Canada and soon opened a ministry at the University of Guelph. In the early 1980s, the campus leader felt he could better serve the students by mentoring and influencing them post-graduation. This transition caused the Guelph ministry to go dormant…until now.
JD says he saw doing an internship with the Navigators as an excellent way to get involved in the Guelph community. Prayer and memories of his Navigator student experiences led JD to sense God calling him to move to Guelph. The ministry will be moving forward this school year with 20 students, up from the 3 students JD began the group with. The majority of these new students who have joined come from Christian backgrounds, ranging from dedicated believers to those who have only been nominally involved in their faith.
He says the freedom he’s been given to decide what the ministry will look like has proven to be beneficial. “A lot of students are not familiar with the Navigators. With that, there’s freedom for the expression to change or look like whatever it needs to look like, but the core principles of the Navigators are still present.” He says that in addition to exploring Jesus in the Bible, “we want people from all different backgrounds to feel comfortable being a part of our community and we want to do good together to serve the community in practical ways.”
In fact, the Guelph Navigators have already become involved in the Running and Reading program at a school in the lower-income Willow Road community. While JD has been spearheading the ministry, he has had tremendous support and mentoring from his former campus leader Chris Barrett, along with local support and coaching from veteran Navigator staff Luch Del Monte and Laura Augustine. He says their disciplined lifestyles are something he hopes to emulate.
“There’s a real grace in their walk with Christ that doesn’t seem like they’re conjuring it up. They have this resolve deep down to set apart time to be with God and out of this discipline, it frees them up to be present in peoples’ lives around them. The discipline doesn’t bind them up and keep them from doing what God’s called them to do, but instead frees them to be available. That’s blown my mind.”
Looking towards the future, “the vision isn’t to grow into a massive group,” he says. “Already with 20 students you’re maxing out your capacity to pour into each one’s life in a way they deserve. I plan to focus on seven or eight students next year and encourage them to connect with their friends, classmates, teachers, colleagues and be lights in those settings. I’m excited to get plugged into the Willow Road community, get involved in their lives and see what God has for us there.”
JD’s efforts to restart the Guelph campus ministry are one of the many ways we’re seeing new leaders emerging and taking on greater responsibilities. Not only are they working to further develop the campus ministries, they’re going out into their community to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
To help them develop, Navigator leaders are coming alongside to provide coaching and mentorship. Through this, these new leaders are making waves by discipling others, advancing the Navigator calling of “spiritual generations of labourers living and discipling among all people.”