This year, 40 university students from around the world arrived at The Navigators’ international headquarters in Colorado Springs for the annual Global Student Program. This intensive, two-month experience trains and equips participants to help others grow in their faith wherever they end up after graduation. In addition to working, traveling and living together, participants also interact with veteran Navigator leaders and experience first-hand what discipleship can look like.
You may have heard of this program before and would like to know why this is such a big deal. Rather than telling you about the benefits and worthiness of the GSP, you will hear directly from this year’s Canadian representatives, Emma Walker and Sam Allison. We talked with them shortly after their return to Canada about how the experience affected them to give you a deeper understanding of why this program is valuable for raising up disciplemakers.
Why did you want to do the GSP this year?
Emma: “I wanted to go to GSP because it was the end of my university degree and I felt it was the perfect time to get away and focus on God for two months, get a bigger vision of what he wants for my life before I jump into a career.”
“At first it seemed like a sacrifice, like ‘oh my gosh, it’s two months and I need a job and I don’t have money,’ but two months is nothing over the course of the rest of my life. It’s meant so much to me. The friendships I’ve made are so deep, I feel like I have 40 brothers and sisters around the world. Two months to take aside and learn more about God and his kingdom and seeking him, it’s so valuable. It seems scary to commit to, but it’s a good investment. I would encourage anyone who wants to grow deeper in their faith and see what God is doing around the world.”
Sam: “It was a hard decision, but knowing I had this upcoming internship with The Navigators in Canada, I knew it was a good idea to make sure I got some training and understanding, to invest myself in a program that was going to enrich my spiritual development. I think for me, a lot of the people who had gone before encouraged me to go, and reflecting on this year and what was coming up, I knew I had a responsibility in ministry and wanted to make sure I had invested in my spiritual life before I engaged with that.”
“It was fantastic seeing people from nations all over the world who love God, interacting with them on a daily basis and hearing how God has been using their life. I don’t know if I can say enough about how amazing it is to be in relationships all around the world, united and doing life together. I think it’s one of the most incredible lessons I’ve ever had in my life. I have friends all over the world now and I’m really excited for everything God is going to do in each and every one of us.”
How did you grow spiritually during this two-month program?
Emma: “We studied the book of 1 Peter, and a verse that really stood out to me was 1 Peter 5:6-7. For me, a big theme for this summer was trusting God, trusting that he knows best, and I think that takes humility. So that verse really stuck with me all summer, in my quiet times and in Bible study, just being reminded that I’m really scared of the plans he has for me, I don’t know what he’s calling me to, I still don’t have much clarity, but if I humble myself and know that I’m not in control and that it’s actually better that he’s in control and cast my worries on him, I know he cares for me and he’s not going to lead me astray.”
Sam: “My expectation was that I was going to be a completely changed person, and although I do feel changed, I think that, more so than me coming back and being a completely different person, I think I’ve become more self-aware. I can see the things I’m struggling with in my relationship with God and I’ve realized it’s going to be a continual process of dealing with these things. A lot of these struggles that I thought I had, the deeper root of them was pride. When I realized they were putting a wedge between me getting closer to God and allowing him to work in my life, that hit me hard.”and know that I’m not in control and that it’s actually better that he’s in control and cast my worries on him, I know he cares for me and he’s not going to lead me astray.”
What are your plans for incorporating this GSP experience into the way you live your life?
Emma: “There are a lot of practical things I learned, like spiritual disciplines of quiet time, Bible study and having friends who pray for you and hold you accountable. In the bigger scale, Canada is so multicultural and sometimes I live in my own ethnocentric bubble and I don’t exactly know how to relate to people who have different cultures. This program opened my eyes to the beauty of different cultures and how there’s not a right type of food or language. Now I’m excited for living in Ottawa and looking for how I can really welcome people in and get excited about how God is showing his glory through different cultures. I’m excited about making friends who speak different languages, eat different food and grew up with different social norms.”
Sam: “I developed a heart, and it’s still a struggle, but I want to share my faith with people and I think that I made it this big scary thing. It was helpful for me to actually try it, to be retold it isn’t about me, it’s about letting God speak through me. I realized I don’t need to necessarily start quoting Bible verses or have a deep understanding of everything, just an understanding of how to communicate the love God has for each and every one of us. Knowing that, I feel excited rather than scared to share my own unique life experiences, to ask questions and build relationships with people, sharing the hope I have in Christ.”
In the Bible, we have the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. What’s the Gospel according to Emma and Sam?
Emma: “Everyone gives their life to something. It could be a multitude of things: family, relationships, success, money, we’re all looking for something to fulfill us. If we go through all those things, one by one, we realize they fail us. In the Bible, God says ‘My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water (Jer. 2:13).’ All these things we try to fill our lives with are these broken wells that don’t hold water. But the Gospel is that Jesus Christ is the living water that never runs dry, it’s always fresh, we don’t even have to work for it, we just show up and it’s there, a free gift. All these things might fail us, but Christ will never fail us and he is what our soul longs for.”
Sam: “The word that sticks out to me in the Gospel is love. There’s so much of God loving people, and at GSP, through people’s stories, God is continually interacting with people who are lost and hurt and broken and loving them. To me, the Gospel is a collection of stories of God reconciling, loving and caring for people who are lost and broken, and also this idea of discipling. We talked about how we want to be efficient and try to reach the masses, but for real impact, the way that God showed and his example was discipling people one-on-one and really investing in them.”
Looking back on your involvement with The Navigators, from the beginning to now, how has your life been changed?
Emma: “The first thing I think of is that, before I was part of Navigators, I thought ministry had to happen in a specific way and I thought there was a cookie cutter way to serve people and share the Gospel. But with the Navigators I realized there’s a more organic way. I’m still growing in that, but seeing a lot of older people who have been mentors to me, the way they open their homes, the way they genuinely listen to people and care about people, and want to hang out and live an open life, I think that is Christ-like, and that opens doors to share the Gospel. Instead of having your life organized into ‘ministry’ and ‘not ministry,’ you can live your life in a way that you’re serving people, opening your home, wanting to listen to people and sharing your life. That to me is more the Navigator way.”
Sam: “Originally at the start, the Navigators had come along at a certain point in my life where I needed the support of the community. In first year I was a mess. The identity I had formed back home was gone and I had no idea where to find that again. When I came to Navigators it was just for a peek, but since then, when I tell my story, I realize over and over again how the Navigator people and leaders have impacted me. I don’t want to glorify the Navigators because of all the amazing things that have happened, but really it’s people who have sacrificed to put themselves in a position to be used by God and really transform people’s lives, and I feel like I want to be part of that.”