Every year, Navigator ministries offer graduating students the opportunity to join a ministry team as an intern. Internships typically last anywhere from one to two years and can be done either in a full or part-time capacity. The aim of these internships is to train and equip students with the skills they need to more effectively minister to others, as well as to offer them insight into what it’s like working for the Navigators should they decide to join the staff ranks.
The catch with doing a Navigator internship is that the experience is different for everyone. The nature of working in ministry is that while there are broad similarities, there are inevitable differences in approaches and the people you work with. As a result, the internship has been described ultimately as a personal “learning process,” as Hamilton intern Matt Martorana described it. He says “it’s geared towards learning more about your faith in practical terms, but it’s also a process. I’m technically never going to be done the internship, because it’s a process of how you live out your faith, and in that sense, it’s something I’m going to carry with me for the rest of my life.”
The other way the internship is described is as holistic and all-encompassing. This comes from Carlos Vieira, an intern working in the jungles of Ecuador alongside the Onzole River Project. He says the reason he’s loved doing the internship is because “the Navigators ask you to live a Christ-like life all the time, [it’s] not just a 9-5 thing you do. It’s a day-to-day, every day way you live your life aspect. It’s not this thing where you swipe in and swipe out, there’s a very holistic approach to it. I very much value and admire that because that’s what we’re called to do as followers of Christ.”
These are only two of the ways a Navigator internship could be described. Similarly, the lessons an intern learns during their time serving will also vary, depending on where the intern is in their walk with God. Regardless of what the lessons are, they are sure to be life-changing and spiritually transformational.
In Ottawa, an intern named Bruce Narbaitz, who was involved in student leadership before stepping into this role, says he’s had to learn to accept that measuring success in ministry is sometimes intangible. “You show up for events and meet with people,” he says, “but you don’t know what’s happening in their lives. You have to be okay even if you’re not seeing results, like people coming to faith or getting it, because sometimes things are simmering and then it comes [out] later.”
At the University of Guelph, Jason Durst and JD Sherman have been serving as interns at both the campus and in the Willow Road community, a low-income neighbourhood in Guelph. Through their interactions with the people in this area, Durst says he’s learned the necessity of balancing relationship-building with sharing his faith. “It’s finding that balance where you can continue to pursue people and build relationships and speak truth into their life, and by loving someone, that’s preaching the Gospel. [It’s important] to follow through with telling them where that love came from when they are curious and to be honest and blunt about what you believe, inviting them into a relationship with the Lord.”
In their work with the university students, Sherman says their first plan for the fall semester resulted in going “guns blazing out of the gates,” by meeting often as a group and one-on-one and inviting students to participate in reaching out to Willow Road residents. They realized this approach was not sustainable with the group they had, and by the winter semester had scaled back their approach to a more manageable level for both the students and themselves. Through this experience, Sherman says his major takeaway was the importance of ministering to individuals where they’re currently at, rather than implementing a program they’re not ready for. He says this is as honouring to God as big missional work because they’re still faithfully doing the work he has called them to, even though they had different expectations.
Vieira says doing an international internship has thrown him off the deep end as he has had to adapt to an entirely new culture, language and way of life as a visible outsider. He describes it as feeling “like a child”. Through this experience, however, he’s had to rely on God in day-to-day life, something he doesn’t think he would have learned as powerfully had he stayed in Canada. “As people, we don’t generally like to push ourselves too far beyond our comfort zone. If we don’t push ourselves, we never have to feel like we don’t know things, because we always feel like we can do it. But when we start pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zones, beyond our known knowledge, then we have no choice but to rely on God because it’s in those times that we really learn how big God is and how small we really are.”
Speaking to tenderfoot interns, Narbaitz says not to feel guilty about spending time on personal growth. “A big part of the internship is [that] you’re being equipped to be an effective servant for this next year [and] also for the rest of your life. The lessons I’ve learned will impact how I treat people for the rest of my life regardless of whether I’m with Navigators or not. It feels like it’s a lot of hours making sure Bruce is okay, but Bruce is going to be around another 60 or 70 years hopefully, and there’s a lot of potential for God to do a lot of cool things.”
Sherman says it’s likely interns will face a seemingly endless amount of need, to the point where it may become overwhelming. To help prioritize, he gives this piece of advice he learned in a meeting with Pete Kuehni, a member of the Navigators’ National Leadership Team: “Jesus loved the world, cared for many and discipled the few.” Sherman says as interns encounter the needs around them, they need to ask, “who are the people closest to me I need to be discipling?” He says focusing on discipleship has helped clarify his priorities and that discipling a few is easier to integrate into the natural rhythms of life.