“The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps” (Prov. 16:9, NRSV). Each of us makes many plans throughout our lives. Some are everyday decisions while others might be life-altering. However, sometimes plans change with very little warning. Carlos Vieira, the Navigators’ newest international staff member, experienced this when he changed his trajectory from going to Africa as a journalist to going to the jungles of Ecuador to work with Nikki Horne in Santo Domingo.
This shift occurred during his third year at Carleton University in Ottawa, when he first met Chris Barrett and became involved with the Navigator ministry. He soon learned about an opportunity to go on a trip to Ecuador to serve the people of Santo Domingo, a village on the Onzole River. He signed on immediately and ended up falling in love with the village and its inhabitants.
“When I got home I just couldn’t stop thinking about it,” he says. “I would go to sleep at night and wake up thinking about Santo Domingo. I thought that this has got to be God calling me. It was crazy, and what really made me stop and think about it more was that it was so different to what I had planned for myself. This wasn’t really what I wanted; yet slowly but surely it became what I wanted.”
In February 2013, Carlos returned to Ecuador as one of the trip leaders. Near the end of the trip, he met with Nikki Horne to discuss his coming back to Ecuador long-term. She agreed, and in February 2014, Carlos returned to Ecuador as Navigator staff.
In coming to this decision, he says his involvement with the Navigators “was so much a part of who I was throughout those later parts of university, and now being a part of that in a bigger way is really meaningful for me. If I’m able to do through the Navs what the Navs did for me, if I’m able to do that for other people here in Ecuador, that’d be amazing.”
He says having Chris Barrett as a mentor has meant the world to him. “He’s someone who really came alongside me from the very beginning at Navs. He would take time to listen and try to understand and come up with something out of love, be it a passage of Scripture or a word of advice or squeeze on the shoulder. Having that as a constant in my life was huge.”
Between the short-term trips and his current long-term position, Carlos says he’s been able to cultivate deeper relationships with people than if he was only there short-term. “There’s a group of young guys I spend a lot of time with, doing a whole bunch of different stuff; playing soccer, watching soccer, helping them work, going to a farm. When I go to the village, we sit and we talk and conversation flows and it’s awesome because of what those conversations can lead to, what can spring out of those conversations about faith.”
This past May, the Navigators’ Mission Immersion program spent two weeks of their training serving in Ecuador. The purpose of the MI program is to teach people how to see opportunities for mission within their own communities. “People who were doing the program were living missionally in their own cities long before they came to Ecuador,” Carlos says. “They could take the lessons they learned in the jungle about hospitality and service back to their contexts and implement them in their own backyards.”
Carlos says his experiences in Ecuador have brought feelings of fear and inadequacy to the surface, showing him he had been placing more faith in his abilities than in God’s. “I’ve been reading more stories in the Bible, like Moses, Joshua and Paul and these guys who felt the same way I was feeling, feeling inadequate, feeling scared, feeling worried. Moses straight-up told God to choose somebody else, ‘I can’t do this.’ But God said ‘no, you’re not going to do it. I’m going to do it. You just have to be there.’”
Carlos is one of many people in the Navigators who have made themselves available to God, even at the expense of their own plans. This often requires a willingness to learn, to change and to develop relationships with people so God can do what only he can do. Like Carlos, God may ask you to move to a foreign country. He could also ask you to stay where you are and be among those around you. Regardless of whether God wants you here or someplace else, the one constant is to be faithful to the calling he has given you.