by Susan Fletcher
In Isaiah 46:9 the Lord commands, “Remember your history, your long and rich history. I am God, the only God you’ve had or ever will have – incomparable, irreplaceable – From the very beginning telling you what the ending will be, all along letting you in on what is going to happen, assuring you, ‘I’m in this for the long haul, I’ll do exactly what I set out to do.’” Throughout Scripture the Lord invites his people to examine their history in order to see examples of his love and power, to encourage them to continue serving Him, and to warn them away from sin and idolatry. The new Navigator History Initiative is going forth with the understanding that these commands are relevant for us today. Building on a foundation of the scriptural roots of history, the project will examine the Navigator story and its fruitful legacy. Through this project we hope to retain a collective memory of how the Lord has worked in and through Glen Eyrie and The Navigators.
The Scriptures speak loudly about the importance of history. In Daniel 2:21 we find that the Lord “changes the seasons and guides history, He raises up kings and also brings them down, he provides both intelligence and discernment.” God’s divine power and wisdom ultimately control human events, but history is also the story of man’s response to God in rebellion and reconciliation. A rigorous study of history must incorporate both of these elements, keeping the divine narrative in mind while taking seriously the human actors involved.
There are several occasions in Scripture when the Lord tells his people to remember specific events and people from their past. In Micah 6:5 God commands, “My people, remember what King Balak of Moab planned to do to you and how Balaam son of Beor answered him…Remember these things and you will realize what I did to save you.” By appealing to Israel’s collective memory of how rescued them, the Lord calls their attention back to himself. In a similar way, there are seminal events in Navigator history; turning points that determined the physical and theological course of the organization. Preserving the memory of these events is vital to the future of our ministry and our ability to see God’s love and graciousness.
The Scriptures show precedent for the preservation of such human events. In 2 Samuel and 1 Kings we find that Israel had a royal historian under David and Solomon – Jehoshaphat son of Ahilud. These historians narrated the official record of their country through the eyes of the leadership. Chronicles and Kings serve as histories of Israel by telling about the actions, both good and bad, of the kings. In determining which perspective to use in the writing of our own history we have decided to follow this model and tell our story from the perspective of the leadership. The historians of Chronicles recorded biographies of their kings, important speeches, and deeds both righteous and rebellious. In a similar way, the Navigator history project aims to preserve the memory of our leaders including Dawson Trotman and Lorne Sanny, their writings and sermons, and their legacy within the organization.
In addition to writing down important events and remembering specific people, Scripture also advocates the teaching of history to upcoming generations. In Deuteronomy 4:9 the Lord warned, “But watch out! Be very careful never to forget what you have seen God doing for you. May his miracles have a deep and permanent effect upon your lives! Tell your children and your grandchildren about the glorious miracles that he did.” In addition to collecting Glen Eyrie and Navigators archives and recording important decisions, it is vital that we teach our own upcoming generation about their heritage. Tales of faithfulness and sacrifice during World War II and the miracle of Glen Eyrie can inspire a younger generation of Navigators to trust in the Lord’s faithfulness and provision, and to become active participants in this grand story.
The preservation, study, and teaching of history are biblical mandates, but an official history program at the Navigators is also meeting several practical needs. In its 85-year history, The Navigators have developed a wide array of ministries across the globe. The U.S. Military Ministry might seem very different from the New Zealand work, but they each have roots in a collective beginning. By celebrating a common heritage, we can help create community within the organization. Additionally, the archives program is already helping meet the internal needs of the organization by providing reference information to Corporate Affairs and other departments. The history department also provides an important link to the scholarly world and to the local community of Colorado Springs.
The study of our history also ties us to the greater community of faith. The Navigators grew out of a broader evangelical context in the early-twentieth century and has now become one of the major players within twenty-first century Christendom.
Our story is evidence that God continues to transform lives. The Navigator heritage is a part of the ongoing epic of salvation. By preserving our own history, we are creating a collective memory grounded in a rich tradition of faithfulness and perseverance, one that will help guide us into the future. As Psalm 107:43 says, “Those who are wise will take all this to heart; they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord.”