Inspirational, Tale Africa

Meeting the Navigators

By Nick Twinamatsiko:

I was a Makerere University fresher, and had come to St. Francis Chapel for an orientation week fellowship, when I met Edward. I think (perhaps with a touch of vanity) that I was one of the most well-read teenagers in the country, and one of the most ambitious. In the just-ended vacation, I had read The Picture of Dorian Gray again, and told myself that I must one day write a novel with such witty and timeless dialogue. I had read The New Vision's serialization of Soyinka's The Open Sore of a Continent, and it had tickled the side of me that yearned to write the last word on every important subject. In the course of A-Levels, I had read about such men as Da Vinci, Henry Cavendish, Isaac Newton, and told myself that, 'these were men, and they achieved so much, and I am a man too.' My ambition was multi-pronged: I wanted to be a great scientist and a wealthy engineer and a powerful politician and a famous writer.

So it's probable that my eyes were darting about as I stood on the steps of the chapel after the fellowship; it's probable that I was restlessly looking about me trying to locate the magic wand that could animate my impossible dreams. I had been told a great deal about Makerere since childhood, and if such a wand existed, this was surely the place where it had to be. Then my eyes settled on Edward, and discerned in his eyes inexplicable interest in me. He was an absolute stranger, but he warmly greeted me. Could it be that he discerned my lofty dreams and sensed that my potential matched the dreams? Could it be that he knew where the wand was located, and was willing to share the knowledge?

When you consider the details of Edward, you realize that his case was indeed so curious that it wasn't farfetched to suppose that he possessed some secret knowledge. Here was a rich, urbane, recently-married, 29-year old successful lawyer, who obviously had many competing demands on his time. What, pray, was he doing, standing on the steps of the chapel, and trying to befriend a little fresher he knew nothing about – a little fresher who, besides impossible dreams, had nothing on him? Since it turned out that Edward was a deeply spiritual man, and believed that his steps were ordered by the Lord and that sort of stuff, it wasn't wide off the mark to speculate that he knew the location of the magic wand. It stimulates our intellects to formulate or demolish sophisticated arguments for or against the reality of God, but I think the best proofs of theism are very simple ones. For me, the most sophisticated arguments theologians propound diminish besides the spectacle (still vivid in my memory, 14 years down the road) of Edward standing outside the chapel that evening, trying to find a fresher he could befriend for Jesus!

I told him I stayed in Annex 1, Nkrumah Hall, and a few days later he came over to visit me. He told me about the Navigators – about their history, and about how they derive their method from 2nd Timothy 2:2. I didn't take in a great deal; I was more interested in decoding Edward. You see, I might have been well-read and all that, but I was also a bit impressionable. I hadn't been to Kampala City until I had recently come to join the university. So I found people like Edward, with their debonair deodorants, cultured ways, accented English, etc, compellingly fascinating. Edward had been reared in the city, had been a head prefect in his time at King's College Buddo, and had been a member of a city music band in his university days. As a country boy, my curiosity was tickled by his style, and I was more interested in decoding him than in decoding some religious group called the Navigators.

He invited me to a Navigators' meeting, slated for the next weekend. As I bent my way towards the venue, I was more interested in having another interaction with Edward than in learning the vision and mission of the group. In the end, it's easier to take towards people than to take towards ideas. I guess this is partly why the Word became Flesh and dwelt amongst us!

When I told Joseph, one of the Navigators I found at the meeting, that my real passion was poetry, he introduced me to a lady called Olga who, he said, shared the passion. Olga was a pretty, profound and powerful lady. She was the chair lady of Mary Stuart Hall, her English was highly polished, her talk was deep, and everybody seemed to gravitate towards her. Her profundity suited me, but there was something about her that was a bit intimidating for a country boy. And Joseph introduces me to her amidst the Navigators' fun time, and he says, 'here is someone with whom you can talk poetry.' No, I didn't want to talk poetry anymore!

Ah, those Navigators! They didn't, at first, impress me as particularly spiritual people, but it turned out, as the years rolled by, that they actually had the magic wand! Edward's steps had indeed been ordered by the Lord when he met me on the steps of the chapel, for it was the Navigators that God used to sieve and consecrate my dreams, and to generally open my eyes to the person that He had created me to be. How he used this seemingly wrong group to achieve this purpose will be my subject when we meet again in these pages.

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