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Home » A Pedestal of Influence: A History of the Development of the Navigator Nurses Work

A Pedestal of Influence: A History of the Development of the Navigator Nurses Work

by Robert L. Ridley, MDGoold 02

The nidus of Navigator nurses’ ministry began in the San Francisco Bay area of California, in 1942. Bill and Marge Goold arrived there that year, and started a Nav-sponsored Christian Nurses Fellowship (CNF). They called it “Nurses Martures Club,” and it consisted of five nurses from three Bay area hospitals.

Although not a nurse, Marjory Thomson Goold played a key role in the Navigators. In her third (last) year at BIOLA, she began part-time secretarial work for Dawson Trotman at the Willard Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Daws had an office there in 1939, and he called on Marge for assistance in the early Nav ministries. Trotman’s work with U.S. Navy men had not included women until this time. Dawson and Lila invited Marge to live in their home at 4845 E. 6th St., Long Beach, California.

Marge began her work in the Trotman home on September 9, 1939, as the first in what would become a tradition for training young women, a Navigator home. Daws later confided to Marge that she was the “guinea pig” as far as bringing girls into the ministry.[1] Sailors were constantly coming and going at their home, and Marge enjoyed socializing and playing volleyball with them in her spare time. One fortunate sailor turned out to be Bill Goold!

Marjory and William Goold were wed in October, 1940, and because Bill was transferred from base to base so often, that by May, 1942, Marge “settled” in San Francisco with their two month-old daughter, Chelsea. That same year, Marge was going through the classic devotional book, Daily Light. It was around this time that the nurses’ ministry began, and a short time later Bill was transferred to San Pedro, leaving Marge to continue the nurses’ work in the Bay area. After much prayer, a larger facility to house this ministry was provided on 17th Avenue, San Francisco. Daws and Lila Trotman were on hand for the opening of this new “Nav Home” on March 4, 1943.

“The nurses really started feeling that our home was their home,” Marge later recalled.[2] The nurses’ work was well underway by this time. Grace Wallace, RN, had graduated from the University of California Hospital in 1942, and the following year, she was coordinating the outreach among nurses at five area hospitals.

One such nurse was Grace Hardin, RN, a 1943 graduate of Merritt Hospital in Oakland, CA. In a December, 2016 letter to me, Grace recalled hearing Dawson Trotman speak at a church in San Gabriel around 1941. She and other nursing students realized their need for good Bible teaching and study; so they prevailed upon Daws to send them a teacher. He sent Pat Lokkesmoe to the Bay area, and soon there were over a dozen attending the studies that included scripture memorization in their system.

As the nurses work expanded in this region, Trotman would come up from Southern California to speak and check up on things, no doubt. In addition to the serious nature of these visits, the “Gang” would often meet for dinner in Chinatown, in downtown San Francisco.

“No way can I express fully my gratitude for the challenge of the Navigators system and Dawson himself,” Grace writes now in her ninety-ninth year of life. Daws was known for his sense of humor; so when he would see Grace, he would greet her, “for by GRACE…”

In August, 1943, Grace Hardin married a Navy man and became Mrs. Laverne Tift. After the war, her husband entered the pastoral ministry, and together they served local church congregations for many years.

Shortly before their marriage, Grace Hardin, RN was pictured (above) just as she was graduating from the Merritt Hospital nursing program in Oakland, CA. Merritt was one of the five Bay Area hospitals that Grace Wallace, RN was coordinating. The others were Mount Zion Hospital, Stanford School of Nursing, Oak Knoll Naval Hospital and the University of California Hospital in San Francisco.

It wasn’t long until the nurses’ ministry expanded to Los Angeles, then to a dozen or more private and military medical centers around the country. Grace Wallace was an outstanding leader, organizer and correspondent. Many of her letters and reports are kept in the Navigator Archive (Box 40). In one such letter, she wrote to a colleague named “Beth” at LA General Hospital. In cadence with Navigator writing, she included a verse of Scripture, this one being Job 22:21-22. “Acquaint now thyself with Him, and be at peace; thereby good shall come unto thee. Receive, I pray thee, the law from His mouth, and lay up His words in thine heart.

Points of contact in the early outreach included at least the following locations:

Los Angeles                Long Beach                 San Diego                   Spokane

Seattle                          Chicago                       Toronto                       Norfolk

Brooklyn, NY             New Orleans               Washington, DC         Dallas

Jacksonville, FL          Buffalo                        Torrants, CA               Atlanta

Throughout WWII, the Navs supplied Bible study and memory materials without charge to military “service personnel.” Beginning in 1943, “the LORD laid both student and graduate nurses on their (Navs) hearts;” so for nurses these materials were made available also with out charge. However, these items were not simply given out on a whim. The nurses were required to personally write to Nav HQ’s in California, requesting “The Young Believers” first study course. If they satisfactorily completed and continued the stringent requirements set out by Grace Wallace and “The Navigators,” these eager young nurses would be sent the subsequent material and each have individual follow-up.

Early in 1945, there must have been deep searching of the heart, and some uncertainty, as to what the relationship should be between the Bay Area Nurses and The Navigators. A careful vote was taken among the key women to define this relationship, and on May 29, 1945, a letter was sent to The Navigators, Inc., 536 So. Hope Street, LA, California:

Dear Sirs: it began, followed by thanking the Lord for graciously founding and growing the Bay Area Nurses’ work and expressing gratitude for the Navs. The vote had affirmed the nurses’ desire to have an ongoing association with the Navigators, and their belief that it would be good business to make it official.

By July, 1945, the work was such that Navs were “in contact” with about 500 nurses and student nurses. Of these, about 300 were “producing results,” according to the “Report of Nurses and Service Women” given that month by Grace Wallace. That same year, Grace moved her office from the Bay Area to Los Angeles. After the war, in 1949, Grace Wallace was in Dallas, working with polio victims, but she also “has some promising contacts among the girls there.”

Many nurses who received Navigator training during WWII served overseas after the war with various mission groups. Years later, Bob Vidano recalls that in Beirut, Lebanon, almost all the Nav women serving there (many now married with families) were trained nurses.

In September, 1950, Dawson Trotman reported in Staff Bulletin 70, “The new LA nurses’ home (or girls’ headquarters as they prefer to call it) is now underway in west Los Angeles, with Leila Elliott very capably at the helm.” Leila was an influential woman in her own right. She married Doug Sparks in 1954, and it is safe to say that she was influential behind the scenes in deepening Doug’s commitment to nurturing women’s ministries within their spheres of influence and especially in London where the Sparks family lived. She passed away in 1972.

Joyce Turner, age nineteen, enrolled at Stanford Nursing School for a five-year course of study that included communicable diseases. There, she met Leila Elliott, the Nav contact person. Joyce especially remembers Leila (later to become Leila Sparks): “It was her friendship and the spirit of the group and their eagerness to know the Lord, study the Bible and reach out to others that attracted me. The Bible study was the best I’d ever encountered and particularly the aspect of personal application. My life certainly changed during those years.” Nav-trained nurses of this era had a reputation of being “the best students in the school,” as stated at one point by the Director of Nursing Education at Stanford.


Joyce Turner, RN, rose quickly in the hierarchy of her profession, and she later taught Communicable Diseases to nursing students from six Bay Area nursing schools. She then returned to Stanford and was head nurse on the Women’s Medical Unit there. Joyce epitomized a high standard of excellence in her pedestal of influence at age twenty-six.

The Navigators had already recognized Joyce’s gift of leadership. In July, 1952, during a Navigator Staff Conference at Star Ranch, Colorado, that she was assigned responsibility for the San Francisco Nav nurses’ work. Thus, at age twenty-four Joyce Turner became the first designated Navigator women’s representative.

In 1953, the Navigators asked Joyce to move to Detroit to serve as a counselor at a Billy Graham Crusade there. Three years later, she was asked to move to London to start a work among women in England. She soon found an affinity with British nurses, and by the mid-60’s her work had expanded. Joyce recalls, of all the women in contact with Navs in the London area at that time, about 60% were nurses.

Prevailing prayer seemed to be the key to the amazing expansion in the nurses’ work. Turner realized that “We need to plead the promises of God face to face and on our knees, more than just claiming a promise.” She felt that “By praying a promise over and over, you would be nigh unto pleading!”

There were now key nurses heading the Nav work in London’s main teaching hospitals. In the 1970’s, nurses were fanning out into Europe, to Lebanon, the Lands Down Under, Kenya, etc. Eventually, Joyce Turner was appointed as the first woman staff overseas missionary. With just the right balance of spiritual and professional wisdom, patience and humility, it was Joyce Turner, RN, who did it first!

In 1945, Roy Robertson was living in Dallas, as the Nav Rep there. He “visited nurses in the Cadet Corps” (student nurses with military obligations) at Baylor Nursing School that year. Nina Meredith was the Baptist Student Union (BSU) Secretary at 3415 Junius St., a short distance from Baylor Medical and Nursing Schools. Roy was in contact with her, and he mentioned that Nina was also working with medical students. Unfortunately for Dallas, Baylor University suddenly moved its entire medical training program to Houston shortly thereafter.

A vital branch of Christian Nurses Fellowship (CNF) was located in Chicago. Alvera Anderson wrote of their upcoming annual dinner to be held on October 19, 1945, at Chicago’s Central YMCA. “We have hundreds of Christian nurses in this area,” Alvera wrote, and she included a couple of other interesting facts. The topic to be presented at the banquet was “The (Navigator) Wheel as the Christian,” and she mentioned that Billy Graham from nearby Wheaton College was taking part in the program. Graham was probably an increasingly popular undergrad at the time.

By October, 1946, nurses were being reached in seven area hospitals. Their goal was to have leaders and groups of nurses going at all Chicago area hospitals. The distribution and use of the Navigators’ B-Rations seemed to be a common denominator in getting nurses underway with the Lord Jesus. Many of them wrote of their spiritual growth and of their appreciation for Nav assistance. Grace Wallace gave personal encouragement in her letters to these growing young believers. The Chicago CNF had, by this time, begun to reach nurses in Buffalo, Seattle and Torrance, California.

[1] Marjory Goold’s autobiography, published in 2007, at age ninety-five, p. 34.

[2] Ibid., p. 48

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