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The Navigator Home

Summary: The Navigator Home was an early approach to ministry that was especially suited to life-to-life evangelism and discipleship, which was our characteristic emphasis. The desire of servicemen to experience the welcoming warmth of a civilian home supplied added impetus.


Origin of the Nav Home
Strategic Vision for US and International Navigator Homes
Functionality of Navigator Homes
Ownership and Finances

You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life,
my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance . . .
2 Timothy 3:10

Origin of the Nav Home

This concept grew organically out of the extensive hospitality that Lila and Dawson Trotman provided, following their marriage in July 1932.

After several temporary accommodations in the Los Angeles area,1 they rented a house in Whittier. Daws noted, “I truly thank God for the little home that he has given Buddie and I in Whittier, for a place to serve him. The home is open to all—nothing hinders meeting oft to pray” (February 16, 1933).

In June 1933, they moved to Lomita to be closer to the harbor and the sailors. Then, at the end of August, they settled in a one-room cabin in a motor court. They also rented a garage behind a Texaco station two-miles away in which Daws could meet sailors in the evenings for Bible study. Lila brought suppers that she had prepared at the motor court.2

In November 1933, they relocated to a home in San Pedro, which Daws considered the first Navigator Home.

  • Home 1: San Pedro, 114th Street on Point Furmin
  • Home 2: 33 Surfline, right on the beach, coffee and doughnut ministry among sailors
  • Home 3: 1114 Pacific, Long Beach, for two years
  • Home 4: 4845 East 6th, Long Beach
  • Home 5: 175 South Virgil, Los Angeles, from December 1941
  • Home 6: 509 Monterey Road,3 South Pasadena

As they moved from place to place, the Trotmans usually had several ministries going on in their home at the same time: servicemen, young couples when the fleet was away from base, a Thursday night group, and a headquarters for high school clubs. Clearly, a large home offered much versatility for ministry.4 The Trotmans gave their home to the Lord as completely as they were giving themselves. In fact, Daws and Lila were the quintessential example of Isaiah 60:11, which says, “Your gates will always stand open, they will never be shut, day or night . . .”

Despite the demands related to hosting a very busy home, Daws was decidedly upbeat about the positive impact on his family. “I believe (my children) are all richer for having been in a home where the saints have come. My own father, the biggest thing for bringing my own father to Christ was seeing the transformed lives of big, rugged, two-fisted men.”

In early 1943, Daws included the following in the explanation of the name “Navigators” that he set out in an affidavit in early 1943 :

The plan of the work is to furnish a place ashore, preferably the dwelling place of a civilian and his wife, which shall be a place to be considered ‘home’ to the fellows, where they can go for Christian fellowship, times of relaxation and recreation, and Bible study. The climax of every get-together is an hour around the Word of God in which, without bringing in denominational differences, etc., there can be a clear, clean-cut, open discussion-study of this marvelous Book which points men to Christ as the way of salvation and directs them on the road after they have become Christians.

The first Navigator’s home was opened under (my) leadership, as director, in San Pedro, later moved to Long Beach and then to Los Angeles. Homes are now open in Honolulu, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Norfolk, Washington D.C. Navigators (also) meet in homes that are opened to them in New York and along the New England Coast . . .

Although we have referred to the homes that are ashore, we might say that the greatest work is not done ashore but rather aboard ship, and especially during the war days is this true . . .5

Although Nav Homes were well established by the end of World War II, their leaders usually had employment and could not spend individual time with every needy person. Bob Foster, in 1958, recalled the example of one Nav leader who had seventeen men living with him in 1946.  Although the men were engaged in intensive Bible study and memory work, this did not produce many faithful men who were real disciples. There were too many people in whom to invest.

The visitors books for the Nav Home in Honolulu eventually contained twenty-five thousand signatures!

Strategic Vision for US and International Navigator Homes

In 1955, Daws outlined a plan whereby:

Our present headquarters could become central points for entire areas, such as ‘Northern California’ instead of the Bay Area. . . . Then, there would be smaller outlying areas where couples who are greatly burdened to serve the Lord with us could be used. Cities within a radius of 50, 100, or 200 miles of an area headquarters could be picked and carefully selected young couples could be given permission to open cooperative Nav Homes. These couples would be self-supporting and would open their homes to any who want to learn through classes and personal counsel. . . . These couples could serve more or less under the leadership of the area headquarters. As time goes on, they might encourage support for the area director to put him on a full-time basis.

In other words, the outlying areas would help the main area headquarters . . . once a month at least, the area director could visit them and there could be additional time to serve the key people who need special help. These auxiliary homes would strengthen the work throughout the United States and increase the contacts and opportunities of passing things on to ministers and others, thereby speeding the work that is on our hearts.6

As the overseas directors discussed our practice in 1961,7 they concluded that we had recently been using the Nav Home more as a base of operation for outreach than as a training center. This was now a trend. Doug Sparks agreed that overseas such a home is best used as a base of operation; in general, we should be much slower in bringing nationals into our homes than we had been in the US. They should not come unless they had demonstrated their heart and vision.

By way of contrast, Roy Robertson spoke of his successful overseas experience in having nationals in his home, affirming that the Nav Home “is a very wonderful and important thing which would be most important and productive if it could be reproduced overseas. It has also helped to break down some cultural barriers. It is a major means of imparting our vision, principally as a training center.”8 At the end of his brief time in Shanghai, he could trace his influence in forty-six cities and thirty provinces, yet he had not learned Mandarin. He had seven key men.9

Roy went on to advocate the advantages of setting up Nav Homes overseas, including:

  • Helps break cultural barriers
  • Aids language learning
  • Shows other nationals how to use their homes for ministry

During the same session, Bob Foster commented that this is our weakest area of training in the US because there is no organized training for Nav Homes. Here at the Glen, he added, we are not reaching the wives, but they are vital. Many of these “dear gals have never been close to the Navs and are in the ministry because they are married to their husbands.” They want to be in the ministry, but they have their children.

Lorne Sanny took us back to our evolution in the US. At the time, we saw US Nav Homes as a base of operation from which our men ministered, as compared to centering the work of training in the home. This was illustrated by our decision to sell the large home in South Pasadena (509 Monterey)10 and a shift in how we used our women’s apartments.

However, one senses that the continuing expectation laid on our US Reps was that they should minister in the context of their homes. For example, at the same overseas policy conference, in response to a general question on our progress in producing reproducers, LeRoy Eims replied:

There are two homes on the East Coast which I visited where men are living. They are potential for this vision, but I don’t think they are producing reproducers. On the West Coast the picture is a little better. There are men on the horizon in the San Diego, Pasadena, Fresno, and San Francisco homes. Harold Ward definitely has it. In the Midwest there are potentialities. This includes Wheaton and Lincoln. Overall, we are not doing too red-hot in fulfilling this particular objective.11

Overseas, our primary target was students, servicemen, and businessmen who were often not available to move into a Nav Home. Therefore, the trend was for more training before a person came into a home. Sparks agreed that smaller homes were preferable overseas for the reason also that they were easier for nationals to replicate.

Sanny asked why we had anyone live in our homes. What were the advantages? Robertson explained that such homes allow for much closer relationships with key men, especially if their culture is different. Affinity develops as well. Also, because there is so much disparity between how Asians and Americans live, inviting them to live with us proves that we do not look down on them.12 So, the OPC concluded that Nav Homes, often smaller, were a useful approach overseas as a base of operation.13

Sanny observed that, however effective Bible Studies and fellowship in the home may be, they do not push our key people out into the thrust of ministry. The homes can become sterile. The best approach is usually to train a man where he is, in his context.14 However, he still recognized three important values in a Nav Home:

  • A base of operation from which to minister
  • A retreat for others to come to get their batteries recharged and perspectives set
  • A training center for those living in the home15
Nav Homes As Possible Training Centers

In the early 1960s, the concept of training centers was taking shape, probably as a specialized extension of the Nav Home. One of the conclusions of the 1961 overseas policy conference was that a training center could prove strategic in fulfillment of our objective, but that such centers must be preceded by strong local ministries of producing reproducers in the proposed areas.16 Glen Eyrie was, of course, already being used as our principal training center.

Later in 1961, Sanny wrote to our staff urging them to “get out and beat the bushes.” We need, he wrote, “men and women who will find a pool of potential man or woman power.” Then, he added this:

Consequently, there is less emphasis on the home as a place of ministry and more emphasis on the home as a base of ministry. As a base of ministry, it is where you and your key men (or women) gather for prayer, sharing of the Word, and planning. You get your spiritual batteries recharged, vision clarified, and maybe some bruises healed. Then back out to the base, the campus, the business office—there to reach and teach people to reach and teach others in their sphere of influence.17

“Recently,” Lorne continued, “we have been emphasizing getting out to where the fish are18 and training the men who live right in the fish pool to become soul winners where they are . . .” He endorsed the letter that Trotman had written in 1940 to the effect that, “The real soul-winning work is done aboard ship. After all, there is the ‘fishing pool’ and I believe, if God’s business is done in God’s way, men will be equipped in such a way that fish don’t have to be brought into a home pool to be caught.”19

Later, in 1962, Lorne wrote again to his staff about Nav homes:

Are they a help or a hindrance in recruiting? Would we get a better man in the home if we invited him in as a co-laborer in making an impact on a particular region for Christ, rather than inviting him in for ‘training’? . . . Possibly the problem is not the home at all, but in our sending area representatives out singly rather than in pairs or in teams. Is it true that two men working together are not one plus one but two squared? . . . Or possibly the problem is just in our own prayer.20

At our training policy conference in 1963, one of the many papers submitted was on “Training in the Nav Home.” The author was Skip Gray. It begins:

One of the generally accepted basic definitions of the Navigator work as a whole is ‘a man with his man.’ It follows naturally that a very simple elementary definition of a Nav Home would be a man with his men living with him in his home.21

Skip’s paper explains that, after World War II, the Sanny and Trotman homes in Los Angeles developed in a two-fold purpose of giving training and providing economical staff housing for those working in the headquarters office. “In a limited sense, these two homes were forerunners of Glen Eyrie.”

This 1963 paper identifies some advantages of using Nav Homes for training:

  • The home atmosphere
  • Training in every area of human experience
  • Developing the specific gifts of individuals
  • Unhurried dialogue with the leader
  • Reproof before the hardening of sin occurs: Ecclesiastes 8:11

Nav Homes continued to be a developing focus. For example, in 1966, a discussion on this topic identified as many as nine purposes for Nav Homes, among which three22 are noteworthy:

  1. A vehicle for recruiting, building, and training men
  • Jesus used the “with Him” principle, which the home enables
  • Abraham’s example with his servants (Genesis 14:14)
  • Paul with Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:1-3, 11)
  1. Demonstration of Christian hospitality (1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:8, 1 Peter 4:9)
  2. Close observation, for both trainer and trainee, including marriage relationship and raising children

Functionality of Navigator Homes

In 1971, Skip Gray’s classic article on best practice for Nav Homes circulated. It was based on his experience leading several homes during the years up to 1971.23 First and foremost, Skip noted the Nav Home represented “a group of men and women who band themselves together with a couple for a purpose greater than themselves.” Among other things, Skip’s article outlined the objectives of a Nav Home, specified the criteria for selecting men for Nav Home training, and put forth a checklist of considerations for the head of a Navigator Home.

Skip’s son, Ken Gray, born in 1955, recalls his experience as a family member living in the Grays’ Nav Home. Skip’s wife, Buzzie, had home schooled their five children . Ken comments24 that any Nav Rep in the US in the 1960s would have had some persons staying with him. One aspect of development for the children was observing and interacting with the missionaries  who often came through the home for a meal. These opportunities tied perfectly into the Gray family’s key verse for homeschooling their children (2 Timothy 3:10).

Those living in a Nav Home contributed to their room and board. Meals with the family were a foundational practice. Character was paramount. Ken remembers growing up in his parents’ home as “deeply enriching and formative, especially as regards character.”

He added that most of those who spent time in Nav Homes were straight out of college, starting to make their way in the world. Although young men and women would often live in the same home, there was a natural assumption of strict sexual ethics. Meals with the family, Bible study, and projects around the home were the norm. Church attendance was encouraged. When employed, the trainees contributed a small sum for their room and board.

The benefits of living in a Nav Home were:

  • In-depth training
  • Mutual observation
  • Learning how to form a team
  • Strengthening one’s vision
  • Observing a Christ-centered family in action
  • A pool for recruiting

Ownership and Finances

Most of the larger Nav homes were owned by The Navigators, which simplified the frequent geographical transitions to which our staff were called.

Then, when we began to fly our own flag and develop our own ministries in countries outside the US, a natural though expensive step was to acquire staff homes as ministry centers.

By 1959, we had purchased property in Okinawa, Tokyo, Vietnam., France, and Germany.25

Toward the end of the 1960s, one of our corporate objectives26 was “to gather necessary information and make decisions on purchase, as necessary, of permanent housing overseas.” At our world regional directors conference in December 1968, the report was that preliminary work had been done on this objective with the result that property had been purchased in England27 and Denmark28 . . . and authority had been given for purchase of property in Africa. Research on whether to purchase in Brazil and the Philippines was under way.

At the same conference, participants were told that an international property fund had been established to finance Navigator housing outside the US. Revenue for this account was derived from proceeds from the sale of homes already owned by The Navigators and from rents paid by those occupying such homes. A general guideline was that staff occupying Nav homes would pay equitable rent.29

A decade later, our policy on staff homes outside the US was extensively discussed by the International Leadership Team. They agreed that the US Navs, consulting with the relevant countries, would draw up a written agreement for each of the six overseas properties30 owned by the US Navigators.

A year later, after reflection, the US Navs announced their decision31 to relinquish a financial interest in overseas staff homes. This was much appreciated. At the same time, they accepted Jim Petersen’s proposal for a revolving loan fund to assist overseas staff in the purchase of homes.


What this history demonstrates is that our approach to training men and women in the context of a home was very successful. Living together day in and day out emphasizes the consistency that fashions the fruit produced the fruit of the Spirit. The continuing importance of home life is upheld in our seventh Core Value, which lifts up “families and relational networks.”

Navigators continued to conduct meetings and train promising young people in their homes. However, the full-orbed concept of a Nav Home gradually blended into variations dependent upon the gifting of our staff and the diversity of local settings.

 Jesus replied, if anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him and we will come to him and make our home with him.
John 14:23

By Donald McGilchrist
3181 words

See also articles on:
Overseas Policy Conference 1961
US Field Ministries 1960s


  1. During their first year as a married couple, Daws and Lila moved six times. See Daws, p. 72.
  2. See Daws, p. 84-85.
  3. This move was in April 1943. By now, the Sannys and others were living with them.
  4. Above notes on the early years taken from a type script by Betty Skinner.
  5. Sworn on February 25, 1943 in the county of Los Angeles as we transitioned from an unincorporated association.
  6. Source: “Dear Gang,” May 20, 1955. This could well have been an evolutionary stage towards the concept of “contact points.”
  7. OPC 1961, S23.
  8. This is an early use of the phrase “training center.” For how this developed, see my article on “Training.”
  9. OPC 1961, S26.
  10. 509 Monterey Rd., South Pasadena became a principal Nav home in 1943.
  11. OPC 1961, S17.
  12. Robertson recalled that he made almost as much progress in language in one week by living with the Chinese as did the CIM people after three weeks.
  13. Robertson felt that, in the absence of an overseas Nav Home, the next best training opportunity was to travel with a national and live with him daily. The idea was to let the person see your life so that he or she would pick up principles.
  14. The above OPC discussion taken from session 23 on Nav Homes.
  15. OPC 1961, S26.
  16. OPC 1961, conclusion 11.
  17. Sanny, “Dear Gang,” November 24, 1961.
  18. Bill Bright had told Jim Downing that in Campus Crusade, “They don’t like their representatives to have desks because as soon as a man gets a desk, he finds some excuse to stay behind it.”
  19. Trotman letter, June 1, 1940.
  20. “Dear Gang,” May 4, 1962. He asked our staff for ideas.
  21. Skip does add that one would need to amplify and clarify this definition but, with regard to discussing training philosophy, it is adequate. Note the absence of any reference to the influence of the lady of the house!
  22. Source: Summary by Bob Sparks of January 5, 1966 discussion. Fourteen criteria for selecting those who would live in the home are also listed.
  23. April 1971, “The Navigator Home,” eleven pages and a check list for the couple whose home it was.
  24. Conversation with Ken Gray, July 26, 2013.
  25. Source:
  26. Corporate objective 7 for the years 1967-1969.
  27. England: the US Navs made a $14,482 loan in 1968 for a London home for Doug Sparks at 5 percent interest. The balance of $19,500 from the loan would be gifted to the UK Navs to purchase a home for Steve Covell in Birmingham.
  28. In Denmark, the home had been purchased with the aid of a $50,000 loan from the US Navs, to be repaid at 5 percent interest to the US Division.
  29. Our US treasurer was tasked with knowing the state of maintenance and repairs and improvements needed on all our property throughout the world, in order to make recommendations on necessary action.
  30. These were located in Tokyo x2, Nairobi, Sydney, Seoul x2.
  31. Source: Finance Policies a Procedures, procedures 7, 8, 9.
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