A couple of weeks ago I experienced an absolute treat! I had the privilege of spending Sunday evening through Wednesday morning at Glen Eyrie Castle in Colorado Springs, CO. I was asked to lead worship and take my place at the table with the Gospel Advancing Ministry Council, facilitated by Dare 2 Share ministries. It was so good to reconnect with amazing men and women of God, brothers and sisters in Christ, co-laborers, friends. We worshiped together, learned together, shared best practices and worked out strategies for effectively advancing the gospel post-COVID.
I was personally impacted by many aspects of the trip, but one story in particular stood out to me.
The Glen Eyrie Castle has become a bit of a headquarters for the Navigators ministry. The castle was built in 1871 by General William Jackson Palmer, the founder of Colorado Springs. After General Palmer died in 1907, the castle remained mostly vacant. In the 1950’s, someone who had been greatly impacted by the preaching of Billy Graham offered the property to Billy at an incredibly low price. Billy accepted the offer, but before he completed the purchase, he realized that he didn’t actually want it. Instead, he believed the property should belong to Dawson Trotman, who was the founder of the Navigators ministry.
Dawson started the Navigators in the 1930s. He was a simple lumberyard worker with a big vision from God. He was an evangelist and disciple-maker at heart. He once picked up a foulmouthed hitchhiker and led the man to Christ. About a year later, he once again picked up a foulmouthed hitchhiker, and while telling the hitchhiker about Jesus, Dawson realized that it was the same man he had led to Christ a year earlier. At that moment, he realized that he needed to develop a method for not just making converts, but also for making disciples! And that is exactly what he did.
He formed the Navigators, which was initially a ministry to US Navy Sailors. The Navigators would teach the sailors about Jesus and disciple them to grow in their faith.
Before long, Dawson was working alongside of Billy Graham praying for people who put their faith in Jesus at Billy’s crusades, but Billy did not think that was enough. One day Billy turned to Dawson and said, “You need to develop something to disciple these men and women after they put their faith in Christ.” Dawson responded by saying, “I can’t do that. Someone else has to do it.” Billy pointed his finger at Dawson and said, “There is no one else. The LORD wants you to do it.”
Dawson and the Navigators discipled countless men and women who put their faith in Christ during the great crusades.
In 1956, Dawson was enjoying himself at Schroon Lake, a property in New York that belonged to another ministry called Word of Life. He and his friend Jack Wyrtzen (founder of Word of Life) were water skiing, along with some other friends. One of the girls who happened to be riding in the boat with them did not know how to swim. When the boat took a sharp turn to the right, Dawson and the girl who did not know how to swim both fell overboard. Knowing that the girl would surely drown without his help, Dawson kept a firm grip on her and used every ounce of energy to keep her head above the water until help arrived. Help arrived and the girl was saved. Dawson was not. Using all of his strength to keep the girl above water left him unable to stay above the water himself.
Dawson died that day at the young age of 50.
His funeral service was held in the Great Room at Glen Eryie—the very same room in which the Gospel Advancing Ministry Council was meeting. The great Billy Graham spoke at Dawson’s funeral. Billy Graham said of Dawson Trotman, “I think Daws has personally touched more lives than anybody I have ever known.”
I am personally encouraged and challenged to live as Dawson Trotman lived… and died… saving as many lives as possible.
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.John 15:13, ESV
This week I am thankful for life. I am thankful for eternal life. I am thankful for abundant life. More than anything, I am thankful that Jesus laid down His life… for me… so that I could truly live.
He laid down His life for you, too. Like Dawson held that girl up above the water, I am holding you up in prayer right now. I am praying that if you are watching this, you will put your faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation, and live forever.