Mentoring: doing the work in the secret places

Marty Woods wants to build a mentoring movement that allows Christians to be truly seen and live the lives they were made for, listening to their spirit and drowning out the noise of the flesh.

That’s the dream of this Aussie missionary who has been mentoring men for 50 years – soon after he was taken under the wing of a teacher, friend, and spiritual father at the King’s School in Sydney.

Rod West, his boarding housemaster, changed Marty’s life. He saw beyond the boy’s adolescent confusion to who he truly was, and modelled Christ’s love to him.

“Through Rod’s love, I discovered the love of the Father. It changed me forever. I knew who was me. I discovered my own personhood,” Marty writes in his new book, A Willing Spirit: Mentoring and the Human Spirit.

The power of an older person believing in him was deeply affirming, and helped Marty survive adolescence. From the age of 17, Rod trusted Marty to welcome and mentor new students in the boarding house.

“[Marty] told me that he was my friend and that meant the world to me.” – David Haslingden

At the recent launch of Marty’s long-awaited book at the King’s School, Marty’s first mentee, David Haslingden, gave a moving testimony of how Marty had changed his life.

“I can tell you what happened about three days into my sentence here,” he told the crowd. “I was in the prep room … whimpering away, and Marty, who was our form monitor … noticed and came in.

“Marty asked me to come in and talk to him and that’s all he did. I went into his little office and I sat down and I talked to him, and he asked me about my parents and about home, and I told him how much I loved them and how much I missed them and how sad I was. He didn’t really do much at all but listen and be kind … he told me I could come back anytime I wanted and that he’d always be there and he told me that he was my friend and that meant the world to me.”

“My task as a mentor is to help them face and deal with the flesh.” – Marty Woods

Marty called his book A Willing Spirit because he sees his life’s work as understanding more of the human spirit and how it can become a greater part of our lives. He made this momentous discovery aged 30 when he joined Fusion International, a Christian Youth and Community organisation. Its founder, Mal Garvin, was Marty’s second mentor.

“Mal one day just asked me, ‘Do you want to hear your spirit? What is it saying?’

“I’d never done that before. I guess my spirit had talked to God, but my spirit talked to me, and I just said ‘I love you God,’” Marty says in a Zoom interview from Japan.

I realised there was a strong voice within me. I said to my spirit  ‘Oh, so you’re the one that’s there all along.’ Mal showed me how to help me hear my spirit so I could help others hear their spirit. I realised that you can’t hear your spirit if the flesh is so noisy. If I did the soul work it meant I could have a free spirit.

“Now what I try to do is make the spirit the integrating part of someone’s life; then they can be free. Paul writes, ‘Where the spirit of the Lord is, there’s freedom.’”  [2 Corinthians 3:17.]

“Jesus says, ‘The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.’ [Matthew 26:41] The problem is our flesh can be all-consuming – yet our spirit loves God. My task as a mentor is to help them face and deal with the flesh.”

Marty currently mentors 60 men.

As Marty’s spirit has grown his understanding of God, himself and others, he’s been able to help his mentees discover the life-affirming power of the human spirit to win over the noise of the body and powerfully integrate them.

“My commitment is to help develop each mentee’s understanding of their spirit and assist them to hear God.”

Now based in Yokohama, Japan, Marty currently mentors 60 men, some only once or twice a year but others weekly. His book – written over the past six years – brings together his guidelines for effective mentoring along with many stories of men he has helped to resist the flesh and be guided by their spirit.

“No one talks about it, not even in churches.”

Eternity: Who should be a mentor?

Marty: Anyone who has a heart to walk alongside someone and is willing to do the work themselves to grow. You have to be someone who wants to grow because, otherwise, you can’t help others. Not everyone wants to grow. It can be hard to face ourselves – to want and even ask for honest feedback.

You see people and you think, ‘how can I help them?’ So many of the guys I mentor struggle with pornography. It’s rampant here in Japan, as it is throughout the world, but no one talks about it, not even in churches. To get them to speak is really hard for them. They often find it painful to even look me in the eye as they share their struggles with porn.

People have a hidden life that holds us back from our ministry. What mentoring does is bring that hidden life into the light. I’m working with a guy who told me something he’d never told anyone before, he never thought he could, and then within a month, after he shared, he was helping others. Now he’s mentoring nine other people.

This is what Jesus wants us to be like. Jesus wants us to live a transparent life, not to have a hidden life.

Who shouldn’t be a mentor?

If you’re not willing to face issues within you that are holding you back, it makes it challenging to be a mentor. You’ve got to be willing to do the work yourself. A mentor is someone who’s just a little further along the road, someone who can help a mentee see the landscape of their song.

It’s not that you have to have your own act together, and until you do, you are not able to help someone. It’s easy to think because of your past you couldn’t really help others. Paul described himself as the “chief of sinners”, yet he knew grace and moved beyond his past.

“Jesus wants us to live a transparent life, not to have a hidden life.”

An effective mentor is willing to do the work on themselves. I am desperate for God.  It’s why I want to be free from the demands of the flesh. I have made myself accountable daily to my running mate. I share honestly with him because I want to die to my flesh and not live a double life.

Marty has made A Willing Spirit available for free online. You can download the book, read extra chapters, hear the audiobook and get a Kindle version, or read about the launch here.

The book will also be available from Koorong at the end of September.

A Willing Spirit

A Willing Spirit: Mentoring and the Human Spirit, by Marty Woods


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