Last week our family took a vacation on the coast of Ecuador and I had an opportunity to watch a group of fishermen bringing in their catch of fish. It was unlike any process I had ever witnessed.
First, several of them rode out into the ocean on a wooden raft, dropping a net as they went. At some point most of them jumped off and swam to shore. Then the hard work began.
Men would tie themselves to a rope, at least six to each side of the net and begin to p u l l.
Slowly, over the next hour, they pulled and pulled. Every once in a while, one man would rush to the water's edge and retie himself to the rope and then as he held the line stable, his team mates would rush further down and re-tie themselves. Then the pulling began again.
As more and more rope was pulled out of the water, a young woman would coil this extra rope, keeping the men from getting tangled up in the excess.
After an hour of pulling the net became visible and a horde of birds flew over the heads of the fishermen trying to steal as many fish as possible. Sometimes it was difficult to see the fishermen because of the birds!
Finally the catch was grounded and large trucks pulled up to the shore to receive their share of the catch. Out of the truck rushed the drivers and their helpers and an assembly line was quickly made with fish being shoveled into buckets which were then carried to the trucks and dumped out. The buckets traveled back down the line where they were re-filled and red umped, several times over.
Whew. What work! And in coastal heat. I couldn't believe the number of people it took to bring in the catch- at least 30!
And the work was not done! Several men had to stay behind to take care of the net, bring in the wooden raft, and load everything into yet another truck!
So. Maybe I am a fisherman after all--- because this reminds me a lot of what I do as a missionary.
Gaby and Weston interrupted as I was helping Ricky record a drama presentation at the radio. They were too excited to wait. The two of them have been witnessing to a woman at a local park and each time they talk to this woman, they return ever so excited to share what God has been doing. Just two weeks ago this woman declared, "Are you evangelists? Because I don't want to talk to evangelists. I love the virgin of Cisne and worship her and want to honor her with my life."
And yet she continued, miraculously to listen as Weston and Gaby explained that they would not speak anything outside of the woman's own Bible. And so, for the first time in her life this woman began to read her Bible. They started with the book of John and when she finished chapter 1 she asked to keep reading.
Now, two weeks later this woman is curious. She wants to know if her own baptism was real. "Do I need to be re-baptised?" she asked Weston. "And what about these idols. I am confused. There is the Virgin of Cisne. The virgen of Guadalupe. So many. Which one is God?" "Is Jesus God?"
And I watch and listen as these two fishermen of men tell me about their work.
And then I thought of the team of people they had working with them. Me, holding the ropes and talking them through the process. Oswaldo who talked to Gaby about how to share her faith with an Ecuadorian catholic and shared resources. Sheryl who taught both Gaby and Weston to give their testimonies. My church back in the states and every single one of our prayer supporters who faithfully give of their resources and time to make it possible for me to pull in that rope! Irma who prays each day for the young people I disciple. My SIM Ecuador teammates who pour into my life and the lives of those I am working with.
We all have our place. It's hard work. It's uncomfortable work, what we do; you and I. And yet as we see that net coming in closer and closer to shore and we know that God is bringing in a catch so big our nets can hardly contain it- that work seems like nothing at all.
And suddenly I understand why my grandpa loved sitting all afternoon waiting for "just one bite". It's because he knew of the excitement of pulling in a catch.
So, my fellow fishers of men. Pray for a woman at the park. Her name, in English means- "The Light". Pray that Gaby and Weston will hold the front of that rope while the rest of us guide them back to shore.
I am glad I am a fisherman. It's in my genes after all.
Comment on your thoughts on how you are participating in the working of "fishing for men". Are you coiling the rope? Sending out the boat? Are you putting down the net? Are you tied to the rope? Are you a truck driver waiting for the catch to come in? Are you the boys who run the fish from the net to the trucks? Where are you in this work?