Saturday, June 29, 2013


Along the coast and waterways of Ghana, fishing is the most common form of livelihood. During a recent family outing, the boys and I experienced first hand the hard work required of fishermen (and children, unfortunately).

We worked for about an hour helping to pull the net in. I'm guessing their net was about 200 to 300 yards long. These fishermen were working the Volta river for their catch. Their net was about 1/10 the size of some of the ocean nets I have seen. I can't imagine the endurance required to fish the ocean.  

The net was put out by boat in a horseshoe shape. Two teams of fishermen were at each end of the horseshoe working the net from the beach. We pulled at a steady pace, drawing in the net until our catch was on the beach.

By the time we heaved in the net, I had blisters on my fingers and nearly exhausted back, leg, and arm muscles. My pride wouldn't allow me to give up before we pulled in our catch - I was so thankful when we finished.

However, the majority of the treasure in the net was trash - plastic water bags, Indomie wrappers, broken flip flops, etc... At least 90 percent of the catch was garbage. I would estimate the entire weight of fish caught was less than 10 pounds, with four small 9-inch fish surrounded by scaly fins no larger than 2-inches.  The picture below shows everything we pulled in.  With 7 native guys fishing for themselves, their family, and their village, the contents of the net had to be very disappointing.  Over one hour of strenuous physical labor for 12 men resulted in this?

But fishing is what people in this village do - it's all they know to do. They fish just like their parents before them and their children who will follow in their fishing footsteps. They will be at it again tomorrow, hoping for a better catch. To these natives - FISHING IS LIFE!

Our experience fishing with the natives helped me see the importance of "fishing" with Jesus. These Ghanains fish in the same way that Peter and his friends would have fished 2,000 years ago. But fishing from my cultural background is quite different. I have grown up with a leisurely approach to fishing - it's something you do for fun, relaxation or sport.

When Jesus told his followers they would be fishing for men, the disciples (as well as my native fishing friends) would have envisioned "fishing" as something they would be doing every single day - as if their lives depended on it.  Before Jesus called his disciples, they had to work and work (just like the Ghanaian fishermen) until they had enough to feed themselves and provide for their families. When they traded in their nets for the gospel, they could not have imagined working any less than when they were on the sea.

The call to "fishing" and making disciples is not a call to leisurely fun. A weekend hobby or a once-a-year vacation pastime is definitely not what Jesus has in mind. The purpose, determination and commitment we give to our careers is exactly what Jesus calls us give as fishers of men. Just like the fishermen we met - the ones who fish from sun up to sun down 6 or 7 days a week - we must rethink (and quite possibly repent of) what it means to follow Jesus and make disciples.

Here is another perspective on "fishing" I read last week...

"Now it came to pass that a group existed who called themselves fishermen. And lo, there were many fish in the waters all around. In fact, the whole area was surrounded by streams and lakes filled with fish. And the fish were hungry.
Week after week, month after month, and year after year, these who called themselves fishermen met in meetings and talked about their call to fish, the abundance of fish, and how they might go about fishing. Year after year they carefully defined what fishing means, defended fishing as an occupation, and declared that fishing is always to be a primary task of fishermen.
Continually, they searched for new and better methods of fishing and for new and better definitions of fishing. Further they said, “The fishing industry exists by fishing as fire exists by burning.” They loved slogans such as “Fishing is the task of every fisherman.” They sponsored special meetings called “Fishermen’s Campaigns” and “The Month for Fishermen to Fish.” They sponsored costly nationwide and world-wide congresses to discuss fishing and to promote fishing and hear about all the ways of fishing such as the new fishing equipment, fish calls, and whether any new bait had been discovered.
These fishermen built large, beautiful buildings called “Fishing Headquarters.” The plea was that everyone should be a fisherman and every fisherman should fish. One thing they didn’t do, however: They didn’t fish."
(Darrell W. Robinson, People Sharing Jesus, Thomas Nelson Publishing, 1995, pp 21-22)

And Jesus said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men" (Mark 1:17, ESV).

Monday, June 17, 2013

God Is In The "HARD"

We have arrived back in Ghana after a short 6 week furlough home.  Short is an understatement.  The time at home was a tremendous blessing but I found myself longing for more time, more conversations, more hugs, more connections with those I love...

Now, we are back in Ghana and facing another transition for our family.  Parts of coming back are wonderful, and parts are stark shoves back into the reality of life here.

Yesterday we drove to church and passed a woman wrapped in a rice sack for clothing...

Young ones who know us chased down our car at the toll booth.  I think they were there selling water to support their family...

Hugging some of the kids at the orphanage brought tears because I know parents on the other side of the ocean longing to be the one hugging their child.  Oh, I hold them tight.  For now, to a small degree, our family stands in their place to express love...

We've been without power and could not run the generator.  We've enjoyed candles and flashlights in the evening (not much, but enough to be reminded of how difficult it is to lose power - towels are draped in front of the refrigerator to absorb the defrosting water)...

In many ways, I feel like we are back to "HARD."

As much as I struggled going from Ghana to America 6 weeks ago, now I find myself struggling again.  Neither is an easy transition.

Our boys vocalize it too.  They miss relationships from home.  I heard their hurting hearts whisper people they miss from home.  Having our nephew, Zach, with us for the next 6 weeks has made coming back easier.  His presence has been life-giving for all of us.  We are thankful he is here.

I am not complaining.  Just sharing the struggle.

We are grieving again.  Losses.  Longings.  Things left behind.

A friend is preparing to move onto the mission field and her words are more eloquent than my own right now.  Maybe more honest too...

We've had people say "You chose to do this, so why are you complaining?" (I wasn't complaining, just answering their question "how are things going?" and, of course, they didn't want to really hear how things were going, they were just being polite--why don't I ever get that!?!!?)... I have always felt, that the only choice we had was to obey or disobey and that isn't really a choice for us--we will obey God's call, no matter what!!! and that means even with all the loss. And the losses are showing me where I have treasured things, both good and bad, that have kept me from treasuring Jesus above all. I understand how I've put my security in my abilities all my life and how I've protected myself from vulnerability, but all that is being stripped away. And the good things too, like relationships that are so dear to me. And so far, none of it has been replaced with a more intimate relationship with Jesus, which is what I hoped for; there is just an emotional void, an emptiness that I hope someday will be filled with more of Him.
I'm sorry to go rambling on, but there isn't anyone here who might even slightly understand any of this. I'm not sorry for the losses, but the dying is painful and knowing it will be like this for the rest of our lives is hardly "adventurous." It is something we embrace and trust His grace to be sufficient for "today."
HE IS WORTHY OF ALL and I'm praying for you today that you will feel His presence and sense His loving arms around you and your family and that, even when you can't make sense of things, you will find rest for your soul.

Another missionary wrote these words on her blog, and I found myself resonating with her thoughts as well.  I did find it funny that one of the comments said, "I count my blessing everyday that you are in Bogota rather than Uganda."  Too funny.  Sigh...  Yes, we are on the other side of the world.  And it is far away.

These are the times, I seek the comfort of Christ.  I curled up this morning praying asking Jesus to sustain us, lead us, encourage us.  He is.  He will.  My feet need to remain grounded on the solid rock, and not grappling for footing on the sand.  

The times when I feel like God is far from me, I must remind myself of the truth that He is holding us.  He is with us.  He is in the "HARD."  

I need to be reminded of this.  He is teaching me more about contentment in Him alone.  He is worth everything.  HE IS WORTHY OF ALL.  

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
Philippians 4:11-12