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).

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