This past Friday I did something that I've never done before in all the years we've lived here--I went fishing!
I'm familiar with fishing--fishing for lake trout in B.C., Canada with a rod, reel and fly. Trout fishing, at least if you want to catch anything, requires a certain amount of knowledge. When my hubby and I began this kind of fishing, we went with an expert i.e. Doug's brother-in-law. He's been fishing all his life.
The first time we went fishing with Doug's sister and hubby, I simply sat and watched for the first half a day. I asked questions and received knowledgeable answers. And when I was ready, our expert walked me through every step as I cast my fly out and eventually reeled in my first fish.
It's hard to explain what it's like to have a fish on your line--being able to yell, "fish on" and then that fight with nature to bring it into the boat. And then the high-5s all around. The four of us have gone fishing now for the last seven Septembers and the exhilaration in catching a fish never gets old.
My experience in Thailand was different. I felt like Huckleberry Finn with a simple bamboo pole, a small bob on the line as a floater and a glob of paste wrapped around my hook that looked simply like mud. And I wasn't fishing in a big lake but in a small pond that had been stocked with fish.
BUT, that didn't mean I couldn't use the knowledge I'd learned from fishing in Canada. I thought about it and knew there were three pieces of knowledge that I could apply:
Look at the shape, the contours, of the body of water. Fish like to hang out where there's a shoal. So, off we (Doug didn't fish but chose rather to be my "paparazzi.") went to the far side of the pond where a piece of the land jutted out. Sure enough, the fish were there. We could see their dorsal fins skimming the surface at times. Yes!
Learn from the locals. In this case, use the bait and gear that the Thais use. After all, they've been fishing here for hundreds of years. One of my friends wanted worms. Worms didn't work. Another friend used all the gear he brought with him from North America. That didn't work either. So, I used the muddy fish bait recommended, even though everything within in me thought, "How can any fish see this muddy paste in an already muddy pond?"
If you feel a fish toying with your bait, whether it's a fly or a paste, give your rod a little tug. Toy with the fish--tempt it to take a nice big bite. That's what I did. I could feel a fish nibbling on my line. I could see my bob move up and down. So, I pulled up with a slight jerking motion. And sure enough, the fish grabbed on! I pulled up my rod and there hung a beautiful tilapia, hooked at the end of my line.
"I CAUGHT A FISH!" I yelled it loud enough for all our friends to hear. "I caught a fish!"
Definitely a good-sized tilapia, and a keeper (even though tilapia are delicious, I tossed this one back). And true to his role, Doug took a photo of me with my fish.
As I said, fishing in Thailand is different. And yet, that exhilaration, that sense of accomplishment, in bringing in a fish is the same. I had a big smile on my face the rest of the day!
Yesterday, I started thinking about those three principles that I'd applied to fishing for fish and realized that those same principles can be used in fishing for men:
Look at and learn from the cultural contours and cues of the people you're ministering to. Trying to share the mystery of the Gospel, the good news of Jesus, won't work if you don't take the time to understand the culture and learn about the history of the people. Then you'll have a base from which to begin your "fishing."
Learn from what has worked in the past and use it as a basis for what will work for you now. That doesn't mean you can't think outside the box within the parameters that have worked. It just means not trying something that failed miserably in the past. But if you don't ask and learn what that is, you're bound to miss the fish that swim right past your hook.
When you've got people around you seeking and interested in what you have to share, don't forget that it's the Spirit that's drawing them to Jesus. He is there, "tugging" on hearts. Cry out to Him--call out the name of Jesus. He will be the one that draws them up and out, to the foot of the cross.
Yes, Jesus is the expert-- the great Fisher of Men. We are mere novices. And yet, in His love, we are HIS novices. That is a humbling yet beautiful thought.
This past Friday, I fished in Thailand for the first time. At least in the natural world.
But in the spiritual world, I've been fishing here for a while. And the exhilaration of this calling STILL brings a big smile to my face.