“Come, follow me,” Jesus said to Peter and his brother, Andrew, “and I will send you out to fish for people” (Matthew 4:19). This passage is an important passage for two reasons. First, Jesus expected that they would follow him even though they both were actively casting out nets to catch fish (Matthew 4:18). Second, Jesus redefined their life mission as fishermen of people. In the same way, we are commanded to follow Jesus and become fishermen of people. However, that is easier said than done. Ministry work is often like fishing in lava. We are called to wait patiently for opportunities to share the love of Christ and guide people to Christ in often toxic environments where brokenness, addiction, and wickedness abound. Yet, occasionally we feel a tug on the line and ministry happens! That is what happened recently with a man I’m going to call “Isaiah.”
Every Wednesday and Friday, I start my day with a hot cup of coffee at The Banquet where I check on my brothers and sisters on the streets and pray over them. I’ve done this for years now. I’ve found that ministry work is natural over a table where food is present. I went to The Banquet around 7:15am, surprised that our Faith Community Nurse, Gloria, beat me there and was already talking with an individual. I walked by her and went into the eating area as I normally do and saw an individual I’ve been investing time into. As I walked his way, another
man, Isaiah, called me over to talk. I met Isaiah for the first time five weeks earlier and consistently checked up on him on a weekly basis since I met him, but I could tell that Isaiah needed a friend that morning. The conversation started with tears and a confession that meth is taking over his life. He told me that he wakes up for meth, goes to the homeless shelter to sleep, and the cycle continues daily. We spoke for a while about his options and thankfully, the conversation naturally transitioned into a Gospel talk. He heard the message many times, but the message was resonating on a deeper level that morning. We were on holy ground. Just then, out of nowhere, a man sat down next to him and told Isaiah not to listen to me because I was teaching about Jesus Christ. The man quoted Scripture, yet his theology was contrary to the Gospel. For fifteen minutes, the man did not give me time to speak to Isaiah and was, in a sense, claiming him. I could see clearly that I was in a spiritual battle. Eventually, Isaiah and I got away from him and spoke and prayed outside The Banquet.
When we opened the Center of Hope that morning, Isaiah came in to
continue our talk. In our two-plus hour conversation in my office, I learned about his abusive childhood, his long history in the military that haunts him today, his time in a biking gang, and his current battle with meth on the streets of Sioux Falls. He is no stranger to pain. There were many tears in our conversation. Yet, he realized that morning that he desperately needed Jesus. We spoke of God’s love and forgiveness extensively. Sometimes recognizing that God loves and forgives you is easier to understand than knowing how to love and forgive oneself. Our conversation was fruitful. He was given a Bible, was connected to resources to deal with his addiction, was prayed over, and was invited to one of our Bible studies.
We are called to follow Jesus and to become fishermen of people. Fishing requires patience and being present. Being a fisherman is hard and is not meant to be easy. Yet, we are called to be faithful as God is faithful with us. Ministry on the streets is like fishing in lava. However, God does miracles! Often, we deny God’s command to follow him out of fear or insecurity. We must remember, however, that missionaries of darkness never rest and are always out and about leading people astray. Missionaries of light need to step forward and live into their purpose of loving God and others in radical ways. Look at the clock. It is FISHING TIME!