If we launch our boat into the sea but hug the shore, not daring to leave the place known best, the incoming waves will rise and roar and crash on our heads! So instead of the calm we thought we’d find, we get battered and tossed instead. But if we put our trust in the Pilot to know the way to the place in his plan, whether close at hand or a far-off land, we will find we were made to bounce on the currents, with freedom to fish or to speak words of peace and blessing to those we are with. Let’s leave fear behind and follow his plan! At first we’ll face giants, those crashing waves, but we’ll keep on going, doggedly rowing, holding firmly to hope and Messiah’s goal, eyes fixed ahead to where it is calmer, ready to launch into the beyond!
It was like the blessing of whipped cream on chocolate cake when we got to spend a couple of days beside the beach before flying home!
Two days after the dedication of the Nyarafolo NT+OT portions, we had to leave for Abidjan to get our pre-flight COVID-test. That gave us two days to wait for results, then take our flight back to the U.S. on August 5th. Knowing that this might well be our last visit to this beloved country, we chose to go to one of our favorite hangouts, a hotel in Grand Bassam along the coast. Sitting near the shore was rest, much needed after the hours crammed with interactions, precious as those had been. There is not a long shelf of sand there, so the waves rise out of the deep and crash close to shore, providing glorious splashing fountains and dangerous undercurrents. It is not a place to swim, but you can soak in the view.
Watching the fishing boats make their way out past the tumult into the calmer deeps beyond gave rise to some deeper thoughts. If those boats had stayed close to shore, they would have been destroyed. And they could not have caught fish. Sure, they were still being lifted and dropped, bounced around by the formidable ocean currents. But they were far safer than if they had been closer to shore, and out in those depths they could fish.
Since we had just been processing once again the story of our mission adventure, forty-plus years of experiencing similar ups and downs, it hit home: if we had stayed in what seemed a less distant location closer to where family lived in Michigan, we would not have been able to experience what the Lord had planned when he called to us to go: “Serve where I send you!” For us, that meant Ferkessédougou, Côte d’Ivoire, among the least-reached Nyarafolo people.
We were exultant during this visit as we celebrated the arrival of two-thirds of the Bible in the previously unwritten Nyarafolo language and worshiped with the growing community of believers from that ethnic group. When we had arrived in 1979 there was just one small group in one remote village. Now there are a few hundred who know Jesus. We had two Sundays there, which gave us the opportunity to visit the church we had planted and the church they had planted, two village churches constantly reaching out to tell others the Good News. And Nyarafolos now form a significant portion of the Ferke town church congregations.
Being there this time was like bouncing on the currents further out on the ocean on a sunny day. But as we look back, we remember the first years when we were struggling just to greet people properly in their language and to know how to dress and interact in respectable ways. We remember mistakes we made. We remember the storms that nearly toppled us. But look at what has been accomplished because we said “yes” to the Pilot and let him direct the boat and take us where he wished. It was so totally worth it! He brought in the “fish,” calling many into his Family. He brought us through the storms.
I write this now to encourage all those who may be hearing that Voice that says to launch beyond the shore. Don’t be afraid to go! And the message is also for parents whose children may be considering that kind of calling. I have known families that have discouraged their offspring from going overseas because they longed to be close to their grandchildren. The longing is normal, but putting up that barrier is really asking the young ones to close their hearts’ ears to the Master’s Voice. Who knows what he might accomplish through them (and in them) if they would just launch out?
Not everyone is a fisherman. Some work in the market and at home, getting out the Word where they live, keeping the fires burning and the light shining there as well. The key is to do what the Master says.
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” (Mk. 1:17 NIV)
Then Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:18-20 NET)