‘At Your Bidding We Will Lower the Nets’
THAT was how the apostle Peter felt about it when Christ Jesus directed his disciples to try fishing in deeper waters. They had been unsuccessful all night, but the Master Fisherman was speaking, and he was pointing to a new fishing ground, one they had not yet tried. There was firm assurance in his voice, conviction that they would have success. And success they achieved, far beyond their hopes.—Luke 5:4-6.
So, too, it has been in modern times. Followers of Jesus today have demonstrated willingness to be guided by the directions received through the Christian congregation from the One who invited them to become “fishers of men.” (Matt. 4:19) Many have moved to new fishing grounds. At his bidding they have “let down the nets” in new areas. But have they obtained the same astonishing results? And are there still such opportunities for yet others who will respond readily to the bidding of the Chief Fisherman?
Consider the facts and determine for yourself the answers to those questions. As long as Jehovah God holds open the opportunity to engage in this vast “fishing” activity, this work of ‘catching men alive’ and bringing them into a condition of security in God’s organization, there is still time for many to yield themselves to the direction of His spirit and, where possible, move into a new “fishing” territory.
COULD CHILE BECOME YOUR HOME?
“How would you like to be in a small group here in Chile, just starting out as a missionary?” writes one of Jehovah’s witnesses. “We unpack our bags, make the bed, and then go forth to struggle with a language that is still quite new to us. That is what we did almost nineteen years ago. With Jehovah’s spirit to help, we kept on, and now this is what seems like ‘home’ to us.
“What is really challenging about the spiritual fishing work here is to have more opportunities of conducting Bible studies in people’s homes than one can really handle. And then to see many persons progress from rank superstition to strong faith in God’s Word brings an indescribable sense of satisfaction. Yes, you would enjoy being among these friendly people who always thank us when we study the Bible with them or even just when we make a brief visit. This is truly HOME to us!”
And here is a report from Chile’s extreme southern end: “In 1956 the first group of missionaries was assigned to work in Punta Arenas, and I had the privilege of being among them. At that time there was no congregation, and the extreme weather conditions produced many an obstacle. But are we ever happy we dug in and stayed on! For now there are over eighty Witnesses in the congregation here—this in addition to the others who found it necessary economically to move to other parts of Chile.
“One businessman with whom we studied the Bible braved the criticism of friends and relatives, all Catholics, and persevered in taking in accurate knowledge. His father brought a judge of the high court, a family friend, to visit and try to dissuade him. But this newly interested person was able to show the judge the basis for his new faith in the Bible. The judge had to admit that God’s name is Jehovah.”
But the whole trend of things in Chile points to it as one of the choice fishing grounds of our time. Since the arrival of the first Gilead-trained missionary back in 1945, when there were only 59 Witnesses in the whole country, the increase has been thrilling. In number of publishers of the Kingdom they have reached 5,223. But that still means that every publisher in the country has to care for a population of about 1,700. If you are one of Jehovah’s witnesses, are you in position to join them and lighten their task?
FISHING PROSPECTS IN PERU
It was with mixed feelings that the first missionaries arrived in Peru in 1946. Training at the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead had helped to make them aware of the language problem, but now they would have to apply directly what little of the language they had learned. No matter how large the problem loomed, however, they knew that they must rely on Jehovah’s spirit to carry them through. There were then very few local Witnesses.
And what have been the results in ‘men caught alive’ since that time? In 1956 there were 524 Kingdom publishers in 13 congregations. In 1966 there were 2,530 publishers in 63 congregations, and in this year, 1968, a peak of 3,100 has already been reported. But in a land of over 12,000,000 inhabitants marvelous fishing opportunities still remain.
Listen to this gripping account by a missionary of his Bible study conducted with an Amazon riverboat builder: “When I would arrive for the study Mr. R—— would stop all work on the boats and call the workers over to a shady portion of the open-air workshop where all sat down for the study. Week after week he drank in the Bible’s waters of truth concerning the promises of a new order. Soon he was anxious to tell others about it—his own relatives first. He asked if I would take the trip down the Amazon to visit them. We left at 4 a.m. one dark morning, well equipped with Bibles and literature. Breakfast was cooked on an open charcoal burner as we sped to our destination. We arrived at around 6 p.m.
“It seemed that all the mosquitoes in the country had arrived at the same time, 7 p.m. being the regular feeding time for these insects. We picked up our gear and started out through the jungle over a small, well-defined path. It was hot and clammy, but the jungle noises were fascinating to hear. Finally we arrived at a little clearing in the jungle where we saw our ‘house’ built high on stilts. It was late now, so we put up mosquito netting and got to bed.
“After a few days of working ‘from hut to hut’ we arranged a public meeting for one evening. Around fifty persons came from the surrounding jungle. Our lantern drew thousands of insects and mosquitoes as well. Jacket zipped up to the neck and hat pulled down over my ears, I spoke to an audience that was most attentive. Everyone wanted literature.”
Of course, Peru also has its lofty mountainous areas where the air is thin and the nights are cool enough for blankets. But everywhere throughout the land one can find hearing ears and inquiring minds. There are many places that have need of help. Some large cities still do not have one Witness, and have never been touched. Santiago de Chuco is one of these. It is in northern Peru where the government is now putting through a road to the interior. This will open up vast new fields, not only to Spanish-speaking people, but also to many Indian tribes that are only now having contact with modern society. And towns such as Chachapoyas, Moyobamba, Boca Grande and Boca Chica all are open to those who can come and serve where the need is so great.
VENEZUELA ALSO BECKONS
Here is a land that has 10 million inhabitants. Place alongside that the figure of 5,314 Witnesses, and you can see the need for more fishers of men, for many are the eager and friendly natives. How eager they are to hear the good news may be gathered from the following experiences.
One missionary toured many of the cities and towns of the country showing the Watch Tower Society’s films. In one place an interested man undertook to paint one wall of his home white so that it might serve as a movie screen. In a mountain settlement near Carupano a friendly storekeeper furnished electricity from his light plant—the only source available for miles. He also offered the use of his rooster-fighting arena without charge, and even shot off rockets to inform the hill people of the event. Eighty-five of them responded, many of them riding burros.
There are missionaries graduated from Gilead School who have spent many years in the work of ‘fishing for men’ in Venezuela, some of them well over ten years. How do they express themselves on their record of perseverance? “As missionaries,” said one, “we are so blessed by being free from the general worries that beset people of the world, free from having to spend most of our effective hours in secular work instead. Returning home each night after a full day’s service brings a satisfaction in knowing that one has truly fulfilled Jehovah’s will.”
Said another: “To have been able to devote many years to missionary service here in Venezuela has enriched my life so much. The constant activity in the ministry has been a safeguard against the pitfalls of a world that lives so contrary to Bible principles. It also has maintained for me a clear vision of Jehovah’s grand purpose.”
And a Witness with fourteen years of missionary service writes: “I am glad to have been in this grand work all those years, for it has given me opportunity to observe God’s mercy and protection and his marvelous ways of guiding the steps of his willing servants. I am now more convinced than ever that my decision to be a missionary was the only right one to make and I would do it all over again.”
Another Witness with sixteen years of missionary activity behind him expresses himself this way: “In this service my thoughts are undivided and constantly on Jehovah’s Word. It aids me to avoid bad associations that would assuredly have presented a hazard in any other occupation. And when one gets tired physically in this work he has the satisfaction that he has spent himself in a worthwhile work, Jehovah’s service.”
One and all, these persevering “fishers” would say to you if they had the opportunity, “Yes, we are in urgent need of more willing hands to tend the nets.” There are doubtless still many ‘fine fish’ in Venezuelan waters.
FOLLOWING THE APOSTOLIC EXAMPLE
The apostle Peter and his fellow fishermen yielded themselves to the bidding of the Master, Christ Jesus. The timing and the location for their further activities were laid down by One whom Jehovah used to create both fish and men, the One who could lead them in the way of success and peace. Today, we too can yield ourselves for service under the Master Fisherman, who can direct us unerringly to rich and satisfying catches of men. Through the Christian congregation he supplies the equipment, the training, the cooperation, so that Jehovah’s witnesses individually can become more adept at handling the “fishing nets.”
When we have taken advantage of all this help and encouragement, what are we going to do? Be satisfied with using our “fishing” abilities in a limited manner? Or are we ready to expand with the vast “fishing” organization and reach out into new and untouched regions of the sea of humankind? Chile, Peru and Venezuela are some of the places where “fishers of men” who have been plying their vocation have located vast shoals of “fishes” and have signaled for helpers. Can you respond?
If you can, it means organizing your affairs with that aim in view. It means dispensing with many of the nonessential things and laying plans that can be carried out. For example, you could write and request information from the Office of the President, Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, about the requirements for those who would like to serve in a foreign land. Also, you could write to the branch office in the country where you believe you could serve and request information as to possibilities of obtaining entrance to that country, giving particulars such as your age, health, knowledge of Spanish, and so forth.
By all means, count the cost first. Single men and women, married couples and even families have moved and served where the need is greater in connection with the proclamation of the “good news.” But each case has its own unique features. Take your case to Jehovah in prayer. Ask for his direction in the matter. And call to mind that God’s glorified Son, Christ Jesus, now directs the entire global “fishing” effort, so assuring success for those who will be guided by him in the timing and the location of their “fishing” activities. Can you say as did Peter, ‘At your bidding, Master, we will lower the nets’?