Fishing in the Desert

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I agreed to go fishing with my friends in the middle of their desert city. Unlike the hundreds of fishermen on the seaside where I live, we neither woke before dawn nor packed poles and worms. Rather, my friends, Stacie* and Marie*, set out on separate afternoons to their favourite fishing places—the university and the market—equipped with the hooks they’d built into their personal stories, questions that could help determine whether the girls listening had any spiritual interest.

The university

Upon reaching the main gate at a nearby campus, Stacie and I breezed past the guard on our way down the long road towards some of the main departments. “Lord, guide us to the girls that you want us to talk to today,” she prayed.

We wandered to a gathering spot where she often finds groups of young women but hesitated to sit down because the area was filled with mostly male students. Stacie paused for a moment before turning left. “I feel like we should go this way,” she announced.

A little ways down the street, she noticed a pair of girls sitting on a low stone wall. “Let’s join them,” she suggested. We sat down, paused for a moment, and then Stacie leaned over and asked one of the girls whether there was a holiday the next day.

“Yes,” they replied. “But technically it’s today.” They continued discussing a few other Islamic holidays before Stacie asked their names. When the first girl introduced herself as Sarah, Stacie jumped in with the story of Abraham’s wife, throwing out her first hook: “Do you know that God chose to bless the world through Abraham and Sarah?”

The girls didn’t ask what the blessing was, but Stacie continued talking. Eventually, the conversation turned towards families, and Stacie mentioned that one of her brothers was named after another prophet in the Bible. “I love to study the prophets,” she added.

“Are you a Christian?” the university girls asked.

Because of cultural assumptions about the word Christian, Stacie didn’t answer directly but talked about the kingdom of God and what it means to follow God and be accepted by Him.

“You know, we’ve never seen a Bible before in all our lives,” the girls told Stacie. “What does it look like? Do you perform any rituals before you read it?”

“No,” she said. “We usually just pray that God would speak to us through it and change our lives through it.”

“I would love to read a Bible,” one of the girls announced.

“We could read together,” Stacie suggested.

In fact, the young women wanted to meet that same evening. Since Stacie had other plans, she agreed on a time for the following week. Before we left, Stacie brought up the topic of love, asking the girls if they had any romantic interests, and texting one of them a few verses from 1 Corinthians 13.

“That’s very beautiful,” the girl wrote back.

As we left the university campus I asked Stacie if all the girls she meets on her fishing trips were as open to God’s Word as the two we encountered that afternoon. “Not all of them,” she said. “They always listen, but not everyone pursues the offer to read.”

Later I wondered about the most life-giving part of Stacie’s tasks on the field. “Fishing,” she answered immediately. “Going out and meeting new people and just really getting to share Jesus to people, like today, who say, ‘I have never in my life seen a Bible.’

“God used me in a situation where these girls had never in their lives heard about who Jesus is, who had never in their lives seen a Bible. That is just amazing that I get to be part of that.”

The market

The second time I went fishing that week, Marie and I took a taxi to a nearby market, also accompanied by her foreign friend Jen*. As we walked inside, Marie prayed out loud, again asking God to direct us to the girls He wanted us to encounter. First, we browsed around the baby clothes section of one shop, usually a natural gathering spot for women. However, no one seemed overly eager to talk to us.

“Normally you have the girls working there just swarming around you,” noted Marie.

After a few minutes, we left, heading down to another section of the market. A store’s shoe sale caught our attention. We were examining the prices for a couple of pairs of discounted boots when suddenly a girl greeted Marie. It turned out the girl worked at the shop. The two had met the week before on Marie’s previous fishing trip.

Although the point of fishing is to meet new people, the shopkeeper engaged Marie as we walked around her store. She told Marie that her older sister was getting married the coming weekend and would be leaving the country with her new husband. Marie sympathised with the girl, recounting her own experience leaving home—and her family—the prior year to move to the Near East.

“God is with us, in the good times and bad times,” Marie encouraged her.

Like a magnet, the girl stuck with us as we checked out the clothes in the store. In the end, Jen made the only purchase: a midnight-blue scarf scattered with white polka dots. When Jen returned from the checkout counter, bag in hand, the shop girl told us she’d enjoyed our brief encounter.

“I’m really happy to meet you,” she said, turning to me. “You have a pure heart.”

“I know fishing is to meet new girls,” Marie admitted as we headed home, “but I got to share a lot more today.” Because fishing comes less naturally for Marie than for Stacie, the weekly trips are more an act of obedience than an enjoyable outing.

Still, both Stacie and Marie continue to cast a wide net in their city, acting out Jesus’ call to Peter in Matthew 4:18: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (ESV).

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