Fellow Passengers: This week’s Primary Passage* (Luke 5:1-11) transports me to the patio of Sila Reyna’s home in La Vallita, Cuba. Sila is pastor of our partner church, Iglesia Bautista Rios de Agua Viva, Rivers of Living Water Baptist Church. Sila’s patio is often the place for neighborhood children to congregate and play games, show off their latest dance and acrobatic moves, or just hang out. On this particular trip some US kids joined the fun, as Ecclesia’s pastor, Steven, and his wife Michelle brought their two boys, Jeremiah, age 7, and Elijah, age 6. The language barrier was quickly broken with the Bible character edition of Go Fish!, or as the boys learned to say, Ir a Pesca! It was a beautiful scene as kids were just enjoying being kids across the great divide. Some of the older Cuban children took the initiative to help Jeremiah and Elijah with their cards, helping them make matches and connections, and I’m pretty sure the Cubans understood the gist of what the boys said at the end of the game, Thank you for helping us sort out our cards. It seems like such a simple and ordinary scene, but for me there’s magic in those kinds of exchanges. There’s something about the Cuba partnership that can’t be adequately explained without going there, so it’s always gratifying to take new families, so they can experience the magic for themselves.
Some Biblical characters had their own game of Ir a Pesca! going there on the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee at the onset of Jesus’ ministry. It seems like a simple and ordinary scene: a carpenter from the middle of nowhere climbs into a boat to do some teaching, while the fishermen wash out their nets. But there was magic in the air. Seemingly out of nowhere, Jesus gave an instruction that didn’t translate very well for Simon Peter. Go fish, he said, in the deep waters. Peter resisted; We’ve been working our tails off, and we’ve come up empty. But there was something about Jesus that caused him to do as instructed anyway. Lo and behold, once they got to those deep waters and cast their nets, the catch was so great that it took two boats to haul in, and those boats were sinking under the weight. Peter’s reaction is interesting, especially when read in a Spanish translation. The fisherman (pescador) fell at Jesus’ feet and confessed, I’m a sinner (pecador). Somehow, this episode from the deep waters brought to the surface for Peter the reality that he had been working hard his whole life, but with nothing to show for it. He had been missing the mark. His life had been empty, and suddenly here was an opportunity to find fulfillment. Being a pescador de hombres, a fisher of people, aka, a builder of authentic and life-giving and fulfilling community, was his new vocation. So he left his nets there at the shore and followed Jesus, inviting new people along the way to come and experience the magic.
There’s something about this simple story that helps me define my experience of going to Cuba year after year. In my ordinary routine here, I am well-acquainted with the feeling of hanging around the shoreline, in the shallows, washing out empty nets. The sinking feeling of fruitless labor often invades my spirit when I get caught up in the busi-ness of life and work here in our culture. Traveling to La Vallita is for me a response to the call to go fish, to launch out to the deep waters and cast my net. The outcome is always amazing beyond description; my net never fails to fill up to overflowing; there’s more fulfillment there than I can carry back by myself. It’s humbling, reminding me how easy it is to miss the mark (to sin) when isolated in my own little world of American culture. I am a pecador, but I also hear the call to be a pescador de hombres, a fisher of other people, a builder of community. So as I continue this Daily Passage work of matching up and connecting Biblical characters and stories to our life situations, I’m grateful for Pastor Sila and all my other friends there in La Vallita who are always able to help me sort out my cards.
How about you? Where does this Primary Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment, and share with friends on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, email, etc.