In Matthew 4, the Lord Jesus walked along the shore of Galilee. Two veteran fishermen heard His call, left their nets, and were promptly made fishers of men. The call was sudden and clear. The training would be long and arduous, but the Teacher would be the best of Masters.
They would have much to learn, and perhaps just as much to unlearn. The greatest lessons would involve close observation of the Lord Himself, and the hardest lessons would require the examination of their own hearts and ways. After all, it was not going to be their work, and the fish they would be involved in catching would not be their fish. Even stranger yet, they would see the transformation of fish into sheep, and of fishermen into shepherds. Where else on this globe could one have the joy of participating in something like that!
Over the past two years we have witnessed this transition right here in the Sonoran Desert of northwest Mexico. There have been many lessons, some sadness, a few trials, much rejoicing, and a good number of fish-to-sheep transformations. Just as Peter learned, the call to fishing is a lifetime call, and the feeding of sheep is a never-ending labor. Peter never stopped fishing, and Peter never forgot the need to feed. His heart undoubtedly rejoiced with every new fish, and his exhortation to desire, as a newborn, the unadulterated milk of the Word, was just a precursor to his closing exhortation and heart longing for all sheep to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2Peter 3:18).
Though San Luís Río Colorado (SLRC) is just a dry, dusty, desert city with a burgeoning dog population, it now boasts the presence of a few sheep. The fishing has not stopped, but the need to feed sheep has grown. The increasing SRLC population of approximately 180,000 has now been the recipient of two Seed Sower distributions. The first was at the commencement of the work two years ago, and the most recent effort involved about 80 believers with 70,000 Romans 5:8 gospel texts. During the last week of 2012, these texts, together with an invitation to nightly gospel meetings, were distributed to every home in SLRC. We also covered two other towns, one about 50 minutes southwest of SLRC, and the small, sister city of San Luis, Arizona, with its population of about 20,000 people.
The week-long distribution of texts led up to a very special day. On December 30, 2012, the believers in SLRC broke bread for the first time. The formation of the local assembly was the answer to the prayers of many dear saints from near and far away. While fish are caught in a great gospel net, sheep are drawn to the Good Shepherd. We have not counted all the fish in the net, for salvation’s count belongs to the Lord; however, we do care deeply for the 12 sheep in this new local assembly. Our needs are as varied as our faces and as numerous as our ages, and so we would value your prayers on our behalf.
The series of gospel meetings that began on January 1, 2013 was a very busy time. Over 900 posters were put up in the city, together with the texts and invitations. John Clingen came to help with the gospel meetings, and from the very first night we saw clear evidence of God at work. In due course we saw equally clear evidence of the enemy at work. As the strong man struggled to “keep his goods in peace,” he tried to distract the interested fish, attack the young sheep, and even hinder the fishermen-shepherds themselves. The strongman hates to lose his goods, but how wonderful to know that “greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world,” and against this great work the “gates of hell shall not prevail.”
The gospel effort received much interest. The attendance ranged from the mid 30s to over 70. Many fish swam by, and many swam away. And yet, night after night, we had the joy of casting the gospel net into an ever-changing audience of fish. We thank God for some that entered the net. The night before the first meeting, a very dear young girl, just 11 years of age, trusted Christ as her Savior. She is precious to us, and we pray for her preservation. Several women have indicated to us that they too have found peace and assurance of salvation. More than one man has told us of their conversion, and among them there is evidence of life. Beyond these, there are several others who are having dealings with God, searching the Scriptures, and striving to enter. Pray with us that they might pass from death to life.
At this time we are keenly aware of both the great need to keep fishing, and the tremendous importance of feeding sheep. As we fish we carefully guard our methods. While new fishing techniques abound, the results are dubious. As we have learned from the Master, so we seek to carry on, following in the steps of Jesus Christ, the great winner of souls.
As for the feeding of sheep, we learn that while sheep share many common characteristics, they differ in very practical ways. Close attention is required, and suitable food must be given. While our personal resources as under-shepherds are often meager and few, we cherish and nurture our own vital connection with the Good, Great, and Chief Shepherd of the flock. He meets every need. He gave His life for the sheep and they are, after all, His sheep. And we never forget that we are His sheep too, the sheep of His pasture! We belong to a fold from whence none can stray where pastures are always green, and we rejoice in the knowledge of Him “Who tends with sweet unwearied care the flock for which He bled.”