January 5, 2016

Casting our net

Written by  Tim Groff
Fishermen in Belize. Fishermen in Belize. Photo by Dale D. Gehman.

This article appears in the January/February 2016 issue of Missionary Messenger; sign up to read more articles like this one.

A crew of chilly, wet men are gathered at the prow of their crowded fishing boat in the predawn dark when an almost ghostly voice floats out to them through the fog. A voice from the shore. A voice they recognize. "Would you dare? Would you dare to risk it all again?" The voice urges them to cast their nets on the other side.

Fruitful waiting

Like the disciples on the edge of the sea (in John 21:4-7), Julie and I feel like we've been working hard all night long. And we don't see the fruit of our labor yet. It's still dark. Maybe it's foggy.

But, like the disciples, our ambition has put us at the right place at the right time: to meet with Jesus.

So, we throw our nets on the other side like Jesus' disciples did in the Gospel of John.

Breakfast on the beach

As I struggle with my own fundraising efforts, I'm intrigued that this story isn't about Jesus' awesome provision (though I really wish it was). It is about Jesus meeting His friends at a time of need. It's about Peter jumping into the cold water with his clothes on. It's about the toasted fish that Jesus has already prepared for His friends on the beach. And it's about: "Do you love Me?"

Julie and I, and our boys TJ, Simeon, and Gabriel, have sold our house and most of our belongings, quit our jobs, finished mission training with EMM, and are literally "ready to go."

Except for the funding.

Our nets feel loose; the lines slack. With somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of our funding raised, it doesn't feel close enough to be called miraculous yet.

We hear the call through the fog: "Cast your nets on the other side." We know Jesus has prepared a tasty breakfast for us on the beach. We're listening as He calls us deeper: "Do you love Me?"

Taking risks

This summer our family took a big risk. We needed to get out of our jobs and out from under our home's mortgage in order to focus more time on our mission. Our mentors at EMM cautioned us that it would be a serious risk. But we prayed, counted the costs, and set our plan in motion.

We moved out of our home in Iowa in June, visited family in Pennsylvania and attended EMM training in July, and swang into full fundraising mode in August.

We've been risk-takers before, as our pastor Aaron Fleming from New Life Community Church in Wellman, Iowa, pointed out. He reminded us that in 2004, after a one-year GO! assignment through EMM, we chose to join him in his church planting efforts despite opportunities in Mexico and a job offer in Sarasota, Florida.

Hearing the quiet voice calling to us, we followed Jesus to small-town Iowa.

The ask

"I would never want do what you're doing," said my friend.

I was mildly amused at his consternation. This was my passion. This was exactly what I wanted to do.

We were sitting at the local diner in Wellman and I was doing my "ask." I'd just shared our vision for joining the Garifuna people in Belize and my buddy was looking at our budget.

"We're looking for partners. Would you consider joining us with a monthly pledge?"

Time has passed and sharing my vision is just as much fun as it ever was. Getting to the "ask," however, can be a challenge.

What will they say? What will they think? Do I really have what it takes?

It’s a challenge few are willing to risk. Since that first time in the diner, I’ve heard the same sentiment dozens of times: “I would never want to do what you’re doing.”

Making the call

You sit in your quiet spot and punch a number into your cell phone.

Making a phone call to old acquaintances, family, and friends can be rewarding. But it also takes a toll.

The phone is ringing and you start to think: What will I say? What will they say? What right do I have to ask them for any money?

"Hello, thank you for calling the Yoder residence." It's the answering machine.

Do I leave a message? Call back later or call back another day?

The most helpful thing I’ve learned is to listen for Jesus’ quiet voice.

We've found comfort in the story of Jesus and His disciples on the beach early on that one morning long, long ago.

“Cast your nets on the other side.”

John 21

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

We know the sound of our Master’s call. He’s faithfully led us through thick and thin, doubt, halting steps, and heedless plunge. He is faithful. 

Tim and Julie Groff and their three sons are planning to serve among the Garifuna people in Belize. If you are interested in supporting their work, please contact Kaylene Derksen.

This article appears in the January/February 2016 issue of Missionary Messenger; sign up to read more articles like this one.