I grew up in Minnesota, the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” where fishing is simply ordinary. Every kid (at least in my generation) learned how to use a long pole and then a rod and reel to catch fish. One of my favorite memories was when my farmer father declared that the spring rain made it impossible to do field work so “let’s go fishing!” I would dig worms, put them in a tin can, and our entire family would head to a lake—often only a few miles away from our farm. The fish we caught, often bullheads, were then cleaned, fried and became the main dish at dinner time. Going fishing was both exciting—and a lesson in patience. Sitting on the lake’s edge and waiting to see whether the bobbin would signal a catch, was not easy for a youngster. Catching fish was the reward! Going home without a catch on my fishing pole was a huge disappointment. Yet, every time I went fishing, I was excited and hopeful.
There is a fishing story in the Bible: Luke 5:1-11. Jesus, the teacher, uses the boat belonging to Simon to get a bit of distance from the crowds eager to learn from Jesus. However, the lesson for the day seemed to be for Simon and his fellow fishermen. Jesus says, “Go fishing.” Simon complains, “We haven’t caught a thing and we’ve been at it all night long. What’s the use?”
I hear echoes of despair in the voice of competent fishermen who made a living with enough fish to sell and eat. I hear echoes of exhaustion from working hard (all night!) and still no fish. These guys knew a thing or two about water, about nets, about patience, about boats, about hard work. This time, there was no catch.
Today, in our modern world, we have competent, trained professionals at Prairie View who “go fishing” every day. Whether a clinician, staff, or Board of Directors, each one is “fishing” every day. They are applying their skills, talents, and experience to provide a listening ear, a licensed organization, a non-profit center which exists with a Christian foundation and a Jesus mission. These individuals work hard, repeat proven techniques, prescribe helpful medicines, and work tirelessly for healing. They are rewarded when there is a “catch”—a new perspective, a successful intervention, an appropriate behavioral change, a new funding source, or a new hire who fits perfectly with a job opening.
I also hear exhaustion, disappointment, and stress from those who serve (“fish”) at Prairie View. More regulations; mechanical failures of aging equipment; grants not funded; loss of staff due to re-location or another job with more benefits, and on and on.
The message of Jesus (according to this Luke text) is “Keep on fishing.” There are more people to heal, more folks who need your skills, more innovative policies and laws that bring hope to those who suffer mental illness. The message is clear, “If you don’t fish, you’ll never catch anything.” As servants of a Jesus who teaches and models caring, compassion, and love, we must not give up after a long night of fishing.
I, for one, am grateful for Prairie View and its fishing philosophy. I know that someone will be “caught” with hope because of Prairie View. Thanks be to God.
Rev. Dorothy Nickel Friesen is a retired Mennonite pastor and denominational minister. She served on the Prairie View Board of Directors and lives in Newton, KS.