Fishing of men in North Africa with 21th century ‘nets’

Posted: April 22, 2014 in Articles

“Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.… (Matthew 4: 18-20)

The sun has set. Darkness falls over the Mediterranean Sea. Fish is being served on plates to us; six men grouped around two joined tables with a paper tablecloth. Next to me sits Labib (pseudonym) a modern version of Peter and Andrew, he is fishing in North Africa men and women ready to be caught in the nets of the Kingdom of God.

My visit to North Africa is meant to get a better insight of what the Lord is doing in this part of the world. Labib is one of the people God is using to go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.

In North Africa, one of the biggest fishing tools is satellite Television. “If I would go and preach the gospel on the streets one to one, I would reach a single person. On satellite television, I enter the living rooms and sleeping rooms of hundreds of thousands of people”, a programme-maker said earlier this day to me. I paid a visit to a studio where a team worked on new Christian Television programmes daily.

The work in the studio, the editing of the films and the follow-up work is supported by Open Doors.   “Many Christians watch Christian TV as it isn’t always possible for them to come to the church or the Bible study groups”, the coordinator of the work of Open Doors in this country explained earlier to me. “The programmes strengthen the believers.” One of the church leaders in North Africa agrees totally with this. “Sometimes we see people not coming to church. For example, women are kept like prisoners in their homes for being a Christian. With television, we can reach them and they continue to grow. I also know of several farmers – as they live far from the church, they can’t go to the service regularly, but they can watch the programmes on television.”

All these Christian programmes display a telephone number to the viewers that want to respond to the programme. “Just last month, I had more than 1,000 calls”, Labib shares. It wasn’t even the highest, the highest was 1,200 in a month. “We always have at least 700 calls a month.” Labib is the first contact of the programmes broadcasted in several North African countries.

“Sometimes it’s just a bleep, a sign that the caller wants me to call him back. Others call and are very straightforward: ‘I want to become a Christian, how do I do that?’ Last month I had 13 people like this. These callers already made their choice by watching the TV programmes.”

He has all kinds of callers. “Of course we have people who would criticize me, or even shout and curse me. Others want to discuss about the differences between another religion and the Christian faith. However, most of them really want to know more about the Bible, about Jesus. When I talk to them, I ask where they live and when I feel comfortable with the caller, I connect them with a follow-up worker from one of the churches in the country.”

When a woman calls, he connects her with one of the female follow-up workers. “Sometimes the people would ask for prayer. We prayed for married women who wanted to become pregnant. There were several cases of women becoming pregnant after receiving prayer. We had couples calling us when entering the maternity ward for delivery, saying that our prayer was heard. I once was called by a couple, that they had named their son after me.”

Sometimes the phone number turns out to be a life line. “One day a man phoned. He said he was going to end his life, he just wanted the call to say goodbye. He said that the rope was already prepared and he was about to hang himself. I ran to my pastor, who lives close to me while talking to the man and gave the phone to him. He talked for quite some time with the depressed man and convinced him out of committing suicide. The man is ok now, he is going to church.”

From all over North Africa, we hear encouraging statistics about people finding new life in Christ after watching Christian TV and being connected with a follow-up team. Recently, Mustapha Krim, president of the Protestant Church in Algeria said: “About 70 to 80 percent of the Christians in the Algerian protestant Churches came to church through Christian television.”

The fishing tools for the Kingdom of God have changed during the past decades. Nowadays, the Lord uses TV studios, television screens, computer screens and mobile phones to have the first contact and to enter into a person’s life.

After the meal, we had a walk along the seashore. Some ordinary fishermen sat on the stones with their rods trying to catch a sleepy fish while Labib is fishing with his mobile phone. I was impressed. Labib received, in the two hours I was with him, some ten phone calls. Two of the callers were brought into contact with a follow-up team from one of the churches close to the place where the interested person lives. “Sometimes, the phone rings so much that I don’t even have time to speak to my fiancée because I am too occupied speaking on my cell phone.” He continues with a big smile: “but she understands, she knows what I am doing and agrees fully with it.”

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