This began as a reflection on the lakeside of Bujumbura last summer when as a group we watched 2 traditional dug out canoes cast out a huge net between them on Lake Tanganyika. We watched them carefully and slowly draw the net in towards the shore. It took them a long while. Very slowly it all came together at one spot and in this vast net there was almost nothing. All that work; all that care; all that hope; and nothing. The disappointment for them was palpable I think we all felt it. We knew they would start over again and try once more. This after all was their living. Inevitably conversation also reflected on the similarities with what it must have been like for Peter & Andrew, James & John as fishermen in the time of Jesus. This helped bring those ancient stories alive.
But this is a fresh write; I never quite published these thoughts last year. But in the middle of the night on Lake Kivu it all came back. I was up to respond to nature’s call and in the dark make my way to the ‘long drop’ (smartly built at Kumbya but still a long drop). I could hear voices coming from off the lake. Here in the dark of the night there were men ( and probably boys) out fishing. The moon was out so they had some light. I couldn’t see them because of the trees but there talk was clear. It is a hard life making a simple living this way. Paddling the canoes which can easily tip; out in the dark perhaps being successful but sometimes probably not. On successful nights no doubt joy at what the money could do for the family, hopefully not to be squandered on drink (sometimes it is).
Then sat eating wonderfully flavourful Makeke fish at Nyanza Lac I could see a string of lights spread out across Lake Tanganyika? On the drive down this beautiful lake we had seen fishermen preparing to go out for the night, and then watched as the boats began to leave. A very few have a motor, most paddle their way out together. Taking a couple of hours to reach the favoured fishing spot and setting the lights to attract the fish to them.
In the early morning I watched them return. It may or may not have been successful; either way it was a long night’s work, and hard.
Lakes Kivu and Tanganyika were both calm but I thought of Jesus’ disciples on a boat at night storm tossed (the night before at Kumbya we had a storm). Making a basic living from the land, and from simple fishing is still the reality for millions and millions of the world’s poorest people. Times have changed enormously; and yet have changed very little. Incidents here throw light on the Bible stories. The Bible throws light on our world today. We do well to try and heed both.

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