Fishers of men

Working and living in fishing communities on Lake Tanganyika in Southern Africa, OM workers disciple locals in the ways of Christ.

In many ancient cultures, sacrifices were made to gods for prosperity and safety. Such is still the case amongst the tribes living around Lake Tanganyika, the world´s longest freshwater lake, surrounded by Tanzania, Zambia, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Lines of villages of with populations of 500 to 2,000 people sit on the lake’s shore, and life revolves around fishing, as there is little farming and no markets for trading other goods.

Men fish at night with huge nets in teams of 15 or 20 in large wooden-planked boats. Status amongst the men is determined by how many wives, children and fishing boats they have. Unfortunately, men value all three as possessions and do not place value on being a good husband, father or provider.

A lie that influences the fishermen’s mind-set includes the belief that they should sacrifice their own children to be able to catch more fish. OM recognises that local people need to know that God’s Son died for them and their children to give them eternal life, and that they can live life to the full, with His provision.

Becoming fishers of men

Members of OM Lake Tanganyika have been working in six villages over the past eight years, living within the fishing villages as members of the community.

Over time, the villagers have become attracted by the loving way they see the workers interact with each other as spouses and families, and the way they interact with their neighbours. These workers know that it is through relationship, discipleship and the modelling of a life lived according to biblical principles of loving God and one another that a village can change. 

A key strategy for supporting the missionaries living in these villages involves an ongoing training of the disciples, called “Fishers of Men”, which is what Jesus promised His followers would be. In a culture full of lies, this practical programme is based on the truth of who is Jesus. 

In December, a Fishers of Men training was held with 13 attendees – two from Burundi, three from DRC and eight from Zambia. Some are fishermen from lakeshore villages and others are missionaries or future missionaries preparing to work within the fishing villages.

This was the first training of this length and intensity and was possible because of funds made available for the necessary food, accommodation and fuel for travelling by boat on the lake.

The trainees spent two weeks at OM Lake Tanganyika’s base discussing how to help the fishermen understand that they don’t need to trust in rituals and sacrifices, but instead learn to acknowledge and follow Jesus, the Provider and One who gave His disciples a “miraculous catch” and walked on water.

Another focus of the training is teaching the fishermen to be fathers and husbands according to God’s ways. Strategies include building relationships, not only with the fishermen but also with village headmen and other leadership. 

After the training at the base, the trainees went on an outreach to Kapembwa village, one of the larger villages between the Mpulungu base and the DRC border. Kapembwa is known to be a dark place spiritually and is where many of the rituals associated with fishing are performed. Currently, about five witch doctors live in the village.

Being in Kapembwa gave the trainees an opportunity to testify to fishermen who have no access to the Gospel. They also conducted training with the leaders of the church plant in Kapembwa village. These leaders are able to now continue teaching and discipling the fishermen who live or camp in Kapembwa.

OM workers reported that an immediate result of the outreach was both physical healing and spiritual deliverance for many in the village. The local leadership of the village also began to understand the power of truth. The headman of the village testified that they need God much more than before.

Making disciples

One trainee of the programme, Robert, was a pastor at a church in the DRC. He confessed that being a pastor was just a job for him and resigned from the position so that, as a church member, he could focus more on making disciples amongst the fishermen.

Another Congolese trainee, David, has also started doing Bible studies with fishermen and with Congolese soldiers who otherwise have no access to the Gospel. He has authority and influence even to lead military commanders in studying the Word of God.

Other trainees are starting Bible studies with children ages 10-15 in various villages along the lake. These young people will impact their own parents and communities, as well. One of the Zambian trainees has started a prayer house in Musende village, where fishermen can go and pray before they fish. One leader of a large fishing boat went to the founder of this prayer house to surrender his witchcraft charms for catching fish, and he is now praying to God for provision. 

The training in December 2013 of these fishers of men was the beginning of a number of trainings that will continue throughout 2014. In February, a similar training took place in Tongwa village, Zambia. 

Please pray for these fishermen, now fishers of men, as Jesus’ disciples, who are learning to be sons of the Most High, fathers and husbands. Pray they would learn to receive His provision by His own sacrifice. Pray they would share His love and blessing with their neighbours in all corners of Lake Tanganyika. And pray for the million people living along its shores in four nations, waiting to be caught by Jesus’ nets of love and light. 


By OM International