There’s an exodus going on right now among some folks in southeastern Wisconsin.
It’s the annual exodus of fishermen and fisherwomen, who reserve their cabins in northwestern Ontario for a week or two of fishing bliss.
Spend a few minutes talking with these folks who are looking to land some lunkers, and you might just find that many of them were lured into fishing the many lakes along the English River chain, by talk of catching walleye16 inches or bigger, of trophy northern and trout that would really put up a fight.
And it wouldn’t be a surprise to find that one of the experienced fishermen spinning those tales, was my Dad. Since the tender age of 16, Dad had been making his way to the tiny community of Ignace. It was just a blip on the Trans-Canada Highway, but it was mecca when it came to hauling in fish from lakes large and small.
Did was a fishing evangelist. He would tell anyone who would listen about the thrill of fishing in the Ontario wilderness. Portaging through greasy mud holes, lugging outboard motors, gas tanks, tackle boxes and rods was made to sound like a walk in the park. He was so encouraging—so eager to guide people around the lakes—so determined to make sure people caught plenty of fish, so persuasive in his story telling, that non-fishing people were converted into fishermen and women.
He would sing the praises of the camp host. He would make the little log cabin cottages that featured only cold running water, wood stoves, no shower and rummage sale furniture, dishes and kettles, sound like the Taj Mahal.
He spoke of great fishing, precious quality family time, and fun upon fun upon fun. Fishermen and women, who just happened to know how to play instruments, would bring them along. They formed a make-shift band they dubbed the Berglund Buccaneers. There were at least two accordions, a drummer with a complete drum set, a banjo player, a pianist, two saxophone players and my Dad, who would play the bass fiddle—made out of a metal garbage can, some scrap lumber, and twine. The Buccaneers would play polkas and waltzes, shoddishes, and bunny hops until the wee hours of the morning.
People trekked up to the Great White North in great numbers. It wasn’t unusual to have every cabin in the camp filled with people from Washington County. And they fished and they danced and played cards and swam in the lakes and ate fish for shore lunch and for supper.
As tykes and grandparents all grew older, the tradition of going to Canada continued. Cousins invited friends, parents invited co-workers, grandchildren indoctrinated their spouses and then their own children, to love the sport and the place. So, the tradition of going fishing in Canada continues on, even though many of the elders have gone home to God. In my family alone, the fifth generation of fishermen and women are probably out on a lake right now, fishing and laughing and having the time of their life—no matter how many fish they’ve pulled in the boat.
When I think about my Dad and his passion for fishing and his desire to share that passion, I often wonder if there might be a way to transfer that kind of exuberance to the way we talk about Christ and Christ’s church. What would prompt any person to speak so persuasively, and invest so heavily in sharing incredible stories of God and Jesus? Might we relay stories of how we’ve experienced the presence and love of Christ in our lives or in the midst of the community of Faith—and relay them in such a way, that people want to experience the same in their own lives? How might our desire to pass along the joy and the love of the Savior, become a driving force in our lives? Would we be willing to fan the flames of faith in others so they might become equally passionate about following Christ? What can we say or do, that would result in a joy-filled, committed faith being passed along to the third, fourth, fifth generations in our families?
They’re questions I’m going to continue to ponder. I hope you will, too.