Posted by: Melissa Bane Sevier | February 4, 2019

The gamble of fishing with Jesus

          There were two conversations consuming most of the people gathered for coffee before worship on a recent Sunday at Grace Church in Podunk.

          One conversation was about Roger Hughes, present and laughing along with the rest. A bunch of church guys, including Roger, had attended a fishing expo the day before in a nearby city. What happened at the end of that expo is the reason Roger is the brunt of their jokes.

  Roger is a single guy in his 40s. He lives alone in a small house, parts of which he built or repaired. Other than work, his main love is fishing. He has a nice little john boat and a collection of rods and lures. He tells people he specializes in bass fishing, but what he really likes to do is just go out and sit in the boat, throwing in a different kind of lure every few minutes, with different weights of sinkers and even different kinds of floats. Sometimes he uses live bait, sometimes even kitchen leftovers. He likes to change it up because, as he always says, “You just never know what you’ll get.” That’s the way he likes it.

  At the end of the fishing expo, door prizes were announced. Roger had won a prize. All the guys went with him to booth #104, assuming he’d won something boaty like a motor. It turned out that this particular booth displayed items for stocking your fishing cabin.

  Roger had won a stove.

  Everyone at church gave Roger a really hard time over his prize, because it’s well known that Roger doesn’t cook, except in the microwave.

  Actually, Roger does use his stove but chooses not to tell anyone. On really cold mornings he uses the oven to warm up his underwear. There was one unfortunate incident when he left the underwear in too long, but he’ll certainly never disclose that story. Thank goodness for smoke alarms.

          The other conversation at church was about Buddy and Leona Mason. This talk was made in whispers.

  Retired teachers, the Masons live in a big, old farm house. They’ve sold off most of the farm and their four grown kids want them to sell the house and move into a condo. Buddy and Leona miss having children around. They’ve been investigating becoming foster parents. Their kids are completely against it. “You never know what you’ll get!” they say. “Those kids come with problems.”

          The Masons have heard about a couple of brothers who need a home, and they’re considering it. They do have problems—both in school and in the current foster home (their third in two years). Their social worker friend thinks Leona and Buddy can help the boys settle into a new, secure life.

          The sermon that particular Sunday was about fishing for people, and how going fishing with Jesus produces unpredictable results. During the “joys and concerns” part of the service, Buddy announced that he and Leona had decided to take in two boys. Some in the congregation looked at them with concern, some with appreciation, some with both.

          And Roger suddenly knew what he was going to do with the new stove.

          When it’s delivered to the Mason home later in the week, Roger goes to set it up. Leona is so excited, because she hasn’t had a new stove in some thirty years. The boys have arrived, and Buddy mentions the house needs a little upgrading, like a shower in the boys’ bathroom. Roger begins spending one or two evenings a week over there helping Buddy and eating Leona’s cooking. Some days he calls early in the day to tell her he’ll bring pizza or chicken or Chinese takeout so she doesn’t have to cook. And he starts getting to know the boys, Roman and Jesse. They are twelve and eleven, and they are inseparable. They are still acting out, but they seem to be settling in at the farmhouse.

  One day Roger sees the boys eyeing the fishing poles in the back of his truck and asks them if they’d like to go fishing sometime. Their eyes light up, but they’re also a bit afraid. They’ve never been fishing before.

          When spring arrives, that’s exactly what they do. Every Saturday, if the boys have had a good week at school, Roger takes them fishing. They’ve not missed a single week, because their behavior has been steadily improving, largely because of the stability of their new situation.

          Whatever the church people thought in the beginning, they are now all about helping out with these two boys who are in church every Sunday, making friends, and, for the most part, happy.

  One day the pastor shows up at the Mason home to deliver some groceries from church. Roger Hughes is at the farmhouse, helping Buddy fix a leaky faucet. They invite the pastor to stay for dinner, and what she witnesses is amazing. Two rambunctious boys talking, laughing, fighting, learning manners. Buddy and Leona looking young. Roger more talkative than she has ever seen him.

          She sees fishing poles standing in the corner and asks the boys if they like to fish. This opens the floodgates of conversation. They talk about bait, what type of fish are in the river and local lakes. And they talk about how Roger tells them you can try just about any kind of bait and it’s okay. Because the best thing about fishing is that when you throw your line in the water, you just never know what you’ll get. “That’s the most exciting part!” says Jesse. “But it’s also a little scary.”

           “Ain’t it the truth,” she thinks as she looks around the table. Here sit five people who’ve been changed by taking risks, by dropping their lines (nets) in the water, and by waiting to see what happens. Their results have been crazy, unexpected, scary, and enlivening.

          Fishing. It’s a gamble.

© 2019, Melissa Bane Sevier


  1. What a lovely read to the start of a new day, a new week, new beginnings!

  2. What an excellent story! I’ve been a foster parent, and an adoptive parent. “You never know what you’re going to get”, but it sure does make all the difference!

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