Chokka fishermen became the catch of the day when father and son Allan and Brad Verreynne swam out to their boat moored 500m off Hobie Beach, Port Elizabeth, and presented the Gospel to them.
Thirteen crew members responded and prayed the sinners prayer, says the chokka boat skipper, Gavin Ratcliffe, who described the offshore ministry to his crew as “a Godsend of note!”.
Allan who is an elder on staff at The Storehouse, New Covenant Church explains how he and Brad, who leads Oxygen Life Church, launched into their high seas adventure.
“Ever since I was found by Christ on 16th January 1964, God gave me a heart for evangelism, and the lost! I am particularly drawn to the so-called ‘marginalised’ of society – those who are often neglected, or rejected – the ‘forgotten people’
“Some time ago, I became friends with Gavin Ratcliffe, a no-nonsense, seasoned chokka boat skipper. We have formed a strong friendship in Christ
“On Tuesday (June 16,2015), a heavy South Westerly wind started blowing and Gavin told me that he was coming closer inshore, within the bay, opposite Hobie Beach, near our home. Being Youth Day, I joked that he should come for coffee and rusks, to get out of the inclement weather! He then joked back that I should bring it to him. Well, you don’t have to give me a challenge. I have always been RFA (“Ready For Anything”) on the mission field. I then called him on Wednesday morning and said that I would swim to have lunch with him. Game on!
“I phoned my son, Bradley, from Oxygen Life Church, and challenged him to join me. He made a couple of alterations to his schedule and joined me at the pre-arranged 12h30 for the wetsuit, cold water sea swim of 500m out to the boat. We got there with no problem, and were hauled onto the boat by a few bemused crewmen!
“We then joined Gavin in the wheel house, had coffee, and were then served with some excellent salad and delicious calamari. Heaven on earth man! Gourmet meal for sure – absolutely worth the trip!
“But, the best was yet to come…
“Gavin asked the crew to voluntarily gather at the back of the craft, for a brief time of ministry, explaining that we were ministers of the Gospel
“Brad and I acted as a team, in tandem, as we encouraged the men in their chosen vocation, reminding them that some of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen. We both homed in on their value as human beings before God in their chosen profession.
“I reminded them that ‘The ground at the foot of the cross is level’. No-one is greater than another as we stand before God. Brad declared that the power of Christ can break any sin or addiction. His word is true and dependable – we can always trust in God.
“I homed in on the making of choices, something that each of us needs to make. 1 John 5: 12 ‘He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.’
“Brad invited those who did not know Christ, but were convicted to do so at that moment, to pray with him, as an act of commitment before God. He prayed, confessing our sin before God, asking God’s forgiveness through what Jesus did on the cross for us. By faith we accepted Him, and asked the Holy Spirit to help us in a daily walk of righteousness before God. Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! Mission accomplished!
“I then closed off by praying for their Skipper (Gavin), the operating staff and crewmen, their families at home, and for protection on the sea, and provision from the sea.
We shook hands with all of them, said farewell, and Gavin took us another 100m closer to shore. We jumped overboard, and swam back to shore, where Elaine was waiting for us. I cannot think of a greater blessing for me to have been on this first-ever mission adventure of this nature, with my son! (All because of my wife, Elaine’s intervention!) Priceless!
I had a quick shower, and roared off to the Storehouse to collect Bibles and follow-up materials for the 13 men that responded. I then met them at the diesel refueling station in the harbour, to give them their Bibles and ‘Every Home For Christ’ booklets. Who said that an evangelist’s life is boring!?”
Reflecting on the day, skipper, Gavin Ratciffe says: “Allan and Brad spoke of how close we are to God’s great works,the huge ocean, the strong winds, etc. The calm days, the beautiful sunsets and sunrises; how lucky we are that we see this on a daily basis,compared to office-bound people. And how Jesus loved boats and spent time with Peter and John the fisherman.
“The crew said Allan and Brad are very powerful for God. They were very happy and you could see they felt the love. And they are very proud of their new Bibles and all say ‘Thank you’.”