A few years ago I was reading John 21:11 and was struck by the precise reference to 153 fish which Jesus caught. Why would it be necessary to record such a specific number in scripture? That random number perplexed me then, and to this day. On a recent missions trip to Serbia and Hungary, however, “153” resurfaced again.
European Initiative had just concluded its last outreach trip of 2013. It was a remarkable 9 days of ministry with a dynamic team of 20 students and staff from the Charis Bible College in Colorado Springs. The American team tirelessly served from morning to night in Serbia and Hungary. They taught and encouraged European believers in 8 different churches; they went the distance, proclaiming the gospel throughout both nations while reaching the multitudes in villages, urban transportation hubs and even public schools. Relentless love!
On our last night together, we paused over dinner to thank Jesus for what had been accomplished over the previous 9 days. Caitlyn, one of the students, had some very stunning news to share. She had been keeping track of every decision made for Christ throughout the trip. With much excitement she announced that 152 Hungarians and Serbs had accepted Jesus as their Savior! Quickly, however, another student mentioned a new salvation he had forgotten to communicate – the final total was now 153! There it was! That random number – 153! I took a moment, lifted my eyes to heaven and quietly smiled with God.
In addition to the 153 who made decisions for Christ, the ministry of the Charis students impacted thousands of other Europeans. Countless names were exchanged for continued communication through Facebook and emails. Friendships were forged that will endure beyond geographic borders. Even now, discipleship with those who made decisions for Christ and reaching out to those who are not yet believers carries on through social media.
After a short time of rejoicing for the 153 salvations, I asked each member of the team to share a personal reflection about his/her ministry with European Initiative. What was said touched all of us very deeply. It is one of my greatest joys to be part of seeing both Americans and Europeans transformed by an EI missions trip. Several spoke with tears in their eyes about the trip being a life-changing experience.
In a small way, I may be beginning to understand the significance of “153”. The God of the universe is all about the “ones”. EVERY life is important to God. EVERY individual counts. There are 153 “ones” which make up 153! The Son of God came for each one of us.