Discipleship in an Outrigger

There is something about the sea that is entirely captivating. Something so mysterious in the cadence of the waves, the sheer volume of its depths, and the power it holds. And yet there is a force much greater that is drawing us—the power, and mystery, and majesty of a most gracious God for a lost human race. This is what Jesus came to show, this is what it’s all about.


As I was thinking about the Sea of Galilee and the many trips the disciples took across it, I began thinking about what it means to be a disciple today and I was reminded of an illustration in my life.


A few years ago I was living in Hawaii and I heard about an outrigger canoe paddling team that met at a nearby beach. It sounded fun and since I’m always looking for new experiences, I thought I’d see how I could get involved. It turns out a new season was about to begin and even with no experience, they said it would be no problem for me to join.


Everyday we worked on technique: reaching, twisting, and pulling to get the best momentum with the least strain. Once we had gotten a handle on the paddles, strokes, rhythm, and basic Hawaiian words used in training, we put out to sea.


We learned how to carry the 400 pound canoes properly, how to time the entrance into the water with the waves and after swimming it out a ways, how to get in without tipping the canoe over, or injuring ourselves.


Each canoe held six people and for our first few days of training on the open water, we worked with two canoes lashed together and twelve of us working in unison. When we had gotten the hang of that, the canoes were separated and an outrigger was attached—a long flotation beam that extended on one side to stabilize the narrow canoe.


There were several guys who would volunteer to coach us each night. One of them was constantly pushing me to give more. Out of all the people training, it was me he was always telling to sit straighter, lean further, dig deeper. It was me he would paddle next to and yell for me to give it more. Keoki soon became my favorite coach and I felt privileged to have someone who believed in me and forced me to see it as well—no matter how hard he made me work.


To build up our endurance, we would rotate solo paddling for a distance, first one seat, then two, then three. When we returned to working as a team it felt effortless. As everyone pulled together, we felt a surge of energy and exhilaration. And weary as we were, our spirits rose as we saw the torches on the beach flickering in the growing dusk.


Upon reaching shore, we hauled the heavy canoes out of the water. Other teams greeted us and lifted our burden from us. We fell on our knees, thankful that we were not alone.


After we hosed off the salty canoes and debriefed with the coaches, we formed a circle. We put our hands on those closest to us and chanted a phrase of encouragement. “Imua ikaika, imua ikaika, imua imua imua” we shouted together. “Be strong, go forward and grow.”


This experience taught me a lot about discipleship, here are a few observations: 1. We also have a coach that knows our potential, who has gone before us and will be a voice behind us guiding our path. 2. Experience is not a requirement—anyone can join. 3. It started with twelve, it comes down to one, but we will always have the support of others to help encourage us, pace us, and ease our burden.


2 Peter 3:18 says: “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever.” Discipleship is a journey –a journey of growing in knowledge, grace, and love, and having that love spill over to bless others. John 13:35 says: “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

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