While we were in Alaska this last summer, I decided that I was ready to start having aquariums again. I had taken about a 15 year break after having aquariums for most of my life. After thinking about it for quite a long time, I decided that I wanted to go back to where I had started as a kid. That was raising guppies (Poecilia reticulata). This was even before Fancy Guppies were easily available. As I researched guppies, I kept coming across Endlers (also known as Endler’s Guppies, or Endler’s Livebearers, Poecilia wingei). Endlers remind me a lot of the guppies that I started with, and eventually I decided that I wanted to buy some Endlers.

Part of what intrigues me about raising Endlers is that their natural habitat in Venezuela is being challenged. There is a chance that some day they will no longer be able to be found in the wild. It is also very easy to raise hybrids by breeding them with Fancy Guppies. There is a real risk that some day the wild strains of Endlers will no longer exist. I have picked one of these strains, called Black Bar Endlers, to raise. I want to start a colony of Black Bar Endlers to help preserve the strain.

After all of these years, I still own the 29 gallon aquarium that I bought as a kid. I have to admit that it looks a little bit rugged now! Instead of buying a stand for the aquarium, my Dad built a stand for me. I was planning on using my childhood aquarium until I found that I could buy a new one on sale for $29. I decided that it was time to upgrade! The new aquarium looks good on my Dad’s aquarium stand. A lot of packages were coming to our house as I ordered new equipment to go with my aquarium. One of the most exciting to me were the new LED lights that I bought.

I put in a lot of research to make sure that I was ready for my Endlers. Although they can live in a lot of different conditions, they prefer the PH of their water to be around 8. They like the water to be on the warmer side. I have my heater set at 77 degrees for them. It was interesting to discover that if the temperature is warmer, it is likely that more of the future babies will be male. If it is cooler, more of the babies will be females. At 77 degrees, it should be about 50/50 for males and females. Endlers also prefer a heavily planted aquarium, which provides a lot of hiding places for the babies. I made sure to let my aquarium run for a few weeks before ordering my Endlers and some new plants.

There was some fretting as we waited for my Endlers to arrive from San Francicso. There was also a lot of waiting. Our door bell doesn’t work, so we tried to stay to the front of the house where we could hear the mailman when he arrived. The first day they were scheduled to arrive they didn’t show up. Finally on the 2nd day they arrived around 6:00 PM. From the beginning I enjoyed watching my Endlers swimming in my aquarium.

That first evening included some drama. One of the male Endlers went missing. I searched several times and couldn’t find him. It was close to bed-time when I decided that I needed to look again. Fairly quickly I saw that he was stuck in the in-take tube for the power filter. I unplugged the filter, and he slowly swam away. I named him “Blue”. I didn’t see Blue again for 3 days. I thought that he had died, until the third day when I suddenly found him. Blue has ended up being a very shy fish. To prevent this from happening again, I ordered a sponge to put on the intake tube. It is ugly, but will keep my fish safer.

This is how much research, investment, and work that I have put in for just 9 little fish. I have been wondering about how much work are we putting into being ready to receive new Christians? Are we researching how to connect with different generations? How well do we know the issues? Are we preparing our church facilities to make new visitors more comfortable? Are we willing to use technology? As more mature Christians, are we willing to make sacrifices if it helps new people to establish a relationship with Jesus? Maybe leaving the best seats and parking spaces for others to make it easier on them? How about wearing name tags so that we can learn each other’s names? What are we doing to be ready to receive new visitors?

As an itinerant visitor, every week I visit different churches in the South District. I have been a bit surprised that in 7 months not a single church has asked me if I have seen any ways that they could improve how they welcome new guests. In every single case the answer would have been “yes”.

How zealous are we in reaching new people for Christ? It is tempting for us to focus on what makes us more comfortable. The real question, though, is “How far are we willing to go to connect one more person with Jesus Christ?” The answer to this question impacts what kind of church we are going to be.

I’m excited about helping to save a strain of fish. I’m more excited about introducing people to Jesus!

Your brother on the journey, Mark

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