Monday, August 4, 2014

Choosing to Live as "Dust Pans"

In the early 1900s, an American missionary named Raymond Bush went to South Africa to spread the gospel to the natives.  While there, he took a young African boy named Tisese under his wing, allowing the boy to leave his village and come to live at the mission station with him and his wife.  There, the boy learned to love Jesus and God's Word.  

At one point after hearing of Saul's conversion to become Paul, Tisese said, "'Now that I am a Christian, my name shall be 'Dust Pan' forever!'"  When Raymond asked why he had chosen the name, Tisese replied, "I was just passing your house and saw your wife sweeping, with that tool called a dust pan in her hand. She carried all the dirt out of your hut with it. I want to be a dust pan, too, so that when I go home I may carry out the dirt from the lives of my father, my family, and all my friends. I want to be a Dust Pan for Jesus!" 

And a "dust pan" he would be.  

When Raymond prepared another journey to the boy's village, Dust Pan insisted on going: "There is no time to lose! Even now my family could be dying without Jesus. My father could be killed in a tribal fight. My mother may be eaten by lions while working in the garden! My brothers and sisters may die and never hear of Jesus in time."

Reluctantly, Raymond relented, allowing the boy to accompany his caravan.  After several nights, the boy's feet were covered in blisters, but still, young Dust Pan refused to turn back.  Instead, he walked for days on bandaged feet until his blisters burst.  His feet bled with each step until, at last, he reached his home village. 

One year later, missionary Raymond returned to Dust Pan's village.  There, he found 364 new Christians all waiting to be baptized, including the boy's former-witch-doctor father, his mother, his three sisters, and his five brothers.  

The witness of one small boy had brought so much light to the dark heart of the African jungle.*


My children and I read this story over a week ago and still, it remains in my heart and mind what one little boy could accomplish for the kingdom of  God.  It makes me look at my young children differently, wondering what they could accomplish for Jesus, what I could accomplish for Him, if not weighed down with self doubt.

Even in my late thirties, I am still guilty of thinking myself too unknowledgeable, too insignificant to make a difference for Jesus.  But the apostle Paul cautioned against such a defeatist attitude, telling Timothy:

"Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching. Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you" (1 Tim. 4:12-16).

In other words, it isn't our physical age that determines our usefulness but rather our spiritual age. Maturity, in these verses, seems to come from three things: (1) being "absorbed" with the reading and teaching of the Word of God, (2) ensuring our daily conduct always reflects Christ, and (3) using our spiritual gifts.  

Although they seem independent qualities, the three are connected.  In order to properly teach Scripture, I'm going to need to be absorbed in reading/studying Scripture in my private time, which will naturally spill over into my speech and direct my conduct.  Another byproduct of being absorbed in Scripture is that I will be seeking to use my spiritual gifts to exhort and edify others.  My public life is merely a reflection of my private life with Christ.

The end result is that my "progress will be evident to all." 

As Christians, we simply must stop thinking in terms of "I can't" or "I don't know enough" and start seeking to use whatever spiritual gift God has endowed us with.  Then, just let God take care of the rest.

It is in this way that we can all be little Dust Pans for Jesus.  

*The story of Dust Pan can be found in Mildred A. Martin's book Missionary Stories with the Millers.  (pp. 153-159).

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