A small flame

A small flame

A Perspective on Service & Failure

I loved this account from missionary Helen Roseveare of an experience she had as she was preparing to go as a missionary to Congo. I cannot think of a better lesson to learn or a more important thing to be reminded of!

I was told to go and wash the cement floor of the toilets and bathroom on the women candidate's floor. I found a bucket and a brush, and set to...I scrubbed out the first toilet and started on the second. A candidate entered the first with muddy shoes. The floor was still wet. When she left, I returned and did the first again. Meanwhile, someone else entered the second. This continued for some little time with a rising sense of frustration. I'd never get them clean! I'd fail, my very first day in training, to achieve the task I was set. Tears pricked at my eyes. I scrubbed on, muttering, 'Devil, get out of here! Devil, get out of here!'

Someone came in, and standing still a moment watching me, heard my muttered comments. She laughed and startled me. 'Now I understand why our cakes are all burnt today!' she exclaimed. 'We're in the kitchen underneath, and you're sending the devil down to us!' She left amused. But there was another quiet spectator, Elizabeth, who was in charge of the candidates and who had given me this task. After a short pause, she gently asked me why I was so upset. I explained the cause of my frustration. 'For whom are you scrubbing this floor?' she replied. 'Why for you, of course; you sent me here.' I've never forgotten her answer. 'No, my dear. If you are doing it for me, you may as well go home. You'll never satisfy me. You're doing it for the Lord, and He saw the first time you cleaned it. That now is tomorrow's dirt.'

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