One day a young missionary wife went to seek counsel from a veteran missionary woman that she respected greatly.
"I want to be a good missionary and I want to reach my neighbors, but I am struggling. I try to visit my neighbors and share the Gospel with them, but they will not even let me in the door. I haven't been able to give them a single tract. They all refuse them! How can I be a better missionary?"
The wise older lady stopped and thought for a moment. Then she walked away. The young missionary was left sitting on the sofa confused.
In a few moments, the older woman returned with a broom in hand. It was a traditional broom like the people of their country used.
"If you want to be the best missionary you can be, learn to use this broom properly."
With a quizzical look on her face the young lady took the broom in hand. How hard could it be? If this would make her a better missionary, she was determined to learn to use the broom. She thanked the older woman and traveled back home.
The young missionary set out immediately to her task. She began sweeping her house with the short broom. As she bent over to sweep, her back began to ache. She stood up many times to stretch her muscles and rub the sore spots. This was nothing like the broom she was used to using. She wanted to give up and use her own broom, but she persevered.
For an entire week she used the new broom. The more she used it, the stronger her back became.
That Saturday she went to visit her neighbors again. Once again, door after door was shut in her face. Tract after tract was refused. The young woman became discouraged. She returned to the home of the older missionary with the broom in hand.
"I did what you said and nothing changed. Here is your broom."
"I am sorry you are discouraged, but you have not completed the task. You have not learned to use the broom properly," replied the veteran.
"I used this broom and nothing else for the entire week. My floors are immaculate!"
"If you want to reach these people, you must learn to use this broom."
The young woman sighed, but took the broom in hand. She didn't understand, but her heart ached to reach the people. She returned home.
One day, the young woman was outside sweeping her patio with the short broom. Neighbor after neighbor passed by, stopped for several minutes to watch the young woman sweeping, and then moved on. As another neighbor, arms loaded with vegetables, stopped to stare, the woman stood and greeted the neighbor. The neighbor smiled shyly.
"You are using our broom," the neighbor said. Then the neighbor quickly walked away. That was the most any of her neighbors had said to her kindly.
That Saturday, the woman went to visit her neighbors. She had great expectations, but once again the doors were closed to her.
She returned home crying. That following Monday she took the broom back to the older missionary.
"It isn't working," she declared.
"You have not learned how to use it."
"But my house is spotless and even my patio area is perfectly cleaned. I don't think I could use this broom any better than I already have." The young missionary was exasperated.
"Please, take the broom again. You will know when you have truly learned to use it." The compassion in the veteran's voice and the love in her eyes compelled the young missionary to once again take the broom.
That week, the young woman again swept her house every day. She could now do it in half the time. Her back no longer hurt as she used the broom. Again, she swept her patio. Neighbors stared and smiled. She greeted them and they passed on quickly. She continued to sweep the patio, determined to learn to use the broom and unlock its hidden lesson.
As she was finishing her patio, she looked across the street to see her elderly widow neighbor sweeping her own patio. As she observed the grey haired woman, she saw the woman stop her work and quickly sit on the ground. The old woman closed her eyes and began to weep. Compassion welled up in the young missionary. She dropped her broom and walked to the widow's patio. She sat down beside her and began speaking gently.
"Is everything alright? What can I do to help you?" asked the young missionary.
"I am sorry. I do not mean to weep like this. But I am so tired. Since my husband died I am left alone. There is so much work to do, and today I do not feel well." The exhaustion dripped from every muscle of this poor widow.
"My work is almost done for the day and I have time. May I help you with your tasks today?" The young missionary reached her hand out and placed it on the widow's hand. The widow in return patted the top of the young woman's hand.
The missionary helped the woman to her feet and helped her sit on a makeshift seat on the patio. The missionary picked up the widow's broom and began sweeping the patio. She looked down at the short broom. As she swept, suddenly her heart was filled with joy. She smiled as a tear threatened to trickle down her cheek.
When the patio was done, the widow invited the young woman into her home for tea. The widow held open her door for the young woman to enter. They had a lovely afternoon talking. Before the young missionary left, the widow invited her to come visit again.
That week the young missionary returned the broom to the veteran for the final time.
"I finally learned how to use this broom," the young missionary reported with joy as she told of the events of the past few weeks.
The older missionary smiled. "Indeed, I think you now know how to use this broom. You had to learn to persevere even when it was difficult. Your back ached and you wanted to quit, but the more you used the broom the stronger you became.
"You also had to learn to value the people for who they are. We are different than them. We look different. We talk different. We are not here to make the people Americans like us. When they saw you were sweeping with their broom instead of your American broom, it planted seeds that you weren't trying to force your American culture on them. You are beginning to understand them as a people.
"And the most important lesson that you learned is that sometimes you have to use a broom before people will listen to your Bible. The love of Christ can often open doors that are closed. Let the people see Christ living and loving through you and then they will listen to you."
James 1:27 "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world."