In harmony with today's daily text discussion, I wanted to post the following experience (found on pgs 26-27 of the August 2006 Awake! issue)
It's a very touching story about a boy named Dustin, who was diagnosed with cancer at a very young age, and recounts his physical struggles along with his remarkable faith in the future resurrection hope.
A Child's Faith
Dustin began to sit in on some of his mother’s Bible studies with one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Although only 11 years of age, he was a deep thinker and posed many thoughtful questions. Soon he asked for his own Bible study with the former missionary who studied with his mother. He also began sharing what he was learning with his schoolmates.
Dustin started attending meetings at the local Kingdom Hall, even sharing in answering questions when audience participation was called for. When he and his younger siblings visited his father, the father insisted that they all attend church together. Dustin explained why he preferred to go to the Kingdom Hall. His father acquiesced and said that he would allow Dustin to go there.
One evening after attending a meeting at the Kingdom Hall, Dustin’s mother could not find him. Without telling her, he had approached the Theocratic Ministry School overseer and had asked about enrolling in the school. His mother agreed. Excitedly he looked forward to his first talk assignment. At the same time, however, he began to have severe pain in his hip, and he was thus taken to various doctors for examination. Finally, the big night for Dustin’s talk at the Kingdom Hall arrived. By then, he was using crutches. Although it was obvious that he was in pain, he walked without them to the platform.
Shortly afterward, Dustin was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. He spent most of the following year in the children’s hospital in San Diego, California. Chemotherapy, radiation, and ultimately the amputation of his right leg and pelvic bone never diminished his strong faith and his love for Jehovah. When he was too weak to read, his mother, who rarely left his side, read aloud to him.
Even though Dustin’s condition worsened, he never complained. He kept busy, moving around in his wheelchair encouraging other patients and their parents, including a Witness patient. The hospital staff could see that Dustin and that Witness youth were different—that their faith was sustaining them.
Dustin wanted to be baptized. So while he lay on a sofa, too weak to sit up, Christian elders considered with him the questions used for baptismal candidates of Jehovah’s Witnesses. On October 16, 2004, at 12 and a half years of age, Dustin was baptized at a circuit assembly.
As the baptism talk was about to begin, Dustin was wheeled down the aisle to take his place with the other baptism candidates. When asked to stand, Dustin stood up on his one leg, dressed in his best suit, holding on to the arm of the chair for support. He answered the baptismal questions in a loud and clear voice. All of Dustin’s family were in attendance, including his biological father and stepmother. Hospital personnel and parents of other cancer-stricken children from the hospital were present as well.
The day after Dustin’s baptism, he was readmitted to the hospital. The cancer had already spread to every bone in his body. As he grew weaker and sensed that he was dying, he asked his mother if this was the case. “Why do you ask?” she responded, “are you afraid to die?”
“No,” he said. “I’ll just close my eyes, and when I open them in the resurrection, it will seem like I just closed them a second ago. I won’t be in pain anymore.” Then he explained, “I’m just worried about my family.”
Dustin died the following month. His funeral service was attended by doctors, nurses, the families of hospital employees, teachers, neighbors and, of course, Dustin’s family—both those who were Jehovah’s Witnesses and those who were not. Dustin requested that all who attended his memorial service be given a good witness about his beliefs. The Theocratic Ministry School instructor, who had assigned him the only student talk he had been able to give, delivered a fine, faith-strengthening discourse to a standing-room-only crowd.
Two of Dustin’s favorite scriptures were printed out for those who attended his memorial—Matthew 24:14 and 2 Timothy 4:7...
“I have fought the fine fight, I have run the course to the finish, I have observed the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)
“And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14)
...His strong faith and integrity encouraged all who knew him. We look forward to welcoming him back in the resurrection.
—As told by the Witness who studied with Dustin.