Posted by: capetownelder | May 7, 2012

Final Letter

Hello everyone! I am sitting here in Grahamstown at the internet cafe on last time as a set apart missionary. It’s a surreal feeling knowing the past two years, some of which will ever be the best for my life, has gone so quickly and shortly I’ll be thrust back into the deep, dark abyss known as “the real world”. πŸ™‚ My parents will fly out today and meet me in Cape Town in Wednesday. Knowing my mom, the whole city of Cape Town will know a mother is coming to pick up her son from a 2 year mission πŸ˜‰

I have loved every moment of my mission. Of course, there were certain moments of certain days I’d rather not repeat for sanity’s sake, I will miss every aspect of mission life. I heard a quote from President Boyd K. Packer that went something like: “You haven’t been called to serve a mission. You’ve been called to be the Savior’s companion in this great work.” His influence has definitely been undeniable as I have put my hand in His every step of the way (Hymn #270).

The first half of my mission I felt I was definitely tried the most spiritually and mentally. Learning and applying missionary skills, techinques and lingo all the while trying to adapt to spiritually minded behavior can be a challenge. I couldn’t have asked for better companions, areas, investigators or assignments to help me in that process, however. I feel my teaching and people skills blossomed as a result.

The second half of my mission definitely had emphasis on physical and emotional things. Remember the events that transpired from June 2011 onward? I waited nearly 3 months for my visa to Namibia all the while suffering from an aggresive infection, then once I got to Namibia I was hospitalized twice, the second time strapped to an IV for a week! Then, for my last two transfers, I was assigned to a new area with a new companion…on BIKES! If you had told me I was going to experience all of this before I left for the mission field, I would have been scared to death πŸ™‚ BUT, I can say that it has ALL been worth it. Not only have I learned wonderful, life changing lessons from all of it, but they make good stories, too! If I’m going to be serving a mission in Africa, I need good mission stories πŸ˜‰

My companions have been a blessing, yes, all 16 of them. They came from all over the world to touch my life: 7 from U.S.A, 3 from South Africa, 2 from Madagascar, 1 from Nigeria, 1 from Australia, 1 from Kenya and 1 from Wales.

Well, I best get going. Today is my last full day of full time missionary service. I’ll leave for East London Tuesday evening, stay the night with one of my companions, Elder Balmforth, then flight to Cape Town Wednesday morning.

This work is true. It always has been and always will be. But I understand it all the better because I have been blessed to be apart of it!

Love you all!
Elder Leach

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Posted by: capetownelder | April 23, 2012

“A Mind to Work” and A New Assignment!

Hello everyone! Yes, yes, I know. I only have two weeks. But who’s counting? πŸ˜‰ I haven’t started counting down yet, and I don’t plan on it. That’s just far too depressing and far too torturous, even at this stage.

What a week it has been! Wow, you could have made a pretty cool Hollywood movie with some of the things we saw. There’s never a dull moment in South Africa, especially in the Cape Town mission. It’s been full of enraged drunkards, discouraged investigators and dropped appointments. NOT the best line up considering how much time I have left!

A couple weeks ago I went through a mini depression thinking about all the people I’d leave behind when I go home. It’s like leaving home all over again. Family, friends, activities…all half a world away. That’s the hardest part about serving so far away…you can’t just come back whenever you want.

ANYWAY, enough of that. I like being in denial better πŸ™‚ I got a phone call from my former companion, Elder McDonald, who is now an assistant, that President Wood wants Elder Alexander and I to make a “Day in the Life of a Cape Town Missionary” orientation video to be used for all incoming missionaries in the future. It’s an exciting idea and I can’t wait to get started. I have noticed how the music and arts areas of high school have been put to good use out here! The video will be 25-30 minutes long and should be good quality, since it will be used for at least 2 years.

So what spiritual thought can I leave with you today? Let’s go to Nehemiah 4:6. Although seemingly random, this passage of scripture (discovered while I was in Namibia) has helped me look at the concept of work very differently.

“So built we the wall (of Jersualem); and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work.”

What a beautiful last phrase of that chapter. I have reflected on this scripture many times since: do I have a mind to work? Am I motivated to work out of a sincere desire to serve? It has been my desire to always have a “mind to work” whether physically, mentally or spiritually! Might I just add, I am so excited to start mowing the lawn again. I never thought I’d miss it so much!

I love you all. Have a great week! Remember to cultivate “a mind to work”, especially the work of the Lord.

Love,

Elder Leach

 

Posted by: capetownelder | April 16, 2012

Flat Tires, Big Hills

Hello everyone! Long time no talk. Sorry for the delay in letters. All of us Grahamstown elders (well, the 4 of us) went up to East London last week for P-day (Preparation day, a missionary’s weekly Christmas, for those who are unfamiliar with the lingo ;)) and e-mails were cut short.

While in East London, Elder Alexander and I stayed the night with Elder Balmforth (my first trainee) and his companion in anticipation for the next day’s zone conference, which would be my last. Elder Balmforth and I stayed up until nearly 2:00 AM (am I suppose to disclose that? Oops…) talking about old times, and how tragic our separation truly was back in December 2010. He has six months left, and then he too will end his mission.

Anyway, we had a wonderful time in East London. The subject President Wood spoke about was priesthood power and purity. He knows he has 112 or so 19-21 year old young men, so that’s a good subject to review every once in a while.

This week was a killer in some respects, although I thank the Lord for providing Elder Alexander and I with good health and safety. In the space of 24 hours we experienced three flat bike tires and ended up on foot for a total of 2 days. Now, if you’ve ever been to Grahamstown you’d know how sore ones feet would be after walking up and down those hills. Nonetheless, this is the Lord’s work and He always prepares a way to get His work done no matter the adversity that comes our way.

When the tires popped, I found myself smiling and laughing about it rather than swearing and kicking the useless piece of metal. Laughing about life’s inconveniences is a lot more fun than crying about them!

Now back to the zone conference in East London, it was so surreal to be standing with two other elders going home in the zone and having the rest of the elders sing the farewell mission song to us. When I bore my final testimony, I got a little choked up, especially since I prayed so hard and so long to serve here.

“I prayed to serve in Africa months before I received the call,” I recounted. “I figured if I prayed for those I’d be serving in Africa, Heavenly Father would have no choice but to send me there!”

How grateful I am for all that I have experienced here in this marvelous land, and the wonderful land of Namibia. But wait! What am I doing? I still have three weeks left. You won’t get a farewell out of me until my last P-day πŸ™‚

There’s so much I’d like to say, but so little time. Please just know, that I love my Father in Heaven, this work and those whom I’m serving. What a rewarding experiences this has been and will continue to be.

Love,

Elder Leach

Posted by: capetownelder | April 2, 2012

Heart and Mind

Hello everyone! It has been a wonderful week here in Grahamstown, although it is quite apparent winter is coming, and in a hurry. Now, I suppose temperature is all relative wherever one happens to be in the world, but since I’m coming on 2 years here in Southern Africa, hot and cold have taken on a new meaning.

80ΒΊ? Not hot. 115-120ΒΊ? Now that’s getting there.

60ΒΊ? Put on a jacket! It’s cold! 45ΒΊ? My toes are freezing off and I expect snowflakes to fall any moment. I imagine I’ll look very weird putting my jacket on in 60ΒΊ May weather in Washington. Anyway, enough about weather. 2 years has hardly quenched my desire to study and discuss the weather, so rest assured that aspect of my life hasn’t changed πŸ˜‰

This week many wonderful things happened that confirmed the faith I’ve been teaching and preaching these fast-paced 2 years. It is “holiday” time for all the college students in Grahamstown for the next two weeks, and since Grahamstown is considered a “college town”, that can prove difficult for us. So, we took advantage of this past week to see as many of our college student investigators as possible before they left for 2 weeks.

One of them, Asanda, has made such incredible progress. Things have clicked in her mind faster than most we’ve been teaching, and she’s had great member support. But when we asked her how she felt about the Book of Mormon, we weren’t expecting the answer she gave. She thought for a little while, allowing the Spirit to increase in the room which seemed to drown out the pattering rain outside.

“I feel…” she started. “I feel that the Book of Mormon is true. I know in my mind…and in my heart that what you’ve been teaching is true.” She said that last sentence with such humility and sincerity, that there was no denying she meant what she said.

The first thing that came to my mind was Doctrine and Covenants 8:2. We had only just introduced the Book of Mormon a week back and haven’t even discussed the D&C, but Elder Alexander and I felt it important to share this scripture with her. When she opened up to that passage from the Lord to Book of Mormon scribe Oliver Cowdery, she was amazed that she had basically quoted those words revealed nearly 200 years ago. This helped confirm her faith in her own testimony.

As Emma Smith, wife to Prophet Joseph Smith, said those many years ago, “There are some things you know with your heart that you don’t know with your head.” I’ve come to learn that is true. I also know, in my mind and in my heart, that these wonderful souls I’ve been sent to teach and prepare to accept the restored gospel have been placed in my path by my Father in Heaven. He has truly guided this mission of mine and for that I will be eternally grateful.

This work is true and I am honored every day to be apart of it.

I love you all! Stay well,

Love,

Elder Leach

 

Posted by: capetownelder | March 26, 2012

Sparks

Hello everyone! How’s it? When I first came here to South Africa, I’d ask myself, “How’s what?” It took some getting used to πŸ˜‰

Well this week was great. A little slower than the past few, but still great. I have been loving the bikes, since I spent most of my mission in a car, but one of the downfalls is we seem to need to go to the bike repair shop weekly, if not more. So by now they know us by name, and luckily they’re good at fixing things…such as a broken chain.

Elder Alexander and I finished our 6:00 pm appointment a little early, but we were in the “coloured area”, (remember, that IS politically correct to say here!), which is typically the most dangerous (and drunk) part of the town, and the sun is going down earlier these days, so we decided to make our way down the “mammoth hill” to a safer part of town before it got too late.

We peddled against the wind and eventually it turned into a race (this is a usual occurrence on the bikes). Before we could have too much fun, a car whizzed around a bend 50 feet ahead of us and flashed its brights as it increased in speed. Without apparent cause or reason, the old beater veered onto our side of the road and was coming straight for us. My initial reaction was to squeeze the brakes and stop peddling. The car continued to rumble and growl as it raced up the road we were going down and I must admit…my heart stopped. Luckily with several feet to spare, the car corrected it’s deathly course and went back to the left side of the road. I let out a sigh and realized in all the rush of thoughts and feelings I didn’t pray! You would think that’d be the FIRST thing I’d do!

Anyway, whether it was fear or an adrenaline rush, Elder Alexander proceeded to peddle harder than ever before on the highest gears down the hill. I thought he was still attempting to run away from the car which was already out of sight, but I also increased my speed to catch up with him. All of a sudden I heard a *SNAP* and then sparks coming from Elder Alexander’s bike.

He looked behind him, let out a yelp and continued to pedal, even though he wasn’t getting any farther from the sparks. I burst into laughter (whether it was unjustifiable or not! ;)) as I saw sparks fly out from under his bike. It wasn’t until we went under a street light that I saw he had broken his bike chain and that it was flapping under the bike creating all the sparks. He eventually came to a stop and there we were…towards the entrance of the coloured area with a broken bike chain. Great!

We walked our bikes back home with angels no doubt protecting our every move along the way. When we arrived at our flat I reached in my pocket. Oh no. I reached in the other pocket. OH NO! I reached in the first pocket again. OH HECK NO! Where were our flat keys? I called the investigator whom we just left in the coloured area and after checking his living room, sure enough I left them there. Whew!

We called Elder Romney and Elder Kyuvi to come pick us up and take us to the location and get our keys since there was no way we’d walk back up to the location without the protection of a car. Finally, we got the keys and made it back home safely.

I know the Lord watches after his missionaries! I have felt and seen His hand in so many instances, and I feel blessed to have been in his service. Plus, it’s moments like these that make good mission stories πŸ˜‰

Stay well everyone!
Elder Leach

Posted by: capetownelder | March 19, 2012

You Never Know

Hello everyone! How’s it? It sounds like all is going well at home and that’s always something pleasant to hear.

Sorry for no letter last week; it’s been busy lately. One of my favorite things as a missionary is being busy, but of course that busy schedule must also be productive, and I feel like it has been. This week we comitted one of our piano students who, through tears, accepted the invitation gladly. We’ve also been working hard with an athiest investigator we picked up who, along with her member friend, was robbed last week on her way to church. Of ALL people to get robbed coming to church, it’s the one who’s struggling with her faith as it is. Oh Satan, if only I could wrap my hands around your neck and give you a good shaking! Anyway, she’s recovering. We offered to walk with her to church next time and she agreed that’d be a good idea πŸ™‚

Our Bible Study course at Rhodes University is also continuing to be a success. Although it’s a small group, we continue to have investigators attend and it’s great to see their knowledge increase with our study of the Gospels.

I’d like to share one experience that actually occurred a couple weeks ago, but has still has an effect on me today. From the beginning, my goal out here in the mission field has been to help influence or motivate the life of another, even if it’s just one person. While we were staying in Cape Town for a training a couple weeks ago, I went on splits with one of the elders and on the car ride back to the flat, the elder said, β€œPerhaps you were never aware of what you did for me when you were sent to Kwa Magxaki,”

β€œHow do you mean?” I asked.

β€œWell, I was struggling quite a bit with my companion and other things. I didn’t know what to do or how to handle it, and then you came in and, through a series of events, whether you knew it or not, ended up changing my whole mission. So thank you.”

I don’t know what I said, or what I did, but it sure meant a lot to me that this elder felt comfortable enough to share that experience with me. It also testified to me that we don’t always know the effect we will have on others. I went into that area expecting to go out there, find people, baptize them and continue the work as usual, but little did I know an elder there was struggling with a need that was weighing heavily on him. I am so thankful my attitude was right, my prayers were constant and that I was being myself.

I am grateful for the example of the Savior. I know if we follow Him, we can become like Him, for that was and is His promise. In this final stretch of full time missionary service, I have prayed and fasted for the opportunity to lift just one more soul, to find just one more person, to help one more individual every day that so desperately needs it. And it has been my desire to live worthy enough to revceive such guidance to be led to these people.

I know this grand work is true! How could it not be?

Love you all,

Elder Leach

 

Posted by: capetownelder | March 5, 2012

It’s a Miracle!

What a great week it’s been! I have been amazed at all of the miracles and tender mercies that took place this week, and in so many ways.

First of all, the piano lessons have continued to bring success. There are now a couple members (one male, one female) that are progressing the fastest on the piano, and I’m sure by the time we’re done teaching them this “12 week program” they’ll be able to play most if not all the Simplified Hymns. We had teaching appointments set with all of our piano student investigators this week and they all went very well. One investigator, who is in her 4th year at Rhodes University, gladly accepted the invitation to be baptized, as she recognizes her infant baptism was incorrect and we plan to give her a date tomorrow.

The second student is one we emphasized prayer with as she grew up attending church, but never really felt connected to God. When we talked about prayer she burst into tears and said that whenever she says the Lord’s Prayer, she doesn’t feel anything. We introduced how to pray in the pamphlet we gave her and a smile of relief replaced the sadness we saw in her face. She agreed to a return appointment.

The third student is an athiest girl who was born and raised in King Williams Town to a family who taught her to avoid church and to pray only in times of need. She was open to meeting with us as her best friend, a member, is her biggest role model. She (the member) bore her testimony that the reason she lives her life the way she does is because she’s had Jesus Christ as her role model. This really inspired our investigator, and we committed her to pray to God and start establishing a relationship with him. A couple days later, at our follow up appointment, she reported back that the first time she tried praying, she felt nothing. The second time, later in the day, she felt like someone was listening. The third time, a day later, she prayed and said she poured our her whole soul and felt like someone was there. She even said she feels her relationship with God is growing, and she came out with lots of questions relating to the Plan of Salvation.

Throughout the week, we had lots of weather adventures haha. On Tuesday we were biking around looking for people between 5 and 7 pm and it began to POUR rain as lightning flashed around us and the thunder crackled so loud, I could hardly hear my companion. We were soaked to the core without any jackets, but it was warm rain so we weren’t freezing thankfully. Naturally, I loved it. I was smiling the whole time as lightning flashed above me and wind sent rain hurling at my face.

A couple other pieces of good news: We had one of our investigators commit to baptism on the 5th of May and even bore his testimony yesterday, much to everyone’s surprise. His whole family was in shock! We asked him, “What compelled you to stand up and bear your testimony today?” and he said, “I felt a pounding in my heart to thank God for what he has given me.” And what a sincere testimony he bore, concluding with, “…and I know the Book of Mormon is true.”

Our scripture study class also went very well, with seven people in attendance; better than the 5 who came to our first class in Namibia. We had 2 investigators come (one of which is a piano student) and the rest were members. James E. Talmage’s “Jesus the Christ” will be our main source for information, as well as the more obvious Bible and Book of Mormon.

Just lovin’ it here! President Wood is flying Elder Alexander and I to Cape Town on Thursday for something called “Trainers Training” and we’re excited to the trip πŸ™‚ I’ve flown into Cape Town International Airport SO many times by now, but it never gets old πŸ˜‰

Love you all,

Elder Leach

Posted by: elderleach | February 29, 2012

Package and Grahamstown

First of all, thanks mom for the package you sent. It got here safely with all of the little goodies inside πŸ™‚ Thanks so much for the cool music system you sent! It’s so fun and portable! We went on a branch hike this weekend and I brought it along and it was a hit πŸ˜‰ Also, loving the candy! So is my comp.

I’mΒ  also loving Grahamstown! Like I mentioned last time, it’s a predominately YSA branch with the coolest senior couple in charge. President Nye, the branch president from Oklahoma, just loves the members and will do anything for them. I have been so impressed with his Christlike love and service he has shown.

So you’d never guess what Elder Alexander and I have implemented here in the Grahamstown Branch? PIANO LESSONS! Haha. Can you believe it? Elder Alexander and I taught piano back home to save for our missions (he’s from Pretoria, South Africa) and we thought it a good idea to send around a sign up sheet last week at church for certain times to learn the piano! But there was a catch…always a catch πŸ™‚ For every member who signed up, they had to agree to bring a friend as well. This resulted in us receiving 4 member referrals and when we invited each investigator piano student to also learn more about the gospel, all of them agreed. It has been so exciting to see this finding tool work!

ALSO, get this…we’re starting a scripture study class here, but it won’t be at a member’s home…it won’t be at the church…no, we can do better than that! We had a member reserve the Arts Minor Lecture Hall at Rhodes University every Thursday evening for our study classes! Haha. The lecture hall seats 97 people and apparently it has a gigantic white board, perfect for me since I love talking and writing πŸ˜‰ But can you believe it? Teaching the New Testament (using James E. Talmage’s “Jesus the Christ” as our main reference with the Bible and Book of Mormon) in a LECTURE HALL? Haha, my dream has come true much sooner than I imagined. Now, we know 97 people won’t come…but…still! It’ll be a fun environment nonetheless.

Elder Alexander and I agree it is imperative to have fun whilst finding. You must! There’s no other option! Heck no are we going to knock doors 8 hours a day! To heck with twiddling our thumbs and picking our noses as we search this college town for people to teach! We’ve devised a few ways to gather in the Lord’s sheep through fun activities that exposes what the Church is really about, and each of these finding activities has members involved, which is key.

I don’t seem to bear my testimony enough in my letters because I assume you know how I feel, but let me just say I have never known the Gospel in such clarity as I have grown to know it out here in the field. I have never literally felt the Lord work in my life like I’ve felt him out here. I’ve never experienced revelation, inspiration and divine guidance like I’ve experienced it out here. I’ve never felt such charity for any one person or group of people like I have felt it out here. I love this work and I know it’s true. What more do I need to say? In order for any young man or woman to know the Church is true, they need to experience it, they need to get their hands dirty, their shoes worn, and their clothes torn to understand how much work missionary work really is. And it is the best, most intense work I have ever been involved in.

I love you!

Elder Leach

Posted by: capetownelder | February 20, 2012

Welcome to: GRAHAMSTOWN

Hello everyone! Sorry I didn’t write a blog post last week, I ran out of time. It was a busy day as I had just arrived in Cape Town to await my new assignment with my new companion. I have been called to be a trainer again, this time in a very English town called “Grahamstown”. Most of its members are Xhosas, though, thanks to the township which is not too far away. The Grahamstown Branch is a predominantly YSA branch (I keep getting lucky with these awesome YSA units on my mission!) which consists of maybe 30 active people (yeah, not too big, eh?) although this time of year, many of the township members live in town at Rhodes University, as Grahamstown is pretty well defined as a “college town”.

I’m on bikes with my new companion, Elder Alexander from Pretoria, South Africa. He’s a great missionary who has strong roots in the church. Of course, this week we had a few classic greenie/trainer moments. For instance, we had some extra time during the day on Thursday, so we knocked a few doors. Before we knocked one of them, I said, “Ok, you’ve got this one!” I knocked the door, and a white Afrikaans man pulled back the curtains to look outside. We waved at him, then he closed the curtains and started opening the door.

“Um…actually you can do this one!” Elder Alexander whispered frantically just as the door opened. I stared at this grumpy Afrikanner for maybe 3 seconds before finally saying, “Uh…hey, we’re missionaries from…”

“NO THANK YOU!” he said and closed the door. Haha, if nothing else, at least it brought us a good laugh. Grahamstown is SUPER hilly, so yeah…it’s been quite the work out these past few days going up and down some MEAN hills. But of course, what goes up must come down and the downhill rides are definitely worth it.

You’d never believe one of our star fellowshippers is a 15 year old young Xhosa boy named Liech. Haha, can you believe it? Pronounced the same way and everything. So, you can imagine how knocking doors sounds:

“Hi, my name is Elder Leach, and this here is Liech.”
“Excuse me?”
“Never mind…may we come in your home and share a message about Jesus Christ with you?”

We also have a WONDERFUL senior couple here; Elder and Sister Nye from Oklahoma. They feed us twice a week and help us out so much. Elder Nye is the branch president here and is such a tremendous help.

Overall, I am loving my time here and will soak in every last minute I have with the area, my new companion and the members.

Have a great week!
Love,
Elder Leach

Posted by: capetownelder | February 7, 2012

Council of Churches

Hello everyone! Not a lot of time to write, but I’ll fill you all in on a few things. First of all, we are very busy here in Windhoek preparing for the complete banishment of missionaries in the country. As you can imagine, it’s not a fun job. But, we’re praying hard that a miracle will happen! This blessed country should not be without missionaries for too long…

Yesterday Elder Andriamitantsoa, Elder Khanyile, myself and two public affairs representatives from the church attended a meeting with the General Secretary of the Namibian Council of Churches and we discussed the situation. The woman we were talking to was very pleasant and understanding and happens to be good friends with the permanent secretary of Home Affairs, so she said she’d give him a call and essentially ask him, “What the heck, dude? Approve those stinkin’ Visas!”

We have a baptism coming up this Saturday for a wonderful sister named Kappa. Her husband is a member and has been for a year. We are excited for them and their steps towards entering the temple someday!

So, while it is sad to leave Namibia in a week, we are making the most of the time we have left! I love you all,

Love,

Elder Leach

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