Posted by: elderleach | July 20, 2010

Best Week So Far

Well…that’s not saying much 😉 I’ve only been here for 6 weeks, yet I am in my second transfer (transfers are every 6 weeks and I came into South Africa a week late in my first transfer). This has been an absolutely wonderful week filled with sad moments at first, but it seemed like everything did a 180 turn at the end of the week that made everything A-OK.

I feel bad…I go into great detail regarding the people we are teaching in my journal (or, in Mormon lingo, “my other set of plates”) but not in my letters, so you probably don’t feel like you’re living vicariously through those whom we teach. Remember Leonie and Fiona from the past letters? They are a “coloured” family (there are three races here: black, white and coloured) that we visit quite often. Fiona is pretty much my mother here in Knysna and I even picked a flower for her last week and gave it to her (don’t get jealous mom!) I told her I would always pick a flower back at home and give it to my momma. She was touched and very much appreciated it.

Leonie was baptized in May, but Fiona wants to start taking lessons. The day Elder Austin left to Mdantsane and Elder Randriamalala (or just “Rand”) came to Knysna, things changed. I took Elder Rand to Fiona’s house and we talked with her for a little bit, but everything was just…off. I couldn’t tell what it was, but things just weren’t right. She said she was feeling really ill and has lost a lot of sleep, and I asked her if she’d like a blessing. She said she would like that, but then I had a bad feeling about what I had just suggested.
Elder Rand and I excused ourselves for a moment and went outside. I whispered, “Elder, I think Mama Fiona is drunk,” He paused and resonded, “No way! Are you sure?” But I just knew it. We went back inside and said we would pray for her instead of give her a blessing. She was fine with it and we said our goodbyes. I thought later and said, “Hmmm…I’m not sure if we can give drunk people blessings!”
To be honest, I just couldn’t stand being there for too long. I knew I smelled some alcohol coming from her breath, but I was in complete denial. I can’t explain to you how badly it ripped by heart out to see someone I cared about so much drunk right in front of me, especially with the progress she was making up to that point. People think being drunk is funny, and at times funny things come out of an intoxicated persons mouth, but I have seen FAR too many people drunk on my mission thus far and it is absolutely the most tragic thing. Young people too! Very young. Pregnant mothers…young teens…all colours, ages and genders…they all drink here.
Many in township are destitute, but somehow they find a way to afford a gigantic bottle of liquor. For that reason, we can’t stay in township past 7 PM. This greatly decreases our productivity because most of our investigators are in township.
Anyway, the good news is Mama Fiona has stopped drinking. Here’s why:
A few days ago we parked next to Leonie and Fiona’s home to go to an appointment just across the street. On our way back to the car, Leonie ran up to us and said, “Elders! My mum and baby are in the hospital right now! Vinisha (Leonie’s baby) is very sick with a high fever, mummy called the ambulance and they are now at the hospital and this all happened while I was at work. I have no idea what’s going on. They need food…Vinisha needs diapers…” and then she paused.
I started to panic inside, but that feeling lasted for just a few seconds because peace came over me. You see, with Leonie we’ve been working hard with her to be a missionary, especially ever since her mother started drinking. She is the only member of the church in her family and is so, so strong, but she is being worn down by the advesary. Luckily, we had a male member with us in the car, so we were able to drive Leonie to the “Kwikspar” (7/11) and get a few items for her baby/mother and then we rushed her to the hospital.
Then some bad news…Fiona and Vinisha had apparently been admitted just an hour earlier, and it had been pouring rain all day. Leonie panicked because not only does Fiona not have taxi fare, but it was so cold and wet. So there we were, food in our hands, cold, wet and standing in the hospital waiting room. We all decided to go back to the car. Then an idea came to my mind,
“Let’s pray and try to find out where Fiona and Vinisha are at this time,” We said a prayer, I started the engine and began driving, not knowing before hand where to go (1 Nephi 4:6—interestingly, I was reading that chapter that very morning!!). Then, we all unanimously commented on the peaceful feeling we were getting as we decided to go back to Leonie’s home…we just knew they had arrived safely.
We drove back to her home and as we approached the door I said such a strong prayer that we’d find them OK. Sure enough, Leonie opened the door and there they were sitting on the couch, having arrived a while after we left to the hospital! Never mind Fiona’s drunk brother Ronnie sprawled out on the couch hiccuping and drooling all over the floor, taking this special, spiritual moment with him (oh boy do I have funny Ronnie stories for you in my other set of plates!). Fiona was smiling and said,
“On our way home, I met a friend of mine who gave me taxi fare back home! It was a miracle. And you want to know what’s more? Not one rain drop fell on Vinisha’s little head!”
We were all so elated! And Leonie says that now Fiona is pretty shaken because of that moment and is not drinking as of now. I hope it continues, but we made it clear to Leonie we could not come by for a lesson if Fiona, or anyone for that matter, is drunk. Fiona and Leonie have both agreed that is a fair rule 🙂
Anyway, that’s just one example of the happiness that has ensued this week. Let me just say, I’ve never had a better week:
I have finished reading the Book of Mormon in a month and started it up again just a few days ago. After finishing it, I took Moroni’s promise in Moroni 10:3-5 and prayed about what I had read. Is this record true? Are these God’s words to his people in another part of the world? My answer brought me to “a gushing forth of tears” (I don’t know why I quoted that sentence ;)) But really, I cried like a little child. I have never been so emotional in my life! My goodness is this work ever divine. I am thankful everyday to be here among these people at this time.
I feel your prayers and love so many thousands of miles away and just want to say thank you!!! There are so many other spiritual/humorous things that have happened this week, but this should suffice. I’ll pretty much be writing a book when I get back, so don’t worry…I’ll share EVERYTHING (good AND bad!) in 21 months 😉
I love you all!
P.S. Next time I’ll talk more about Elder Rand and anything else you want to know about South Africa! 😉

Elder Matthew G. Leach
South Africa Cape Town Mission

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