Posted by: elderleach | August 4, 2010

Witches, Sorcerers and Dreams Realized‏

1) Zoom in on the picture. When I saw this at George Airport while dropping Elder Austin off, I thought to myself, “Yup! That’s pretty much how I feel!” 😉
2) Elder Austin and I playing soccer the only way we know how 😉
3) Me and Elder Austin having our goodbye picture! 😦
Oooh! Such an exciting title of a blog! 🙂 Truly, this week was certainly an interesting one in many respects. Day by day I’m getting…informed of the culture here in South Africa. How can I put this: South Africa is gorgeous and the living is simple and cheap (for an American anyway), but the traditions here? Holy cow…this is SUCH a bizzare place. Unless you’ve been in the country for a period of time, you have never seen anything like THIS!
But you see, this makes serving a mission here fun. I mean, there are hundreds of churches in this small country, many of which are centered in township. There are even preachers that claim they are Jesus Christ reincarnated. Sound ridiculous? You haven’t heard anything yet.
We are teaching this Xhosa lady who, while receptive to what we say, is confused about who we are referring to when we talk about Jesus Christ. She has pictures hanging up all around her home of this man named Kumkani Unathi who claims he is Jesus Christ and is here to save the world from sin…again. You see, at first it seemed as if she just liked the guy…maybe even esteemed him as a prophet, but the other day we read 3 Nephi 11 with her (when Christ appears to those living in the Americas after His crucifixion and resurrection) and after we read she paused, twisted her lips and then, pointing to Kumkani Unathi dressed in white, angelic clothing with doves flying on either side of him, said:
“But…that’s him! That’s Jesus Christ! He’s just in a different body…”
I really could not believe what I was hearing. Somebody pinch me! We decided not to openly slam to the ground her greatly misguided beliefs with our artillery of scripture right at that moment, so we tried to as smoothly as possibly change the subject to something a little less blasphemous.
Oooh…this is a good one 😉 We visited with a recent convert to the church named Julia a few nights ago and it turns out she had broken her ankle a few nights before and was thankful we came by to keep her company. Poor lady, she has been so lonely all by herself. As we talked, she explained a fear that she’s had for quite sometime. Though she’s only in her mid 40s, she has a very legitimate fear of growing older in township. She explained,
“In the Xhosa culture, when you grow to be an old woman, if your face has wrinkles you are a witch. When people find out you are a witch they will either stone you in the street or burn your house down in the middle of the night with you in it. I am praying to God when I grow older I won’t have wrinkles!”
She then laughed, but I could tell she was very concerned! I mean, don’t all old people get wrinkles eventually? Anyway, I decided not to bring up that point. She then told us a story about a church she went to in township before she joined ours. A friend of hers invited her to a small church and Julia decided, “What the heck…I’ll just go!” Here’s what she said went on in the church:
“The congregation convenes in a small, lodgy building with no windows and a large fire pit in the middle of the ground. At the start of the service, the ‘priests’ bang on these large drums while grunting and moaning as everyone runs around the small space shouting at the top of their lungs, asking the Holy Spirit to enter the room. After this act is finished, the ‘Spirit’ tells the priests who has an EVIL spirit in their body and the priest consequently charges at the person and starts biting them, trying to tear the evil Spirit out of the poor individual’s flesh!
At this point, the person being chewed on runs out of the church with bite marks, forever feeling miserable with the thought of an evil spirit residing in their body.”
CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT!? So yeah…THAT is what we have to work with here in Knysna, and apparently South Africa as a whole. This is just the beginning!
South Africa is undoubtedly one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. It even has worlds in and of itself! For instance, we went to an appointment with a man named Mzukisi a month ago and as we turned off on a pitiful dirt road that lead to a shortcut to his house, we saw two small kids, filthy from their bald heads to their cute little toes, crammed in a shopping cart, playing with toys. Noticing our car must pass through, they quickly jumped out and pushed the cart aside. I began to think, as I saw in amazement all the shacks and unpaved roads around me, how blessed I was to be among the people I so dearly love and treasure so close to my heart.
Later that afternoon, we watched as several kids hitched a ride on a donkey pulling a wooden cart behind it. The children laughed and squealed with joy as they raced to get on. Again, I shook my head, smiled and said to myself, “Heavenly Father, I prayed so hard to come here. I prayed with all my heart and soul that I could proclaim the Gospel in Africa, and here I am! Here I am.”
We finished our work in townships and rushed to a dinner appointment in a posh town about 20 kms away with a white couple from the branch. They live in a beautiful home and as we entered I immediately noticed the glorious aroma of scented candles. This was in stark contrast to the strong aroma of sewage, body odor and mildew of the townships. I don’t mind the latter because these are my people!
I walked past the candles and heard some classical music playing in the kitchen which differed from the banging of metal cans and tiny voices chanting traditional music in the streets of township. Again, I kind of prefer the latter to be honest.
As we sat on the soft couches sharing our insights of the scriptures, I began to think of all the cold, hard floors or small plastic tubs offered me to sit on during lessons in township. And come to think of it, I enjoy the cold, dirty ground because that makes me feel no more important than the wonderful people we are teaching.
Not to say I wasn’t thankful for being in a warm, comfy place to eat a normal dinner, but I guess my point is, my heart is with the underprivileged angels of Africa and spreading the Gospel to these Heavenly beings is beyond a privilege for me. Give me the dirt, give me the cardboard homes, give me the rough roads and pathways and if those things lead me to the humble people I’ve so desired to serve for so long, I will truly be as happy as can be, so long as I can assist in bringing them to the knowledge of their Saviour and Redeemer.
I love these people, I love the work and I love this Gospel. I have seen it work through so many people and has greatly increased my testimony of this great work. I wish you all the best and thanks for coming along in these adventures with me!
Elder Matthew G. Leach
South Africa Cape Town Mission


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