Posted by: elderleach | September 27, 2010

An Inexperienced Surfer in the Middle of the Indian Ocean‏

Family and friends, hello again. I look forward to e-mail time, but after a rough week one sort of sits down, thinks a bit and asks, “What exactly should I write about?”
Knysna is, as my mission president explained about a month ago to me in our interviews, not the most difficult place to serve, but certainly not the easiest. It is actually right in the middle and from what I gathered, missionaries tend to hop on certain waves: you either get the big waves or the tiny ripples, whatever suits your surfboard. This week my surfboard was cracked and dented and I found myself in the middle of the Indian Ocean with little floaties on each arm, one of which suffering a slow leak. And as most of you know, I have never surfed before!
That is my round about analogous way of saying: it has been a severely testing week in the “waters of missionary work” and the waves…are…tremendous, especially for a surfer (or missionary) that thinks he’s a pro until the real waves develop, then reality kicks in. Important to note, however, my “surfboard” is still in one piece, it’s just a bit cracked and dented. During my personal studies this week, a prinicple of the gospel has been echoing through my head so frequently that I had to write down my thoughts on it. The prinicple I am refering to is: obedience.
I have thus far been an obedient missionary and have been criticised already for my strick adherence to the rules. Mom and Dad are probably laughing right about now, saying to themselves, “Oh, NOW you decide to follow all the rules!”, but I am determined to squeeze out all the wonderful miracles that occur from following “the first law of heaven”.
A not-so-obedient missionary in this mission even went so far as to say to me, “Elder Leach, look. Obedience is important, sure, but I have been strictly obedient and disobedient on my mission and have noticed more success from being disobedient.”
An invisible dagger pierced my heart, and the invisible hand holding the invisible dagger gave it a few twists, stabs and slashes as the missionary proceeded to tell me how obedience is actually impossible to observe strictly. I said, in a quiet tone (I get quiet when I am upset): “But, you see, that’s the problem…too many missionaries think that way and what you aren’t seeing is the success you are referring to is all superficial. What if Christ was almost obedient? What if the apostle Paul was almost obedient? What if the Bible and Book of Mormon writers were almost obedient? If you are almost obedient, the Lord will almost bless you.”
We agreed to disagree. Nonetheless, that comment swirled around my mind: Elder Gilbert and I have been working so hard with investigators, and many have had baptismal dates, yet the big waves of opposition keep hurling their way toward me, and I am at best wobbling on my surfboard, barely able to stand up when the ripples lap against the shore.
I have spent a lot of time lately on my knees. That’s really the best I can do at this time. One day this week we knocked on the door of a house I felt prompted to visit. Turns out, he did nothing but tear into our belief, blaspheme the name of God and curse anyone associated with this Gospel. My testimony is so strong, but I was in shock to find myself knocked off my surfboard and out of breath. I couldn’t think straight…I felt like the tears would spring out of my eyes at any moment…I literally felt alone.
That evening, a man that was recently baptised informed us he no longer wanted anything to do with the church. He admitted he knows what we share is true and he doesn’t have a doubt in his mind, he just can’t keep the commitments and demands that come with it. That’s when I discovered the leak in my floaties: I was in the middle of the Indian Ocean with no surfboard, no companion, and a dud floaty.
Night soon approached. The waves continued to hurl me up and down, but I closed my eyes and offered up a simple prayer.  The next morning, I made the effort to improve my attitude and take on the challenges of the day head on. The Lord let down his hand and said with perfect mildness and slight reproof, in the fourth watch, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?…Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.” (Matthew 14: 27; 31) I got back on my surfboard and swam out to the next set of waves…exhausted, yes, about ready to give up, no.
To this moment the work has been rough. But prayer has kept me going more than any pill could help me with a physical illness. The Lord is there and is constantly helping me with my daily troubles and concerns. Sometimes I feel like a big burden, but I can feel his love and I am so appreciative of his help.
On Wednesday I’ll find out if I stay in Knysna or if I must be transfered to a new area. Whatever the case, wish me luck! The work must press forward. All of these experiences have been and will continue to be for my good.
Elder Matthew G. Leach
South Africa Cape Town Mission
1. Some cool looking fungus on our hike last week!
2. Me with the Bantjes (Bank-ees) (Mom and Dad received a letter from them not long ago!)
3. Me with the Clift Family. Haha, Brother Guy Clift (a 450 pound energy ball ;)) is holding his daughter’s teddy bear next to my head. They’re a great family in the branch.

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