Posted by: elderleach | December 6, 2010

Christmas Has Finally Entered South Africa!‏

Well howdy family and friends! Here I am again, writing from the rural farmland of Paarl. Really, the landscape isn’t much different than say…Eastern Washington or Idaho. I don’t feel so homesick here.
Two weeks ago Elder Balmforth and I put up the Christmas tree, ornaments and stockings my sweet, blessed mother sent me in a package and then put a few wrapped presents under it to complete the festive activities. We were doing all that in front of a fan, sweating like two pathetic American boys in a hot, foreign land. My message this week is that Christmas has begun in South Africa! It’s about blasted time. One thing you all probably have figured out so far…if I have a problem with something here, I’ll say it. The problem? People here celebrate Christmas like they celebrate Tuesday…or Wednesday, or any other day of the week. My flurry of negative emotions associated with that perverse tradition of no traditions makes it hard to feel the Christmas Spirit at times.
HOWEVER, I have come to bear glad tidings of great joy. I am among some of the most humble, adorable people you will ever hope to meet, thank you very much. These people love God. They love Jesus Christ and recognize Him as their Saviour. They have testimonies. These are people that desperately try to do what’s right, though racial inequality (FAR worse here than America is or ever was) and violence as a result keep them from progressing in life. I love these people dearly and how grateful I am to be apart of their quest for a simple, good life.
That good life comes through the birth and atonement of Jesus Christ, which also was not very complex in and of itself. The motivation for everything Christ did was love and I suppose if there is one thing that makes a person the happiest, it is the feeling of being loved, especially when it appears that no one else does.
Yesterday Elder Balmforth and I had the privilege of going out with some church members to sing Christmas songs at a retirement/rehabilitation centre. We walked in and the sight was a truly humbling one to behold. I almost imagined this is what those crowding the pool of Bethsaida looked like: blind, lame, crippled…almost every manner of physical ailment you could imagine. Naturally if Christ were in the room he would have healed every one and I believe they all would have had the faith sufficient to be healed. But alas, that was not the Lord’s will. We came to share a message of Christ’s birth and ministry through music which, to me anyway, is the ultimate healer.
When we sang the Hymn: “How Great Thou Art”, I could hardly contain myself. That beautiful hymn encompasses my whole testimony of Christ, the Gospel, why I’m in South Africa for 2 years…everything. As we sang those inspired words, several in the audience sang along. There even came a point where their voices were louder than ours! I don’t typically cry, and so I didn’t, but I came close! These people, amidst the grueling and almost assuredly painful ailments they have been given at this time in their life, sang with their hearts and proclaimed their testimony of Jesus Christ. They would not deny that He is, has been and always will be at their side even if they cannot see Him themselves.
I was very fortunate to participate in that event. Even the coldest, most stern individual would have felt the Spirit testify of the lyrics we sang that day. This Gospel is true, the message of Christ’s birth is miraculous and his mission was divine. I am grateful to be here at this time to testify of what I know to be true and I hope Christmas will mean a little more than the world would have you think.
Have a wonderful week!
Elder Matthew G. Leach
South Africa Cape Town Mission

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