Posted by: elderleach | December 21, 2010

Geseënde Kersfees! (Merry Christmas!)‏

Hoe gaan dit? Hoe was jou week? Ok, enough Afrikaans. Interestingly, many people here in Paarl are in awe with how well I apparently speak the language here! I really don’t think I’m doing anything impressive, but comments have been made that few missionaries have been able to understand and speak Afrikaans when they’ve come to Paarl. But you know what my secret is? I have an Afrikaans phrase book AND I served in Knysna before coming here, so I’ve had a head start!

Anyway, what an exciting privilege it is to e-mail all of you and find out news from the states. News on my end? Transfers were this week and sadly one Elder, Elder Chase Nielsen from Issaquah, left us and moved 30 minutes away to an area called Bellville. He’s all that much closer to Cape Town and Table Mountain, though! Elder Maja, Elder Balmforth and I are all still here in Paarl for another round of greatness with an Elder from Bloemfontein, South Africa named Elder Grobler. I’m excited to continue with my training experience and to be here with my son on Christmas! Paarl is fantastic this time of year…mainly because the members here feed us like crazy. The heat, though? That’s another story.
When you wake up in the morning sweating out every ounce of liquid you guzzled the day before, you know you’re in Paarl. When you step outside and within seconds people confuse you with a coloured man instead of a white man, you know you’re in Paarl. When you rise and stand up to give a prayer in someones home and your pants making that “separating from leather” sound, you know you’re in Paarl. This, my friends, MUST be the hottest place I have ever experienced. Wyoming has nothing on this.
Anyway, it’s been easy for me to focus on the service out here because it doesn’t feel like Christmas at all. People tried to warn me about that, but me being as festive as I am, I refused to believe I would just forget Christmas is around the corner. To my surprise, I nearly broke my jaw because of the rate at which it flew open when I saw my watch say: “MON 12.20” 5 days?! Whew. I’ll be Skyping with my family in 5 days?! Unbelievable.
I’m going to keep this letter short. May I just share an excerpt from the November 2010 General Conference edition of the Liahona (Church issued magazine). This is from President Thomas S. Monson’s talk, “The Divine Gift of Gratitude”:
“He taught us how to pray. He taught us how to live. He taught us how to die. His life is a legacy of love. The sick He healed; the downtrodden He lifted; the sinner He saved. Ultimately, He stood alone. Some apostles doubted; one betrayed Him. The Roman soldiers pierced His side. The angry mob took His life. There yet rings from Golgotha’s hill His compassionate words: ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.’ (Luke 23:34)
“Who was this ‘man of sorrows…acquainted with grief’? ‘Who is this King of glory’, this Lord of lords? He is our Master. He is our Savior. He is the Son of God. He is the Author of Our Salvation. He beckons, ‘Follow me’. He instructs, ‘Go and do thou likewise’. He pleads, ‘Keep my commandments’. Let us follow Him. Let us emulate His example. Let us obey His words. By so doing, we give to Him the divine gift of gratitude.”
I want to memorize that 🙂 We must also never forget President Monson’s wise words on gratitude in this way, “…to express gratitude is gracious and honorable, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live with gratitude forever in our hearts is to touch heaven.”
I am ever so grateful for restored truth. I shutter to think what or who I would become without this Gospel. Truth is freedom, and I am grateful this Christmas season to be free: free from doubt, free from the world, free from regret. Some days I just don’t feel grateful for what I have. It is true, “Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.” (Aldous Huxley). I love this Gospel, I love this country in which I am serving and I love this people with whom I am serving.
Elder Matthew G. Leach
South Africa Cape Town Mission

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