Posted by: elderleach | March 9, 2011

Interpreting Time

Molweni, family and friends! Wow, and there goes another week. This is the last week of the “transfer” (so yes, we’re in the 6th week since I received news I was coming over here to Kwa Magxaki! Crazy how time flies). Each week, I know the Lord has something specific he wants me to learn, and sometimes it’s actually quite a challenge to figure out what that is, because sometimes the lessons are repetitive.
I think this week the message is: Time! This week was full of appointments falling through and spare time. When that happens, it is common to get frustrated and dumbfounded as the clock ticks, but the backup plans fade away. Surely, during moments such as these, the Lord ALWAYS has a backup plan that ALWAYS works. The true secret is to be willing and humble enough to accept the answers He gives you through the Comforter.
One particular moment that stood out to me this week was something that happened yesterday (Sunday evening), in fact. We had a stake conference in Port Elizabeth (it was so nice to be back!), had lunch at a members home in Kwa Magxaki, then went back to work. However, appointments started to fall through. It seemed as though this week would end just as unsuccessfully as it started. Pessimistic, I know, but by weeks end that’s just kinda what happens 😉
I pulled the car over to the side of the road and paused. “Now what?” I asked Elder Nkala. He too paused and thought about how to best use time effectively. “I just don’t know,” he said. “We could check up on a few less actives maybe?”
That’s when the name flashed through my mind. Three weeks ago we met a young 23 year old guy who has been fairly inactive in the church for 5 years. When we sat down with him, he told us he had no interest in coming back and the last thing he wanted to do was come back to church “with [his] tail between [his] legs like the prodigal son.”
“I know if I come back I’ll be excommunicated,” he said, confidently. “I just don’t see the point.”
On our end, it was clear that there was very little we could say that would change his mind. We just left the house with a prayer and that was that. But how Christlike is that, to see a sheep struggling in the thick of thorny bushes and to think, “Oh, but I will scrape myself if I attempt to go in there and take it out! Perhaps that poor sheep will wiggle and writhe just enough that it will eventually make its way out of the thorns.”
Such a common tragedy. Those who are stuck in the thorny bushes either die there or, with enough determination, get out alive, but not without preventable wounds and scars. This young man has been on my mind from time to time, but I let it slip away whenever I thought of something “more important” to do.
Back to this past Sunday evening, I thought of this young man yet again. We had 20 minutes to meet with him before our next appointment, and it almost didn’t seem worth it. We made our way to his house anyway and knocked on the door. He opened, and smiled brightly.
“There is a God!” he proclaimed. “Sit down, and I’ll be with you.”
Shocked beyond all measure, we took our seats. He came out with two muffins, each one on an individual platter. He then went into the kitchen and came back with a jug of milk. As he poured us some he said, “I’m ready.”
Recovering from the shock, I asked, “…for what?”
“To come back!” he said in such a happy tone, that if I had been sipping the milk I might have spit it out! “I had an experience this week that…well, let me just say it has confirmed to me I have to come back into this church. I prayed two nights ago for some help in this transformation process. Out with the old, in with the new!”
This was a completely new young man! He talked about his dreams of serving a mission and diligently studying the scriptures, whereas just 3 weeks earlier he mocked the church and its stand on certain issues and laughed as he thought about being excommunicated.
“If I must be disfellowshipped because of the things I’ve done, so be it,” he humbly said. “I’m just ready to come back!”
Elder Nkala and I were happy beyond measure. We had truly witnessed a miracle, an “Alma the Younger” moment, Africa edition! (Mosiah 27, Book of Mormon) His countenance shined, his intentions glowed with sincerity and his confidence boosted as he realized for himself the things he must do to ensure he never gets caught up in his past again.
You know, I’ve been a set apart missionary for 10 months now. I’ve witnessed fewer baptisms than I anticipated, but I have been able to witness numerous less active members of the church find their way back into the fold. And to me, that has strengthened my testimony like few things could.
I have grown to love working with less active members of the church. How is this gospel ever going to grow if we keep adding to the fold, yet neglect those who are already there and need our help? It’s like putting sand into a bag full of holes.
I am grateful for our use of time yesterday. The Lord blessed us with the opportunity to see a troubled young man embrace the gospel and learn to love it just as much as he did on his baptismal day. Remember, if you find yourself with lots of time on your hands, think: who could I be helping right now? What good could I be doing? And if you ask with real intent, the Lord will bless you with answers.

I love you all! Have a marvelous week,

Elder Matthew G. Leach
South Africa Cape Town Mission

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