Posted by: elderleach | March 27, 2011

Justice vs. Mercy: (Strange) South African Traffic Laws and My Lead Foot‏

Good day everyone! I’ll just spare you the suspense and just say, yes, I am staying in Kwa Magxaki with Elder Nkala! I’ve been on my mission for 10 1/2 months now and Elder Nkala is the first companion I’ve had longer than 6 weeks. That means I’ve had a total of 7 companions in the mission field! And yes, I’ve loved every one of them, even if some knew what buttons to push.
There was an experience last week that I neglected to share that I want to share with you today. This is a subject that’s very new to me: speeding tickets. You see, back home I was a very cautious driver. Though I was privileged to cruise around in a hot 2001 Mustang, I rarely went over the posted speed limit, and if I did it was only 5 over. I also had a perfectly clean record from the day I sat behind the wheel for the first time to the day I left for the mission field: no tickets, no accidents, no citations…nothing.
But that all changed in mid November 2010. My trainer, Elder Austin, bless his heart, was a fast driver. I didn’t understand what the rush was until I observed South African drivers in general. It’s sort of a bad habit missionaries develop. There are few traffic laws, and the only thing that keeps people driving less fast are little cameras that the police put on random road signs that flash when you go above the posted speed limit, and typically those cameras are placed when you must slow down from one speed to another (for example, a camera will be placed between an 80 km sign and a 60 km sign because they know you won’t slow down in time). The cameras are hidden and people only know they received a ticket when they see the flash.
So, while I served in Paarl and training my “son”, we were on our way back to the town from a township and I knew I could go 80 km on the highway, but I saw a 60 km sign up ahead. Well, I got talking to my son about this and that and before I could react I saw a bone-chilling flash blind my eyes and I knew I was in trouble.
“We just got flashed,” I said.
“Ew, who would do that to us?” Elder Balmforth responded.
“No, I mean we just got a traffic ticket!”
“Um, no, I’m not paying for that!” my son responded.
Let us now flash forward to February 2011. Elder Nkala, my second son, and I finished our studies, and then we received a call from the mission office. Turns out, the ticket arrived and Elder Balmforth and I had to split the fine: R125 for going 74 km in a 60 km. I was told I was on probation, which means if I were to receive a second ticket I’d lose driving privileges for a week, and Elder Nkala can’t drive!
From that moment I was very cautious about how fast I drove. I was extra careful and obeyed with exactness all the posted speed limits. Early this month I received a call…from the office again. They “regrettably” (haha) informed me I received a second ticket on that same stretch of road, going 71 in a 60 back in January with Elder Barlow. That meant no driving for a week. I was devastated.
Now, to put this in its appropriate perspective, the area Elder Nkala and I serve in is the biggest in the whole zone (a zone is comprised of about 7 or 8 areas), and one of the biggest in the whole mission! How could we function without a car?! Apparently, my mission president wasn’t willing to give me a waiver and I was sentenced to one week of walking in a mammoth Xhosa, sacrificial-goat-slaughtering, tongue-clicking, ancestor-worshipping township. Fantastic!
But I didn’t feel right. I felt like I didn’t deserve it. I thought about it all day. How could the mission president allow such a thing?! Surely he could exercise mercy on me, but didn’t justice have to also be delivered? We all know mercy cannot rob justice, but our work and productivity would greatly decrease if we had to walk everywhere! But how else would I learn my lesson?
I knelt down in sincere prayer, pleading with Heavenly Father, asking him to help me through this disaster. A couple days went by, then a thought came into my mind, “Ask the office when the ticket was flashed”. So, I called the office. One of the senior couples answered and he responded, “January 18th”. I rushed to get my journal and flipped to January 18th. My heart swelled with joy! Thank goodness I keep a faithful DAILY record, because I found out I didn’t even touch the car on that day, it was Elder Barlow! We switched companions for the day, and I was in a walking area while he was driving with the district leader.
To make a long story even longer, the office determined I was not guilty and I was relieved from paying any fines or being on any suspension! I immediately went back on my knees and thanked Heavenly Father for answering my prayers. I also began to become enormously grateful for my perfect record keeping. Every single day of my mission has been recorded. Every one!
Anyway, thought I’d share that experience. It is true: mercy cannot rob justice, and justice cannot rob mercy. In this instance, mercy was extended by enlarging my mind to discover the truth regarding this ticket, and justice was served for making the person responsible pay the fines.
I’ve experienced miracles regarding personal revelation and answered prayers so many times on my mission, this is just one of the many. I love this work and I’m excited to go out and do more!
Oh, and if there’s anything you’d like to know about Kwa Magxaki, Paarl, Knysna, my companions or South Africa in general, feel free to ask!

Have a marvelous week,

Elder Matthew G. Leach
South Africa Cape Town Mission

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