Monday, June 24, 2013

"Old things are done away, and all things have become new."

Dear somebody,

First off, we'll have 5 baptisms on the 29th and I'm so excited for
all of them!  They grew so much.  Armando will follow in a month or
so.  I'm proud of these fledgling saints and their already-powerful

I'm just going to share a little scripture, bear my testimony, and
leave.  I'll see you all in a few short days.

"Old things are done away, and all things have become new."

This is my mission motto.  This is how I feel about my service and
about my life.  I can scarcely imagine what I would be doing had I not
served a mission.  I love this experience.  I love the Gospel.  I have
a secret to tell you all:  A mission is no sacrifice.  Living the
Gospel is no sacrifice.  We receive far too much in return for what we
give to call this a sacrifice.  I didn't lose a thing--no opportunity,
nobody, no blessing--by being here and doing this work.  I sure gained
a lot, though.  I love the Lord and I love serving His children.  I
believe that they can quote the above scripture and apply it to their
lives as well.  =)

So...  If you have any doubts about serving, don't.  It's all going to
work out.  Do it and you'll love it.  You'll love the Savior more.
You'll learn more than you could ever have guessed.

I solemnly bear my testimony that The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-Day Saints is the only true church on the face of the earth.
And I love being a part of it.

'Til next time,

Elder Cody R. Eckman

Friday, June 21, 2013

I've hit single digits and people won't let me forget it.

Dear (insert your name here.  This is to you!  =)),

I've hit single digits and people won't let me forget it.  Goodness
me...  It doesn't feel like I'm about to leave.  I'll just be
transferred, right?  I'll go on to Viana or Lubango or Huambo, of
course.  Maybe I'll be training?  But no.  Not for me.  I'll be
"leaving on a jet plane."  And the worst part is that I don't know
when I'll be back again.

But, oh well!  It doesn't matter.  I've served.  I had my allotted
time and I tried my best with it.  I suppose that wishing for more
time is to be a tad ungrateful.  I've had a few deep realizations this
past week and I want to share them with you all.  Send them out to
other missionaries who have more time than I do--they just so happen
to be some of the greatest lessons I've learned about missionary work
on my mission.

Had I been more skilled earlier on my mission, I would have done more,
been more effective, and helped more people.  This is not to excuse
any lack of work or ability on my part, but to say that I would that I
had gained more skills earlier.  I believe that the quicker we become
skilled workers in any work or task the better we'll do.  So,
missionaries, take advantage of your training!  Learn every aspect of
the work.  Do the hardest things.  Don't let your trainer do them for

Had I learned to trust more in the Lord than in myself from the
get-go, I'd have had less headaches on my mission and in my life.  I'm
still trying to master this one.  I suppose we all are.  Regardless of
our struggles with it, I know that when we give ourselves to Him, we
become more truly who we are.  Does that make sense?  I hope so.

Love your companion and seek to serve him/her.  No one is as perfect
as we might wish them to be.  Magnify the good, forget the bad, grow
with them, and help them to be the best person they can be.  This
would have changed the first 6 months of my mission and maybe helped a
few people going through some hard times.  Seek to love.  Never have a
reason to dislike.

As I move into my last week, I'm striving to help the people that
we've prepared for the 29th.  All 6 of them are looking promising!  If
all goes well in Cassequel we'll have 9 baptisms in our branch alone.

I love you all and I may or may not be crazy excited to see you guys
in just a couple of weeks.  Keep on praying for me.  I'm trying to
keep up the best work I've ever done.

Stay the course,

Elder Eckman

Thursday, June 13, 2013

"Another One Bites The Dust"

                          Cody with the other Elders that have or are soon to leave Angola 
                                                       and start on a new path in life.
Dear Everyone,
My Mom started her weekly e-mail to me with the line "Another One Bites The Dust" and told me that my Dad would quote the Queen song whenever someone in their friend group got engaged.  I thought it sort of ironic that I'm coming to the close of my mission and another week has bitten the dust.  So, my friends, another week bites the dust and here we are.
Congrats to everyone getting married, having kids, going on missions, or succeeding in any other significant way.  I'm excited for y'all!
My week was incredible.  I had what I consider to be the "best" day of my mission.  I saw the most immediate success of one day on my mission on Wednesday.  We taught 8 incredible, spirit-filled, and inspired lessons (5 of which were with a member present), extended 3 baptismal dates for the 29th of June (which were accepted) and helped a few people who hadn't been progressing well start progressing.  It was simply a miraculous day.  Really, the whole week was incredible!  The 29th will be an incredible Saturday!  Our companionship will have at least 5 baptisms and they're all such cool people.  We're very excited.
I had a real witness that we can work effectively until the very end.  I won't quit.
I love this work and I love the Lord.  I love y'all and I hope that life is treating you right.  See you guys in a few weeks!
Elder Eckman

Monday, June 3, 2013

Don't worry--I'm working my tail off.

Cody Eckman
11:39 AM (1 hour ago)

to me
Dear everyone under the sun, 
Our week went a bit slowly, but the coming week looks quite promising.  Cesarina was baptized and received The Gift of the Holy Ghost!  She and Augusto are doing great and we're working with their kids so that they can be baptized on the 29th of June.  I'm very excited for them.  Armando and Micha are both doing really well and should be baptized on the 15th and 29th, respectively. 
We had a Zone Conference with President Kretly and I enjoyed it.  I'm sad to say that I feel just a titch disconnected from it all because most of the trainings, ideas, and changes can only be brought about so much in 3 weeks.  Don't worry--I'm working my tail off.  I refuse to quit and I won't make any excuses for poor work simply because I'm just about on an airplane.  I'm going home on a stretcher.  Still, it's hard to be super inspired by the Zone Conference that only kind of affects me.
Speaking of going home a stretcher, my back has started acting up again.  =)  It's been fun.  Still, I haven't been bed-ridden and I won't be.
My last fast Sunday came and went.  Elder Arrington and I fought our way to the front of the testimony line so we could give a good send-off.  It was nice to be able to tell the people I know and love why I care about this Gospel.  I've realized that my mission has taught me to love and that that's become the most valuable thing that I have.  I don't know where life will take me, but I have love--love for my fellow man, love for myself, and love for Jesus Christ.  That's enough to get me started down any worthwhile path, I think. 
I feel strongly that these last few weeks of my mission are to be some of the richest, most emotional weeks of my life up to this point and I would that I could share those feelings with you all in a way that made sense.  I can't, however, and that's what makes it all the more personal and beautiful to me.  I love my mission.  I'm of the firm opinion that you're never well-enough prepared to come on one nor well-enough prepared to leave the one you're on.  I can't believe that it's coming to an end.  It feels false.  
The devil is really working on trying to make me feel like a failure in the last few weeks of my mission and I spent a few days feeling pretty down in this last week because I was remembering the regrets I have from my mission--silly things that sound really pertinent in the moment like not having found as many people as I could have, not having helped as many families as I'd have liked to, etc.  It got me feeling down because I know that I haven't been the best servant ever or anything like that and that fed my self-pity and self-loathing for a few moments.  But, I prayed a lot and asked a lot of forgiveness and kept keeping on and I finally realized that it was all a lie.  I know now that my service has been acceptable to the Lord and that I should leave my regrets behind.  I tried and I worked and I grew and I helped others.  That's enough for Him and I know that now.  That helped me feel a lot better.  In spite of wishing that I had understood the things I know now before I came out here and started helping people, I feel successful and have realized that my mission is just like my or any other life--a process.  I don't think we can ever measure ourselves by what we don't or didn't know.  We simply work as well as we can with what we've got.
I love you all.  I'm feeling really good.  I'm not ready to leave Angola but I am ready to see you all. Get ready for great adventures and long talks.
I love you and the church is true! 
Elder Eckman

Monday, May 27, 2013

The importance of questions????

                                      This is the last picture with President & Sister Thompson.

Dear everyone,

Elder Arrington and I had the sad realization that we're starting to
run short on p-days.  As someone said today:  "You have one month,
nothing more, nothing less."  I've come to terms with that.  I'm
content with my one month--so long as I keep on working.  I'm going
home on a stretcher.  There are blessings to be given, lives to touch,
and people to love.  While I'm still here and still called to do it, I
won't rest.  I can sleep on the plane.

This week was great!  Augusto got the Melchizedek Priesthood, was
called to be the Executive Secretary of our branch, will baptize his
wife in the coming week, and is working hard with his kids, friends,
and neighborhood.  He's on fire!

We found many new investigators this week and they're so much fun.
We're teaching so many men!  And they're coming to church.  It's an
awesome feeling to greet so many potential leaders for our potential
stake every Sunday as they come to church and feel the Spirit of the
special meetings we hold.  Church is a miracle.

We taught like wild last week.  We went over our numbers and realized
that even with a lot of unplanned disturbances, exchanges, interviews,
etc. we were able to meet 6 new people and teach 24 lessons.  I'm not
really a numbers guy, but it's nice to see in some small measure what
I did during any given week.

I didn't stay sick last week which was a huge blessing.  I was feeling
much better when I woke up on Tuesday morning and we went to work.  We
sent off the Thompsons and had a trunky moment as Elder Arrington and
I realized that we were the next to go.  We ran from that thought as
quickly as our mental legs would carry us.

Today we went to an Art Fair in Benfica and we got some really cool
stuff.  I think you'll all like it.  =)  Haggling has become more fun.

The importance of questions has been on my mind lately.  I think that
we downplay our questions sometimes and don't seek answers.  If we
don't ever ask, how are we to know anything?  In this Gospel, there's
an answer for just about everything.  Admittedly, sometimes the answer
is "we don't know" and that's okay--we can rely on what we do know and
have faith that the answer to such questions will come one day.
Really, with more time and maturity in the Gospel I believe that many
such questions will resolve themselves in us.  So, all that being
said, it's not a bad thing to ask questions or to have doubts!
Abraham and Moses knew that God had all knowledge and exercised their
faith by asking Him for answers which they then received.  Nephi had
questions.  The Brother of Jared had questions.  They are very
different than Laman, Lemuel, Corianton, or a plethora of others who
also had questions and were nearly rebuked for so having.  Why?  The
former had questions coupled with the faith to receive answers.  They
weren't seeking signs or trying to prove God or trying to satisfy some
selfish urge.  They weren't seeking to justify some sin.  They knew
God that God knew and they desired to also know.  I think that we
should be this way as we pray and study our scriptures.  Questions and
doubts can lead to greater knowledge if coupled with the belief and
faith necessary to find the answers.  Never let your doubts, however,
overcome your faith.  Question your doubts before questioning your
knowledge of the truth--they disappear much more quickly than the
eternal truths that you've learned and that ring truer than mere
logic.  Just a little thought I've been having this week that I wanted
to share with you all.

I love my mission.  I wouldn't trade this time for anything.  I didn't
sacrifice a thing to be here.  The gain is too great to say that I
had.  The Lord is incredibly good to us.  My life has been touched in
a way I didn't know possible and has been changed both for the better
and for good.  I wish I could put all that I feel onto this page right
now in order to thank my Father for this service, but I'm incapable of
that.  I love my mission.  I'll think about it every day when it's
over.  I'll take lessons from it for the rest of my life.  I recommend
a mission to all who are considering one.  It's hard, but you grow.
It's shorter than you think.  It'll change you and you need it.  At
least, I did.  I do.

I love you guys.

Elder Eckman

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Plan of Salvation realization!!!!

Dear Everyone,
I'm not really very good at writing greetings, I think.  =)
This week was great.  A... got the Priesthood, he'll soon get the calling of Assistant Branch Mission Leader, and has referred many great people to us.  He's doing so well.  His wife, C..., will be baptized on the 1st.  Their kids will follow soon, I think.  They have both grown so much and I'm very proud of them.
I'm currently sick with something.  I was up half the night throwing up and I have little to no energy.  I'll be fine soon, though.  =)  It's a mission first for me.  Elder Stewart is very understanding.
I had a cool realization about The Plan of Salvation today:  Sin is not a part of our natures nor a true measure of who we are or what we're worth.  Sin is a bit like a parasite.  It's got nothing to do with our true natures or characters.  It's extraneous to our true selves.  I think repentance probably has a lot more to do with remembering who we are and we once stood for--the cause of the Savior of mankind.  Once, we dwelt with the Father of all and learned at His knee.  Now, we are separated from Him for a wise purpose.  So, as we trim the fat, conquer the diseases, parasites, and passengers that we've picked up along the way, we'll grow beyond where we were in the pre-existence.  It's sort of beautiful that as we remember our true home and live according to its laws we will return there.  The more we become accustomed to this stranger's world, the less capable we become of returning to our Heavenly home.  Remember to remember and the rest becomes simple enough.  We should truly become as children and follow Christ in His way.  That's all He really asks.  Just...  Be what we've been and remember where we came from.
I love you all.  Sorry for the shortness of this letter.  I don't feel very well.
Elder Eckman

Monday, May 13, 2013

"sprint to the finish", I'm finishing strong and I'm seeing the blessings!!!!

Dear Everyone,
This week we officially send off the last group to leave before Elder Arrington, Elder Harper, Elder Perry, Elder Richter, and I leave.  Goodbye Elder Rainbolt and Elder Walker!  They're having a dinner tomorrow night and, due to the Thompson's departure on the 22nd, we're all attending it together, having our exit interviews with President Thompson, having a testimony meeting, etc.  Elder Arrington facetiously calls it our "funeral" and I find it curious that we're attending our own funeral.  Still, I suppose that we're "dying" in about a month and a half and it's all in good fun to make the jokes.  I feel for Elder Stewart and Elder Merkley--it's probably not easy to see 2 of the missionaries that you live with go home.  I've been told that it's surreal, at least.  For their sakes, I hope not.
It was weird to talk with the family yesterday.  I just didn't have much to talk about.  That, added onto the ever-increasing reality that I'm going home soon made it just a bit strange.  It was nice to see you all, at least.  =)
We had 11 investigators in church and are seeing some awesome progress in our area.  Between the 3 companionships in Cassequel, we had 25 investigators in church!  What a cool blessing to the branch.
Life here is running faster than I might wish, but I'm trying to take some wise advice I recently received and "sprint to the finish".  I'm finishing strong and I'm seeing the blessings.  I sure love being a full-time servant of the Lord and I hope for the opportunity to do it again someday.  I'll have to plan a mission with my wife.  I hope she's interested in Africa--I certainly am.
Elder Harper reminded me that he, Elder Arrington, and I are the only Elders who served in Angola from beginning to end without it becoming a mission.  We are the poster boys of the mission that never was.  I liked that.
I don't really have all that much to share.  All is well!  The folks we're teaching are taking real steps and making real progress.  The church is still true.  The people here are still teaching me so much.  Being a missionary is still pure joy.  I love my life and I love the gospel.  Thanks so much for sharing these experiences and this belief with me.  It's made my life.  I don't buy into the "best 2 years" ideal of a mission--it's a great chapter and I know that there will be even better--but I do believe in what a mission does for a life.  It just might be the best therapy, boot camp, training field, or what have you for the rest of forever.  I don't think I'll pass many--or any--mortal days without thinking for a moment or two on what I've done here in Angola.  I have so much to learn still.  I feel very strongly that I now have the tools to learn it.  Thanks for this Mom and Dad.  You're indispensable in this process.
I love you all and I wish you happy days.
Elder Eckman