Monday, March 26, 2012

Driving without rules!!!!

Dearest friends,

Well, I'm now officially driving in Luanda. Guess what? I LOVE it.
It's a bit like driving without rules... I'll have to relearn
blinkers, stop signs, passing only on the left, and basic driving
courtesy. That said, it's a blast. Elder Borden has compared it to
playing Frogger--but with a car. That's actually a really fair
comparison. I won't scare my mother with too many details, but
suffice it to say that, at times, I'm surrounded on all sides by cars
going in different directions. It's great fun.

The branch work is continuing on, we have no investigators, and our
"missionary work" is quite different than the norm. That said, we're
trying to embrace it. President and Sister have been working with us
a lot and I really enjoy that. They're really special people. It'll
be sad to say goodbye to them. That said, getting to know the new
Mission President will be a lot of fun and very good for all of us.
Angola is growing SO fast. It's so startling, but so good.

I've been having a bit of a hard time lately with just a few things.
If you could include me in your prayers, the extra strength would be
much appreciated.

I don't have too much to say today. I know the church is true. I
know that God is our Heavenly Father, that, in spite of ourselves and
our carnality, He loves us and is working toward our good, that The
Spirit truly guides our steps and builds us up into what we need to
be, that people get thrown into our lives for reasons and that we
can't let those reasons go unrecognized or ignored, and that this work
is heavensent. Friends, family, various other possible readers... I
love you all. Please know that. And know that our Father does too.
You should pray tonight, please. Talk to Him. Tell Him how you're
feeling and ask for a blessing of strength. He'll give it. Thank you
all for your love and support.

Elder Cody R. Eckman

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Gamut of problems, but we are figuring it out.

Dear people of various backgrounds,
Olá! I love you guys!
Well, office life (minus the office, as one does not exist) is going... well. Slow, but we're getting better. Elder Borden continues to be amazing and we get along great. Please include him in your prayers as he's having some health problems. He's from North Carolina, has been out on his mission only about 3 months longer than I have, arrived in Angola one week before me, and served in Alabama for about 2 months. He's a blast, and we get along great. He cannot drive stick, so I'll be doing all the driving of our beastly truck.
We should've received the truck last week, but didn't due to a licensing issue. It has been fixed and we will officially get it tomorrow. It will make our lives much easier as taking taxis all over Luanda (which we've been doing) is slow, tiring, and, frankly, annoying. But, we are so blessed to be getting the truck!
We're living in the living room of the Cassequel Elder's apartment. There are 6 of us living there and it's a party (not literally... but we do have a lot of fun). I love these Elders.
We've started working with the Branch Presidencies here and have run the gamut of problems: fault of interest, no internet, people not following through, people not showing up for meetings, etc. That said, it's running. We're figuring out who to train to make sure it gets done, what each individual branch needs, etc. It's interesting. As of now, the records here are a huge mess. Oi... Really, I can't figure it out. People don't exist, families aren't combined, dates are wrong or not entered, callings aren't even filled in, and so on. It's a lot of fun.
We are teaching now and again. We had no investigators to start out (because we're a new "area") so we've recieved lots of references, we're contacting a lot, and we're trying to get in doors. We've already got 3 investigators and that's definitely a blessing.
An aspect of our work is visiting less-active members and strengthening the branches. We haven't done much of it yet, but I can tell that the experiences are going to be rich. Note to self: Never go inactive. Life really seems to take a dive when you do.
All that having been said, I'm more and more impressed by people. We have this incredible capacity to turn around and fix things. The Atonement allows that. We are never too far gone to find a way back. I've found that sin is loneliness. We distance ourselves from God and then get convinced that going back is either too hard, impossible, or just not worth it. It is, though. Loneliness gets dispelled by Him. I've found prayer to be such a cool and useful first step. When we pray, we open a very personal conduit to our Father. It's the opposite of loneliness. If you're feeling forsaken, lonely, hurt, or distraught... Take your medicine. Prayer is a perfect spiritual balm.
Well, I'm loving life. The Lord is so good to us. I love you guys!
Elder Cody R. Eckman

Friday, March 16, 2012

New calling and a big area to work

Dear friends and family,

Well, this last transfer a big change happened. You'll never believe it.

On Saturday, I had the really cool honor of baptizing Menina. Her mother (who has no interest in the church but really likes the missionaries) came! I hope she took something really good from it. That family is slowly converting itself, and I love it!

Starting today, I will be driving in Angola. Pray for me, yeah? I'm excited for it, but man, oh man... It's going to be quite a new experience. Even the Americans who live here that work for oil can't drive--the companies assign drivers.

My new area? Well, I'll stop stalling. I'm with Elder Borden and we're... special. We live in Cassequel, belong to Luanda 1's district, drive, don't have a specific proselyting area, attend church in every branch (we trade every week), talk to memebers, strengthen inactives, and basically do random work. What's our calling? We are Angola's very first office elders. Do we work in an office? No. Do we actually do missionary work? ...No. But we do train every single branch with the church's organizational programs (MLS), work with the finances, and run errands. We will teach whenever we have spare time in whatever area we're in. Is our job pretty awesome? Well, yeah. It's SUPER necessary. The giant mess of the membership records here just scares me. We have 497 members who are lost. We literally don't know where or who they are. We have names. Those are just the ones we know about.

Elder Borden is awesome. Probably my new best friend in the mission. He and I just have a lot of same interests, the same sense of humor, etc. I'm excited to serve with him. We live in a living room for now. Maybe for the entire transfer. Angola can't grow without organization, so we have to train the branches to organize--which is way harder than just organizing it ourselves. It's going to be an adventure and I'm very excited. It's going to be weird to do branch work, but bring it on! I hope the Lord makes us equal to this task.

Well, I love you guys. This church is true. The paperwork side is super necessary. Wish me luck?

Elder Cody R. Eckman

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Transfers this week

Dear friends and family,
Life here moves onward on wings of missionary-time. For those who don't know, missionary-time is 8 times faster than regular time. That's why a mission seems to end way too fast. We'll have transfers and new missionaries this week. I'm almost positive that I'll be leaving Luanda 2. I've been here my entire mission, and it feels like time. I'll miss it for sure! We find out tomorrow how things will be. I'll let you all know next week! =)
Menina has a baptismal date of March 10th. She's 13, super ready, and has a great family. She'll be the 4th member in her family and we're all really excited for her.
Honestly, not much has happened this week. My companion and I are getting ever-so-slightly better every day. The rules remain a struggle in our house, but we're all growing and things are improving. Life is what life is. I'm reading in The Old Testament lately and love it.
I want to share with you one of my favorite lines from a poem by William Shakespeare. I asked my father to send this stanza to me last week because it applies really well to something that I'm seeing here in Angola right now. It reads:
What win I if I gain the thing I seek?
A wish, a dream, a froth of fleeting joy.
Who buys a moment's mirth to wail a week
Or sells eternity to buy a toy?
For one sweet grape, who would the vine destroy?
Or what fond beggar but to touch the crown
Would with the scepter strait be smitten down?
This is the problem of sin. We sell gold for dross. We spend eternity as a vain thing for a fleeting touch of something that never fulfills. We destroy tomorrow for today, heaven for earth, immortal for mortal, and peace for anguish. When temptations come, I try to remember a line I once heard: My covenants are more important than my desires and my desires should grow to reflect my covenants. Also, as quoted in a movie I once saw: Never do anything to embarass yourself, your team, or your family. Yeah, yeah, I sound peppy and motivational and sappy, but it's all true! Seek ye, therefore, the things things of heaven. They are true, lasting happiness and joy. The gild won't wear off. The finish won't chip. The shine won't fade. Some things, it's true, grow better with age.
My brothers, sister, friends, parents, aunts, uncles, and other various loved ones, I testify to you in the name of Jesus Christ that wickedness, indeed, never was happiness. I love you all. I want to meet you all again one day there in the habitation of our Father. So, I'm making the choice to never again droop in sin or walk in the paths of the damned. I invite you all to do the same in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
With love,
Elder Cody R. Eckman