Well, I've had a slew of questions thrown at me, so I'll attempt to answer them:
1. Who will be our new Mission President?
President and Sister Thompson will get here sometime after July (right now, they're waiting on Visas). They are Canadian, have been serving in the Congo up 'til recently, don't speak Portuguese, and sound like really nice folks. Elder Borden and I will be training them on the temporal part of being a Mission President couple. Sister Thompson speaks Spanish and President Thompson speaks French. It's going to be fun. =) Also, there's a huge likelihood that we'll be alone in the country for a few weeks. President and Sister Walton have to leave on the 7th of July. What does this mean for us? With the ZL's, we'll be running the affairs of the mission. (I'm not digging the responsibility.)
2. How is driving here?
Regular driving in Angola would be reckless driving in the states. It's pretty awesome: there aren't really any rules! That all being said, if you're white or drive any of the taxis here, you get pulled over. Police do something here that the people call "pedir gasosa". It means asking for a bribe. They pull us over, pretend that something is wrong with our documents, the car, etc. and then try to scare us into paying a bribe. It never works. It is, however, incredibly annoying. I'm white, so we're a prime target.
3. How is MLS going with the branches?
Well, one is completely done. Another will progress on its own until it's completely updated. However, the other two are the two that will have us breathing down their backs for the next few weeks. It'll be great! (Note the sarcasm--I sort of hate being the enforcer for a bunch of older men.)
4. Any interesting news/stories/etc.?
Yes. Huambo will be opening up sometime this transfer. That's a huge step for the mission! We've received 4 newbies, lost 4 old ones, will have 30 missionaries here by the end of the year, and life is awesome. We've been on an apartment hunt lately and it's wild. People assume that, because we're Americans, we only want the high-end, expensive places. We don't. It's incredibly difficult to find apartments here.
Also, I'm returning to Luanda 2. It's where we'll be living, so we need to be working closer to home. I'll be attending there again, as well. Basically, I loved it and can't leave it behind. =) By the time I stop being an office elder, I'll likely have spent more than half my mission there.
Oh, we're having a 9 week transfer to sync us up with the Madrid MTC so we can start receiving Portuguese Elders. That means that I need to make a decision about whether to stay an extra 3 weeks, or to leave 3 weeks early. I'll be praying pretty heavily about it, but I think I already know that I'd rather stay. We'll see what the Lord has to say about it.
I want to tell you all about Maier. I can't believe I haven't mentioned him yet; he's basically my Angolan brother. He'll be leaving in July for New Zealand and is SO stoked to be serving there. Maier is such an inspiration. He's in a boy band (honestly, think Angolan Backstreet Boys), and they're hitting it big. In fact, when he goes on splits with us, random girls on the street recognize him, catcall, giggle, screech, etc. It's hilarious. Still, he's decided to go on a mission and leave them all behind. I really respect him. He's got all the reasons in the world to not go... But he's going. I love it.
Elder Borden is so cool. He wants to be an artist for Disney someday. He's got the chops, the drive, and the dreams for it. I love working with him. He'll hit a year on the 27th. I can't even imagine that!
Well, I'd better go. Just a quick thought: Love every trial. It's hard. It's contrary to our nature. But we learn so much from it! When we love our trials, the rest of life is pretty simple. Find the lesson that you have to learn, love it, and keep on keeping on.
Well, I love you all!
Elder Cody R. Eckman