Monday, April 23, 2012

Questions answered & Maier's example

Dear various folks,

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

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I hit the 9 month mark this week!!!!

Dearly beloved,

We gathered here today to partake of the wonderosity (now a word) of a
letter from Elder Eckman. I hope you all enjoy my first e-mail
written as a 20 year-old. My birthday passed well and I do feel a
difference, actually. I never really had before now... It's probably
just because I'm on a mission. Go figure.

Well, this last week was pretty cool. Office work was slow this week,
but we were able to teach a titch more; that's a huge blessing for me.
I miss teaching. We don't get to do it like I was always able to in
Luanda 2. We're so spoiled in this mission--all we do is teach! What
a cool blessing.

I was able to watch conference! In Portuguese. And I understood it!
=) I was super happy about that. What cool talks! I really enjoyed
myself and the Spirit that it brought to me. The brethren are sure
super in-tune to what people need. I noted in Priesthood Session
especially that every single talk was on Priesthood Authority. Wow!

Anyhow, life moves on very rapidly; I will hit 9 months this week. It
doesn't feel that long. I don't know how to feel about it, but it's
exciting. Elder Borden hits his year mark at around the same time I
hit my 9 month mark. We celebrated today (we had pancakes!). Our
house is a lot of fun, but we're searching for a new place: 6
missionaries is too many missionaries for one apartment. We'll
probably find a new place this week. We're excited!

I've been thinking a lot about our weaknesses lately. Where do they
come from? Well, if we consult Ether 17:27, we know that weaknesses
are given to us by God. They are a part of our nature. And, through
Him, we can turn them into strengths. Does that mean that Satan
doesn't use our weaknesses to his advantage? Of course he does.
That's a huge way that we're tempted. He will pile so much on top of
us that if we don't watch, pray, and keep the commandments we'll
inevitably fall. That's his plan. Use our weaknesses to make us
fall. What's God's plan? Use our weaknesses to see that we are
nothing and--ultimately-- to turn us into something. Weaknesses are
not inherently horrid. They are simply that: weaknesses. All we can
do is find them, recognize them, and start to weed them out through
divinely given power. Alone, we are so small... But when we call on
the powers of heaven, there's not a thing that Satan can do to us. He
will lose. We just have to join the winning team.

Well, my time's a-going. I love you all. Stay safe, stay clean, and
stay awesome!

Elder Cody R. Eckman

Monday, April 9, 2012

Last letter as a teenager!!!

Dearest friends, family, Romans, countrymen (and anyone else who is lending me their ears),

This will be my last letter to you all as a teenager. Not to announce it from the rooftops or anything, but I will soon leave the dreaded years for the supposed "fresh life" of the 20's. Honestly, I feel no different. That said, it's a milestone. =) How are you all? For me, all is well. I love this phrase, "All is well". I love the way it sounds and its connotation. I love it when All is Well. Life will be hard, winds will blow, friends will desert, foes will win, happiness may seem a dream, but All is Well. Why? Because we know better.

Perspective is so cool. I live in Luanda, Angola. My house is without energy, water, etc. It's, frankly, dirty. The "comforts of life" are a roof over our head and a mattress to sleep on. But it just doesn't matter. Yeah, I wish Air Conditioners worked, that refrigerators ran, that mosquitoes didn't bite, etc. But I have my scriptures. I have the truth. I have great company. I have a smile. One day, this will all be just an incredibly eye-opening experience.

Easter sort of came and went for me (work is the same day in and day out for missionaries), but we did get to go to the Weggelands and talk about the Easter message. Can I share my testimony with you all? First, let me recount a story.

Last P-day we found two little birds in a pot of used oil near our home. We acted quickly, got water, dish soap, etc. and began to clean them. I had a realization as Elder Borden and I were scrubbing at the birds: This is like the Atonement. When we fall in oil, someone has to clean us up because we're incapable of saving ourselves. And what do we do? We fight. We bite. We struggle. We cry. And we're impossible to clean like that. It's a hard enough process as it is. But when we submit to the power of the one with the soap, we are cleaned. It is, however, impossible to stay clean if we go back to play in the oil. If those little birds had done so, we couldn't have done anything for them. It was an interesting thought for me: Stay away from the oil after you've been washed. We can't touch filth and not be affected. That's my thought today.

I want you all to know that I love my Savior with all of my heart. He has changed everything for me. Every possibility is better. Every movement has more purpose. Every day is happier, fuller. And I know it's because of His Atonement. He changed my life by saving it. He took me from gaping jaws of hell to Heaven's Straight Path. He knows how to succor you. He's done all you've done, experienced more than you can imagine, and knows you better than anyone. And guess what? He still loves you. He loves us all so much that it startles me to catch a glimpse of it now and again. It's so beautiful.

Well, I love you all. The office work is going well. I'm learning bunches. Elder Borden is convinced (and is starting to convince me) that I'm the right guy for this job. He says that there is no one else in all of Angola that can do what he's seeing me do. It's hard to love the job, but I'm starting to. I love you all. I'm grateful to be here. I hope you all had a wonderful, spiritual Easter Holiday.


Elder Cody R. Eckman

Monday, April 2, 2012

2 1/2 weeks without power, Misson life is such a blessing.

Dear everyone,

Interesting factoid: I speak Portuguese like an African. I'm not saying that I'm perfect (I'm far from that), but I understand everything that anyone says and can easily express the thoughts of my heart. Irmã Valdes called me fluent a few days back. I'm not sure if it's true, but it made me feel good.

Here in Casssequel, we have an abundance of American families: The Reedys, The Weggelands, The McAllisters, and The Thompsons. Sometimes, they invite us over for dinner and it's always quite an experience. For instance, yesterday we had a real American breakfast for dinner and (with permission) stayed and watched the morning session of General Conference. President Thomas S. Monson's remarks blew my mind! We are so spoiled.

In a few weeks, we'll get to watch all of conference. I'm really excited. I love it conference so much! It is such a cool experience to hear our leaders testify of that which is right and true. Bask in it.

I'm still driving and still loving it. Elder Borden's health is improving, but please keep him in your prayers. He's awesome, by the way. Absolutely one of my best friends in the mission. I love working with him. We have some pretty epic conversations and his wit is so dry that the Sahara would have a hard time keeping up. He's great. Honestly, he reminds me a fair bit of Alan. It's hard to explain exactly why.

Life here is great. Challenges exist, but that's why it's so good. We've been without power for about 2 1/2 weeks. It's a very interesting experience and I recommend it to anyone who wants to know a bit what life is like here. We've been having a bit of a challenge finding investigators (because we travel so much for our job) but we're redoubling our efforts and are excited to see the fruits of it.

Mission life is such a blessing. I recommend it to everyone. Please, find chances to serve. You'll never regret it. Service is just this pure light that comes and makes everything better--for you, the person you're serving, and the world. It's fun! It's good. The Lord has found ways to use my talents here that I never would have imagined. I've been rebuilding and repairing branch computers for the last few weeks. It's part of my calling. Who knew? Also, MLS is very... officey (now a word). Overall, though it's a bit annoying to have much less lesson time, it's been good for me.

Well, I love you guys. Keep me posted on your lives! Life here is definitely happy.

Elder Cody R. Eckman