Monday, May 28, 2012

Life continues its journey ever-forward!!!

Meus amados,

Well, life continues its journey ever-forward.  I'm loving my mission, as always, and am excited for a few recent developments with people.  Lisete and No√™mia are getting ever-closer to baptism (just a problem of marriage with one of them and a problem with feeling prepared for the other.  We'll get them through it in no time.), Teresa needs a good fire lit under her, and a few new investigators who are showing some great promise.  With a little luck we'll be moving this week.  Sadly, due to some laziness, other compromises, etc. of the 6 people we'd invited to church (who said they'd come) no one showed up.  One great big goose egg!  But that's okay--that's life sometimes.  Nothing to be done for it but to stress the importance of it this week and guide them down the path.

We received some awesome news!  By the end of the year, we'll 40 missionaries in Angola.  3 who were going to Mozambique are now coming to Angola.  Others are being called.  What a blessing!  The Lord is good to us here in Angola.

I had a thought recently and, though it's nothing too new, I wanted to share it.  "Taking up your cross" can be thought of as the hardships that we'll have to endure as we live the everlasting gospel.  For some, the cross may seem light at first.  They aren't inclined to drink, smoke, break the law of chastity, swear, etc.  For others, the cross is very heavy at the beginning.  They have to fight bodily urges, habits, addictions, lifestyles, traditions, etc.  My thought was simply this:  It doesn't matter how heavy the cross seems.  Take it up, follow after Christ, know that it gets easier, and realize that your cross will never be as heavy as His was.  Be it the shakes that come from giving up a body-craving addiction, the loss of friendship that comes from living a life outside of the bar or the turning away of bad company, broken relationships that come from a new resolve to live a chaste life, or what have you...  It's worth it.  Lehi describes the fruit of the tree of life as being desirable above all others and sweeter than anything else he had ever tasted.  It is.  It is.  I know it and I know that you all can know it if you don't already.  It doesn't matter how heavy your cross is; take it up, bear it with a smile, find joy in the journey, and you'll find a strength you never knew you had.  You'll partake of the fruit (which, as we learn from Nephi, is the love of God) and never again wish to return to a life without it.  I solemnly promise you that there's a way to bear the infirmities.  There's a way to support the hardships.  I won't tell you that they won't come.  They will.  With a firm certainty I'll tell you that they will.  But He's mighty enough to show you how to bear them and grow you along the way.  Go forward.  March on.  I promise you the reward comes.  And I leave these thoughts with you all in the name of that same help, comfort, and counselor, even Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Cody R. Eckman

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Accidentally wandered down the rabbit hole!!!!

Dear Adoring Fans,

Well, I've made a fairly large decision and you should all know:  I'll be coming home three weeks earlier than expected.  We recently changed our transfer schedule (we're currently in the middle of a 9 week transfer to reflect the change) so that we could more easily receive missionaries from Portugal.  This means that every missionary in the mission has to choose to stay an extra 3 weeks or come home 3 weeks earlier.  I was more inclined to choose to stay (why leave?), but after a lot of prayer, the Lord's made it pretty clear that He's got something else in mind.  I don't really even know why, but I do know that it's right.  So, expect to see me home nearer to the 4th of July.  =)

This week was adventure-filled.  We drove a lot, learned a lot, went to a part of Luanda I didn't even know existed, and got horribly lost for a few hours.  (Don't worry, Mom--we were completely safe.  We had the truck and everything.)  We found a fair during our "lost voyage" and it was Christmas-themed.  Don't worry--we didn't partake.  We've decided that we must've accidentally wandered down the rabbit hole for a little while there.

We started doing some legwork for President Walton with some of the other apartments to finalize the move of some other elders.  We should move in to our new place on June 1st.  =)  We are very excited.

Today we visited Celso and Sara Valdez for lunch.  They're an awesome Portuguese family with 3 kids who live near the chapel in Cassequel.  Celso said something to me that really got me thinking and I'd like to share it with you all.  He told me, "It seems easier to not go on a mission than to go on one at ages 19-26.  But at 40, it seems that it would've been much easier to have gone than to have avoided it."  He told us how he converted to the church at 24 and got married soon after and explained that his life has been through many ups and downs since.  Celso is an incredible member.  Still, he says that he believes that many of the downs would have been avoided by the deeper level of conversion, spirituality, and love obtained by missionary service.  It really got me thinking:  Do we change so much?  I...  Haven't.  Not yet.  Not to the level that I want.  But, I've started actively working toward it.  Maybe someday I'll reach the man that I envision.

I've noted some really cool things lately with help from the Spirit and just need to share them:  We are meant to live the Gospel, not survive it.  We should enjoy it!  We should love the doctrine, the friendships, the scriptures, prayer, etc.  Yes, we'll have trials and hardships, but so what?  It's nothing when we realize that the Gospel of Jesus Christ provides a way to rise above all things.  I'm not trying to sound insensitive...  But we can't afford to get too wrapped up in ourselves.  That's when the devil takes the opportunity to sow doubt, contention, pride, and so much more.  When we live the Gospel correctly, we don't have time to think too deeply on our problems.  We're out serving, loving, and taking care of other people.  Our duty to God is to love not just His Church, but this life, too.  He gave it to us to be happy and find fulfillment.  So... Let's do it.  Let's live this with all we are and stop being survivalists of the church.  We aren't to apologize for, feel discouraged about, or turn away from the truth.  We are to live it in every step.  And I invite all of you to do so in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Cody R. Eckman

Monday, May 14, 2012

That's why I'm here--to help them find their miracles!!!

Dear everyone,                                                                                                                May 14, 2012

Talking yesterday was so much fun!  I've realized that it's a bit more for my family than it is for me, but that isn't to say that I'm not super grateful for it.  The nieces and nephews are getting huge.  I definitely wasn't quite ready for that.  Everyone seems healthy and happy and I'm very glad that you're all being so well taken care of.  If I can ever do anything for any of you, please let me know.  Mom, I've heard from a few sources that the blog hasn't been updated.  I'm not sure what's up--probably just some posting error or something--but it might be something to look into.

Life here is continuing on its ever-faster course to completion.  I'm nearing a year and that scares the heck out of me!  I'm deepening my focus, making some big changes, and working as hard as I know how.  The Lord's blessings are more and more noticeable every day.  I've realized (with a big kick in the pants by the Spirit) that I'm nowhere near who I want to be--as a missionary, man, or follower of Christ.  I've got a lot of deepening to do in my own conversion.  That said, I have what I have right now and I'm working with it.  I just want to bless these people with the gospel.  It's so important.  They need this.  They need to find the truth.  They need the miracles that come from knowing this gospel.  That's why I'm here--to help them find their miracles.  It's taken me nearly a year to figure it out; the reason I came here is to change peoples' lives in the way that mine's been changed.  I guess that's a weird way to say it, but it's true.  I love seeing the miracles take effect--people giving up the beer they've lost themselves in for the last 20 years, men leaving their girlfriends, marriage, believing in The Book of Mormon... and so much more.  I love seeing people see.  I love it when they understand that they need this.  It's not just a church.  It's not just a different doctrine.  This is truth!  This is happiness!  This is the only way.  That's why I'm here.

I love this place.  I recently met a woman who is undergoing some serious changes.  She met the missionaries, began attending church, read a little, and realized that she had to leave her boyfriend (who is married and paying for her schooling).  What an incredible thing that is!  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is so powerful that she's not only willing to make these changes, she's jumping at them!  Please keep her in your prayers.

Elder Borden and I will be moving soon-ish.  We have the apartment chosen but because of paperwork...  Well, we don't know when it will be.  Pray for us, please.  =)

Life is great, the church is true, people are incredible, and I love you all.

Elder Cody R. Eckman

Embarrsssing story," Am I getting Old"

Dear friends, family, and conspiring enemies,                                                                     May 7, 2012

Firstly:  Sister Kelsey, Elder Kelsey says hello and that he'll tell you all the stories you want to hear when he calls home in a week.  =)  Mom, I'll be calling you around 7:30 in the morning.  I hope this is acceptable.  I'm super excited for it, by the way.  It'll be nice to hear your voices and see your faces again.

This week was awesome!  We got to teach a bit more than usual, finally chose an apartment (who knows when we'll actually move in?), and ran around like crazy trying to get work done.  This next week looks even crazier.  For now, for the record, we're still living in Cassequel.  We work a lot in Nova Vida (a part of Luanda 2) and it's starting to become one of our de facto areas.  We still don't technically have an area.  MLS is running well.  I feel very blessed to be involved in the work, but wouldn't mind if it stopped being my responsibility.  Not to complain, I just really miss teaching regularly.

So, get ready for an embarrassing story...  I threw out my back on Saturday.  Due to the large amount of time we spend in traffic, the fact that the driver's seat in the truck is AWFUL, and the fact that the clutch is incredibly heavy I've been having minor lower back problems.  On Saturday night, I was standing over my companion, holding a flashlight, and trying to help him fix something when, suddenly, my back seized up.  I couldn't stand.  The pain was awful.  Elder Borden helped me inside, got me to my bed, and helped me lay down.  I couldn't even turn over.  Elder Wilhelm brought me some Ibuprofen and some Icy Hot and Elder Walker gave me a blessing.  It was nice.  Later, I tried to get up to go to the bathroom.  I rolled out of bed (an improvement!), got to my knees, and found that I couldn't stand.  Elder Borden tried to help me up, but when I got to my feet I collapsed again.  I decided to wait and went back to bed.

The good news is that the next morning I was feeling better.  The bad news is that I feel SUPER OLD.  Just saying...  Back pain?  Wow, Elder.  You must be old.  Just call me Pops.

Overall, I loved this last week.  I learned a lot of cool lessons, taught some great people, and realized the importance of family.  When was the last time you all read The Family:  Proclamation to the World?  Read it.  It's so inspired and incredible.

Well, I love you all.  I hope your collective lives are running down awesome courses.  Live, love, and be happy.  It's what we were made for.


Elder Cody R. Eckman

Translating for visitors rom South Africa

Dear folks of every clime,                                                                   April 30, 2012

How is everyone?  Well, I hope this e-mail finds you all well.  My life is incredible!  In general, mission life is cool.  When you augment it with an awesome companion, the best mission country in the world, and the building up of the church here, there's nothing to complain about!  We've had two visitors from South Africa in the past week.  We'll be having 4 more within the next 3 weeks.  Generally, President takes them around and shows them what they need to see, etc.  But, sometimes, Elder Borden and I get to entertain them and show them certain things or take them places.  It's been an interesting week.  But, hey, the church is growing super fast here!  The visitors all represent different areas of the church--Seminary and institute, physical facilities, finances, public relations, land procurement, etc.  It's such a huge blessing that they're all coming!

I had to translate yesterday at church for the English speakers.  What did I find out?  I learned Portuguese from natives and don't know what the exact English translation is for a bunch of stuff...  It went okay.  I felt really bad about it, but all the English speakers said that it was a really clear, good translation.  They're all very kind.  When I hear Portuguese, I don't think in English.  I just think in Portuguese.  I guess that's bad for translation.  I'll have to try harder next time.

We recently found a bunch of new investigators!  This is a huge blessing for us.  We've been so busy lately that we haven't had a lot of time for regular teaching.  We're making it happen, though.  I love teaching people the gospel and have been missing it.  I think Elder Borden has been as well.

I was reminded recently about the idea of "keeping a summer home in Babylon" and it got me thinking.  How often do we justify our sins with the thought, "I've been doing so well lately that this little thing won't mean anything."  Wow.  What a damning thought.  We just... stop.  We cease to grow with thoughts like that.  We allow sin to rule us and give up our precious self-dominance for "just a little thing".  It's not worth it.  If we make a firm decision to follow the Lord in all things, we don't have to keep a summer home in Babylon.  We can leave sin behind and continue to receive more from the Spirit.  It's better that way, I think.

On the 13th we'll be able to call home.  I'll let you know the specifics next week, mom, but know that I'm looking forward to hearing and seeing you all!  I'm definitely not homesick, but I am home-aware, at times.  I love you all!

Sorry, it's a short e-mail today.  That's life, sometimes!

Elder Cody R. Eckman