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

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

"the mission that never was"

Dear everyone (and everyone else),
Hey!  This last week was a little uneventful due to an outbreak of Dengue Fever (we think) in my companion.  He was down for about 4 days.  Or, rather, he should have been--we went out to work one of the days and he got really sick.  But that's all in the past and he's doing just fine as of Sunday.  It just so happened (really!) that we had 2 exchanges planned last week, so I was still able to go out and do some things with other elders in their areas.  That was fun and I learned much as I walked with Elder Mariquele and Elder Montgomery.
We didn't, sadly, have any baptisms on Saturday.  We're hoping to see them on the 18th, but it's up to the agency of the folks involved and the dedication they put into growing a deeper testimony of The Book of Mormon.  They have the desire to be baptized, but we're not in a hurry to commit them to such great covenants when their testimonies of the most basic--and important--parts of the Gospel are still fledgling.  We felt better about putting it off.
We saw a miracle today--American food.  =)  We bought Kraft Mac and Cheese, Apple Jacks, Gatorade, Quaker Oatmeal, and other, less healthy food items.  It was a good shopping day.  Elder Arrington and I thought it was kind of sad how excited we got to see all of that stuff.
I don't know if I've ever mentioned it, but Elder Arrington and I are living together, going home together, came in to the MTC together, and probably have a million other commonalities.  I love that kid.  Also, due to the fact that we live literally across the street from the airport, we're going to walk there with our luggage when the day comes.  It'll be pretty sweet, we think.
That brings me to some sad--but strangely fitting--news:  The Thompsons will be leaving on the 22nd of May!  We'll be without a Mission President until the 29th of June.  So...  Yeah.  It's a perfect end to "the mission that never was" for all of us who are leaving on the 27th.  We officially become a mission on the 1st of July.  We all thought that it was just...  Right.  Right that we all left just before Angola became fully independent.  We're very content with it.
On May 12th, I'll Skype home.  Mom, I'll be calling at about 8 in the morning your time (15h00 here in Angola).  I hope that works!
I learned such a cool lesson this last week about the Natural Man.  Elder Jeffrey R. Holland made a really powerful statement in which he explained that we are not Calvinists--that is, we don't believe that man is inherently evil.  He said that the Natural Man is more like a natural resource.  It's more like a river.  When a river is left to itself and not controlled it just kind of flows.  Worst case scenario, it becomes troublesome, dangerous, etc.  But, when directed or subjugated it becomes a great help and a benefit to all around it.  When we dam up the right parts and encourage the flow in other parts, it becomes a powerful force for good.  That's how we are!  =)  We need not look on ourselves as evil or terrible or what have you.  We needn't be so hard on ourselves.  We're simply here to direct the river and turn it into something useful, practical, and good.  I really liked that idea.
I feel so blessed to be here in Angola doing exactly what I'm doing with the people I'm doing it with.  I love this work and these folks.  I love the Lord and the slow but steadily growing relationship that I've allowed Him to build with me.  I've never felt more at home--and I'm a few thousand miles away, I think.  But, I suppose I'm really not--I'm at home in Angola.  I'll be a bit homesick when the time comes to wake up from this dream.
I love you all.  =)

Elder Eckman

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is here, it's true, and it blesses lives.

Dearest loved ones,
What a cool week I've just finished having!  =)  We worked our tails off and saw the fruits of it--we met 11 new people this week and have been turning our area upside down to let everyone know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is here, it's true, and it blesses lives.  As we were knocking doors in Cassenda (one of the "nicer" parts of our area) a thought hit me:  Part of your duty is to make sure that the people who live where you work know what the church is, understand that it's the Kingdom of God on the Earth, and know who to look for in times of hardship.  Even if they don't accept your message right now, they need to know that the message exists so they can seek it out later.
Well, after that hit me like a ton of bricks I realized that there's a better way to let everyone know that we are here, why we're here, and what we're doing than just wandering from door-to-door when appointments drop or just walking the streets talking to a few people.  We've decided to set aside an hour of every day to systematically contact every house in Cassenda.  It's close to the chapel, there are many apartments, houses, and people.  It might take a few months, but we've decided that it's worthwhile.  And, of course, we'll find a ton of people along the way.
So, we're making a map of sorts (we're still trying to figure out the best way to do this) and keeping a specific record of who we've talked to, how they took it, etc.  We're hoping for wonderful results.
C... on a great track to baptism and both her and M... will be baptized on the 18th.
I'm really enjoying working with Elder Stewart.  He and I complement each other well and he's a hard worker.  It's been a good transfer thus far.
Mom, I'll find out more about Mother's Day this week.  I'll let you know in the coming week.  =)
We were able to see almost all of conference!  I liked it a lot.  Admittedly, it's harder for me to pay continued attention to it all after a few hours of just watching it in Portuguese, but no worries--it was still rich and full of the Spirit.
Mom asked me what my Sundays are like, so I thought that I'd share.  We go to church from 9-12, help out with choir from 12-13, eat lunch (sometimes with members, sometimes not) and then get to work.  We try to plan out our Sundays really carefully because it's difficult to find back-up appointments on a Sunday--everyone is out of the house or receiving a visit from somebody else and aren't very willing to sit with us.  Frequently Sunday's become contacting days.  At night, we've received permission to eat with an American family who lives in our area, the Weggelands.  They are incredible folks and very converted to the Gospel.  It's always a very enjoyable experience.  After that, we head home, plan, get ready for bed and write in journals (or play around a bit) and sleep until P-day.  I usually really like Sundays.
I should be receiving travel plans in the coming week or so.  It appears that I'll be arriving home on the 27th of June at night (7-10 PM).  I'll know for sure soon and I'll send it your way, Mom.

My life is running well, the area is great, my companion's a champ, and I'm loving my mission.
I love you!

Elder Eckman

Monday, April 22, 2013

I love the word "change".

Dear everyone,
I've received such sad news this past week and we're all reminded of the nature of this fallen world.  I know that the Lord has never been closer than in these hard times.  I know that He's aware and is preparing a place for us--a place much happier and much holier.
We were able to see the baptisms of J... B... and A... and it was very touching to see the change in A...'s countenance as he exited the baptismal font.  I'm happy to see the happiness that comes from the Gospel.  A...'s wife, C..., will be baptized on the 4th!  We've been worried about her progress, but we had a very touching lesson with her and it quieted our fears.  She's ready.  She's loving the church and the influence that it's had on her family.  Everyone has changed so much.
I love the word "change".  I believe that it's the purpose of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  To change us from a carnal state to a holy one.  The ordinances and covenants, in particular, are especially important to such a change.  We receive revelation, joy, sanctification, light, power, and ability through them.
The Sacrament has become my favorite part of the week because it's my Refuge.  I love the way it makes me feel and the revelatory experiences I have with it.  I can't imagine what the Temple will come to mean to me as I return there and find refuge.  =)
I love you all and leave you with my simple testimony that the Lord knows what's happening and He's taking care of it all--be it here or on the other side.  I have faith that He operates.
In Christ's name holy name, I leave these words.  Amen.

Elder Eckman

Monday, April 15, 2013

A.... and J.... B.... will officially be baptized on Saturday

Dear everyone,
Well, I don't know that I have much to talk about this week.  My Birthday was nice.  =)  Word got out to the members (somehow) that it was and I got like 3 cakes.  That was nice.  We worked our tails off and had much success in finding.  We're going to try to collect that harvest this week.
A... and J... B... will officially be baptized on Saturday.  On the 4th we'll see a few more members of Augusto's family enter into the waters.  We're working hard with them and loving them and their progress.
We met a cool couple this week.  The wife is a less-active member and the husband knows nothing of the church.  However, they came to church and he liked it.  We sat with him and he was very kind and charming.  The wife wants to come back to church and live the Gospel.  I'm excited to see how they do in the coming week.

I'm learning a lot about happiness.  I believe that happiness is a choice.  We choose our current state of happiness.  At times we worry too much about how happy we were or how happy we will be.  Basically, we miss the point completely.  Life isn't then, it's now.  Life isn't two-and-a-half-months away.  It's not last week.  It's today.  And you know what?  Today I am happy and I am striving to make tomorrow happy too.  =)  So, why do we constantly worry about what tomorrow or next year or the next 5 years bring?  Make today good, plan well and choose to not worry and be happy and I know that the present ends up being richer.  Life, after all, is lived in the present.  Just a few thoughts I've had this past week.

So, I'm 21 now and I've noticed something simple:  I'm not really any different than I was 3 days ago.  It's a simple statement, but it's true.  I'm now a "full adult" by age.  But so what?  Does that matter?  These are questions I've been asking myself.  Do I need to now suddenly give up the things of "childhood" which made me smile?  My super heroes, silly board games, fantasy novels, or light-hearted jokings? Is full adult life all serious and all responsibility?  Is it less-than-respectable to love the things you've always loved?  We'd all say "no", I think.  I've been thinking a little bit about this and I've realized that who we are doesn't change with age.  Interests can.  As can ideas, beliefs, etc.  But who we are is something greater than that.  So, if I happen to be a bit of a kid at heart, so be it.  =)  I've come to the conclusion that a person can be balanced in all things and mature and responsible and still enjoy watching Disney movies with their nieces and nephews.
I'm learning volumes about loving people for who they are and encouraging them to grow inside of themselves.  I'm also learning volumes about applying that same idea to myself.
I sure love you all.  Have a great week.  I'm trying really hard to focus on the Gospel, my mission, and the love I have for the Lord.  Keep me in your prayers!

Elder Eckman

Monday, April 8, 2013

We sent off Elders Borden, Tolman, Kelsey, Sande, and Davis.

Dear everyone,
First off, Heather, I got your letter.  Are you still using your old e-mail address or not?  Inquiring minds need to know.  =)  (In other words, I loved your letter and I want to respond by e-mail...  So it actually gets through.  Let me know, yeah?)
Secondly, this last week was great and I'm loving serving with Elder Stewart.  He reminds me a lot of Andy.  It's fun and we get along great.  He's a very solid missionary and a hard worker.  We're finding folks as quick as we can.  He's from Las Vegas (Henderson, technically) and is a connoisseur of high-powered vehicles.  He knows a lot about sports cars and super bikes and the like.  Talking with him has been fun.
We had a crazy rain storm on Saturday.  The streets quite literally became rivers and we were knee deep in running water.  We went that morning to prepare Augusto and João Bapstista's baptism and it, sadly, didn't go through.  We had to delay due to difficulties with water at the chapel.  Still, they're raring to go and ready.  They'll be baptized soon.
I haven't been able to see conference yet, but I was able to watch Priesthood Session and wow.  I loved it!  President Uchtdorf's talk was quite moving and I love President Monson's advice for success.  It was all very youth-focused and I'm grateful for that.
We sent off Elders Borden, Tolman, Kelsey, Sande, and Davis.  It's crazy that they're all gone and have already started up "regular life" again.  I wish them all well and hope that they're enjoying every blessing.
I was reminded that my Birthday is coming up on Saturday and was grateful for that today--I haven't been thinking much on the date, I guess.  Thanks for the well-wishes.  I sure love you guys.
Dad, you're in my prayers and I'm excited for the new opportunity that's come your way!  Good luck.
This week I've learned a lot.  Might I direct your collective attention to Alma 34?  In verse 39 we read:

 Yea, and I also exhort you, my brethren, that ye be watchful unto prayer continually, that ye may not be led away by the temptations of the devil, that he may not overpower you, that ye may not become his subjects at the last day; for behold, he rewardeth you no good thing.
Prayer is super important.  It is one of few weapons that has true and lasting effect on the enemy of our souls. 

But I especially love the last phrase:  "...He rewardeth you no good thing."  What an apt statement to describe what Lucifer has to offer even the greatest of his followers.  In contrast, what does Christ offer?
For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
I suppose we could say that Christ offers every good thing.  I liked that idea, so I thought I'd share it with you all.
Today we went shopping at a place I haven't been to in a very long time and I was pleasantly surprised.  I'll be going back there.  We found Gatorade, refried beans, tortillas, taco mix, corndogs, salsa, and so much more.  I haven't seen any of that stuff in what feels like decades, so I took advantage.  Happy Birthday to me.  =)
Well, I love you all.  I'm loving life and hope that you are too.
Elder Eckman

Monday, April 1, 2013

This past week has been wild.

Dear Everyone,

So, after a lame letter last week, I'm repenting with what I hope will be a better one.  =)
I'm being transferred from Cassequel!  Elder Arrington and I are being sent to open up Benguela--a very exciting, very new opportunity that has us both freaking out.  We have 2 transfers to get it ready for other missionaries to come in and take over the work.
This past week has been wild.  We saw a riot, heard gunfire, avoided a car accident by just a few feet, and pulled a "Alma-and-Amulek-street-preaching-moment".  We got 5 phone numbers out of it and we're excited to see where they go. 
I have glasses now.  I've been getting pretty bad headaches, so I went in for an eye test and they prescribed a fairly low-prescription pair of glasses.  I'm still getting used to them.
So, yeah.  My week was pretty great.  Want to hear what actually happened?
April Fool's!  None of what I just said is happening.  None of it.  I'm staying in Cassequel and Elder Stewart is coming in to be my companion.  I'm excited.  Augusto and João Batista are getting baptized on the 6th and we're very excited for them.  We're going to spend some great time finding this week.
While there were no riots, we had some great lessons.  I really enjoyed this past week.  I felt the Spirit a lot.  I was also able to go an exchange with Elder Tolman (who leaves on Wednesday) which was great.  I love and will miss him.  It's super surreal to be saying goodbye to all these missionaries with whom I came in.  Time's a-ticking and I'm a-working.  =)
Happy late Easter, by the way.  I hope you all felt the special spirit of Christ's sacrifice as you contemplated His eternal and infinite love for all of us.  I add my testimony to that of many that He loves us and cares about us.  He knows us all and He knows what we need.  He paid for our pains, hurts, anguishes, sins, and heartaches.  He understands.  I promise you that.  And, knowing all of our parts (even the deepest, darkest ones)...  He still loves us perfectly.  He knows.  And He loves.  That, to me, is greater than any gift that I could imagine.
Many of God's children have wandered from His fold.  I think we all know someone (or have been someone) who has walked the paths of Satan's unsatisfying lies and drawn water from the glittering pools of pain that he offers us.  But, you know what?  Who cares?  We don't have to stay in the fields of flattering words and near the wells of misery.  We don't have to keep on climbing the mountains of despair that seem so tall, so formidable, and so impossible to scale.  We can come down.  Much more importantly than what we've done, the Atonement of Jesus Christ allows us to focus on what we're doing, what we will do and, most importantly, who we are and what we're becoming.  Our Heavenly Father beckons us to come back to the sheepfold of security, love, and peace.  Christ has left the sheepfold, walked the fields, drawn water from the wells and pools, scaled every despairing and terrible peak, and mapped out every corner of the kingdom of the devil to show us the way back.  He calls, He seeks, and He loves.  He truly descended below all things so that the Atonement covers anything that we have done or will do.  If we accept and follow Christ, He will help us repent, turn to Him, and come home.  I testify of these eternal truths.
Easter is such a beautiful holiday that I know I haven't thought enough about.  I invite all to consider what we truly commemorated yesterday.
I love you all and I'm adoring my mission.  I'm learning so much about who I am and what the Lord wants for me.  I feel so much closer to my Savior than I ever thought I could.  I feel at home.  I feel at peace.  I never want to leave these things.  When I come home (I have finally accepted that this will all come to an end), I hope to be able to always keep in remembrance the lessons I have learned here.  I hope to continue to grow, to continue to be teachable and rebukable.  I hope to truly become a humble disciple of Jesus Christ.
Thanks for all of your support, care and prayers.  I feel them.

Elder Eckman

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

We were able to help R...., C...., and N.... enter into the waters of baptism!

I've used most of my time already, but I'll try to tell you about this great week!  =)  We were able to help R...., C...., and N.... enter into the waters of baptism!  Wow!  It was super cool and very powerful.  I loved the experience.  We had a near-disaster with the font, but the Lord provided and we were able to make it work.
I felt very humbled as I participated in these ordinances (I gave N... The Gift of the Holy Ghost and baptized R...) and felt of the sweet spirit that accompanies them.  I invited all to remember their baptisms and confirmations when encountered with trials of faith--the church is true.  Your baptism is a proof of that.  =)
I read in Alma 37 and 38 recently and was very touched by Alma's advice to his sons.  I recommend it.
This week, we send off Elders Borden, Kelsey, Tolman, Sande, and Davis.  We'll miss them!  It's crazy that they're leaving.  I arrived in Angola right after them, after all.  =)
Mom, the remodel is unreal!  I can't believe that that's our house.  I'm truly not coming home to anything that I recognize.
Well, my time is up.  I'm sorry.  I know this e-mail is lame.  I love y'all and I recommend the conference talks from last general conference as we prepare for the upcoming one.  SO powerful.
Elder Eckman

Sunday, March 24, 2013

We've been digging in and working our tails off

Dear everyone,                                             March 18, 2013
Wow!  It's so wild to hear from you all!  I miss you bunches and love you so much.  I'm trying to get back to everyone.  Sorry if the responses are underwhelming.  =)
So, many people have been delayed due to slightly-slower-than-hoped-for-progression.  =)  Still, we'll have about 19 baptisms on the 23rd in all of Luanda--3 of them are my companionship's.  C..., R..., and N... are all so ready to enter the Lord's Kingdom and I'm so excited for them.  On the 6th of April we're hopeful for another 6 from our companionship.  From there, I'm hopeful to create the habit of baptisms every other week--really every week that we have baptisms in the mission--so that the branch can continue to steadily grow.  We'll have a Stake before you know it!
We've been digging in and working our tails off (in fact, I've used that phrase in my journal a lot lately =)) and we're seeing so many miracles.  The Lord is opening the path before us.  We're still trying to find more people, but we have found, at the very least, very prepared people.
I'm trying so hard to make my last 2 1/2 transfers the best of my mission.  The smartest.  The most effective.  The most spiritual.  The most charitable.  The most reliant on the Lord.  The happiest.  The most obedient.  The most success and the most fruit.  And, frankly, it's hard.  I love this work.  It's a tiring work.  It's not one to be done alone.  I'm learning--very slowly, it feels--how to trust the Lord and others.  I'm learning what discipleship means.  I've probably said it before, but there's no such thing as a casual Christian.  There's no such thing as a casual missionary, either.  =)  You're in this war or you aren't.  If we halfway a war, we very quickly become a casualty.  As Jefferey R. Holland once taught, "Casual Christians become Christian Casualties."  I think it's applicable to this phase of the Lord's work.
I'm learning the truth that this isn't my mission.  This isn't my church.  It's the Lord's and I belong to Him.  It's the Lord's Kingdom and I'm a subject and a servant.  Who am I to do my will or to lead my way?  A stewardship is simply an opportunity to do that which the Lord would do if He were in your place.  Slowly, I'm realizing how much I have to learn about the Lord's will.  =)
I feel...  Indescribable.  It's a sort of light, I guess.  I just feel good.  Is that enough of a description?  I feel wonderful.  I feel happy.  I feel euphoric, at times.  And it just doesn't stop.  I believe.  I know.  I live.  And it makes all the difference in who I am and how I feel about myself, the world, the folks around me, and my Father in Heaven.
I have learned one singular lesson on my mission--the 1st one.  In 1820, a young man had a vision as he prayed to know the truth.  My Heavenly Father and my brother, Jesus Christ, appeared to him and showed him the way.  The heavens opened.  Man was once again endowed with power.  God's hand was once more fully present.  The Lord established His church and His way.  And now, the question is simply if we're willing to accept that.  The question is not if it's all true.  It is.  God will tell us that if we just ask.  The question is how do we follow His will in our lives?  Our lives are all about His will.  That's what I've learned here.  Just ask Joseph Smith.  Just ask Moses.  Just ask Christ.  I know that our happiness depends on how we carry out His plan for us.
That we might all pursue the Spirit and the will of God,

Elder Eckman

Monday, March 11, 2013

Update to church policy, so, I'm back! =)

Dear Everyone,

There has been an update to church policy:

Missionaries are to write to their families each week and are also
authorized to communicate
by email with friends, priesthood leaders, and new converts. Mission
presidents should allow
sufficient time on preparation day for missionaries to write emails
and letters. While in the
mission field, missionaries should receive authorization from the
mission president before
entering into communication, including via email, with converts and
others of the opposite
gender within the mission boundaries (see Missionary Handbook, 36–37).

So, I'm back!  =)  I have been sending letters to many of you, but I
fear that they may not have gotten through.  I hope that this is not
the case.  Regardless, I am now able to e-mail and to receive e-mails.
 Please feel free.  =)

I have received so much exciting news lately that my head's spinning!
Everyone's getting married, having kids, going on missions, receiving
exciting new callings, and progressing so well.  =)  Congrats to all.

This last week was so good!  We worked our tails off, had great
lessons--quality and quantity, which is always nice--met a few new
people, and are running toward the 23rd with gusto.  I'm stoked.

I was really touched this week by the concept of Grace in our lives.
Many a time I have been met with a difficult situation and asked
myself, "Why is this happening to me!?"--generally a useless and
selfish question--instead of, "What can I learn from this?" or, "How
can I change this situation?"  Our Father in Heaven doesn't plan on
making every challenge go away when we ask Him to.  He doesn't even
plan on making things easy for His people or taking away sorrows at
the drop of a hat.  Our Heavenly Father is a God of perfect
understanding, love, and care.  He knows what we need, why we need it,
and He will not deprive us of opportunities to grow.  He is as a
skilled surgeon--if He stopped cutting partway through an important
surgery just to stop us from a little pain, the surgery would be
useless and we'd gain nothing from it.

So what does He offer us if not His divine hand to lift us out of
every difficulty?  The answer is an easy one and, while perhaps a bit
less showy, many times more marvelous:  Grace for hard times.  Grace
is not a miraculous "hand of God" that takes away our troubles, but
the simple and beautiful power that changes who and what we are.  It
strengthens us, gives us capacities beyond our own, and enables us to
grow past ourselves.  Ether 12:27 (a personal favorite, as you all
know) means so much more to me when I think of Grace as an enabling
power and not as a miraculous "auto-change".  Just some food for
thought taken from an old talk by Elder Bednar.

Another study topic of the week was The Book of Mormon.  I had already
decided that I needed to focus on The Book of Mormon more in my
studies, my teaching, and my life.  Then, I read a wonderful talk by
President Ezra Taft Benson.  It's a famous one, but at the moment the
name escapes me.  It shouts volumes of the importance of The Book of
Mormon in our lives.  The Book of Mormon is truly the New Covenant and
we will truly be under condemnation if we treat it lightly.  As I read
the pages of such a sacred record, I grow closer to my Father in
heaven and to my Savior, Jesus Christ.  I feel that I am never closer
to heaven than when I'm partaking of the Holy Scriptures.  I love
reading, studying, and applying the scriptures to my life and to the
lives of others.  I invite all to make The Book of Mormon a part of
daily home, personal, and religious life--you'll only find greater
peace, joy, love, and harmony in all that you do.

The week was great, as I said.  We had 8 investigators in Sacrament
meeting and 2 more that showed up as the first meeting ended.  =)
Elder Whitaker and I sang "O Senhor Meu Pastor É" (The Lord is my
Shepherd) for Sacrament Meeting and I think it went well.  Our Branch
Missionary program was reorganized and is raring to get to work.  Life
is good.  I love my District and I love this work.  I know that Christ
is the head of this church.  I know that God is my Father and that He
loves me.  I know that Joseph Smith was called of God and given the
authority to do everything he claimed that he did.  I know that he
truly did those things.  The Plan of Salvation is the Plan of
Happiness and it's perfect.  There is no flaw in God.  He knows all
things, loves perfectly, and forgives His children when they come unto
Him.  He provided the way and it's easy--indeed, if we but look, we
may live.

I love you all and wish you the best,

Elder Eckman

PS: For anyone interested in E-mailing Cody and need his E-mail address please contact me at or send me a message on Facebook.
Lori (Cody's mom)

Monday, March 4, 2013

We have roughly 15-17 baptisms in Cassequel on the 23rd.

    Again I am trying to catch up on posts, I have just posted the last 2 E-mails, today's, and Feb. 25, 2013

Dear Mom, Dad, Jane, Heather, Anna, Trent, and anyone else who gets/reads this thing,  March 4, 2013

I have had a crash course in seeking, understanding, and following the Lord's will lately.  I'm glad that He's patient.  =)
I heard about the exciting open houses with President Walton and President Merrill.  Wow!  I'm jealous--I miss the Walton's and would love to meet the Merrill's.  But don't worry about little old me--I'm just doing the best thing I've ever done with my life.  No big deal.
We have roughly 15-17 baptisms in Cassequel on the 23rd.  We'll see how many the other branches have.  =)
Everyone seems to be leaving on missions, coming back from missions, getting married, or having kids.  Life is just exploding!  I just heard that there are roughly 80,000 missionaries in the field right now.  How crazy is that?  The work is blowing up and the Lord is surely preparing the church and the world for something big.
We had 10 investigators in church on Sunday.  =)  Everything is really running.  In the upcoming week we're going to focus on finding--we've doing pretty poorly in that area lately and if you aren't finding, you're losing.  The people we have sure are great, though.
I had a really cool experience in church.  As some of our newer/recently reactivated members received callings and priesthood advancements, I just couldn't stop smiling.  I was just happy all day.  It was cool to see our branch have success and those whom I love have joy in the gospel.  It was really singular for me to feel so involved in the church.  It's a feeling I won't forget.  Through me the Lord's been able to help these people grow in the truth and do what's right.  I got to share in their joy.
I just want to share a little thought with you all about the scriptures.  As they have an increased presence in my life, I'm acutely aware of a reliance on them that I never would have guessed 2 years ago.  A day without reading The Book of Mormon is not a good day.  A day without pondering and searching and marking my scriptures as I truly search and apply the words of life to my personal existence is an empty day.  I just...  Love the scriptures so much.  I know that the Lord shows His love for us through His words.  I know that we learn every time we read and apply ourselves to understanding.  I know that the scriptures answer every worthwhile question and bring to light so many beautiful and glorious truths that would otherwise be lost.  I love teaching from the scriptures.  I love teaching about the scriptures.  In fact, this week we had a really cool experience.  Elder Whitaker (my spiritual better and teacher in all senses) brought up a really great point in one of our companionship studies.  We were talking about how to better use the scriptures and he said that he worries that missionaries spend so much time trying to convince people through the scriptures that we rarely truly teach from the scriptures.  So, we applied it to our lessons.  The Spirit was so sweet and strong in those lessons.  The doctrine didn't change.  The information didn't change.  Our attitude changed and the Spirit changed with it.  It was startling.

I love this work and I'm trying so hard to squeeze every drop out of myself before I have to leave it behind.  I hope I can!
Keep praying,

Elder Eckman

Angola Luanda will officially be a mission as of July 1st.

Dear Everyone,                                            Feb. 25, 2013
First off, my Mom listed off a million things that are happening to a million people.  From marriages to mission calls, I congratulate you all on your progression toward eternity.  =)  I know that the Lord will certainly shed forth His richest blessings upon all those who seek to do His will.
Speaking of His will, Angola Luanda will officially be a mission as of July 1st.  I'll miss it by about 3 days.  My will is certainly a bit different than His will on this one, but I trust that He'll provide the best things for me because of obedience.  =)  I trust that it's truly that way for all of us.
So, our goal is coming to pass and the blessings of obedience are shining forth for us!  Hooray for Angola!  Congratulations to this wonderful people who are oh-so-deserving of the autonomy that comes with a mission.  The next step will come in the coming 2 years (maximum--quote me on that):  A stake.  Angola is taking off.  We'll see another Brazil/Congo in no time.  Angola is truly opening itself to the Lord's plan of happiness.
Agosto and his family are progressing toward baptism smoothly.  We're hoping to see it happen on the 23rd of March.  We've also marked a few others for that day and are optimistic that everything will run well.
We've just had transfer calls, and Elder Whitaker and I will be together for one more transfer at least.  =)  It's definitely a good thing.  We work well together and get on well.
I've been feeling very exhausted lately and the end is starting to be in sight.  I'm not discouraged, but I am starting to feel the pressure.  Please keep me in your prayers.  =)  I can never have too many folks praying after me.
Mom, could you look into when my homecoming address will be planned for and what topic Bishop Laub would like me to speak on?  I'd like to know.  =)  If he'd just like me to choose something, I'd be fine with that, too.
Life here is good, I'm working, having success, and feeling good.  My mission is teaching me a lot and I'm trying to squeeze every last drop out of these last 4 months.  I'm trying to keep the mentality that I'm in the middle of my mission--we should always be in the middle of whatever we do, right?
My study of The Book of Mormon has changed drastically.  I've left behind the 10 times this year goal for one simple reason:  It's far too selfish and I have investigators to worry about.  Maybe I'll try it next year.  I greatly enjoyed how much I got from it while I did it, but that's not why I'm here.  So, I've changed it up and now I'm really trying to focus on my invesigators' needs and on how I can help them to understand, live, and love the Gospel.  It's helping, I think.
I'd best go.  I sure love you all and I thank you greatly for everything you do for me.  =)

Elder Eckman

Saturday, February 23, 2013

we walked with President K...., set a baptismal date, had a baptism, and started working more with A...... extended family

 Cody greeting other Elders at Zone Conference!!!
Dear Everyone,
Well, not too terribly much happened this week--it went by so fast!  Still, we walked with President K...., set a baptismal date, had a baptism, and started working more with A...... extended family--which is large and basically just needs to legalize a few marriages in order to be baptized.  There's a lot of potential there.  =)
M....... was baptized and confirmed this weekend and it was really cool to see her family there supporting her even though they don't believe in our message.  We also got to see 4 men ordained to the Melchizedek (check my spelling on that...  I'm used to seeing it in Portuguese these days) on Sunday.  So cool!  So much growth.  J....... compared it to ordaining 4 new Priests in the Catholic Church.  Though an... interesting comparison, it made me think about how deep and important the office of Elder really is--in other churches, men would train for a large portion of their lives to be inducted into a correspondent calling.  In our church I believe that the preparation is no smaller (spiritually) and that the responsibility is much larger due to what an Elder is expected to be able to do--lead.  Represent Christ.  In all things.  In things that have relatively little to do with doctrine or the training received in a seminary or institution of higher learning.  In act, thought, word, and desires.  In a small branch like ours, 4 more Elders is more more leaders.  Indeed, in a District and Branches, Elders can hold every single position.  It's a good step.
We're working really hard at contacting more and more prepared families and finding more and more success with it.  It's still in the ground stages, but if the area continues the way that it's growing, it'll one day see 10-15 baptisms per transfer.  Or more.  More is totally possible.  I'm seeing things in the work that I didn't know were possible lately.  It's hard to explain...  So suffice it to say that the Lord has bared His arm and shone forth His power abundantly on us.  I've never met so many prepared people in such a short amount of time that are just so willing to believe in our words and do what we invite them to.  The Spirit is so good at showing people what the need.
I hope that my last batch of letters got through!  I have been writing you all--I promise.  I hope you get them.  They were good letters.  Honest!  =)
I sure love you all and hope that life is treating you as it should.  If I can do anything, let me know.  I'm here to help.  I was called to serve, after all.

Elder Eckman

Monday, February 11, 2013

Elder & Sister Cooks advice, it's great for everyone!!

Dear Everyone,
We had a great week, found 2 more married families, were visited by a member of The First Quorum of the Seventy (incredible!), and have been asked by President Kretly to take him on a split with us this week.  =)  The work's going well.
Elder Carl B. Cook of The First Quorum of the Seventy (also the 1st Counselor in our Area Presidency) paid our wonderful mission a visit this past weekend along with his wonderful wife.  It was so inspired and exactly what the doctor ordered.  I learned so much that I wouldn't even know where to begin explaining it all.  Suffice it to say that my experiences with Elder and Sister Cook have made me a better missionary, a better equipped teacher, a humbler seeker or obedience, and a person more prepared for life after the mission.  I know that it's not my place to say this, but I believe that Elder Cook is the sort of man that will one day be an Apostle.  He...  Changed my life over the past 3 days.
One thing they both really focused on was the importance of love in a marriage and family.  He shared with us some counsel given him by President Packer:  Love your wives more.  It doesn't matter how well you're treating them, they deserve better.  It was very beautiful and inspiring to see how unified the two of them were.  They spoke on the importance of The Book of Mormon in the home, of doing things together, of being one flesh, of "peculiar behavior" (such as doing yard work and other chores around the house together), running simple errands together just for the sake of being together, and always focusing on loving one another.  "In a righteous people," he told us, "husbands love their wives and wives love their husbands and husbands and wives love their children--in that order."  He went on to explain that husbands should allow their wives to love them more by loving them more.  He said that as the Priesthood head of the family it is our duty to love our wives first and that all else would stem from that.  We can never do enough to value our wives as the daughters of God that they are.  Another example he brought up was Doctrine and Covenants 25.  He read the first 5 verses and made the observation that Joseph Smith was likely one of the busiest men to have ever lived.  He was Restoring the true church!  There was a lot to do.  We will likely never be quite that busy.  And still, it was important to the Lord that Joseph and Emma spent time together.  It hit me really hard.  I want to seek for reasons to be with my wife (when that time comes) and not away from her.
Elder Cook also had a lot of good things to say about Angola.  He told us that he felt that he had never met so great a volume of Elders with so much potential and that the Lord had chosen well for this pioneering time in Angola.  He foresees a stake here in less than a year-and-a-half.  He told us of The First Presidency and The Quorum of the Twelve's great personal care for Angola and that they expect many good things.

I was able to see and speak at length with Elder Borden!  I've missed him.  He and all the other Lubango Elders came up to see President Kretly and Elder Cook.

President Kretly and Elder Cook both got to meet one of our families--Agosto and Cesarina.  In fact, President Kretly and his wife are going to go teach them and another family (André and Helena) with us on Tuesday night!  We're way excited.
We'll also be sitting with 2 new families this week who seem interested in our message.  We're excited for the opportunity to help so many people come unto Christ during this exciting time of our mission.
On the 16th we'll be baptizing Maritza!  She's so excited and so ready.  We should see more baptisms on the 23rd of February and the 9th of March.  =)  More to come!
I love you all and hope that life is treating you as well as it is me.  I'm loving my mission and almost extended it this week--then the Spirit told me "no" and I had to accept it.  Oh well.  Let's all do His will.  =)
Have a great week--I know I will,

Elder Eckman

Thursday, February 7, 2013

My week was full, successful, fun, and a good, growing experience.

Dear everyone,
I had a good, successful week.  I just want to laud the investigators who are making such cool changes and sacrifices in order to join with the church.
Agosto came to church!  And he loved it.  He showed up 2 hours early "just to be safe".  Without us even having taught The Sabbath Day commandment, he told his soccer team that he'd have to be done playing with them as they always play on Sundays and now he's a churchgoer.  Wow.  So cool.  He's giving up drinking, reading the scriptures, soaking in the Spirit and just...  Living the change.  I love it. 

At our last lesson with Agosto, we had a really cool experience.  In our companionship study, Elder Whitaker had been reading in 3 Nephi about how Jesus prayed for the people and how they felt so overjoyed by it to the point of being speechless.  He then made a really cool point:  We are Christ's representatives.  When we pray for our investigators do they feel this?  How can we help them to?  I liked that.  We talked about it for a while and went on with our study.  At the end of the lesson with Agosto, Elder Whitaker offered the prayer.  After he finished, Agosto looked up and said, "Wow.  I felt something different as he prayed today."  He couldn't really explain it, but it felt good.  What a testimony builder that was for me.  The Lord knows us and sends us little tender mercies every day.  We need to recognize them.
We recently met a man named André, sat with him once and invited him to church.  He came!  And we're meeting with him tonight--with his wife.  We're super excited.
Maritza gets baptized on the 16th.  She's so ready.  I'm excited for her and for her family whom she's trying to convince to sit with us.  They're coming to the baptism.
Cesar is preparing himself for baptism really well.  I think he'll make the 23rd without any problems.  We taught him the Plan of Salvation and it just... clicked for him.  He got it.  He's pumped for baptism and to enter the straight and narrow path.  =)
I had a couple of really cool personal experiences this week.  I have recently started feeling more...  Adult.  Mature?  Grown-up, at least.  I don't feel like were just a couple of boys out here calling out a message to our "superiors" or "elders".  I feel like I'm a man with an important message and that the Lord is behind me.  I feel like I'm making adult decisions and doing adult things every day.  I'm feeling less and less like a kid.  It's a good feeling.  I actually compared it in my journal to feeling as though a piece that had once been there was recently fit back in.  I just feel more complete.
Mom, you asked about mail and a safari.  Those are both news to me!  I've heard nothing about anything like that.  Mail is working fine (I just got a letter from Rachel and have recently sent out a bunch of letters) and I don't know of any plans to go on a safari.  I sure hope that one's true.  =)  I did get the package and I love the pants.  Tell Grandma hello for me and that I love her and plan on visiting soon after getting back.  It sounds like the house is going to be incredibly different when I get back!
A thought I've been bombarded with this week (by members, missionaries, and my own silly mind) is the future.  It got out that I've only got 4 fast Sundays left after yesterday and the members won't stop talking about it!  I've been asked when I'll get married more in the past day than in the 8 months before it.  Geesh.  It's a funny thought, you know--life after the mission and marriage.  I don't want to sound like "that missionary" but I truly have a hard time remembering what it feels like to not be a missionary.  I'm not completely sure what to expect when I leave the bubble.  As far as marriage goes, I'm not in a hurry but I'm not waiting either.  I'll get married in the Lord's due time to the right girl in the right place.  (Missionaries, I've found, make far too big a deal about how quickly other missionaries will get married.  It's a silly subject.)
So, my week was full, successful, fun, and a good, growing experience.  I love my area.  I love my mission.  I love the Lord.  I'm reading in Ether right now and I'm loving it.  3 Nephi was a doctrinal high and I will always recommend Christ's visit to the Americas as good reading.  I sure love you all and hope that your collective weeks were as good as my singular one.  =)
Stay Golden,

Elder Eckman

This week, as I read my Patriarchal Blessing, charity jumped off the page.  The word is only used once, but its the definition of many of the specific counsels given to me in the blessing.  I've realized that I'm not a very charitable person but that the Lord wants me to be.  So, this is my new focus.  I believe that as we focus on others, our problems really do disappear.  I have a testimony that charity is truly the pure love of Christ and that as we seek Him we develop it.  I love my Savior and I'm trying to love my fellowman as He loves them.  Bit by little bit, I'm growing in it.  I recommend a study on charity to anyone who's seeking more peace in this life.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Feed My Sheep, Feed My Lambs

Dear everyone within the range of my words,                               
What.  A.  Week!  Oh my goodness, I feel highly blessed of the Lord right now.  Exact obedience is truly bringing miracles.
So what happened this week?  I'll start at the beginning.  We decided to scrap many investigators last week, contact and find a bunch more, and just try to build up the area as best we could in a week to use as a jumping ground for this week.  Well, the Lord wanted something more.
We found a family (married parents, 4 kids, ages 4, 13, 15, and 17--two of them potential Aaronic Priesthood holders) who accepted the message of the Restoration outright and will be baptized on the 23rd of February!  They are so ready for the Gospel.
What else could possibly have happened to make me so joyous?  During church, 2 separate men (in their mid-twenties) came up to us and set up appointments with us for this week.  They also said something to the effect of, "We need to be baptized and serve God as quickly as possible."
This transfer, Elder Whitaker and I had set a goal of 8 baptisms and we didn't know how we'd meet it, but we felt right about it.  And now...  Well, the Lord is providing.  Our faith is being met with responses.  And we're awed by it.
Mom, you asked how I get along with Elder Whitaker.  The short answer is that I love him and I find him to be one of the best missionaries I've ever met.  He's exemplary, funny, a great teacher, a focused planner, good at goals, and has such a testimony of this work.  We're seeing miracles together.  He's a true friend.
I'm getting toward the end of Helaman and I'm loving my reading in The Book of Mormon.  I'm more and more touched by its simple, powerful message.  The Book of Mormon truly answers our doubts, enlarges our souls and brings us closer unto our Savior and our Father.  I love it and I'll never put it down.
I came to a sad realization this morning:  I have 5 Fast Sundays left before I head home.  I'm...  Not ready to leave!  It's gone by so fast.  I don't know about you all, but it scarcely feels like it's been a year-and-a-half since I left home.  It's been a good run thus far and I know that the next 5 months will be even better and even more filled with work.  I'm tired, but I can sleep when I'm released.  (I know it's not true--there's too much to do to get life started again when I get back!  Still...  I have a 2 day plane ride to sleep on, right? )  ;)
In other news, Anna, Heather, Jessi, and Jane should expect letters in a few weeks.  I finally sent them off today.  My goal to write 2 letters a week has been going well--now I need to make one to send 2 letters a week.  =)
I guess I'll share a poem I wrote this last week with you.  I'm reluctant to do so as I'm no great talent, but I like its message.  Be kind.  =)
Feed My Sheep, Feed My Lambs

I'd offer gold and precious gems
For love engraved on perfect hands
But all He ever asked of men
Was, "Feed my sheep, feed my lambs."

Still, now and then I've wandered blind,
Losing sight of His perfect plan--
Ignoring as His voice reminds
To "Feed His sheep, feed His lambs."
With arms outstretched, He gathers home
A wand'ring flock into His land
And asks that we help do the same
And "Feed His sheep, feed His lambs."
I wondered at the easy way
Forgiveness caused my soul to stand
And I promised there, that very day,
"I'll feed Thy sheep, feed Thy lambs."

I'm loving the work, I'm loving the scriptures, I'm loving the people, and I'm loving the Lord.  I love the changes I'm starting to see in myself.  I'm growing more and more content with my work ethic, with my goal ethic and with my organization ethic.  I feel like a successful missionary--and I would even if I hadn't had one of the best weeks of my mission just barely.
Work, work, work--there's nothing better.
I love you all and I wish you the best.

Elder Eckman

Monday, January 21, 2013

Hey! This week was great!

   Again I have to say I'm sorry for posting last weeks e-mail with this weeks, I spent part of the week in Vegas and just did not get around to doing it after I got back home. The time just seems to be rushing by, before we know it Cody will be home, He will be released sometime the last week of June, only a few more months and he will be home, Yea for us, I'm sure that he has many mixed feelings.
Dear people of various places,
Hey!  This week was great!  Now I'm with Elder Whitaker and I'm loving Cassequel.  I'm District Leader and feel very honored to work with these elders.

This week, in a nutshell:

I arrived in Cassequel B this week and we got to work. It wasn't a perfect week (there are many things about the area that both I and Elder Whitaker are still learning) but it was a good week. Our focuses next week will be contacting, meeting goals, extending baptismal dates, and dropping those who are not progressing. It will be a wonderful week.

I'm loving working with Elder Whitaker and I find him to be an outstanding missionary, incredibly intelligent, and very sensible. He has a good head on his shoulders. I'm excited to see where this transfer will take us.  Although he only has 2 transfers here, he speaks Portuguese so well.  It's impressive.

As District Leader, I've had the opportunity this week to speak with the Cassequel District and define our biggest concern for this transfer. We've decided that it's the Spirit and seeking his presence with more hunger and diligence. I have been very worried that as I build the "skeleton" of missionary work, I'm missing the "meat" which is the Spirit. I am incapable of converting anyone. I can, however, rely on the Lord to do so so long as I invite well, do my job correctly, and follow the examples and guidelines given me by my leaders. So, as a district we are focusing on exact obedience, Preach My Gospel, and seeking the Spirit more fully this transfer so that we can made equal to our task.

I'm personally focusing on Humility as of late and have felt the blessings. I've realized that I truly don't have much self-control or ability to help others in and of myself. I have to rely on the Lord a great deal to do anything. Alma 37 comes to mind.
I am so amazed lately at the completeness of the Gospel.  It has an answer for just about anything.  It makes the tough times better, the hard times a little lighter, and the hurtful times and little less sharp.  I'm amazed by the Atonement of Christ and what it can do for our lives.  It's so...  Complete.  Full.  Perfect.  So, I'm working to use it every day and to become a better, more complete person in return.

I love you all!  I hope life is running well.  Keep up the good work there and I'll get to work on getting some families baptized here.

Elder Eckman

I'm going to Cassequel!

Dear everyone,                                               January 14, 2013
This week has gone great!  I have news--I'm going to Cassequel!  I'll be with Elder Whitaker and I'll be District Leader.  It should be great fun.  I'll likely end my mission there--I'll be going home in June, after all.
This week was great, but I don't have very much time today--this P'day has been a race.  To sum up my week:  Alex will be interviewed for baptism this coming Saturday.  He's ready.  We met many Less-Actives this week.  They're ready to come back.  We had many people in church--both less-actives and investigators.  It was wonderful.  I loved seeing the progression of one less-active as well (his name is Nito) as we finally got him to come to church and when he was there it was just like a key in a lock--he fit right in.  I have high hopes for him.
I've been thinking a lot on what leads to inactivity in the church and have come to the conclusion that it's all about the Spirit.  Little things keep him with us and little things drive him away.  If we take too many little steps away, we lose his constant guidance and become just like everyone else in the world who's not a member of the church--basically good, but unaccompanied.  Then, we start to forget what it was like to be accompanied.  It's hard to come back from inactivity.  It's a hard first few steps.  Still, people gain momentum quickly and it gets easier and easier.
Some advice to myself (I never want to play with inactivity--I've seen it destroy lives):  Never let the size of the filth trick you--it's still corrosive even if it's just a couple of scenes in a "good" movie or a few dirty jokes with friends.  The Spirit runs.  I've seen it.  Never give in to any temptation that makes you miss church.  You need to be there every week.  Be involved.  Pay attention.  It truly becomes a shield from the world.
I've been helping many less-active members lately and am so surprised by how hard it is to come back.  It's easier to never leave.
As of today, I will be finishing Mosiah.  Good stuff!  I love you all.  More next week!
Elder Eckman

Saturday, January 12, 2013

I have made some resolutions for the New Year

Dear everyone,

Well, like the rest of the world I have made some resolutions for the New Year.  I'd like to share them with you!  =)

1.  Get at least 20 lessons a week.
2.  Focus on families and priesthood holders by seeking to find 20 men while contacting every week.
3.  Write 2 letters every week (not emails--physical letters).
4.  Read my Patriarchal Blessing every week.
5.  Read 15 pages of The Book Mormon every day.  (I figure that focusing on the scripture that I should be teaching out of the most is the best idea any way, right?)
6.  Work out every morning.  (I've got to lose some weight--the Holidays weren't kind!)
7.  Write in my journal every night.
8.  Write one poem weekly.
9.  Memorize one scripture weekly.
10.  Read Preach My Gospel every day.

So, yeah.  I've given a theme to 2013 so that I don't lose my vision:  2013 is Elder Eckman's "Year of Conversion".  I want to know even better than I do that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God, that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is His Kingdom on the Earth, that Thomas S. Monson is and Joseph Smith was a Prophet called by God, that my Heavenly Father knows and loves me, that I have a purpose on this Earth, and that I can be happy by living these things.  I want to know it.  I want to be able to see it in my every step, hear it in every word, read it in every scripture, and feel it in every fiber.  I want to be obedient, charitable, humble, diligent, hopeful, loving, caring, faithful, knowledgeable, giving, confident, righteous, and just a bit more like Christ.  I want 2013 to be the year that I lay a surer foundation, shore up a more powerful life, and give more to the Kingdom than I ever have before.  I want to kill the Natural Man with faithful service.  So, I'm digging in, putting my head down, forgetting myself, and getting to work.

My battle cry this year should be the following:

I am a disciple of Christ.  I know where I've been, where I am, and where I'm going.  I know that the Lord knows me and loves me.  The rest are details in a grand scheme that I understand well enough to take part in.  Christ is my Savior, friend, and leader in all things.  I will not fail with Him as my constant goal.  I will not cede to temptation because of my flesh nor give place to the enemy to break my resolve.  I am on a mission of holiness and will not allow impurity to chink the armor given me of the Lord.

I had an incredible week and have some great news:  Mauro came to church and we're meeting with him tonight.  The Lord has guided our steps so much this week and we met some people as we walked in paths we usually wouldn't.  Most of it has been an effort in seed planting, but we're growing bit by bit and are having great success.

I have such a testimony of the power of fasting and just want to share it with you all.  If you need special help, to get closer to God, to feel more at peace, have more love in your life, feel less alone, receive more strength from on high, or any number of countless other blessings... fast.  It is a feeling of pure joy as you sacrifice necessary sustenance to show faith unto the Most High God and receive His hand more fully in your life.  It works.  It's beautiful.  I've never felt the arms of God around me so powerfully as I have this past week.  It's truly a miracle.

In other news, Marciano has given up drinking and he's understanding our lessons so much better.  The Lord has blessed him so much.  His wife (a devout Catholic) wants us over for dinner and we're hoping to speak with her as well.

We sat with our friend Pascoal this past week as well and had a really cool moment of teaching by the Spirit.  He's a Jehovah's Witness and has a bit of a hard time with some of the things we teach because of other things he's learned.  We gave him a Book of Mormon, explained it simply, bore testimony, and just waited.  Neither Elder Wilhelm nor I spoke a word for over 2 minutes as our testimonies sunk in and the Spirit worked on him.  He leafed through the book, read a verse or two and just thought.  The Spirit was roaring into the room and I know that he was affected by it.  I'm not sure where he'll go, but we're hopeful for him.

Mom, I'm excited to hear about your missionary experience.  I hope that it touched you deeply.  This work is so true and so breathtaking.  I love every minute.

Thanks for everything, my beloved friends and family.  You'll never know how your prayers, support, kindness, and love have shaped my life.  I'm eternally grateful for all that you've all done for me and hope to be able to explain it better one day when I'm more able, more eloquent.


Elder Eckman

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Spirit brings us knowledge, lifts us, comforts us, gives us the ability to preach in a language that we barely know, touches the hearts of all those who are willing to give him place. What a gift we have, my friends.

Dear everyone,

Well, Hipólito was baptized, he received The Gift of the Holy Ghost, and he's on a spiritual high!  Right after his confirmation he told us that he felt like his chest was on fire and even though the room was cold, he was warm.  It was really spiritual.  I love that feeling!

Today, we did work because we're having a special activity tomorrow.  And today was great!  We met with a Pentecostal Pastor and taught him the message of The Restoration.  The Spirit was perhaps stronger than any other lesson I've ever been in.  Mauro is very humble and so sensitive to the whispering of the Spirit.  At the end of everything, he looked up at us after having read part of the introduction of The Book of Mormon and he said, "So, basically you're telling me that every church--the Muslims, the evangelicals--all of us--is false except yours and that Christ Restored it through a living prophet just as He did in ancient times?"  We said that, yes, that was exactly what we were alleging.  We testified.  The Spirit was strong.  He said, "Okay.  I'll have to pray about this.  And read."  He was so sincere.  There was no challenge in his manner.  He just wants to know.  Wow!  It was a miraculous experience.  He prayed at the end at his countenance was just...  Different.  His wife was crying.  The Spirit was flowing strong.  He will pray.  He will find an answer.  He will be baptized.  I know it.

I'm so amazed by the Spirit.  He brings us knowledge of so many things!  He lifts us.  He comforts us.  He makes us bold or tells us to hold our tongues.  He gives us the ability to preach in a language that we barely know and he touches the hearts of all those who are willing to give him place.  I find myself more addicted to his presence and find it disturbing when I drive him away.  What a gift we have, my friends.  What a gift.

I sure love you all and I'm working hard.  Expect letters in the coming weeks--it's a new goal I have.

May the New Year bring you much happiness and success,

Elder Eckman