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, HipĆ³lito 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