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 (AndrĂ© 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 AndrĂ©, 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.