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