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