Monday, July 11, 2011

Life in Albania - Week 39

haha Mom.. You need to re-read your email that you gave to me. It was rude! But it's okay. I still love you. And I wanted to say Happy Birthday! You're gonna be a grandma soon!

Here are the questionsss!

1. How are your investigators doing?

We basically are just down to Noj now as an investigator but he is doing well. His little sister Kristjana hasn't been able to meet with us very often because of the Mom. But Noj has been progressing a lot and has a baptismal date for the 24th of July.

2. How did the day go with your new Mission President? Did you find anyone to teach or did you do all street contacting?

President ended up only coming for Interviews in Shkoder because he didn't have a ton of time. So after interviews, he left. Interviews went really well though. I really like President Ford a lot.

3. How was church on Sunday? How many people came?

It was the weirdest Sunday of my life ha. It was me and Elder Platt. And that's it!

4. I couldn’t tell from your last letter – were transfers last week or are they this week?

Transfers are this week but we got our call on Friday night..... here is the big news........... drumroll please...................................... I am staying in Shkoder! haha. So President Ford called me and said that I will be staying in Shkoder and that I will be training one of the new missionaries that gets here this week. He also told me I am going to be the Branch President of Shkoder and also the District leader of the Elders in Shkoder (me and my companion) as well as the Elders in Durres (the 2 zone leaders and 2 other missionaries). So it will be a pretty crazy transfer. So my first Sunday as a Branch President, nobody came. So it was kind of a bummer. But what do you do.

5. Did new missionaries come out last week or are they coming out this week?

They get here on Wednesday and I will taking mine back to Shkoder on Thursday.

6. Did you get to meet Elder Roni’s family? Was Shkoder one of their stops?

I didn't.. They didn't have time to come to Shkoder. But It's all good. I expect to hang out with him after I finish my mission.

7. Is it pretty hot over there right now?

SOOOOO HOT. I hate it haha. It's like 100 degrees out in mid day. It's terrible ha.

8. How do you know that July 4th 2012 will be the last day of your mission? Have they already told you that?

I did know that. It says it on my preaching certificate. It's pretty crazy huh? So I'm guessing if you didn't come get me in Albania, By the time I would be flying over America, it would probably be Fire Work time (with the time changes taken in to account)

9. How is your soccer injury doing? Do you think you have a hernia? If so – do you think you should get it fixed?

It is feeling a little better but I haven't really tried to do any running yet. I'm hoping my new companion will like to run cause I would love that.

10. Do you cut other missionaries’ hair?

Nope. We normally just go to the barber. I have shaved my head a few times but barbers are so cheap and convenient.


So I will start by saying, NO it was NOT against the rules to dye my hair haha. The missionary handbook just says that we can't dye our hair to a color that isn't a natural hair color (blue, bright red, purple, etc.). And President Neil said it was fine. So yeah, President Ford doesn't even know it happened cause the first time he saw me it was brown. But my hair is already dirty blonde again and it gets blonder every day. It looks pretty much like it did before cause my hair was pretty short and the sun is turning it blonde. So you don't have to worry about my hair anymore. I'll send some more pictures though. I actually really liked it brown. But it's blonde again.

This week was pretty cool. We had a few lessons with Noj that went really well. He finally prayed for an answer about the Book of Mormon and received the answer that in fact it was true. It made teaching him a lot easier.

So one night, Elder Platt and I finished a lesson at 8:45 which is in our house and it meant we had like 15 minutes before we were supposed to be inside and it would have been really easy to call it a night and stay inside, but we decided to go out and street contact for 15 minutes. These two boys walked up to us and one of them started speaking to us in PERFECT English. Like he was an American (which is rare). Turned out he Lived in Michigan for 11 years. He is 15 years old and he got deported back to Albania. So it was him and his cousin (his cousin has lived in Albania forever and doesn't speak much English). They were super cool and EVEN THOUGH he was from Michigan I was super nice to him and when I told him I lived in Ohio, he said "No way! I went to Cedar Point right before I got deported"! It was awesome! we were totally loving this conversation. We didn't have much time to talk but we set up an appointment with him and his cousin and we met them on Saturday night. We sat and talked with them for about an hour. It started out just talking about his family and his background and stuff and then religion came up and it was awesome. He has a LONG way to go before he can be baptized but I definitely see it happening. He is your typical American 15 year old high school kid but I feel like we can work with him and get him to where he needs to be. If we would have stayed in for that 15 minutes, we would have never met with him. Same thing happened last night. We got done with a lesson with noj at like 8:50 and went outside to contact for 10 minutes and a guy who is a religious historian stopped and talked to us. He knew quite a bit about the Mormon church and I think it was a great conversation and experience for him. He seemed really interested to learn more from us. Hopefully that will go somewhere.

So tomorrow, I will be going to Tirana and I will be working with Elder Anderson (my MTC companion) in Tirana for 2 days and I will also be getting trained on how to be a trainer and then I will be coming back to Shkoder on Thursday.

I don't have much else to sayyyyyyyy. I did get a letter from Brandon Sharkey! It was awesome haha I love that kid so much. I am going to write him back today. I also got a letter from Brent that I also need to write him back today. Well now, I'm going to send some pictures to you all now so you can get your cool Austins new hair pictures even though my hair is already blonde again. These two pictures that I am sending in this email are from a service project we did up at the Shkoder Castle. There was a tunnel full of garbage that we cleaned up. I will send more emails with photos.

K bye! I love you all!

-Elder Eckel

Life in Albania - Week 38

I'm super jealous that you were all in Hilton Head this past week! But it's all good. Shkoder is basically just as cool..... ha.

So here are Karen's Q's!

1. Have you met your new mission president?

I have! He is definitely an "English Man"

2. If you have met him – how did that go? Do you all meet together, have personal interviews, or how does that work?

We met him in a group setting. He told us about his family and his background. It was cool though. I like him a lot. He is coming to Shkoder tomorrow for interviews and he wants to have us teach a lesson with him there and so it will be interesting to see if we can get a lesson set up for 12. It's going to be nearly impossible ha. He made it sound like it was so easy. He just said "Set up a meeting with your investigators for when I'm there so we can sit in on the lesson" ha. Yeah. It's going to be tough to get Noj and Kristjana to meet at 12. They work. So basically I think President Ford is going to do some dirty work with us (Tracting and Street Contacting). He is going to get a good taste of Shkoder.

3. How was church on Sunday? Did more than your two old timers come?

Actually only one of the old timers came ha. Zef came. But Noj came and 3 people that we found this week came too!

4. How are the people doing that you are teaching?

Noj and Kristjana are doing great. This week was a great week for Noj. He is really an impressive kid. I will tell more about it in the body of the email.

5. So how will Elder Roney find Alexis? Did you give him her phone number? Doesn’t he leave in a couple of days?

Well I had an idea for this. I dont know her phone number so I am just planning on them talking on facebook first but here is my idea. I was thinking that a good Christmas present for me this year would be a hard drive because I am running out of space to put pictures and stuff and instead of sending a bunch of flash drives a small hard drive would be great. That's what a lot of the missionaries do. There are a ton of things that I didn't have enough room for (videos and photos from Elder Roney) and so if you buy me a hard drive ( I hear you can get a 300 gb hard drive for like 60 bucks these days) and then Alexis could meet with him at BYU and Elder Roney, actually Trevon Roney ha since he won't be a missionary, will put all of the videos and stuff on the hard drive and then you can have Ash or Lex send me the hard drive. He agreed to doing this. It was just a thought. So yeah! That's one way they could meet. Elder Roney actually leaves today! I'm super sad. He is leaving to go to Tirana and his family gets here tomorrow and then he will be heading back to America in a week.

6. Do Albanians go to school year round or do they get summers off like you guys did?

They get summers off too!

7. Do kids go to school for 13 years – like kindergarten – 12th grade?

I believe so. I'm pretty sure that is correct. Well actually, I don't know if they have kindergarten.

8. Did you ever get your package that had your allergy medicine in it?

I did! Thanks a ton haha that was so funny to see my companions reactions when I opened the box. There was SOO much medicine ha. But thanks a ton. I'm feeling much better now.


So I am very sad to see Elder Roney go home. I am also a little nervous because transfers fall next week and I am pretty sure I will be training which means I will know absolutely NOTHING about my new companion until I meet him ha. Oh well. Hopefully he is cool. It will be interesting to see if the new missionaries that come here will be able to understand ANYTHING haha. Especially our investigator Noj. He has such a HUGE thick accent. Shkoder would be a very difficult place to begin your mission.

I got a letter from Mike Eckel this week. It was great! I loved it. His seminary class wrote me messages and stuff. It was cool. I really enjoyed it. It was a nice pick me up. Every time we go to Tirana it's pretty tough to get back in a van headed towards Shkoder without getting a little discouraged but as I read those messages, It was a nice attitude booster.

So this week we went to Tirana for the "meet the Ford's" thing. It was nice to finally know who they are instead of just hearing rumors. They seem like great people. They are definitely going to lay down the law but I think that will be a good thing. They make fun of America quite a bit which is kinda lame but oh well. Then the Zone Leaders came for exchanges on Thursday and it was pretty cool. I was with Elder Johnson. Elder Johnson is pretty much the world's greatest missionary. We went tracting and found this family that had a mom and two daughters. Our zero lesson went pretty dang well for me and Elder Johnson not having planned anything before hand since we aren't companions ha. They told us they would get baptized if they found the Book of Mormon to be true. They also told us they would be living at the beach for the next 2 months which is like 45 minutes away. We committed them to come back for church every week! They came on Sunday. I'm not sure if they enjoyed it or not. They were the first ones at Church which made it super awkward. When your church is in an apartment and the investigators are the first ones there, that must be pretty weird. Especially when the investigators are 5 mintues late. Fortunately, Noj and Zef came. It was still pretty awkward ha. But then Saturday we went to Tirana again because we were told there was a Branch President's meeting. Unfortunately we weren't told that it was canceled. So we drove 2.5 hours there and went to the church building where it was supposed to be. No one came. We figured it must have been cancelled so we went to go pick up some parts to fix our piano (which is STILL broken ha) and on our way, the Assistants to the President drove by and saw us in Tirana. They called and then told us that the meeting was cancelled haha. So yeah. We already knew by that point. They felt bad for not telling us but oh well.

So yesterday was the last Sunday for Elder Roney. I feel so bad that he had to "die" in Shkoder. He gave his "Dying testimony" to 5 people. 3 of which he didn't even know. He was a good sport about it though. He gave a great testimony. After church we had a lesson with Noj about the 10 commandments. The time before that, we had a lesson about the Word of Wisdom. He didn't understand why he couldn't drink coffee. He is up against his wall of faith, that is, whether Joseph Smith actually was a prophet or not.

Last night we had a July 4th celebration. Elder Platt has an American flag pillow case which we hung from the light fixture. We then played (BLASTED) the Star Spangled Banner, and we did the Pledge of Allegiance, and then sang God Bless America, and then we went back to bed haha. Of course this happened at midnight (it's not against the rules haha I checked). And it was great. But seriously, America is so awesome. It was pretty hard to be living with someone that is going to be there in a week! Don't get me wrong, I LOVE my mission and I LOVE Albania, but America is so incredible. You wanna know what's crazy?! Since today is July 4th, it means that I finish my Mission EXACTLY one year from today. 365 days from now. Craziness! It's going pretty dang fast. And I hear the second year goes even faster.

Well I don't have much more to say. Elder Roney just left and we just got back to the Internet to finish. I can't believe he is leaving! Don't worry dad, I gave him your advice! And haha I think Blizzard would love to be "spread" over the Horse Shoe. Plus that is just one more reason to go to a game!

Kendra! I forgot to tell you something. When you get #39, don't look at the pictures until AFTER you read the letter! Okay cool! ha. I also got your tape haha. It was hilarious.

I got a post card from Madison! It was great. It had some pictures in it. I ALWAYS love getting pictures. I think my favorite gift on the mission is pictures. Thanks Madison. You rockkkkkk.

That's all for now folks!

I love you all. peace!

Elder Eckel

Life in Albania - Week 37


1. Have new missionaries come out yet or are you still in a threesome?

We are still in a three some. Elder Roney goes home in 8 days! crazy. I can't even believe it. I don't want him to leave. But it's all good. After he leaves, Elder Platt and I will serve together until transfers happen (2 weeks)

2. Have you met your new mission president yet?

Nope. We have a "Meet the President" thing on Wednesday in Tirana. It should be a ball.

3. How was church on Sunday? How many people came?

Church on Sunday was ballin'. ha yes. It was sweet. We actually took our whole branch to Durres for church. Durres is another city in Albania that has the only other church building (like Elbasan). We went because it was Klidi's baptism and we wanted Noj and Kristjana to see the baptism. But we wouldn't have been able to make it there in time after our church so we got permission from president to just leave in the morning (6:30) and go to the full 3 hour block in Durres. It was amazing. We had Zef (the old man) and Kristjana and Noj (our investigators). They loved church and I think it was an incredible experience for them.

4. How are the people doing that you are teaching?

Kristjana and Noj are doing great. We had a lesson with Noj about the tree of life and how although people got made fun of, the ones who endured through it got the reward. It helped him alot since he was getting made fun of by his friends. They loved church. Unfortunately we have lost contact with Rudolf completely. It's very unfortunate. But I know someday he will find the truth. We had a good lesson this past week too with someone we found in the road. Hopefully we can meet with him again.

5. How was your baptism? Did you have to travel far to perform the baptism?

It was actually a terribly planned baptismal service but fortunately Klidi is the type of person who it didn't bother him. I just wish I could have been the one who planned the baptismal service. We traveled 2 hours for it.

6. Have you done any more Teancum Tracting this week?


7. Did you get to talk to or teach the girl you met on the street last week?

I have tried to call her a few times and she answered once and said she would call us when she has time. So hopefully she calls.

8. When do you start up English Classes again?

Probably September

9. What do the secret codes mean that you put in the emails for Kendy?? J Are you going to tell us?

haha you guys are crazy. You will NEVER knowwww! Muahahahaa.


Well it was awesome to hear from all the family! Is Brian there? I thought you said he was going to go.
Well I really don't have a ton to say about this week. We finished up our English course, did A LOT of standing the street talking to people. But we didn't have very many people super interested. And we had a couple lessons with the Binoshaj family (Noj and Kristjana).
I really don't know what else to say about the week ha. It was a slow one but a good one. Shkoder is getting pretty tough though. It's hard because we don't have people here to love us ha. Like in other cities, there are members that love and care about you and a great atmosphere at church with loving members to bring in investigators. Here, the only two active members are on their death beads (basically ha) and Church on Sundays are difficult for investigators to fall in love with the church. So basically we do a bunch of finding with minimal reward ha. But it's okay because hopefully Shkoder will be as big as Elbasan and Durres someday. It's just crazy to think that Shkoder has been open for 5 years (almost as long as Vlore) and only has 2 active members whereas in Vlore there are about 50 active members. With all that being said, we are working our bums off and trying to do our best to help Shkoder to grow.

I'll send you some photos from the baptism and church in Durres. It was a beautiful day.

Oh haha and a random side note: This past week we were sitting in the apartment one night after planning and we have a "What is EFY DVD" to show the kids who want to go to EFY. We decided to watch it. It was totally worth it. You wanna know why?! There is a 30 second clip with John Lenahan sitting in a class! haha It was hilarious! He looks exactly the same and this video was probably from 2005 or 2006.

Also, One night while laying in bed, We were helping Elder Roney practice talking to girls since he will be going home soon and he doesn't want to be awkward haha. So we did some practice situations. I played the role of Alexis hahahaha. It was hilarious. He is super nervous of trying to find a way to get in contact with Lex. It was great. Alexis, you are probably going to marry him ;) ha

Kendra lou, Elder Roney says that it is very rare that you would have the opportunity to see his cousin Braedon since he is ALWAYS with his girlfriend/lover haha. Are YOU his lover/girlfriend?! haha SKETCHY! jkbs. ha anyways. I have some funny news for you that I'll write in my letter to you today. You are probably gonna freak out. You can tell my family once you get it ha.

Anyways. I'm OUT! I love all of you! Enjoy hilton head. Do pranks, don't get caught, and certainly do not turn yourselves in.

Elder Austin Eckel. (the coolest missionary everrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr)

Life in Albania - Week 36

Okay, I will start by answering Dad's question about where I am on Google Maps. This should be some helpful information. If you can find the "Bashkia" (town hall) in Shkoder, You will see a building right next to/across from it with a food place called "Idromeno". That is where our apartment is. If you travel north east on the road at TV Rozafa and Idromeno and the Bashkia, You will get to Sheshi Nene Tereza which is near Posta Shqiptare, Alb Telecom, and Intesa Sanpaolo Bank. That little circle is where we normally street contact. It is also right by Xhamia e Madhe (the big Mosque). so now you know!

ASHLEY! I'm so happy that you got that job! I have been praying my guts out for you. You are da Seriously.

1. How was church this Sunday?

Church was alright. We had 3 people there. Zef (the 70 year old man member) Prenda (the 80 year old woman who has lost her mind) and Rudolf (our awesome 20 year old Investigator). Everything went okay. Prenda gave the closing prayer for sacrament meeting and when she stood up at the pulpit and we were all ready to pray she said "Good morning, Glad that you all came" and then began to pray hahahaha. It was hilarious. I taught Sunday School on having faith in Jesus Christ.

2. Do Albanians celebrate Father’s Day?

Nope ha. I'm not going to lie. I didn't even know it was Father's day. I lose track of the date these days.

3. How is it going with people you are teaching?

It is going alright. We haven't been able to meet with Rudolf much this past week but he did come to church which was nice. As for Noj and Kristjana, Kristjana is doing really well but Noj was being really weird last time we met with him. We think that kids are making fun of him for meeting with us because he told us he can't meet at his house anymore because the neighbors are all gossiping about us and stuff. He said he was going to come to Church but he didn't end up coming. So I'm kinda worried about him. And because he didn't come to church, his sister didn't come either. So yeah.

4. How is your English Class going? Can your companion help with that at all? Does he speak any English?

Our English class just ended and it went okay. It is the first English class I have done that we didn't get an Investigator from. But no, Genti didn't know any English. He can say "yeah cool" "what's up" and stuff like that.

5. When does your new Mission President come? Do they overlap and will President Neil spend some time with him?

Our new Mission President should be coming within the next two weeks I think. I think President Neil will eat lunch with him once and then him and Sister Neil will be back off to America!

6. Do you know when you will get to meet your new Mission President?

I think we all have interviews with him pretty quickly when he gets here. I also think there is a mission conference right off the start where he does a training and introduces himself and stuff.

7. Where are you in the Book of Mormon?

I just finished Jacob 5. I haven't been able to focus much on my personal reading this week in the Book of Mormon because I was studying for lessons and stuff which I suppose is a good thing!


So that is basically most of my week. On Thursday, we had a training in Tirana which was really cool. I love President Neil so much. I am going to miss him so much but I'm sure that President Ford will be great too. We tried something different this week in terms of finding. We tried doing something called "Teancum Tracting" We go to the buildings that we are going to tract 2 days ahead of time and drop off a little flyer at every door that asks the "Questions of the Soul" (Where did we come from? Why are we here on earth? What's the purpose of this life? Where do we go when we die?) Also it asks How can you strengthen your family? Then it says, " In two days, 2 missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints will be coming by to help you answer these questions. It is kinda a cool idea because it get's rid of the awkwardness of people not knowing why you are there when you knock on their door and people already know why you are there. Unfortunately we didn't have very much success. Well actually we didn't get any people to have lessons with us from it. But I know that it was pretty effective in Tirana. I guess it just depends on the area you do it. I have noticed that different finding techniques are better than others depending on the area you live.

Alexis, I love Blizzard.

Ha anyways. She will understand why I put that. I don't have a ton else to say about my week but I will share a quick story. Yesterday, Elder Roney wasn't feeling very good so we stopped back at the house to get a drink and sit down for a minute. He looked awful. His face was pale white and he looked really really sick. After sitting for a few minutes he said that he wanted to go back out and work. We still had about an hour until we were supposed to come back in. So even though he was sick, we went out and did some street contacting. Elder Roney and Elder Platt did street contacting on one side of the street and I walked to the other sidewalk on the other side of the road. I stopped a man and started talking to him about the Book of Mormon and a girl who was walking by stopped and listened in. (that never happens haha) the man ended up not being interested but I started talking to the girl and she was in a hurry but she really wanted to know about the Book of Mormon and so SHE asked ME if she could give us her number so we can meet and talk more about it. haha normally we have to BEG them for their numbers and she asked us. Pretty cool. I have a feeling she will really enjoy our message and be very accepting of it.

So Daddio. Fathers day happened! So I just wanted to thank you for being such an amazing father and friend to me. You have always been such an incredible example to me in everything that you do. You have taught me pretty much everything I know about how I'm supposed to act and be. I have always looked up to you and have always wanted to follow in your footsteps. I have been so blessed to have you and mom for my parents. I love how you are always so willing to serve others and fulfill your callings in the church. You live a consecrated life and have taught me a great deal about how I should live. Even when Ohio State is playing Iowa or Penn State or Wisconsin during Priesthood Session of conference. I love you!

hahaha Kend, I will talk to Elder Roney for ya. We will see what he says. Thanks for texting my cousin about that stuff. you da besttttttttttttttttttttt. 2.4. I.F.

Speaking of Elder Roney, Lex, you need to date him! You just gotta get to know him. He is so awesome.

Something I have really come to understand is that there is NOTHING more important than fulfilling our duties as members of the church and especially our duties of the Priesthood. Serving a Mission is such a blessing. I have learned so so so so so much stuff. It is hard. It's painful. And it is stressful. But I can't imagine not being here.

Well that's all I got for now!

Elder Austin Eckel

Life in Albania - Week 35

Some crazy stuff happened this week. I don't know if you are ready for the big news!? haha okay fine. It's not that big of news. But I'll get to it during the questions part.

1. Are you still in a threesome or is it down to two? Will Elder Roni be ready to go home when the transfer is over?

Man, I am super impressed with Elder Roney. He has been working SUPER hard. A lot of the other missionaries in his group have "died" (they have kinda been slacking off since they are pretty much done). Elder Roney has been holding strong ha. But actually we are no longer in a threesome. We got a "mini" missionary from Vlore. He is 26 years old and is actually someone that my father (Warburton) baptized at the beginning of his mission. His name is Genti. He originally was supposed to go with Elder Platt and Elder Roney and I were supposed to end this transfer together but after President Neil set him apart he pulled me aside and told me that he thought it would be better for me to train Genti and to be his companion. So yeah ha this is my second Albanian companion so far. Except this one has only been a member for 7 months. It's pretty tough ha. Now, it's not so much the language that is hard. It's just the fact that he doesn't really fully understand and know the doctrine. And some other stuff too but it's all good haha.

2. I loved the pictures you sent. Were you surprised by my mad art skills?! that thing took me forever! The one with the electronic keyboard out on the streets was cool. Is it plugged into the big pole? It looks like a telephone pole. Is it common to have electric outlets like that outside?

I'm glad you liked the pictures. haha We don't know exactly why there was an outlet hanging from that light pole but there was. It is not common at all. When I walked past and saw it, I decided that we would have to bring the piano out for a spin haha.

3. Dad asked this question last time and you didn’t answer it. Are the days longer this time of year for you in Albania? Like right now here at home it is light until 9:30 p.m. Is it like that there?

The days are getting longer I suppose. I don't really notice it too much but I guess now that I think of it, It is lighter until 9 or 9:30

4. Who is the Branch President in your branch?

Elder Roney

5. How was church this past Sunday? How many came?

Church was good. I gave a talk on Charity. We had a total of 9 people (including us 4 missionaries). Rudolf came and the Binoshaj kids came. So we had 3 investigators there. It went pretty well.

6. How are your investigators doing?

They are doing good. This week we talked to Rudolf and asked him to take the step of faith and get baptized. He said he wanted to but we didn't really come to a exact date. I'm pretty sure he will be getting baptized in the near future though. The Binoshaj's (Noj and Kristiana) have a baptismal date for the 2nd of July. They are so awesome. I love that family. The older sister would get baptized too but she is going to Italy. We told her to get in contact with the missionaries in Italy.

7. Have you seen the man again that was going to kill himself?


8. Have you gotten to talk to Rudolf or do you need to wait until he contacts you again?

We have been meeting with him again. He is doing great.

9. When will you baptize Klidi?

The 26th of June.

10. Have you done any more fun street contacting with music?

No haha. It was a huge pain to carry that thing down to the place where that pole was. I think that was a one time thing. Definitely fun though.

So yeah ha. I have a new companion! I'm not going to lie, I was extremely stoked to "kill" Elder Roney. But oh well. Elder Platt now has the honors of doing so. It has been a good week though. We went to Tirana on Thursday because I had a training on Friday morning and Shkoder is 3 hours from Tirana. Elder Platt and I stayed with Elder Warburton and Elder Carver. Elder Roney stayed with the Zone Leaders in Tirana. It was awesome! I was reunited with my Papa again! (Warburton) haha. So we just did a bunch of finding in Tirana and we also had one night where we went to the center of the park and sang church hymns while Warburton talked to people. It was so cool. Not that we had a ton of success receiving numbers or anything but TONS of little kids came and just sat down in front of us and just smiled. There were SO many of them. They all just sat down and listened. It made me think about how much the little children loved Jesus Christ. Hopefully we planted some seeds to those children and one day they will talk to the missionaries when they are older. Friday, I had the training from Elder Cosea of the 70. It was a really cool training. I was asked to give the spiritual thought and I would be lying if I said I wasn't scared out of my mind to give a spiritual thought in front of a General Authority haha. It was good though. After the training I went and worked more with Elder Warburton because Saturday, Elder Roney had a Branch President training in Tirana so we just stayed from Thursday to Saturday. It was a good time though. It was cool to be able to work with Elder Warburton now that I can actually speak Albanian rather than making him do all the work. Then I got my new companion and we came back!

I got a package from the Robbins! It was AWESOME! It had so much crazy cool stuff in it. It just kept coming out! I swear it was like a Mary Poppins bag. Thanks Donna and Brian! You guys are da bombbbbb! Hey Aunt Donna, remember when you passed out at my house that one time?! That was crazy ha.

I'm gonna send some pictures. I love all of you all back in the states. Especially all you in the Burg who I haven't talked to in forever. Have a great week. I love you Mom, Lex, Dad, Ash, and Blizz. oh and of course Evan Baker and Steve Sobanski!


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Life in Albania - Week 34

Oh hey there!? You all should totally check out my profile! :) You all should make some too!

I have attatched two photos and there are more to come after I do this email. The first photo is from Lushnje. His name is Klidi. I found him about 5 days before I left Lushnje and he called me up and asked if I could baptize him! Pretty exciting news! The second photo is of me and Elder Roney, and Elder Platt playing piano! I will send more photos after I get done with this email.

I will begin with the questions!

1. How are your investigators doing? How about Rudolf?

Our investigators are doing okay I suppose. I have some sad news about Rudolf that I will get to later in the email. We have a couple other Investigators that are doing well though.

2. How many people do you have in your English classes?

We have about 12 in the intermediate class and 7 in the beginner class.

3. How did your Family Home Evening go last week? What did you do and how many people came?

Only two people came to FHE last week but both of them were non-members. We watched "Finding Faith In Christ". It went alright.

4. How was church this week?

It was okay.. haha Fast and Testimony meeting is a little awkward with 10 people at church having 3 of them being missionaries, 3 of them members and 4 investigators. 2 of the members that were there are above 70 and 80 years old. The old woman stood up to bare her testimony and said a prayer haha. It was so sad. All of our investigators started laughing. We need youth or else it will be impossible to make this branch grow. Shkoder Branch has been open for 5 years now and only has 2 active members. It's pretty sad.

5. Is the church in the apartment? If so – is your apartment bigger?

It's a pretty big apartment. You will see a picture of the main room in the picture of me and Roney. It's nice.

6. How long is church?

We do Sacrament and then a short sunday school lesson. It goes for a little over an hour.

7. When you are in a threesome – are you in an apartment with two bedrooms or how does that work?

We have two bedrooms but we all have to sleep in the same room. It's crammed! haha but we should be getting a mini missionary this week for Elder Platt, that way we won't have to be in a threesome anymore. It's really hard to teach in a threesome.

8. How many missionaries are in your District?

Right now it's only us 3 haha. It will be 4 of us soon.

9. Do you get to hear how the missionaries are doing in Kosovo?

They are doing awesome. I am so jealous of them! There is McDonalds there!!!! ahhhhhhh. I miss burgers haha.

10. Where are you in the Book of Mormon and I will start reading with you?

Today I finished 2nd Nephi 25. I normally read anywhere from 3 to 6 chapters a day depending on how long the chapters are.


So yeah. This week was SUPER hard and very fulfilling. I don't know how many hours of street contacting we did. But it was A TON. We had 22 lessons this week. I guess that is the most Shkoder has had in a long time. We worked our tails off. We also did a pretty cool street contacting idea one night just to change it up! I will send pictures of it for you! It was actually really effective. We got tons of numbers that night. I have a really cool missionary tan line :) oh yeah. So as I have told you, Klidi from Lushnje called me and asked me to baptize him which was obviously a great part of the week. We talked to TONS of people in the street and had TONS of lessons this week. I watched the Restoration movie about a hundred times this week! It is just as good every time. And we had some great lessons with Rudolf. We had a baptismal date for the 25th of June. Unfortunately Rudolf called us one night and told us he couldn't meet with us. We asked why and he explained that his father was totally against our church and our beliefs. He said he can no longer meet with us. It was a very sad night. I remember being so upset because of how prepared Rudolf was. How could God let this happen? Why would God stop someone from being able to meet with us about this incredible message? Well, I didn't let it get me down for long. I prayed a lot and I fasted for him and for Ashley yesterday. He didn't end up coming to church like he said he might be able to. I felt defeated. I felt as if my faith wasn't enough or as if it just wasn't meant to be. But as we were street contacting last night we got a phone call from Rudolf asking if we could meet. We met with him and had a lesson about faith. We talked to him about how Nephi had the faith to do what the Lord had commanded. We might not have been as bold as we should have been when we talked about baptism again. But he said that he might be moving to England pretty soon. We told him if he goes there he should meet with the missionaries. He agreed. He also said that if he doesn't go he may be able to meet with us again. It was an answer to my prayers. I felt calm and peaceful about Rudolf. I have no doubt that he will get baptized. Whether it's while I'm here or not, someday he will get baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ.

I want to read a section out of my journal for you. "June 2, 2011. We did some more street contacting tonight and I wasn't having much success but there was a man walking down my side of the street and I was prompted to talk to him. He looked like your typical Albanian man. I hesitated to stop him but I had the feeling again. I stopped him and he came to talk to me. His name was Antonio. He had the look of hopelessness and emptiness in his eyes. I don't know how to explain it but he just had a deep sadness in his eyes. While talking to him, he said that he had lost all hope in his life. He had no hope for anything. He said he had lost his family, work, house, and everything.He talked about all the people in the streets that night and how they would be gone within a few hours in their own homes and how he would be left alone with the dogs to wander in the streets. I felt the love that God has for him. It was a crazy feeling. The feeling of love I had for this man that I did not know was incredible. I tried to show him and explain to him the love that God has for him. I told him how Christ has been through all of the hardships he was going through. He told me that before I stopped him, he was on his way to the mountains to go and kill himself. He said he had nothing left to live for and it would be better for him to be dead. I had tears in my eyes as I tried to help him feel the Love of God for him with my simple imperfect testimony. I invited him to come to church and he replied by saying that he didn't know if he would still be alive by then. I again bore my testimony to him and gave him a hug. I told him that I would see him at church on Sunday. I'm not sure whether or not Antonio is still alive right now. But I do know that God loves his children. Each and every one of us. I felt Gods love for Antonio through the spirit as I testified of the divine love of God..." I prayed for Antonio a ton that night. Antonio was the first one to walk into church on Sunday. I don't know how much he got out of church but I hope he felt peaceful and the Love of God. I don't know exactly why I chose to share this with you but I think it's important that we take the time throughout all of our busy schedules to say hello to those around us. Even just a smile. We are surrounded by our brothers and sisters. Some people need to feel the Love of God through others.

On Saturday, We went to go visit a member named Zef. He lives SUPER far away. As we left for his house the sky was a bit gray and we decided we would probably be okay without umbrellas. MISTAKE! haha we weren't too far into our journey when a crack of thunder and a bolt of lightning started a sprinkle of rain which turned into a downpour. I have NEVER seen it rain this hard in my life. I don't know if you all remember this past year in Hilton Head when it was pouring but it was at least 3 times as hard as that! We got SOAKED! haha It then started to hail. It hurt so bad but we couldn't stop laughing. We were running through the streets to Zef's work. We were to the point where we couldn't be any more wet at all. It was pretty funny. I will send pictures of us after it.

Well I don't have much more time to write but just know that I'm praying for you all! I love it here in Shkoder. The work is difficult and very tiring but it's great. This is the best transfer of my mission so far. Alexis should totally date Elder Roney. He's the man. I'm sorry that this email is pretty short. Ashley, there is something you could send if you wanted to! The blue medicated chapstick! Not too many just 2 or 3 would be fine. Thanks Ash. You da bestttttttttt. Alexis, You should go to the Jack's Mannequin concert with Lucas! You need to experience the greatness of Andrew McMahon!

Kendra, I have a nice big fat letter coming your way today haha. Peace outttttttttttt girl scout.

Bye everyone! Love you all! Evan Baker is the man. P.S. Evan, Trash Stash is still in my contacts at home. We will give him a call when I get home :)

Life in Albania - Week 33

I LOVE SHKODER! The work is stressful, hard, tiring, but freaking amazing.

Okay, I will begin with the usual questions!

1. What is Shkoder like?

Shkoder is beautiful. It is a little bit bigger than Lushnje but still relatively small compared to the other cities I have served in. I absolutely love it here. Although I have heard that it is a "harder" area, I don't believe it. I love the people here. It's amazing. Tons of beautiful trees lining the roads and nice big parks with grass!

2. You mentioned it is the smallest branch in the country. How many members do they have? How many were at church on Sunday?

They have 20 members I think but there were 2 huge families that were only in it for the money and so once they stopped getting help from the church they stopped coming to church. The average number of people at church have been around 5 and 6. But you have to keep in mind that 4 of those people are missionaries. So 1 or 2 members. BUT, we had an AWESOME week this week and we worked super hard. It helps that me and Elder Roni and Elder Platt (I am in a threesome right now because of a lack of missionaries) all just came off of a transfer with companions that didn't work hard. Because now all three of us have fire in us to get working hard. We had 12 people at church on Sunday! It was a miracle. 5 investigators came! I guess it's the most that Shkoder has had in a while.

3. What are your responsibilities as a District Leader?

As a District Leader, I pretty much make sure that everyone in our District is doing well and I also keep in contact with the Zone leaders on our weekly numbers and the well being of our district. I am supposed to lead by example and work extra hard.

4. How long has Elder Roni been out and where is he from?

Elder Roni is from Provo Utah right by the Temple and he goes home in like 5 weeks! He is an awesome companion. He works hard and loves Albania as much as I do. He is super humble too (which is awesome) cause his Dad is the owner of Nuskin and you would have NO idea if you met him that he was from a family in that class. Elder Platt has 3 months more than me in the country and for right now we are working in a group of three. Elder Platt is from Utah and he is a really cool guy too.

5. Did your old companion – Elder Muglesten stay in Luschne?

Yes he is still in Lushnje. I heard all of our previous investigators are doing well so that is good.

6. Do you have any idea when Kosovo will open?

Yes ha. Kosovo is going to be opened on Wednesday! Elder Klein and Elder Norris will be opening Kosovo. I am SO excited for them! It is absolutely amazing that we are able to go into a whole new country with mission work. Unfortunately, missionaries will only be staying there for 3 months at a time because they are on a tourist visa while they are there. Elder Klein leaves at the same time as Elder Roney and so they will be needing another missionary up there by July. I am not sure whether or not I will stay here in Shkoder and train, or if I will be going up to Kosovo with Elder Norris. The way President talked to me about Kosovo last week makes me think that I will be going up there at some point but then again, he will be leaving soon and I'm not sure what the Ford's have in store for me. Either way, I LOVE Shkoder and I am actually glad that I won't be going to Kosovo right now because we have found some amazing people this week that I want to stay here with and teach. I would love to stay in Shkoder forever. It's amazing.

7. Since President Neil only has one more month left – what happens if he doesn’t send you there before he leaves?

Well I'm guessing he will leave notes for the Ford's but either way, I really don't care if I go there or not. I have loved all of my areas that I have served in so far and I'm guessing that is how it will always be.

8. Did they figure out the election results yet?

I think that Bosha won but I'm not sure. Shkoder is a Democratic city and so they all want Bosha to win. So if he did win, there won't be any riots up here ha.

9. Do you have any investigators in Shkoder?

We do! This week we were out street contacting and we had a lot of success. We also do 4 English Classes a week because now that we are a 3-some, we have both sets of missionaries English classes. But while we were street contacting we met a boy named Rudolf. He is such a stud. We set up a lesson with him and did the zero lesson. Afterwards, he asked if he could stay longer and talk more about it with us. We obviously agreed. We assigned him a chapter to read in the Book of Mormon and he did it. He loved it. You should have seen the way he held the Book of Mormon after we gave it to him. He held it as if it was the most precious gift he has ever been given. Little did he know, it probably is. In fact, when he went to tie his shoes, he was about to set the book on the ground and then you could tell that he didn't want to put it in the ground so he awkwardly tried to balance it on his leg as he tied his shoes. He is so humble and awesome. He is totally going to get baptized. He came to church yesterday and loved it! We also had another lesson with him yesterday! He wants to meet with us pretty much every day. We have a meeting with him tonight too! I'm super excited. We also have a couple other people who are semi interested. But for now our main focus is Rudolf. He is 20 years old and just absolutely prepared by God. This week in District Meeting I talked about how we needed to have faith that we would find an investigator this week. I talked about how although this is a "hard" area, we could find those who were prepared if we had faith. All of us prayed extra hard to have faith to find. We did it. Success!

10. How far is Shkoder from Tirana?

3 hours.


So yeah, as you can tell I LOVE Shkoder so much. The Language here is SO cool. It is way cooler than normal Albanian. It's taking a little bit of time to get used to but I love it. It feels so good to be a missionary again. You have no idea!! I got an Email from Brother Herd my teacher in the MTC! It was great. It made me think about how far I have come with the help of the Lord. His email to me was in Albanian and I was just thinking about how 1 year ago, I would have had NO idea what that said ha. But now I read it as if it is English. Crazy what the Lord can do when you are in his service on his time. It was great to hear from Brother Herd though. I am super excited for him to come to Albania. From what I hear he is coming next summer which still gives me one more year to perfect my Albanian ha. I need to make sure that he is not disappointed with our group ha. Brother Herd was an awesome example to me in the MTC and he got me so excited for Albania because you could tell how much he loved this place. It's not hard to find out why. The people here are absolutely amazing.

I also loved the pictures you sent of Alexis's graduation! That is so crazy. She grew up way too freaking fast. That isn't fair. Her and Evan should get married. They look so cute together hahaha. okay fine, I just want Evan as a Brother in Law. So anyways, this week we did tons of work but we also had a TON of stuff to do because we moved Churches. The old church here was absolutely terrible. We now have a new apartment and we also have church in the apartment. So we had to move tons of stuff to the apartment to make it look like a church. It looks beautiful now and everyone loved it yesterday. Tonight we have a lot of people coming over for family night too. I can't even explain to you how much I love Shkoder. It's so awesome. I can't wait for the Church to grow here.

Mom and Dad, I had a question for you. I started reading the Book of Mormon over again a few weeks ago. I am focusing on the Savior this time through the Book of Mormon. I have been highlighting all references to him and a bunch of other stuff about him but I have been having trouble figuring out when it is talking about God the Father and then when it is talking about God (as Jesus). It is unclear to me sometimes. Can you help me?

Kendra, I am the coolest Eagle Scout in this entire world. Period. ha Deal with it.

Ashley, I hope you find yourself a job! I'll be praying for you. Oh and it's pretty crazy. Elder Roni is seriously just like JD. They are pretty much carbon copies. Personality wise. Cause Roni isn't 6 foot 7 with blonde hair. But he is pretty much just like him besides that. Basically what I'm trying to say is that Roni is the man.

We had a Zone conference this past week. It was awesome I'll attach the photo of it to you guys. It got me pumped up to do missionary work. I am going to miss President Neil a ton! But I know that the Ford's will do an awesome job too.

I am about out of time but I hope you all have a great week. Live it up! Love you all.

Elder Eckel

Life in Albania - Week 32

Hello hello! I come with some crazy crazy news. I will start with the questions!

1.How were you impacted by the riots and everything happening with the elections?

We weren't impacted that much at all besides the fact that we couldn't go to Fier on Friday for a baptismal interview but it all worked out okay. It was pretty crazy sounding though haha. People were lighting fires in the roads everywhere so that people couldn't travel. Absolutely insane.

2.I知 not sure if you will know the answer to this question but since so many people are upset with the election results and ballot boxes were tampered with, would they do a recall and have another election?

I seriously doubt them doing a re-election. They are doing a recount right now though. There still haven't been results. But if Bosha wins again after the re count people are going to flip out.

3.So tell us what your next assignment is going to be.

Drum roll please............ I will be going to Shkoder! It is the smallest branch in the whole mission. They speak a whole different language there haha. It will be quite an experience. I am excited though. I am going to Shkoder with Elder Roni. I don't know if you remember me talking about Elder Roni before but we have been on exchanges before and I love him. He is an awesome missionary. I will also be the District Leader. There is also some more really amazing things that could be happening but President doesn’t want me going around telling anyone. President has some massive plans for me. Your prayers were answered! There is a really big chance that I will get to be involved in something really exciting that will be happening here soon – but it isn’t for sure. All I can say is that the President is putting a lot of trust in me and I won’t let anyone down if I get to do what he has talked to me about. I am really really excited. I remember a few months ago he was talking about the type ofmissionariesthat would be a part of what he talked to me about and the fact that he puts me in thecategoryof that type of missionaryis a huge honor. It is going to be very very hard though. I was talking to President and I was kinda joking around with him talking about how It will be like Scout Team in football. I told him how getting the crud beat out of me on scout team is my specialty but on Friday nights it is all worth it! My new assignment in Shkoder and the possibility of doing what President talked to me about are like Scout Team in football.

4.How are the people you are teaching doing?

They are doing awesome. It's amazing to see the progress of this branch since I've been here. The other day I wanted to go walk down a certain road and as we were walking a guy (maybe in his 20's?) chased us down and asked us if we could teach him English! We obviously said yes. We told him about our course and he came on Saturday! He was in my class and the religion lesson went great. He ended up coming to church yesterday! He said he wants to come to family home evening tonight! Crazy! I don't think it was a coincidence that we walked down that road. I know that God put that idea into my head.

5.How is the English class going?

Excellent as always! More people keep coming!

6.How is the Branch doing? How many were at church this past Sunday?

It is seriously going so well. I am actually really sad to leave Lushnje. Not so sad to leave the companion but very sad to leave the people here. I have grown to love these people so much over the past 7 weeks. I'm ready to take on a new town though.

7.Do the Branch members talk about the things going on with the election?

Yeah they talk about how stupid the government is and stuff. But I guess they haven't said too much stuff about it.

8.When you have to stay in your apartment, what do you do all day?

I have been reading the scriptures a lot in Albanian. I like them better in Albanian than in English. I will probably read the scriptures in Albanian for the rest of my life.


Yeah so I want to go around and meet with some members and investigators today so I don't have much time to say stuff but I got a letter from the Bakers that was awesome ha. I loved it. I guess when Mrs. Baker was at the school selling after prom tickets she gave Sophie a paper and Sophie went around and had people write on it. It was really funny. I loved the things Lucas said hahaha. I miss that guy. Sounds like the song Alexis and Sophie sang was a tear jerker. Glad I wasn't there haha. It's crazy that you are graduating Lex. You are so gosh dang old! I am excited for you all to come to Albania. I know there is still a year left but time is flying by. I don't know. Well I gotta get going. I love you all so much. Dad, I am sorry you didn't get the DVD to work ha. Mom, You da best. Kendy says that she thinks you are hilarious just like me :) haha. Anyways, I'm out! Love you all! Ashley hope you had fun in that crazy place you were at with JD.

Elder Eckel

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Life in Albania - Week 30

Well howdy hey there!

It's pouringggggggggg rain here in Lushnje. But what do you do ha.

Here are the questions you ALL have been waiting for ha.

1. How many missionaries are in the district that you are in now?
There are 6 of us. 2 of us here in Lushnje (me and my shok ((companion)) ) and then there are 4 elders in Fier which is a city about 35 minutes away. We have a pretty cool district.

2. Did you do any more street tables this past week where you played music?
We haven't. We were pretty busy this week. We were in Fier for exchanges and then it rained a few days which made it pretty hard to do any street contacting work.

3. That is cool that your companion plays the violin. Did he bring his violin or did he get one over there?
He bought one over here. He got a KILLER deal on it. I guess it is a 700 or 800 dollar violin and he bought it for 150. Good deal huh?

4. How are the people doing that you are teaching?
They are doing alright. I am hoping that all of the kids that have been coming to English and FHE and Church will be getting baptized while I'm here (assuming that I stay here for another couple months) I am kinda hoping for a change this next transfer coming up in about 2 weeks. We will see though.

5. Since your companion is the Branch President -does he have to deal with a lot of "branch issues" during the week - or is it not that bad because the branch is so small?
There aren't a TON of branch issues but there are some. We do a lot of less active visits and helping out with welfare and other things like that.

6. When he is dealing with issues - what do you do?
I normally just read in the Albanian scriptures.

7. How is the English Class going? How many more weeks will the class go?
It's going really good. The kids that come are way awesome. I think we will continue to do the class until people no longer have interest to come. We just recently had a big group of kids show up and so we turned it into two classes. I have been teaching the ones who were more advanced and then Elder Mugleston has been teaching the ones that just showed up. It is going really well.

8. Do they celebrate Mother's Day in Albania?
They do but their Mother’s day is on a different day. It was about a month ago. It's not really that big of a deal here though. Pretty much it's just a day where people buy flowers for each other and that's about it.

9. Do they have grocery stores over there like we do or are they tiny market like stores?
They have 3 or 4 big name Europe grocery stores around the country in each city but most of the stores are just little family owned hole in the walls where you can get some good deals on stuff.

10.Do you eat out much or do you mostly cook?
Here in Lushnje we pretty much cook every day except for when we go to Fier every week for district meeting. There aren't really any good food places in Lushnje. Plus my companion is an awesome cook. Hence why I have gained weight.

11.Do you see many people who wear all of the Muslim type clothing?
Not that often. We see a lot of the Muslim men with the long beards and hat but the woman stay inside for the most part unless they are going to the mosque. It's kind of funny how many people think they are muslim but have never even stepped into a mosque.

12.Did you get Grandma and Grandpa's package yet?
Nope not yet. but I might get it tomorrow when President comes for interviews. He will bring all of the mail down from Tirana with him.


This week was nice. On Tuesday we went to Fier for District Meeting and had an exchange afterwards. The Zone Leaders came to the district meeting and did a training on getting baptismal dates and commitments. It was a great training. Then afterwards I went with Elder Mcullam. He is new in the country. He has only been here for 4 weeks now. It was a lot of fun to go out with him. It's crazy to be with the new missionaries because they make me realize how long I've actually been here. It was a lot of fun though. We went and visited a few members and went tracting and street contacting. It was a great day of missionary work. We stayed the night in Fier and then came back the next morning. It was pouring rain on Wednesday too. On Thursday, we had to do some financial work for the Branch and that ate quite a bit of time. It is insane how organized the Church is. Everything is so well thought out. It's almost as if they are the plans of God... Oh wait.. They are!

Then we went out with Rajmond (one of the members) we went and taught a family and gave out some Book of Mormon's. We came back and visited a few members. Then on Friday we went out and did some tracting. Saturday was awesome! I got permission from President to go to Sister Braha's baptism in Elbasan! It was so great. I miss Elbasan so much. The people there were so happy to see me and Sister Braha had a beautiful baptismal service. There are 3 new (just got to the country) missionaries there in Elbasan. One of them is a prodigy at the language. He is with elder Merepeza too which has helped him even more! He speaks WAY better than me and he has only been here for 4 weeks. It was absolutely insane. I felt bad for the 2 other Elders there that are new because they are where they are supposed to be with the language but they feel terrible because of how good this other elder is. Anyways, I hope I can serve with the Elder that speaks really well at some point cause he was a really nice and guy who seemed like a hard worker. I also talked to a TON of people in the streets of Elbasan while I was there. And to and from Elbasan I talked to people in the van taxi's. It was a lot of fun. I love talking to people in Albanian. It's great. Yesterday at church there were 11 people. Pretty good I suppose. We were forced to stay inside all day because of yesterday being Election Day here in Albania. I guess some people got shot in Elbasan and Tirana. And the ballot boxes were broken into and all sorts of other fun stuff. I really hope that this country won't be corrupted forever. It's so sad.

Well that was my week! I hope you all had a good week. Sounds like you all had a lot of fun with family in town and stuff. I'm sad that Grandma and Grandpa couldn't be at the house when I skyped. Oh well. Hopefully Evan can come? :) It also sounds like Alexis did AMAZING in the play. That's so awesome. I wish I could have seen it. I'm sure I will see it when I get back. Alexis sounds like she has finally hit senioritus. She got it a little bit after I did. I got it when I was a freshman in High School haha. It's all good though. I some how miraculously still got into BYU. haha Alexis I thought it was funny how you said "It's Fine... Kendy anyone?!" haha that was pretty funny.

Mom, Since yesterday was Mothers day, I feel like it's an appropriate time to tell you how much I love you! So thank you for being such a wonderful mother, example, friend, and teacher to me. I can't imagine my life with any mother other than you. I am so blessed to have the family that I have being led by such wonderful parents. Thank you for being such a great example in the way that you live you life. I read a quote the other day that made me think about you. It said "Live your life in a way that people who don't know Jesus Christ, but do know you, will want to know Jesus Christ because they know you." It made me think about you because you always live in a way that people can see the happiness and joy beaming off of your presence. You are a little fire ball haha. I don't really know how else to tell you how much I appreciate and love you but I hope this is sufficient enough for the circumstances of being thousands of miles away from you. I have been able to see how many other people don't have the same relationship with their mothers that I have with you and it just makes me realize how blessed I have been. Do you remember the first time I called you Karen? haha I do! It was in the Home Depot with Adam Wibbler! haha Anyways, thank you for being such an amazing mother! I love you!!!!

Oh, and for my second mother (Mrs. Baker) You were also a great mother figure to have throughout my life. I have been able to feel your love throughout my life and I'm so thankful that our families have been able to be so close throughout the years. You have a wonderful family and as they say, the apples don't fall far from the tree.

I also got an email from Ryan Elmer! It was great to hear from you all! They have such an amazing family! I really enjoyed the advice you gave me Ryan and cool scripture study thing that you sent. You said you were listening to one of my old songs ha. That scares me because my old songs were pretty lame. You should have my family send you my new songs in an email or something so that your opinion of my music doesn't have to be so low haha. Thanks for thinking of me and sending me an email. I enjoyed the family picture. I hope this isn't wrong to say but you have a beautiful wife! I think i'm allowed to say it cause she was my baby sitter before she was your wife ;) Anyways, I hope your family is doing well and I am thankful for your prayers. I wish you all the best.

So that's about it for today! I gotta get an email over to president and then I gotta bounce outta here!

Kendra Lou, did you say pae for the reason I think you did haha. You better not have! Anyways, I have written another letter to you today! Hope all is going well with you. And I obviously accept your challenge of doing everything the best that we can this week. If it's a challenge, I WILL win. Obviously. haha anyways, I gotta go! PEACE OUT!


Monday, May 2, 2011

More pics!

The one i'm jumping with in that picture is Elder Seivers. He played quarterback at boise state! pretty cool. He's an awesome guy.

Lushnje Pictures

My companion is the one on the far right in the blue shirt. The other people are all in my district. we have a cool district! It's the bomb dot com

Life in Albania - Week 29

Hello hello!

Here are the questionsss that have been rattlin' around in y'alls minds this week!

1. Have you gotten any packages yet? I think you have one coming from us, Grandma and Grandpa Martin and one from the Bakers.

Yes! I got 2 of those. I got yours, and the bakers! They were great! Thanks a ton! It was a good pick me up! Thank you ever so much.

2. How are your suits, shirts and shoes holding up? The Lenahans saw Brent over Easter. They were at Melissa’s house for Easter and Brent is now in his sister’s area so he got permission to have Easter dinner at her house. They said his clothes were a mess! How are yours doing? Do you need anything replaced?

They are holding up just great.... with some pins and paper clips, you can fix just about everything! :)

3. Have you gained any weight or lost weight over there?

haha yes. I have gained weight. It's pretty pathetic. I don't look in mirrors anymore. I hate it haha. I almost don't want to skype because you guys will all see how fat I am ha. Oh well.

4. How are the people doing that you are teaching?

They are doing good. None of the investigators that we are TEACHING came to church yesterday, BUT there were 4 random girls that randomly showed up to English Course this past week that came to Church yesterday. Pretty cool stuff eh?

5. Do you have any people that are planning on being baptized?

Yes. We have 1 person that for sure said she will get baptized at some point. We have another that would get baptized if she wasn't "muslim" ha. Yeah. Same problem. Also, I have good news. My "Girl friend" from Elbasan (Besjana) got permission from her parents to get baptized! She is getting baptized for her birthday in October and she asked me to do it. I am so excited that she is going to get baptized!!

6. How many people were at church on Sunday?

There were 9, including us. (7) people. But, only 2 were members. 5 investigators were there! :)

7. Have you done any more “music street tables?”

Nope not yet, this week we were pretty busy with a bunch of random stuff but hopefully we can do more this week.


So now, for a little more detailed version of this week!

Today we went on our district trip to Berat. It was BEAUTIFUL. I absolutely loved it. We went to a castle and it was a ton of fun. This morning before we left, we went to get breakfast real quick and a worker was like "you are Americans right? Obama Bin Ladin is dead! haha it was hilarious. He meant to say Osama I think but he said Obama. It was pretty funny. So yeah, I heard about it this morning. Pretty crazy news. I am glad it happened though.

Also, last Monday, a teacher here in Lushnje called us up and asked if we could meet. We met with him and he took us to a woman who worked at a Pharmacy. She asked us about our English Course and asked if her son could come. He came with his little brother and they are way awesome. They stayed for our religion lesson but when we invited them to church they said they couldn't come. I am hoping that they will be able to come at some point. They seemed like great people. We also have an English class with like 14 people now. It's great! Also, at family home evening tonight, there were 14 people! Crazy! Success is coming out of no where! It's been a huge blessing. I am hoping these people stick around. We might actually get some youth coming to church which would be awesome. They all want to go to EFY so we gave them registration forms.

I was thinking that we could do a skype call on the 14th? What do you think about that? If the 15th is better we could do that too. I just don't really want to go to an internet local on a Sunday. But if it works better, I'll do it. I also want Evan to be there!

Alexis, make sure that you tell Carter that I wrote him and sent it last week. He should be getting it this week or next. I thought it was pretty funny about Lucas asking you with carrots hahaha i actually laughed out loud. Have fun at prom and good luck this weekend, you will be awesome! Ask Brandon if he has gotten my letter.

ish- Elder Hickson, thanks a ton for emailing me! I figured you had forgotten about me since you are home and stuff ha. I'm glad you found the blog that my sister made. You can now stock me as you please haha. I'm sorry for being a greeny and spelling xhaxhi wrong haha. I didn't know what I was doing back then. I hope all is well with you at BYU and that your exams passed well ha. May you be with health my friend. You were a great example to me and I enjoyed our exchanges a ton. I think I probably talked about them in my emails home back then haha. You are the man. You left yourself a good name in the mission. Everyone always talks about how you were a hard worker. I hope that my name will be used the same.

(ash or lex)- send Nathan Hickson a message on facebook to read this ha. I will feel dumb if he doesn't read it.

Mom- thanks for your testimony. You are amazing. thanks for the example you were and are to me.

Dad- hahaha the story about the iPad is priceless. I love grandma great.

It's looking like I have two options for this next upcoming transfer. I am either going to stay here and be with Mugleston until he goes home, or I will be going to the Office with Elder Anderson (my MTC companion). There was a Branch Presidency meeting in Tirana this past week. President Neal said it would be beneficial for me to go. (hint hint) that I have a chance to stay here and be Branch President for a few months. Crazy stuff. So those are my two destinys right now.

Well I am going to send you all some pictures now. I hope you all have a great week.

Elder Eckel

Monday, April 25, 2011

Life in Albania - Week 28

So what uppppp?! I will start with the questions.

1. Have you started playing your music out on the street yet?

Yeah, We went out and gave it a shot. It was actually pretty cool. We played a few songs together and then Elder Mugleston continued to play some violin pieces that he has and I just started talking to people in the road. People actually came up TO US instead of us calling them over. It was a really cool idea. We had some ideas to make it better but we haven't had the chance to do it again yet. We will probably give it a shot this week again.

2. How are you doing with the people you are teaching now?

It's going pretty well. I will tell some stories about it in the body of the email.

3. I have noticed a few times where you have talked about people going to Greece for the summer. Is this like the popular place for people to vacation – like how Ohio people go to Florida and Hilton Head? And why do they stay so long?

haha yeahh kinda.. but not really. People in Albanian hate Albania. They are super prideful of their country but they always talk about how terrible their country is and how they wish they could get out of this jail cell. There is no work here in Albania, and no way to get out. Until about 4 months ago, people from Albania couldn't leave Albania unless they snuck out or got a Visa which was INCREDIBLY difficult. If they had the chance to get one, they left and never came back. But now, Albania is "kind of" part of the European Union. They are kind of a partial member. They are allowed to go to other countries for only 3 months at a time. In between each time they leave and come back they have to wait 6 months before they can leave Albania again. So people have been leaving Albania a ton lately and Greece is the closest place that costs the least money to travel to. People try to go over there and get a job for 3 months. Even though it is against the law for them to get jobs there as part of the European Union rules. I'm guessing that the European Union is going to kick Albania out after they figure out all of the people taking advantage of the system.

4. How many people were at church this past week?

We had 11 at church yesterday. It was a really great meeting. The senior couple that was in Elbasan came to Lushnje and gave talks. They both talked on Families and Temples. They gave great talks and the spirit was incredibly strong.

5. I know you said they don’t really celebrate Easter in Albania – but would the members of the church celebrate Easter? Or they don’t because their country doesn’t.

They kinda celebrate it. On Saturday we colored eggs as a branch activity. it was pretty fun. It's definitely not as big of a deal here as it is in America though.

7. How is the weather? Are things warming up?

It is getting pretty toasty over here. It was really hot yesterday. I don't really know what the temperature is cause we don't get any weather updates of any sort but it's getting hot.

8. Do you have to drink bottled water?

We either drink bottled water or filtered water. Our main sink in the kitchen has a filter built onto it and so we can drink the water from the filter.

9. What is your apartment like? You said you live in the church? How does that work? It is probably pretty convenient!

We actually live in a house. On the first floor we have a family room and kitchen. Upstairs we have the main room where we have church and stuff. We have a big bathroom and then we have a bonus room thing, and then we have our bedroom. It's a pretty big house. Especially according to Albania standards.

10. When do all of the new missionaries come? I remember you saying that a big group was coming in.

The new missionaries are already here. They got here when the last transfer began. (When I got to Lushnje)


Okay so I will go through some stuff that happened this week.

So I found out that Sister Braha (the woman in Elbasan that I started teaching) is getting baptized on Sunday! Super exciting stuff.

haha this week our mission played a game of mafia over the phone ha. It was really fun. The mediator selected 2 mafia and one detective and then like 7 towns people. Elder Mugleston and I were a townsperson. (we did it in companionships) and each day was a real live day in the game. So we would put in our vote every night and would get the results. Then the mafia would kill someone during the night. We would call each other and talk and stuff during our lunches. It was pretty fun. The detective was killed the very first night by the mafia but the towns people still pulled it out and won! It was cool haha. It made those 5 days pretty interesting.

So this week we were out teaching with one of our members. We went to the family that we have been teaching and it turned out that their sister was in town. She lives in Austria. We ended up teaching her the first lesson and it went super well. She really seemed interested and we hooked her up with the website and how she could find the nearest church building to her in Austria. It was a really cool experience. The family is also doing really well. I don't know their names ha. I should probably figure them out.

We had some success in our English class this week with this girl named Livia. She is a little 10 year old girl and she comes to church pretty much every week. She is getting closer and closer to baptism every week. I hope she gets baptized while I'm here but we will see what happens.

I got a little package from the Bakers with some sour candy! It was delicious haha. Thanks!

I also got a letter from my friend Carter from BYU and it was hilarious! I was laughing so hard. He told me about how Jail was. Yes he went to jail haha. It was hilarious.

I ALSO got a tape from Kend. It was also really funny. I was laughing pretty hard during it. It was good to hear from Kendra lou.

Ashley, thanks for sending the birthday messages! And yes I did find that email! I accept your challenge!

Alexis, sounds like you had fun with Sophie over the week. You are soooo close to being graduated. That blows my mind. Craziness I tell you. I still picture you as a sophomore.

Brian Martin- you better write me back! haha. I'm awaiting your letter :)

Well I gotta go but things are going better. Thanks for your prayers. Peace Love and Happiness! and Andrew McMahon!

-Elder Eckel

Monday, April 18, 2011

Life in Albania - Week 27

Hello hello. How goes good ol america?!

I will start out with the questions!

1. How has your week gone? Has it gotten any better?

Yeah things have gotten better. I have gotten to know some of the members here better and they are pretty cool. It's just so different from everything else I have done here.

2. If it hasn’t gotten any better, have you talked to your companion about working harder?

I had a talk with my companion and things have gotten a little better. I guess I will have to take it up a little at a time.

4. How is the English class going? You said 8 people came last week. Has it stayed the same?

English course is going well. The same people usually come. 2 of the people want to get baptized so that is pretty awesome. One of the girls who wants to get baptized said she wants to wait til she gets back from Greece at the end of the summer. I hope she gets baptized before she goes.

5. How was church this week?

Church this week was better than last week. There were 13 people there which was a pretty good number for Lushnje.

6. Do you have the members speak in church like we do here in the states?

Yeah. We normally have 1 talk and then we do a sunday school lesson and then church is over. Church is only 1 hour here in Lushnje. Yesterday I bore my testimony because the girl who was supposed to speak didn't come. It went pretty well though.

7. Did you like the soccer jerseys we sent you in one of your birthday boxes?

Yes! Thanks a ton. They weren't the ones I was originally talking about but I really enjoyed them. Everyone thinks i'm soooooo cool haha. Okay, they don't really. But it's all good.

8. How far away is the city you are in from Vlore?

about 1-2 hours.

9. How was your birthday dinner? Am I a better cook than your companion???

My birthday dinner was amazing! You are a great cook mother haha. You both cook differently and both of the meals tasted completely different but they are both delicious!


So this week was better than last week. I have one pretty cool story to tell. So this week we went out to one of the surrounding cities of Lushnje with a member. We went to go check up on an investigator who wanted to stop smoking. We were pretty disappointed because he wasn't really wanting to stop smoking. He was just all talk. But it turned out that this drunk man was there at the same place we were who wanted a ride home. The member we were with (Rajmond) let him in the car. We took him to his house and he asked if we wanted to come in his house. I didn't really think it would really be worth our time to go in but we went in anyway. His wife was there and she was so happy to see us and was way more interested in religion than the drunk man haha. We started talking to her and she was talking about how she reads the Bible every single day. We talked to her about the Book of Mormon and gave her a copy and she started to cry a little bit. She said "Today is my birthday and this is the first birthday present I have ever gotten in my life." It was so awesome. She gave us huge hugs and said that she would start reading that day. It was a really amazing experience.

I really don't have any other cool stories to tell about this week. My companion plays violin and during our lunches we have been putting together some little songs with him on violin and me playing the melodica. We are planning on doing some street tables and to get people to come to our table we will play songs in between teaching. I think it is going to be a great finding idea. These are some ideas that I have come up with to get him out of the house to find people haha. But hey, I will let you know how it works.

Things are slowly getting better. I hope you are all doing well at home. Your prayers have helped so thank you a ton.

I don't have much else to say. I have learned some awesome recipes and am becoming quite the little chef ha.

-Elder Eckel

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Happy Birthday to Austin!

When did this sweet little face grow up? Today is his 20th Birthday! A lot of you are writing on his facebook wall, which he won't see for another year and a half! If you want to leave him a birthday message (or any message for that matter), please do it on here so I can forward them to him in my next email! He would love to hear from all of you!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY AUST! We sure are jealous that those Albanians get to have you today :)

Captions from Austin:
The first picture is of most of the youth in Elbasan. Just like Everywhere in ALbania, most of the branch is made up of females. Males are very very hard to get to accept the gospel.

The second picture is of my best friend in Elbasan! Besiana! I love that little girl. She is so awesome.

The third picture is me with the Zeqja family. I love them all so much. I will miss these people!

The fourth picture is me with the Kume Family and then their cousins/ aunt.


Photo 1: District bowling
Photo 2: swinging haha we had fun in Pogradec today. That place is awesome.
Photo 3: District Photo. We have such an awesome district. Period

Life in Albania - Week 26

Oh hello! How are ya'll doing. Oh yeah you are on a cruise doing great haha. Well I'm quite the opposite right now haha. Anyways, here are some questions.

1. Are the Albanian bowling alleys like ours? Is the game played the same?

Yeah haha. There aren't many bowling alleys here in Albania but it is the same as back home. But they don't know how to take care of their alleys haha it's pretty funny. They don't grease the lanes at all. So if you try to put spin on it, you pretty much just go straight into the gutter. It was fun though. Elsbasan obviously won! :)

2. Did you rip a hole in your suit pants during the Saturday Branch activity? You mentioned that you messed up your knee because you were playing in your suit. Just wondered if you needed a new pair of pants now???

Only a small one. I already got it fixed haha. It was on Monday night and we played an awesome game of kick the can. I am competitive in Albania too! haha.

3. Does your mission have a “mission song?”

We do! It's called Consecrate Thy Life. It's a pretty cool song

4. Do you get to play the piano much?

I get to play every once in a while. I have learned one hymn so far. I can play I need thee every Hour perfectly now. I am going to try and start learning a new one pretty soon.

5. How are all of the people doing that you are teaching?

Motra Braha: had 2 lessons with her that went extremely well. I actually called them on the phone to make an appointment and they picked up and said that they were in the middle of doing family scripture study would call us back after family prayer. (Awesome?! Yes!)

Jona and Oli- Oli said she wants to get baptized for her birthday. May 22! Bam! Success!

Besiana (little cute girl that I love and that is my best friend here in Elbasan)- Her parents said she can probably get baptized for her birthday. Her birthday is in December though. I hope I can come back to Elbasan for it. Success? Yes.

Rimi- Told us he couldn't make the sacrifices necessary to come to church and said he won't meet with us anymore. Success? No.

Family from KorÇa- Amazing! Came to church even though it's a 3 hour drive!

6. Did I hear Conference yet?

Yes! Well. Only the first session that you guys saw. I loved it. It was amazing. I am so excited for my friend Austin Tyler. I'm sorry. Elder Tyler. He lives in Ft. Collins Colorado! Ballin!

I am hoping to see the rest of it pretty soon. I will probably see it in Albania before I see it in English but I will eventually hear it.

1. Did you get your packages yet?

I did! thanks a ton! I loved the muffins! and best of all was the famous Lenahan Beef Jerkey! That stuff is delicious! I am definitely going to buy that stuff when I get back home! Thank you Lenahans! I also got a package from the Bakers! It was awesome! I loved the cards and letters and treats. And of course the pink bunny slippers haha I think those were from Sophie? I don't know but they were pretty funny. I have been wearing them all over the house. Thanks Sophie haha. You know my taste in slippers so well.

2. How far away from Elbasan is Pogradec? When do you think they will send missionaries there? Is there a branch yet? If not, where would they go to church?

It is about 2 hours. I don't know if they will send missionaries there for a while but there is a city that is an hour past Pogradec called Korca. There are two members that live there. They found the Gospel in Greece and now they live in Korca. President Neil gave us permission to go to Korca to visit them and see how they were doing. We went and met with Alban. He is awesome! He took us to his home where we met his family. His family made us home made pizza. It was delicious. Alban is the only member in his family BUT his Dad started reading the Book of Mormon and wants to take the lessons from us and get baptized along with the mother. They are awesome. Although there aren't missionaries or a church in Korca right now, there is a good chance that it will open up while I'm here. And who knows, maybe since I know that family, I will be sent to open it? I don't know! Guess what?! His family and 2 others came to church yesterday! So awesome!

3. Do you know if they will open up Kosavo (sp?) for missionaries?

They will open it. It's just a matter of when. There are already members there and a senior missionary couple. I am sure that eventually missionaries will go there though.


Okay. Transfers happened. Everyone was positive that I was going to stay here in Elbasan. I was hoping that I would stay. I love Elbasan so stinking much. I have made so many great friends here and care about and love the people so much here. I have found out that I am going to be transferd to Lushnje with Elder Muggleston. Lushnje is a city near Vlore. I dont' know if you remember but I have served there for one day. I went on an exchange there. To tell you a little about this place, the house that I will be living in is also the church. There are hardly any members there. In fact, Church only happens once every other week in Lushnje. Weird I know. As for my companion, I don't know him very well. Anyways, I am sad to leave Elbasan and my little girlfriend here haha she is super cute. I will send you all a picture of me with her today.

I hope you all have fun on the cruise. I pretty much talked about my whole week in the questions. I leave tomorrow for transfers. I hope I am not wanting to kill myself by next week when you hear from me haha. I love you all. Have fun, and live it up in the sun. Thanks for the pictures you sent. You all rock.

Kendy - I am going to try and get you a decent size letter today but there are tons of stuff I need to do before I leave Elbasan and I can't make any promises. Well I can make one haha. All the free time I have, I will be writing you okay? But besides that, I have to apologize for the 2 weeks of short letters in a row. The good news is that I have heard there is nothing to do in Lushnje which means my letters are about to get a lot longer haha. Anyways, hope you have a great week. Tell Garret to bring on the questions. I will give him all the advice I can. I don't know if I'm the best person to ask for advice though haa. He should ask Greasy Greg for advice.

Well I will send some pictures but besides that I'm gonna go!


Elder Eckel