Monday, March 14, 2011

Life in Albania - Week 23

What up everyone!

Okie dokie. I will start with the questions. This email is gonna be super short :( Sorry. We don't have much time. We were in Tirana today cause Elder Merepeza had to go to the Hospital)

1. How about the obvious – your favorite question - how is the language going? J

haha it's not too bad this week. I am feeling a little better with it. I mean don't get me wrong. It still stresses me out more than anything else in my life, but the stress has gone down a little bit.

2. Have your English classes grown in numbers?

A couple more people came. It's not too bad though.

3. How is Marinela doing?

I think she is doing good but I'm getting worried cause it has been 2 weeks in a row that she didn't come to church. Last week's excuse was legit but I haven't heard this weeks excuse yet ha. But we have almost finished all of the lessons with her and she is doing great. I am really excited for her!

4. How about Rimi and his friends?

Rimi is so gosh dang confusing! Someday this kid will join the church. SOMEDAY! haha. Maybe not while I'm here but oh well. He is doing good on everything except the most important part--coming to church.

5. How is the weather there? When does it start to get warm? Are your seasons the same as ours?

It's starting to get warm here. In fact today is called "The first day of Summer" it's a HUGE festival. People are outside partying EVERYWHERE. There was a massive concert last night on the main street with all of the famous Albanian musicians and it went until like 5 in the morning haha. It was hard to sleep.

6. How is the family doing with the parents and two sons? Did you get to teach them last week?

We have gone to their house a few times this past week but they either weren't there or were super busy when we stopped by. I hope we can continue to do lessons with them!

7. Do all people live in apartment buildings there or do any people live in houses?

It's mostly apartment buildings but there are some private houses. They are rare though.

8. Can you believe you have almost been gone for 8 months? Does it feel like it has been that long, longer or what?

It is both. The days go by really slow. Weeks even go slow sometimes, but the months kinda fly by!


So yes. It is true. This week was much better for my stress levels haha. I think/hope that I have passed the lowest point of my mission ha.

I really don't have much time to write to you today but I will try to do a quick little overview of the week.

We started doing Family Home Evenings again for the whole branch instead of with individual families. I guess for a while they were doing them with everyone together (trying to build the habit) and then they tried to push it to having FHE in the homes of the members. It didn't go very well and so we decided it was more important that it at least happened and people were actually doing it than just simply not doing it at all. Not that many people came last week but we are hoping tonight we will have a nice big turnout! I'm excited! If you have any cool FHE ideas let me know! We already did one about the holy ghost and I am going to do the Iron rod one one of these weeks!

I went on an exchange with Elder Carver this week. He is the new missionary here. It was really cool because I was able to talk to so many people and he looked to me to know what I was doing and guess what?! I was actually making sense and people were understanding me! It was great haha. It really helped me feel like I have accomplished something.

I gave a talk yesterday at church on Charity. It went pretty well. A lot of people came up to me and told me it was good and that my Albanian has come a long way! Pretty cool that Dad and I talked in church on the same day huh?! There was 62 people at church on Sunday. Pretty dang good turn out. We have actually created a Branch Mission plan and if things go as planned (they will) we will have over 110 people in sacrament meetings in 6 months.

This past week I went to Tirana on Wednesday because Elder Merepeza had a training he had to go to because he is the District Leader. I was put with my old MTC companion Elder Anderson! It was awesome! He is actually an Office Elder right now. The only problem with me being with him that day was that there is a tradition. This tradition is that whoever goes to the office for the training exchange (this time it was me) is normally the one who gets put in the office for real! haha oh well. I guess I could handle being an office elder. Maybe I would actually learn how to be organized. It would just be so stinking hard to be an office elder for 6 months straight and only getting 2 hours of missionary work a day! Oh well. We will see what happens.

As far as our investigators go, things are going well.... all except for coming to church. All of them seem to be keeping reading and praying commitments but coming to church for them is super hard.

Kendra Louuuu- I take back what I said about Davies. Hopefully he is getting back on track.

Daddio- haha I'm glad you have been getting that longboard out again. I look forward to some more good stories from that. Don't hurt yourself though haha. It's good to hear that Ohio State is still the best at everything. haha Elder Merepeza and I celebrated your birthday yesterday with some Albanian birthday treats. It was pretty good stuff. Sorry you didn't get any of it! haha.

Mommmm- I did hear about the earthquake. It was pretty wild. I'm glad all of the missionaries are safe there! I have some friends serving in Japan right now! And Scott Cook is there! You know the Cooks from Columbus right? I am pretty jealous that I missed that amazing dinner that you made for Dad. Oh well. Hopefully I can get some of that before I go back to school next summer :)

Alrighty, that's all I can do for today. I'm sorry! I love you all and hope you have an amazing week. You guys ROCKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK!

-Elder Eckel

Monday, March 7, 2011

More horses!

Austin's caption:
haha last night we were walking home and saw ANOTHER horse! I had to get another picture. It is so funny! I love Albania!

Valentines Day Candy!

Austin's Caption:
hahaha so all of that valentines candy was great. I gave alot of it out but we have some left over. Elder Merepeza has never had any American Candy so we had a party! haha it was great!

Life in Albania Photos

Austin's caption:
The first picture is my sweet goodbye with Elder Vance! and the second picture is of when we were walking home one night and there was a horse just eating out of the trashcans haha. Yes this horse is just roaming the streets.

Life in Albania - Week 22

Hello there! I really enjoyed your email's! Thanks for writing me :)

1. So – your birthday is in about a month. What things would you like for us to send you? We probably need to do it soon since it has been taking you quite a while to get your boxes. Tell us some things you would like to have in the box as well as anything you might need.

I'm really not so sure ha. I don't really have a need for much right now. If you wanted to send some more pictures of me from school or something that would be cool? Maybe just have Alexis go through my facebook and pick some pictures off of there. People here LOVE looking at picture a TON. They love seeing America and for some reason care more about my life back home than I feel like they should haha. Oh, also if you could get some pictures of me playing soccer. They love soccer here haha.

2. Were you able to get your ATM card to work?

I haven't given it a try yet but I will try it today and make sure it works. Thanks for doing that :)

3. How is the language coming? Do you feel like your vocabulary has gotten any better this past week?

I really don't want to talk about the language right now but I guess I have gotten a little better.

4. I would think that with living with an Albanian companion and listening to him speak so much – that you would start talking more like him. Does that happen?

You would think that would happen ha. Maybe it hasn't happened just cause I've been with him for only a week or 2 but I don't know.

5. Where is your companion from? (What part of Albania?) How long has he been a member of the church? Does he have family that are church members?

He is from Tirana and has been a member for 3 years. He found the Church through doing English class. He is the only member in his family and is probably one of the most righteous people I know haha. It's pretty cool. I wish I could get to know him better but It's hard. I really do like him a lot and we have had a lot of success together. He speaks enough English that I COULD talk to him in English but he doesn't let us speak English until 9pm every day.

6. What kind of training did your companion get before his mission? You were in the MTC for 11 weeks mainly to learn the language. Since he doesn’t have to learn the language but needs to learn how to be a missionary, did he go to an MTC – if so where and how long was he there?

He went to England for a month and was taught in the MTC there.

7. How is Marinela doing?

Marinela is doing great. She accepted a baptism date! Originally it was planned for the 27th of March but she has changed it because she wants Elder Vance to baptize her and he couldn't come that day. We will see what day it actually happens. We are having 2 or 3 lessons with her a week. It's great.

8. How are Rimi’s friends doing? Were you able to teach them this week?

Rimi and his friends are doing good. Rimi actually started meeting with us again and he said he has a feeling that he can't truly receive blessings from God until he starts going to church, reading his scriptures, and praying and of course, getting baptized! So we think we are going to get a baptism date with him this week! Also, his friends are doing well. We met with them a few times this week. They don't fully understand the importance of the church yet but we are working with them. Little by little.

9. How did your English Class go? How many people came?

hahaha well we passed out thousands and thousands of fliers and were expecting at least 50 or 60 people to come so we set up TONS of chairs. Turns out that 3 people came haha. 1 was a member, 1 was Marinela, and the other was a random boy. So yeah haha. Not such a HUGE success but then for the Saturday class, 4 people came that didn't come on Wednesday.

1. Does your mission have a study / certification program?

We have something called the Missionary Progression Program and it has different tasks that we are expected to complete by certain transfers and we have to do certain things like memorize scriptures, scripture references, and teaching the lessons in Albanian to your companion. I have memorized a few scriptures (in albanian of course). There are different tasks for everything.

2. Would you like me to send the packs of magic cards?

That would be cool! I don't know if I will be able to do them anymore but I'll give it a shot! haha


Okay, so this week was pretty good. Very stressful but good. I have learned quite a bit but still feel completely worthless when it comes to the language haha. It's pretty crazy how many ups and downs there are on the mission. Not even just like good day and bad day but good hour and bad hour good minute and bad minute haha.

This week one thing that really hit me is all of the opportunities that God gives us in this work. Every time one of our lessons or appointments fell through, something amazing happened that wouldn't have happened if our lesson had worked out. For example, we were waiting to meet with a boy who we met in the road and he didn't end up coming so we were out in the street just talking to people and we ended up getting TONS of peoples phone numbers and so yeah. Things always work out for the better.

We also were supposed to have a lesson with Jona and Oli (rimi's friends) and they weren't able to come so we decided to go tracting. We weren't having much success but it was a 11 story building so we kept going down. When we got to floor 8, to make a long story short, Elder Merepeza accidentally flipped a switch that made all of the power go out in the whole building. haha When he tried to turn it back on, nothing happened. So we were going to leave. BUT right when we got to the bottom of the stairs, the lights came back on! We decided it would be good to go back up and keep tracting! Turns out that we met one couple who asked us to come back and they were REALLY interested. And then, the next floor down, We knocked on the door and a woman opens the door. I told her our short door approach and she asked us to come in. They had just moved here from Greece and were moving in. We asked if we could help them with anything but they said no. They had us sit down and we had a Zero lesson with them. The spirit was really strong and the mom was crying by the end of the closing prayer. It was a beautiful lesson and that family says they want to come to church and continue to meet with us. So, we are going to go back this week! They have a Mom, Dad and 2 sons. One of the sons doesn't believe in God but the rest were great.

I really don't have much else to say from this week. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. They help me a lot.

JD- thanks for your email. It really touched me. You the best big bro evaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Ash- haha thanks for the pictures! and it sounds like you are getting OLD! You are so freaking OLDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD. Remember the days when we would play Mummy Time on the trampoline?! haha wow. Time flies.

Alexis- tell everyone at school that BYU is legit. And just cause we have the honor code doesn't mean we are crazy. It just means we have class haha. Not gonna lie, I never liked that Davies guy to begin with. Kendy told me that she didn't like him or something. And so yeah haha. It's a good enough reason for me to not like him. Maybe it wasn't her. I don't remember. Someone said they knew him in high school and didn't like him. Serves him right!

Kend- okay haha so Ashley sent me a picture of you and her at the Vincents house and when it was loading on the computer it loaded from the top of the picture to the bottom. So at first I could only see your faces and then it kept going lower and I was expecting to see your green sweatshirt sweater thing with purple jeans and blue shoes haha but NO! You looked like you were wearing clothes Ashley or Alexis would wear haha. I was so surprised! haha I liked it. Not that I didn't like your purple jeans and green hoody haha cause I did, but it was just funny. But then I remembered the last time you were going to meet my Aunt and I remember you made me take you back to your dorm so that you could change your clothes hahahaha. So you probably took hours to pick out that outfit for that night. You are crazy.

Dad- thanks for figuring out the whole debit card thing for me. You ROCKKKKKKKKKKKKKK. I'm excited for spring to come so I can hear more longboarding stories from you haha.

Mom- Your emails always scare me when you talk about you driving! Not that I don't trust your driving but.... quite frankly, I don't! Be careful! You already got in one bad accident since I have been on my mission. Don't get in anymore okay?!

I gotta go! My Albanian comp doesn't like email time! haha SO yeah. Later gators! GO BUCKEYES!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Life in Albania - Week 21

Hello family. I have never appreciated English so much in my entire life haha. I am overwhelmed with stress right now but hey, stress makes things fun? Okay not really ha but let's just pretend it does. Well I will start out with some questions from your emails.

1. So – what is it like to have an Albanian companion?

Ha. Well, it has its ups and downs. I hope that I will get a lot better at the language. It's really hard though, like ever since I have been with him I have been understood less by people. Like when he talks people understand him, and then I will talk and people just give me blank stares and then ask him what I said. It was never like that before. Like before, I think because I was with an American and we both had American accents people found a way to understand us but now they hear him speak Albanian with a good accent and then I speak and they don't understand a thing. It is frustrating, because even though I am speaking better than I ever have, nobody takes the time to understand me now. One nice thing is that I have been able to understand a lot better lately. I am able to understand the things people say very easily but I have a harder time communicating back to them. Elder Merepeza is a good cook though! He cooks great traditional Albanian foods and loves cooking. So I have eaten well for the past week. We speak Albanian all day except for from 9pm to 10pm because part of his progression program requires him to speak English 1 hour a day. It's hard. I think I am going to die haha. I feel bad for him that he has to be my companion and suffer because I stink at Albanian. So yeah. Just keep in mind that as you are living it up in America speaking the beautiful English language, that I am in Albania attempting to speak this crazy language ALL day while my brain is on the verge of exploding. haha

2. Does your Albanian Companion even know English?

He is okay at English. A lot of times when I ask questions about the language in English I have to end up trying to explain what I'm asking In Albanian.

3. What will happen when you go to teach your English Classes in March – will your Companion be able to help?

Yeah, he will be able to help for the most part. He speaks broken English pretty well haha. Like you would be able to know what he's saying even though he wouldn't be saying it 100 percent correctly. In fact, English starts tomorrow! :) yayyyy

4. Do you speak any English in your apartment now?

ha Nope. Just one hour at night for planning session.

5. How many Albanian missionaries are there in your mission?

One full time (my comp.) and then there is one mini missionary who is serving a 3 month mission with my old comp haha. People do mini missions when the mission needs an extra missionary.

6. How long has your companion been out on his mission?

One month less than me

7. What about your last companion – how long has he been out?

He goes home next transfer

8. Did the other girl from that family end up getting baptized yet?

Nope, her baptism is scheduled for Saturday but I think it is going to get changed yet again. Not because of her, it's because of our Branch President. haha

9. The family that said they couldn’t be baptized because they are Muslim – do you just not teach them anymore, or could an Albanian companion maybe help them think differently?

That family is actually in the other elders area. I was there on an exchange with Elder Johnson there. So I'm not really sure if they will continue to teach them or not.

10. Does President Neil let parents come pick up their missionaries? I know some Mission Presidents do not encourage that – in fact they discourage it. I know he won’t be your Mission President when it is time for you to go home – but I was just curious if any other families have come to pick up their missionary since he has been in charge there.

President Neil does allow it. When I first got here there was a family here with one of the missionaries who had just finished his mission when I got here. I hope the new one allows it too! His name is President Ford


Okay, so this week was really hard haha but it was good for me. I'm getting my bum kicked out here. I'm learning a lot of good lessons though. I must not have had very good patience before my mission because I think God is trying to teach me a lesson right now haha. Yesterday I think I was the most nervous I have ever been in my life haha. So at church, we had 5 investigators yesterday and so I was worrying about making their experiences good and then they called up the people who were baptized last week to receive the Holy Ghost, and so we went up there to do it and then I find out on the stand that the other missionaries hadn't asked their investigators who they wanted to do their confirmations. So each one chose who they wanted to do it when they got on the stand haha. Well sure enough, Denisa asked me to do hers. I was so scared haha. I have never done a confirmation before, let alone in Albanian! But fortunately, it went really well. I could see God giving me the words to say even though I had not thought of any words I would say before hand. So that was a pretty cool experience for me.

We met with Rimi this week (the boy who didn't accept the law of chastity well). We had a really cool lesson with him about the authority of our church and the spirit was strong. He committed to come to church this past week and sounded excited to get going again with us. So we planned a lesson for the next day with him and gave him Alma 32 to read. The next day we had a lesson with Marinela at 4 oClock and she accepted baptism and is getting baptized on March 27th after church! While we were in the lesson with her at the Center where we have lessons, two girls walked in and said hello we are Rimi's friends and we want to learn. So haha I asked them to wait in the other room (it was kinda funny cause it was like we have so many people waiting to get baptized that we had to put some people in the "waiting room"). We finished the lesson with Marinela and then had a lesson with the 2 girls and we called Rimi to come join us. We talked about the promise in the Book of Mormon and it seemed to go really well. Then on Saturday we were on our way back from a baptism in Tirana because Elder Merepeza had to give a talk at the baptism. We got a text from those two girls asking us if they could come to church! It was awesome! It turns out that Rimi didn't come to church but his two friends did. We have a lesson set up with them this week because they said they have some questions about the Book of Mormon. How awesome is that? So maybe Rimi wasn't ready but his two friends are! Very cool stuff. I have seen God placing the Elect in our path. Those girls just showed up that day! God seriously sends those who are ready to us. Church yesterday was really good. President Neil came and gave a talk about unleashing the power of the members! I think it is really going to pick up the work of the members here. I'm excited.

Lori hasn't been able to meet with us. She is no longer on our list of investigators because she can't meet with us anymore. We still have a teaching record for her and so hopefully someday missionaries will go back to her. Plus Jola the girl who's friend it is is very active and will let us know if Lori can meet again.

Mom hahaha that story about the Health teacher was HILARIOUS! hahaha Mrs. Drews Loved me. That was the class I had with Evan though. So I guess you could say Evan and I were a bit immature in a health class together haha. What do you expect?! It's me and Evan! That is really funny though. I also remember a day when Sister Thacker was a substitute for my sophomore history class and we were taking a test and I had to go to the bathroom really really bad and I asked the student teacher if I could go to the bathroom but she said not until after I finished my test and I had just started the test and couldn't focus cause I had to pee! haha So Sister Thacker came up to me and told me I could go cause she knew I wouldn't cheat! It was awesome. Love you mom! Thanks for being the best motha eva!

Alexis- CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!!! YOU ROCK! haha I'm pumped for you. But also very jealous I won’t be there for your freshman year like Ashley was there for me. But hey oh well. You are a cougar and that's what matters. Actually what matters even most is you are a Cougar that is actually a Buckeye. That is where it's at. Love you lil sista. Keep on keepin on. School doesn't matter anymore! Show Perrysburg who is boss by not doing your homework now. That's what I did :)

Ashley- Of course you can come to Albania! haha I assumed the whole family would come! Love you Ashley. SHOCKWAVEEEEEE! :)

Kendy- haha I feel really bad Kend. I just got like 4 letters from you at once! It's gonna take YEARS for me to write all of them back haha. Sorry! I will try to catch up on those quickly! Thank you for the valentines package from your fam! That balloon thing was sweet! You da

Dad- yes the iPod thing worked great! we have been listening to Christmas music a ton haha cause I'm still not sick of it cause it doesn't even feel like Christmas happened yet! I love you pops. Thanks for being the best dad ever. Seriously.

Well I gotta go. I'm outta time. I love you guys so much. Keep praying for me.