Monday, September 11, 2017

These are the last pictures before Elder Howland returns:

September 11, 2017

My friends! 

I didn't have this testimony to this degree 2 years ago. I remember after about a month out here I thought to myself that I had already learned more in 1 month than I thought I would in 2 years and I realized that this isn't a sacrifice, it is an investment that will continue to pay me forever. Now looking back I have learned even more but more importantly, I have BECOME. That is what this was intended for the whole time.

I am a witness of the joys and sorrows of serving the Lord. I am not exaggerating when I say that this has been the happiest two years of my life so far. The Lord has taken me from someone living far below their potential, to more of a man than I could have hoped to become on my own. The enabling power of Jesus Christ is real. His ultimate expression of love by suffering in Gethsemane has allowed me to be happier than I ever have been, lifted me every time I have turned to Him, and sculpted me into someone that he is pleased with. 

I testify that the Book of Mormon is the Word of God, I know that Joseph Smith was God's chosen prophet and revelator, I am firm in my knowledge because they have been witnessed to me by the Holy Ghost in a way that I will never be able to deny. These things I know to be true, but even more than these I know that Jesus Christ is my personal Redeemer. I am a living testimony of His power to cleanse, transform, and lift us to heights not attainable by our own efforts. I know of His personal love for me, I haven't seen it's depth but I know it is forever and real.

This is my last email. That seems crazy but it is here, I won't be able to next week so I wanted to share my testimony. This is literally the most valuable thing that has ever happened to me. And it will continue to influence my life in a significant way daily for many decades! I feel successful in what has happened in the last 2 years but I look forward to 40 years from now as the litmus test for my life. Will I be actively listening to and acting on promptings from the Holy Ghost? Am I acting in such a way that my children will see a worthy priesthood holder? Will I be able to personally kneel down before my Father in Heaven and feel clean and repentant? Do I respect and honor all of my covenants? When I can honestly answer yes before Him, and then continue to endure to the end of my life, that is when I will know that this mission has been a success. That is the only goal that matters to me. 

Elder Mark Howland

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

September 4, 2017

This was the fastest week of my life.

This experience happened last night. 

I was struggling this week on many levels. Elder Swainston asked me what was going on and the blessed thing is that we have a relationship that is built on trust and respect so I felt no shame telling him how I was struggling. We talked about how we both wanted to be better.

I know we have angels around us helping to guide us and strengthen us.  I went to another room and thought about the angels that are around me and decided to speak out loud to them (even though I felt dumb) and ask them to help me because I was struggling. (Not crazy I promise!)  

I went back to Elder Swainston and asked him for a blessing and he asked me to say a prayer first.  I said a prayer and that helped a little bit, and then Elder Swainston gave me a blessing that was perfectly what I needed to hear, and that helped a lot. Then he asked for a blessing also.  I gave him a blessing and after both blessings I did some self-evaluation and realized...a complete 180 degree change had happened. I recognized a completely different spirit about me and I knew that once again this was a testimony builder of the power and authority of God working in my life.

It is pretty incredible. I know it is true because I am the evidence of it. The things I have experienced I can never deny. They are too real. And I am so grateful that God's power is evident in my life and that I am serving so that I can witness it! It is so great! 

Thank you for your prayers and love

Elder Mark Howland

This picture was sent to me by a new member in Elder Howland's area.  Her name is Emily (recently baptized) and this is Elder Howland with her husband, Shawn.  They're presently teaching Shawn and Emily tells me they're very close.  Clearly...

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

August 28, 2017

Eclipse pictures...

August 28, 2017

That eclipse thing was pretty cool eh?

You know what else is cool? When members give you people to go teach the gospel to and the people LOVE it! We have a wonderful lady in the ward, Sister Collins, that told us to go visit her neighbor Tracy. We went over there and she said that she has lost over 15 people that were close relatives to her in the last year!!!!!! We were stunned, and we were able to bear testimony that she would be with them again and that through the Restored Gospel we can know of these truths.

One of the biggest things that I enjoy doing is 'testifying' and I feel like I didn't take advantage of it enough early in the time I was here. But I love teaching people doctrines that we believe and then saying I testify that it is true. 6 simple words that have a powerful impact.

My favorite thing to teach people about is the Book of Mormon. My testimony that it is the Word of God and that it testifies of Jesus Christ is one of my most prized possessions. It testifies of Christ and I testify of it. 

Elder Mark Howland

This is a lady named Ann that Elder Howland and his companion, Elder Swainston have been teaching.

Monday, August 21, 2017

August 21, 2017

This week was soooo great!

One really cool experience was when we were teaching Shawn! We didn't have much time so we just wanted to talk about his reading of the Book of Mormon.  We had asked him to read just 1 more chapter and he came back having read like 5! So that was cool. Really this lesson shows how it isn't about us as missionaries. We allowed him to lead the whole thing, we just facilitated it and asked questions to allow him to learn from the Holy Ghost.

We asked him what he really remembered and what stuck out to him from his reading and he said Nephi's bands. So we read those couple verses together, 1 Nephi 7:16-18. We asked him how it could apply to him...what were his proverbial 'bands' and how could he act like Nephi to have them loosened? He replied that he feels like financially he is bound, that is something he worries about, and frankly most people do. But the really cool thing was that he said one thing he could change was what he prayed for. 

We were blown away by how genuine and sincere he is. He is sensitive to listening to the Holy Ghost and willing to act on it. He is so funny, he always talked about being a tough cookie to crack but how great is it that Heavenly Father gets to be the one to teach him so we don't have to "crack" anything! Haha  He was taught by the Holy Ghost and we are already seeing differences in him and so is his wife. 

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is such a real thing. It is the only way to eternal life and it is also the only way to a really happy life. I testify of this because I AM HAPPY! 

I wish I could share more but time is short!

Elder Mark Howland

Monday, August 14, 2017

August 14, 2017

Here are some pictures from Elder Howland and from a member in his area, Lacey Miller.

 Elders Howland and Swainston taken by Lacey Miller...a member in their area.  The Millers had just fed the missionaries.

Elders Swainston and Howland (with unnamed sister missionaries in the back seat) on their way to Muncie, Indiana.