Monday, December 21, 2015

December 21, 2015

This week I got moved into the best area in the Mission! But honestly every area I'm serving in is going to be the best area in the Mission! (sorry for the bright and excited optimism so early in the morning haha).

We are in the Norwood ward and it is so cool because we have 3 sets of Elders in the ward and we all live within half a mile of each other! We have a Spanish set that lives like a block away and then the Zone Leaders are a little further than them but we see all of them almost every day whether just for a second in passing or for a while. It is sooo fun!!! All 5 of the other Elders are so cool and funny and I'm just so excited to be in this area!

My companion is Elder Leaupepe (Lay-ow-pepe).  He is from Samoa but spent like the last 18 years in California. He has been on his mission for a while, like ya know... 22 1/2 months haha. I'm killing him off (that's what they call it here when they go home the next transfer). So I'm excited because he is an awesome missionary, isn't trunky at all, and I have a lot to learn from him. Another thing I'm excited for is that it is like 90% sure that I won't be leaving this area at the end of this transfer!!! This transfer and the next are both 7 weeks each because of weird things but that means I should have 3 1/2 months here at least and I'm super excited for that because of how much fun we are having and all the work that is here to be done... not in that order haha.

The work is good; we got doubled in, which means that Elder Leaupepe and I both got transferred in and have no idea what's going on haha. It is exciting, but the work is going well.  They baptized a woman a couple days before they transferred out and we just put another girl on date for the end of January. Good things are happening in Norwood :)

Also we have a legit gym here, the YMCA, and so we now wake up at 5:30 to make it over there and work out for an hour which is sooo nice! I don't want to be the guy that comes home 30 pounds heavier than he left... especially because I'm already up 10 lbs! Haha 

I love you all and hope that you have such a great Christmas, looking forward to talking with you Mommy :) And to everyone else enjoy time with your family and try to remember the reason for the season! :)

Elder Howland
Elder Tolbert, Ethan, Matt, Evan, Elder Bunderson, Elder Howland
December 21, 2015

I just received an e-mail from Elder Howland with his new address(es)...they are:

Elder Mark Howland
6042 Fernview
Cincinnati, OH  45212

Elder Mark Howland
5538 Bosworth Pl Apt 3
Cincinnati, OH  45212

I'm sure he'd love to hear from as many of you as possible...

Monday, December 14, 2015

December 14, 2015

Transfers are this week and... I'm leaving! Again! Ugh, I'm not happy!!! :( I'll let you know the new address as soon as I know. 

Ok so funny story... Thursday night Elder Bunderson and I cut our own hair and he finished his first and asked me to touch up a couple areas and so I took the head off and went to do the neck and he also wanted me to do up by the crown of his head... so I went to do that WITHOUT THE GUARD. And I totally buzzed a hole in his hair and it looked so bad! So we just cut the sides down to a 1 and for like 2 days you could tell but you can't tell anymore. Can I just say that he was impressive with his patience and not punching me in the face? It was funny and it looks fine now!

Another funny story, we cooked cookies on Thursday and every single batch we burned!!! Haha But they were edible and we have seriously eaten so many of those dang cookies. We are fat. It is a joke between us but it's pretty true... 

Haha we taught this lady named Missy who is a co-worker of a member in the ward and she is really interested in the church and everything we shared really resonated with her I think because she kept saying that she agreed and her church teaches that too and stuff so that was awesome! It was a really great night, the members made some killer lasagna! Great great night, I can't even explain.

So I've mentioned Kayla before a few times and on Friday.... Kayla got baptized!!! The sisters in that area have been continuing teaching her and doing awesome apparently because Kayla decided to do it! :) That was such a good night!

The next day was even better though! The Stuart boys both got baptized!!! Ethan is 12 and Evan 9 were baptized by their dad Saturday afternoon! It was awesome because we had a ward Christmas party right after and so everyone came early to support them. It was seriously a beautiful sight to see Matt (the dad) pull each of his sons into a big hug right after he pulled them out of the water. That is seriously what I think of when I think "pure joy." Matt knows that this is the true church and to see his sons enter into the path that will lead them to being a eternal family brought the spirit and joy and I'm just so happy for them. Their mom is sooo cool and not a member and right now isn't interested but that isn't the focus right now. Those two kids are studs and they both love coming to church and learning more and ugh I just realized that I'm not staying here so I'm not going to be able to keep in touch with them :(

I'm really sad to leave Elder Bunderson, we have grown really tight in the last 5 weeks. Seriously why couldn't I have had a bad companion for the short transfer and then a super good one for the 7 weeker!? We have mobbed here in Newport and I will continue working hard and doing everything we need to be able to help the work progress. 

I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve and focus less on me. When the scriptures say he that loses his life for my sake shall find it, it means it. I love who I am now and I love growing more and more and seeing how I have changed when I'm not doing it for me, I am learning so that I can teach others! That is how it should be! I hope that especially in this Holiday season we all can look outwards like Christ did and improve the lives of those around us. There is Joy in that journey!

Elder Howland

Monday, December 7, 2015

December 7, 2015 - Happy December

Good morning! Okay so I thought that weather here was pretty comparable to that of Utah but I guess I am wrong. I've heard that it has been down in the teens in SLC and single digits in Logan!?! It seems a little early for that! But here we thought it got cold down to 31 and that is the lowest we have seen, but I'm learning that weather means a lot more when you are out in it for hours! But today and yesterday it warmed back up to low fifties and so we are pretty happy about that! 

Okay so this week has been awesome! We taught with so much power and authority from God and met awesome people that are the definition of elite and everything is awesome! Everything is cool when you are on God's team! Haha so we have 2, count em, 2 baptisms this week! Ethan and Evan Stuart are 9 and 12 and their dad is a member and so we are making that happen! This has literally been years in the making and finally (and I must admit, no thanks to me) they are getting baptized and we are so excited for their family. The mom (Erica) is not coming any closer to listening to the gospel but she is an amazing woman and we love her :)

So funny story. We received like A LOT of grace this week. Like an absurdly large amount. So after we committed this kid James to church we had 8 others already committed and this was on Wednesday so it all happened in 2 days but usually we only get like 3 ish... But all these things kept on happening like we would meet people that were super excited to learn more, one kid yelled at us from accross the street and stopped us so we could teach him. Like insane things that I can't even describe! So anyways sorry for the rambling but after James agreed to come to church, Elder Bunderson and I walked away and simply started to laugh... and then we laughed harder and harder until we were both crying and neither of us could control it! One of us would slow down a little and then the other would keep it going and then we both were laughing again! You know those times? Yeah :) At that moment Elder Bunderson and I realized that we were true missionaries because we laughed so hard and were so happy simply because God was working with us and we were having SO much success :) Good times :)

Ok so crazy thing. We are in a walking area right? No car. So we take the bus sometimes and walk most of the time but one day after I recieved a miracle bike from a guy in the ward, we decided to go out on them to cover more ground. Well I don't know if any of you have ever been to Fort Thomas, Kentucky (and let's face it I doubt it because there is nothing here) but the hills here are pretty intense! Also keep in mind that I can't remember the last time I was on a bike..quite possibly several years. Anyway so we have this one particularly steep hill (which is like a canyon road) and it had rained right before and at the bottom of the hill is a 90 degree turn. This is the perfect setup for a bad situation right? Well I go down and QUICKLY gain a lot of speed, and I hit my back brakes which lock up immediately and I try the same with my front.  Well luckily I had the Holy Ghost with me because he told me to slowly squeeze them over and over so that even though they were locking up they were slowing me at least a little bit too. At the bottom of the hill I stopped like a foot away from the curb which seemed like a miracle because I thought I was going to get destroyed! The lord is looking out for me and I thank all of you for your prayers for me because that is what I attribute that to! :)

Also we had the coolest experience that I will describe very briefly. We met this kid, Cruze, and we went over and taught him the restoration and luckily I have a boss companion because after he shared the first vision we experienced an outpouring of the spirit. I can only describe it as perfect stillness in the silence that ensued. It was so strong and so wonderful and after the lesson Cruze said something to the effect of "Thank you for your time and we will definitely be speaking again soon" :) Did I mention that he is 20?  James another kid is 18, I'm so impressed at these kids who live in a really really rough part of town and still God is so important to them. 

I don't know if I have mentioned it but Newport, just one of my areas here, is super super sketch! Like apparently it used to be a big mafia hotspot and now is just full of super low income, largely minority, gangs, and just sketchy. But there are soo many good people and I just want them to get out of here and have a real shot at life and success ya know?

Okay this is waaay too long. Sorry, I love you and God is amazing, look for the Holy Ghost in your life because you have the Lord's promise that you have it to be with you! Follow where it guides you because it will lead you to joy and peace!

Elder Howland

 Elder Howland and Elder Bunderson
 Mark with Brother Tipton
 Elder Howland and Elder Bunderson
 With the Kash family
With Matt Stuart

Monday, November 30, 2015

November 30, 2015

Happy Holidays from Kentucky!

This week was awesome and Thanksgiving was too! The Shuleys had us over for dinner and we met some pretty great people before then! We weren't sure about Thanksgiving because we thought that people would all be with their families but the Mission President said to go out and teach so we went out and taught! Obedience brings forth the blessing of heaven right? Exactly! We talked to several people that were... what is the word... elect! Haha it was so cool and there were two that were so ready for the gospel! They already go to church and were thinking that they wanted to go to another church because theirs didn't feel quite right. Well you better bet that I told them of a church they can go to where it will feel right! We are going to go back and teach them this week :) 

Something else that happened on Thanksgiving after dinner was we went to a families home...the Kash's. So they have 3 kids around the age of 10 and they can be kinda bad sometimes... actually that is a thing. A lot of families around here have kids with no discipline and don't listen when the parents say something. It's really sad and I wish that I could do something about it. Anyways... So they were soooo bad and fighting sooo much and not good. Well we kinda taught a lesson around the terrible children and when we left I just felt so BAD. It was at night in a bad part of Newport which is already super ghetto (like gunshots and gangs and Compton kind of stuff). And for the first time in almost 3 months I didn't have the spirit with me. It was the Worst feeling! I obviously made it out alive luckily haha. I had to stop Elder Bunderson so we could say a prayer but it got better.

Also, Thanksgiving was in the 60's haha I don't know what it is like in Utah but it is teetering on the verge of cold and warm. Some days the high is 35 and some days it is 65 but the 60's are gone now probably for good. It was weird to be able to go to a turkey bowl on Thanksgiving in shorts and a short sleeved shirt though, I will tell you that!

Ok I recently had a conversation (written not talking) with my mom about 1 Nephi chapter 1 and wanted to share it because I love it. So it is the chapter that is probably most read by the church because we get halfway through and then stop and then restart over and over but out here I read it again and there is SOOOOOOOO much in there that I had never seen! So if you have already discovered the amazingness of that first chapter feel free to move to the next paragraph I will take no offence I promise. But I'll keep this part short. So I read it the other day and Lehi sees heavenly visions like 3 times in that first chapter. Fire coming down and in a dream Jesus Christ descends out of Heaven and has His 12 disciples descending with him and stands in front of Lehi and gives him a book! Like can you imagine that Christ comes down with 12 disciples in V Formation (yes, that was a mighty ducks reference) and boom! ...All he does is give you a book. That must be a dang important book! And Mom pointed out a good point- He reads and was filled with the Spirit. Why are we told to read the book of Mormon? So we can feel the spirit and receive revelation from God! Why in the world do we ever forget to read this amazing book! Myself being the biggest culprit, I hope that I can give this book the attention that it deserves because it is the Keystone of our religion as Joseph Smith said.

Alright, I'm about out of time but know that there is love for you in Kentucky! I love you and am grateful for you and know that God feels the same way except way more! :)

Happy Holidays!

Elder Howland

Monday, November 23, 2015

November 23, 2015

This week has been awesome! So last week we kind of struggled with numbers.  We didn't quite do what we wanted so this week we were focused and because we were obedient, faithful, and diligent we qualified for grace! So in a normal week we want to find 3-4 new just as a mission standard. Last week we had 2. Bad. But this week we focused on opening our mouth and allowing the Lord to fill it as he promises to do and what do you know? 10 New!!!! We found 10 people in our area and taught them principles of the gospel and set a return appointment to go teach more! 

Let me tell you, people have problems in their life and are looking for help, and the thing that brings the most peace, love, joy, and relief in this life is the gospel of Jesus Christ!

On a random note, one thing that really helps to bring the spirit when teaching is companionship unity. That is also one thing we worked on. So we were walking down the sidewalk at like 7 and it was already completely dark, when suddenly like 6 inches directly to our right this little dog starts barking/yipping super loud and attacking Elder Bunderson! Well Elder Bunderson got a nice little kick off on the dog but not before the dog sunk some teeth into his suit! Luckily he didn't bite Elder Bunderson but he did rip his suit a little, which brings back the companionship unity because now both of us have a rip in our right pant leg! His by the ankle and mine under my knee haha

We have some very solid people we are teaching in this area with 3 people on date to be baptized before the end of the year. But other than that... our teaching pool is bone dry. So that was what we focused on and it is hard to explain over an email but long story short- our teaching pool and some serious prospects that we have taught either once or twice that we are hoping to help progress this coming week!

We had a general authority named Randall K. Bennett come tour the mission and do a training this week and it was POWERFUL! Wow he said he didn't prepare anything and was just being directed by the spirit. For 7 hours! I can't even give a gospel principles lesson for half an hour without notes haha But it was great and there is too much to hope to include here but I figure I'll throw in a couple miracles that came from it.

So the day after the training when we were first able to put to use some of his focuses, one being getting referrals, we saw miracles. So referrals are really low here. Elder Bunderson has been in this exact area for 5 months and in all that time they have recieved 2 referrals. Well we recieved 2 more referrals on this first day!!! Missionary work is so much more effective when we aren't finding random people on the road but instead finding those who have the light of Christ in their life already in the form of a member who is a righteous example in everything they are living! 
One specific referral was from our most recent convert Wade (otherwise known around here as the Joker haha) He was telling us about his Ex-wife Angie. He gave us her address and phone number and was telling us that she needed the gospel right now because her father just passed away, her aunt had just passed away and on Wednesday (2days before) her son attempted to commit suicide. Well as he was telling us this he breaks off and points to a car that was pulling up and says speak of the devil. She showed up right then and there!!! And not only that but she said that she was just wondering what our number was so she could call us because she needed help. God works quickly for the people he loves! She came up and shared some of what was bothering her and we taught her and tried to show that we were the answer to her prayer. (She was the answer to ours also) And we are looking forward to showing her how God offers peace and safety when we follow Him.

Ok this is wayyy too long, I'm just on fire about this work!

I love you all, It is so great to hear from each of you in email and letters so thank you so much for sending them!

My testimony is strengthened each day by sharing it. I do know that by living the principles this gospel teaches is the way that we can be happier and more peaceful in this life. I know that God knows and loves each of us specifically. That we are all far more powerful than we know and that through Christ we can do all things!

Have such a great week!

Elder Howland
(These are pictures of Elder Howland with his companion, Elder Bunderson and with his zone)

Monday, November 16, 2015

November 16, 2015

By the way, this week was transfers for Elder Howland.  His new mailing address is:

250 Little Round Top Rd. Apt. 318
Fort Thomas, KY  41075
November 16, 2015

This picture was taken when Mark met his first back at the end of September or beginning of October.

This week was transfers and I ended up leaving Elder Macfarlane in the Highland Heights ward in Kentucky and being transferred clear over to the other companionship serving in the Highland Heights ward in Kentucky!!! Haha It is kinda crazy that I had to pack up everything I have out here to move 2 miles but now we have one set of Elders and one set of Sisters instead of 2 sets of Elders. So Elder Bunderson stayed here and I became his new companion which is weird because I have been serving with him for 6 weeks already pretty much :) But I love it, he is a super good kid and missionary. He puts a lot more pressure on me to teach and work than Elder Macfarlane did which is good for me. It is so true that you don't realize what your trainer does for you until you leave them! 

One major difference is that instead of being in a car we are taking the shoelace express each day... yep. Walking! So fun! No I'm just kidding it really isn't that bad.  The only thing that I don't like is that I feel so much less effective here than I did when we were driving because we have a lot of time waiting for a bus or walking city to city so I'm trying to figure out some better way to do it! If you have suggestions please please let me know! 

Yesterday was a lot of fun, Wade (who was just baptized) was outright snoring in Elders Quorum! Haha He works 10pm-7am the nights before church and everyone knows that and is just grateful that he is there so it is good. 

The sisters in our old area are doing great things! They are moving forward and the investigators are progressing.  My mom just reminded me that it really isn't about the missionaries. Yes we love them and want to see them through to baptism but it only matters what we can do for them while we are there. But I still get to see the investigators at church so that is nice :)

I love you and am super grateful for you especially at this time of year.  It is so great that we can focus on the blessings that we have and where they come from. (Moroni 7:13) God really does know us individually and care about the things that are important to us because He understands each of us perfectly!

With love,

Elder Howland

Monday, November 9, 2015

November 9, 2015

Oh my goodness everything is crazy right now. We got transfer calls this morning and Elder Macfarlane my comp, is leaving and I'm staying... that is until 15 minutes later, continued revelation calls us back and says that I'm leaving too and so that means we are being doubled out! I am so not ready to leave! I love it here so much and the people are amazing, I want to get so much closer to them and we were just getting fired up, we just set a goal to baptize 4 people this transfer and we had set everything and now we are trusting it all into the next missionaries hands. So time to pack up again...

This week was awesome and that makes me want to go even less! Saturday was so cool. We went to go meet this investigator and as we got out of our car he walks out and asks us if we want to go to Applebees... on him! What? An investigator? But ok! So the setting wasn't very conducive to having the spirit there... But when you are guided by God to say and do what he himself would say and do if he personally were ministering unto the people to whom he has sent me, then all things are possible and yeah the spirit was there! Afterwards when we were leaving he said something to the effect of wow I asked you guys some hard questions that I've been asking for years and you were able to answer them way better than anything else I have heard. But now we won't be here to personally follow up and I'm super sad!! I love this guy so much and want to keep teaching him!!!

After that we went and did some service for Sister French in the ward. She lives down south of our area and is literally the crazy cat lady of the ward. She can talk forever, the last drive down there she spoke for 45 minutes with only a courtesy "mmm hmm" every 10 minutes or so with Elder Macfarlane and his last comp. She has 21 cats. Yes I'll say that again 21 cats. And her house looks and smells like she has 21 cats too. So very gross but hey when in Kentucky! Right?

One thing that I would like to ephasize this week. Did you know that God speaks to man? No, really...God speaks to man. Today right now God speaks to us, you, me. God the creator of all things in Heaven and Earth will speak to you. Are you listening? Are you asking for him to enlighten your mind with the things that will bring you the most happiness and peace? I would invite all to ask God for the things they need, because if you will- he will speak to you. He speaks to me everyday. When I actually actually actually realized this, it was amazing. I love it and he wants to bless us so let's let him!

We have been teaching so much these last few days and have such solid investigators and with such power that I want to see these people through, to baptism! I love it here and ultimately want to do God's will and so I will be just as excited to see where I go now and see who I am going to serve for the next 6 weeks and serve with for the next 6 weeks! Til next week when you get to find out where in the world I am... haha literally! I love you and am so grateful for your prayers and thoughts. 

Elder Howland

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

November 2, 2015

Ok this week was awesome! Started with ripping my suit but ended with baptism!

So the beginning of the week was hard on me. We walked up to someone on the street and long story short afterwards I felt very frustrated and like a failure and all sorts of bad stuff. BUT when I got home I was sitting there feeling miserable and I opened the Book of Mormon to a random page and I don't even know what it was that I read but after I had read one verse- Everything changed. I had something change within me that changed as quick as a light switch being flipped, I felt peace and my mind was clear. The Book of Mormon brings with it the Holy Ghost. I know that because on this day the spirit came as it has countless other times when I have read from that book. So now to help you, will you read the Book of Mormon when you are feeling frustrated, alone or afraid? I promise you that if you do, you will feel as I felt and the Holy Ghost will show you the love your Heavenly Father has for you and bring you the peace, hope and joy that He wants you to have.

Okay I have to tell you about this baptism! It was crazy. So Wade is this guy... here let me try and paint a picture for you. So he is 38 and lives alone in Newport (super sketchy city). So he has hair that goes down to the middle of his back or so and has a goatee/soul patch thing going on that isn't centered under his lip, it's a little off haha,  He has 2 sets of earrings and always wears chains hanging from his waist. His favorite holiday is Halloween so we set his baptism to take place on Halloween and honestly reminds me of a buddy I used to work with Tim Graham. So Wade comes to his baptism 3 hours late! Yeah so all the ward members had left, leaving like 4 sets of missionaries and like 2 members stuck around. So not only was he ridiculously late but he came in still half dressed up in costume! He came as the Joker from Batman. Most of the makeup was gone but he still had some red residue around his mouth and cheeks and his hair was green! It was super funny, the joke is now that we baptized joker! (We are currently trying to find batman as a new investigator) 

We also had zone conference this week!!! That was so cool! It was my first but I already can't wait til the next one! It was a day of Revelation Nation! It was better than general conference... ooooh, can I even say that? Oh well, too late. Yeah it was awesome, and I learned so much and questions that I previously went into it with were answered! One little bit that I'll share is that we repent (hopefully) each day but on Sundays when we take the sacrament we are fulfilling the repentance process by inviting Christ to come into our lives and help us change. We try and change all week and we do all we can, but ultimately we can't do anything without the atonement of Jesus Christ and so by partaking of the emblems of Him we are literally taking him into our life and his grace is then what gives us the power to change. Because that is what I've learned the most out here so far, repentance isn't just apologizing to God for sinning, to repent =to change.

November is a month for miracles so just expect to be hearing about those :)

Love you guys!

Elder Howland

Monday, October 26, 2015

October 26, 2015

Ok so if I could title today's entry it would definitely be "Bacon Xplosion" but I'll get to that in a little bit. 

So last P day we went bowling as a zone fun day, which was sweet! Especially because I did super well and killed it, I got 2/3 of the top scores for the day... okay... maybe I should try being a little more humble. But we all had such a great time it was so fun, I love these missionaries!!! Bowling was awesome but the weird thing was that I wore jeans and a t shirt... what? What is this? I had forgotten what it feels like and frankly I am already more comfortable in proselyting clothes than I am in "normal" clothes haha So after P day we went to a family in the ward's home to cast out some devil's no big deal... Just kidding we only dedicated it but she said that she was hearing things and her kids were hearing and seeing things but luckily we didn't feel anything too sinister so just dedicated it and we have seen her since and she didn't mention anything about it so I'm hoping that it is all better now. I think that that is why it is so important to be doing family scripture study and prayers every single day in our homes. When we have the right spirit in our home there is no room for fear because we have the faith and the power of God with us which light will cast out all darkness from before it. 

So I hope that nobody back home is worrying about me. Everything is awesome and the members are feeding us and the work is going forward and I have God with me. Seriously the members are amazing in this area, last week for example Sister Robinette cooked dinner for 4 of the elders and Kayla and she made... Salmon. Yeah. Oh and yesterday the Shumakers made homemade chicken noodle soup homemade rolls and homemade cinnamon rolls and then sent a 2 pans of those cinnamon rolls home with us! They were awesome but of course they have nothing on mom's famous General Conference Cinnamon Rolls! Oh and I have made you wait long enough. Bacon Xplosion time. So we went to the house of a family in another area who called himself "Bro P" (Brother Perkins) And he made what he calls Bacon Xplosion. Yeah. So it is this pork and sausage meatloaf thing with bacon in it and wrapped in bacon. With it we had green beans with bacon bits in it and mashed potatoes with... can you guess? Bacon in it. And for desert we had vanilla ice cream hot fudge caramel and mmm hmm bacon bits. Can you say best meal ever?! Truth be told it was a touch overkill but still pretty amazing :)

Ok now that I've told you the important stuff I will share a little about my missionary work. So I went on two exchanges this week and they were right in a row so I wasn't with my companion Elder Macfarlane for soooo long! It is interesting because one was the best exchange and one was the worst that I've had so far, which is a surprising amount, mostly because my companion is the district leader. So the first one was a blitz. So me and elder Macfarlane went to the zone leaders area and worked with them for the day. So that wasn't a very productive day to be honest. Between the two companionships we taught one lesson. Yeah. But I did get to ask a lot of questions and kind of got a one on one training which was super super cool. And Elder Heiner and I were the ones that taught the one lesson that we did have. We were able to do 2 hours of service at the retirement home there and that was the highlight of the week! Those men and women there were so fun and I'll show them the respect they deserve by not calling them cute haha It was great we played corn hole! Which is pretty much just a bean bag toss but it is definitely a sport out here and then we played bunco! Best service of my life!!! And then we went to a baptism which was fun, it is the first that I have seen out here but we have one in our ward (But the other missionaries) getting baptized this week on Halloween! His name is Wade and I just need to send some pictures this week because you just have to see him! He is awesome though! Super solid! All in all that exchange was the funnest day that I have had on my mission so far! 

So we went from there straight to the other exchange and I was with Elder Tolbert. Honestly- hardest day and exchange so far. I tried so hard to talk with him and get along but he was not very responsive, I would ask questions and try and talk and stuff and he would give like one word answers. I spent the entire day praying within myself for charity. It was good for me but definitely hard. All the good things in life are hard though right?? And it helped me appreciate my companion even more!

I have had the opportunity to study the sabbath day this week and it is amazing what honoring the sabbath can do for us. It obviously brings blessings as we obey the Lord's commandments but it also consecrates the rest of the week to the Lord and helps us to remember Him throughout the week. That is another thing that I didn't do very well before I came out here but am committed to live after I return. 

I love you all and am humbled by all the email that I receive that says that they have been reading the blog. My hope is that this will be an uplift to all who read it and that all who do will come closer to Christ by it since that is my purpose in all that I do for the next two years and hopefully beyond. (I'll talk about food less in the future so as to encourage coming closer to Christ and not closer to obesity) ;)

With much love,

Elder Howland

P.S.  Hey if anyone has a good missionary recipe for me please send it to

Monday, October 19, 2015

Monday, October 19, 2015

I know you have been waiting on the edge of your seat all week ready to be updated on all things spiritual in the land of Kentucky. Well prayers have been answered and I'm finally ready to report! Haha just kidding! But seriously this week has flown by! I swear it was 2 days ago I was here emailing!

So most notably we had a sad day Saturday. Kayla, our progressing investigator who was planning on being baptized received a call from her mom that very day, where her mom brought enough fear and doubt to Kayla that she was super emotional and was just uncomfortable going through with the baptism. It was heart breaking. Kayla is the sweetest girl and she still wants to get baptized; she just doesn't want to go against her mom to do so. But everything is still great! Kayla still wants to get baptized and we are now going to work with her mom to help her feel more comfortable with it too. Next Saturday Sister Robinette is going to brunch with Kayla's mom and they are going to work miracles and Kayla will get baptized. Kayla has such a sweet heart; let me tell you a funny story. So we go and teach her the word of wisdom a week ago. Now Kayla is great, every commitment we have ever left with her has been tackled no sweat because she wants to do what God wants her to. Awesome! But then we tell her that she can't drink tea and coffee and this is a little tougher. She is still fine with it and agrees to live it but she is asking a lot of questions about it like why and that kind of thing. So we explain it and she has a good understanding for it and she is like, "Can I ask one more thing?" And we say of course Kayla you can always ask us anything. So with complete sincerity and hope in her voice she asks us if it is okay if she still drinks milk!!! XD hahaha I tried so hard not to laugh but I failed! We definitely assured her that she could drink milk. 

One thing that I have loved is how much heavenly father blesses me. I have found that keeping your thoughts on track on a mission is hard. When your thoughts drift from the work you don't have the spirit with you as much and many many times my thoughts have drifted and I have been able to say a prayer and it has immediately helped me keep the spirit more closely and to keep control of the natural man. 

So we had the opportunity to go to the temple this week!!! We take a mission trip every 6 months and so we were able to go to the Louisville, KY temple and can I say that it was funny how small it was!!! There was no chapel for us to wait in so we waited in the changing room and it was weird!! There was a stake center next door... the stake center was bigger than the temple was!!! But it was awesome and I loved it and there is such peace to be felt in the temple!

One thing I have to mention is scripture study! Are you studying your scriptures each day? I remember reading Howard W. Hunter said that we should be studying each day for an hour. And if that absolutely can't be done then a half an hour would bring the spirit into our lives and we will be blessed, and if that absolutely can't be done then fifteen minutes every single day will provide learning and a better direction to our day. Before my mission I can't say that I even did fifteen minutes but now doing an hour of personal study I can't imagine doing anything less. After the hour I'm like a child getting woken up by their mom in the morning... 5 more minutes please! I love the scriptures and know that they are the word of God. Your day will be better if you apply the things you study to it...I promise you that. Know that there are blessings out there to be had that God is just waiting to give to you. He wants to because he loves you.

Another experience that I had was when we went and visited a less active recent convert whose name is Sister Houston. We knocked on the door and talked to her outside her apartment and I don't think I have told you but a lot of the places around here are POOR. This place was government housing like... the projects. It's rough. But that's fine, one sad thing was that we were able to see some cigarettes in on the table. So this Sister is single with 3 kids and one on the way. So all of this coming together in my mind and this being my first time meeting her, I'm sorry to say but I was judging her a little bit. So she seemed slightly disinterested and I thought to myself "Why are we even here?" But then I had a thought and I pictured her spirit all in white and saying to me "Please don't give up on me." Even though she isn't where she wants to be I know that I can help her achieve it, and after this life when she is in the presence of God and I am there it will be because I never gave up on her. So I wrote that down "Don't give up on me" and put it in big letters at my desk so I can be reminded never to give up on someone. Mom, I know that you never gave up on me when I wasn't living the life deep down I wanted to be living and I am grateful everyday for your influences that brought me to where I am today. I have never been happier than this last month. I can't wait for the next 23!

I love you all,

Elder Howland

Monday, October 12, 2015


Mark had the state abbreviation wrong so here's an update to his address:

October 12, 2015

So Kentucky and my companion are both still awesome. The best part is that nobody has any teeth haha like I have always given Elder Rodgers who is in Leeds, England crap for it because the British right? Well they have got nothing on Kentucky! So we talked to this lady who was missing her 4 middle lower teeth and she looked so much like a walrus because of that I can't even describe! We were laughing as we walked away from talking to her for like the next 5 minutes, it was great.

One thing that was great was a new missionary training. We learned  a lot about stress that I didn't know! I found out that I have been very stressed, to the point that I've seen physical symptoms of extreme exhaustion, headaches and nausea. But now that I recognize them as stress I've been able to take measures to lower my stress and have been doing a lot better! Also I've been really hard on myself because I'm not where the other missionaries are that are 9 months out and I didn't understand why I wasn't there, but now I realize that they went through this growth cycle too and I'm more confident in my abilities as I continue to progress and learn.

Another funny story is that yesterday (Sunday) we had dropped off some cinnamon rolls for an investigator in the car and realized I had forgotten my badge in the apartment. So we go back and when we get to the door Elder Macfarlane pats his pockets and... no keys. So we go back to the car and sure enough they are sitting on the drivers seat. Well we only have one set of keys and now we are locked out of the car and apartment! So a member gives us a ride to church and we come back with this great idea that instead of calling the AP's we will just break into our car :) So we got a metal hanger from the other missionaries and tried and failed to get it open that way. Next we got a string and tied a slip knot in it and looped that around the unlock thing pulled up and BOOM we got in!! Now I can say that in one sentence but that doesn't even come close to describing the 45 minutes that it took us standing next to our car in suits trying to break into the car looking, I can only imagine, just so so sketchy.

So I went on exchanges twice this week and I absolutely loved them, I enjoyed having some new perspectives but at the same time it made me appreciate the companion I have! I love this guy and he is going to help me be such a better missionary! I have been much better about teaching and not just sitting in the background, it makes it way better when you are actually teaching by the way!

I'm hoping that these emails will be an uplift to all who are reading it and so I definitely share some things that I learned each week and some experiences.

I have seriously learned more in the last couple weeks out here on my mission than I thought possible and it is wonderful to think that I have so much more to learn! I have seen habits form and old habits die away. I have so much to be grateful for, the very fact that you care enough about me to be reading right now is such a blessing in my life so thank you. It is wonderful to see that we can change and become more like Christ every day and it is in doing everything we can to actively progress that true growth can occur. There is so much joy in the gospel and in sharing the gospel, there is seriously nothing that competes with it! I love you so very much and am grateful for your influence on me to bring me to who I am today.

Elder Howland

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Mark flies to Ohio - September 28, 2015

Dear family and friends:

This is Mark's mom and I thought I'd post a few notes about today.  This morning I received a wonderful phone call from Elder Howland while he was at the airport waiting for his flight.  That's right...his MTC experience is over and he's going to Ohio.

I'm writing this on September 29th.  Last night I received an e-mail from his mission with a wonderful picture of him with his mission president and wife.  He looks good...and he sounded really good when he called.  As expected, the MTC was a transformative experience.  No matter how prepared he thought he was, he learned SOOOO much while there.  And the learning will continue in Ohio.  It was good to hear his voice again.  I was so used to talking to him every couple of days while he was gone over the summer that I missed hearing his voice.  Ah well...I wouldn't want him anywhere else than where he is now.  And I know he's going to be an amazing missionary.

Please take the time to write to him...either an e-mail or a letter.  He can only read e-mails once a week and for a very short period of time, so real letters will be very appreciated by him (I remember from my mission).  His e-mail address is

Here's the picture of Elder Howland with President and Sister Porter:

October 5, 2015 - 1st post from the mission field

October 5, 2015

MISSIONARY WORK IS EXHAUSTING!!! Can I just say that.  So the flight was fine, getting here was fun, the first day at the mission home was fun, and there was a lot of food so pretty much perfect. I then went to transfer meeting where i found out my comp is Elder Macfarlane!!! Such an amazing kid and I called it--18 years old haha but it's fine because he is a spiritual giant and I have soooo much to learn from him! He is pretty amazing and I can't wait until I am where he is at. He has been out 7 1/2 months and he is amazing. also he is 6'5" so I REALLY look up to him. I don't do that to many. But my mission president is also quite a bit taller than me! I love my mission president--he is so powerful when he talks and really my comp too. We went out and from day one he has amazed me with just how powerfully he teaches. He says things very concisely and easily and simply and it just comes at you like a sledgehammer! I love this guy! He is always so optimistic and happy and he always talks about living life in the moment and being 100% present. 

Our investigators are awesome, the one that is progressing the most is Kayla. She has a baptism date set for the 17th and she is awesome! She is this 20 year old girl that goes to NKU... Oh by the way I'm in Kentucky right now! If you want to look on a map it is called Highland Heights and is about a half mile away from NKU. I'm also including the address at the end. So yeah she goes to college there and honestly I didn't think that she was super super on board but it was something she wanted to do... that was until yesterday. One of the sisters in the ward called her and invited her over for the Sunday sessions and apparently she mentioned that as she listened she said something like "I feel like this is just the right thing to do" and then the sister taught her that it was the holy ghost and they taught some other things that apparently got her to tears and pretty much it was a super spiritual experience and I think she is super on board now! It is amazing the miracles we see. Ok so grace. Grace is a word that I associate most closely with the baptist church (or one of those churches at least) but apparently this mission runs on grace. President Porter mentioned it a couple times that first day and I didn't think too much about it and then my companion, after something awesome happened, would mention grace some more! So I asked about it. He said that grace is the enabling power of Christ. That through his atonement he provided a way for us that through our obedience we can receive the blessings promised us. So that was cool and now if I talk about grace a lot you will understand what I mean. 

We have seen a lot of grace in the last week and it has been AWESOME! Oh I have to tell you about this guy Rob. We met with him and this was the first time he sat down and talked with missionaries, so pretty much where he is at is- He doesn't believe in God but he WANTS to. He wants to be proved wrong and hopes there is more out there. Ok I learned two really cool things from this. As we were talking about his beliefs he brought up the 3 big questions, where we came from, why are we here, and where are we going. He talked about how he lived each day in terror and that he felt a lack of purpose without anything after. He explained it in a way that I was able to understand for the first time what it must be like to not have this knowledge and I agree, it was terrifying! To come here from who knows where and to have 70 years or whatever and then after you are done to pass away into nonexistence? I felt so sorry for him and for all who don't have this message! So that was number one that I learned but then when discussing this with Elder Macfarlane afterwards, he opened my eyes to how the world is. So we have had the true gospel of Jesus Christ restored to us right? Well the rest of the world is still living in that apostasy and we are actively part of the restoration still being brought forth and restoring this knowledge of truth and goodness to these people!!! Wow! Isn't that powerful, to think that we are a part of the restoration, just as much as Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and Brigham Young??? So now I ask you. What are you doing to be a part of this restoration?

Wasn't general conference amazing!? I loved everything that I stayed awake for... haha Ok there is a reason why my first sentence is the way it is, just saying. I might have struggled in every single session and I'm sad for that, because the talks that I did hear were powerful! And the testimonies of the 3 new apostles? And Elder Holland's talk about mothers made every missionary in the world cry I'm sure. I had my prayers answered with president Eyering's final address. Literally. And I learned a lot and found inspiration that I didn't even know I was looking for throughout the rest. I hope you were able to take advantage of the powerful prophets that shared God's very words to us. 

Ok so what is life like as a missionary... So it is just me and my companion in an apartment, I'm super grateful for that. It is much easier to stay obedient when there are less missionaries around. In the MTC we struggled with everyone talking especially late at night, and study time was rough but it is so much better here and I'm grateful for that. Ok it is super weird but I feel like a Utah missionary! I have been fed so much in the last week that I don't know what to do with myself! That is evidence of grace right there, I have like 0 food because it was my first week and we went to the store and grabbed like 3 things real quick and I've lived on not much... but then I've gotten huge amazingly tasty meals at nights and even some lunches and one night we accidentily ran into 2 dinners! Oh that was a cool experience.  We went to this family where the mom is a member and the dad is not and the 12 year old son is not either. So we went after eating dinner with one family and went to go teach this family (the Girbil's) and they had pizza and wings for us... ok side story real quick. we were eating pizza and then I tried a hot wing, keep in mind I'm a pansy when it comes to spicy, so I try the hot wing and it is a little too spicy for me but I'm keeping my big deal...I'll just eat some pizza afterwards to cool it down because all I have to drink is water which doesn't help spice. So I start eating this other piece of pizza which is like supreme or something and after like 3 bites I notice that it is not helping as much as I was hoping. My nose is running and my eyes are watering and I look down and on top of this piece of pizza in my hand are 4 JALAPENOS! What??? So I'm pretty much sunk... I realize that all I can do is just go for it though, so I keep going and eat the rest of that slice and by the way I'm just sitting there not talking through all of this, looking at the table in front of me, hoping against all odds that nobody will look at me and notice that my face is melting off!!! So I finish and take a sip of my ice water, compose myself, and after a minute I'm good and continue in conversation, with nobody being the wiser. :) ...ok that's a lie I'm sure everyone noticed but they were just too nice to bring it up! Anyways we teach this family afterwards and we ask this kid a couple things, he seems like such a stud, and ask him if he has thought about being baptized and if he would want that... and he says YES! So we are going to go back and teach them some more and it will be amazing!!

I don't know what I've missed but I'm short on time so I'll end it here. My testimony is continually strengthened and I know that God answers prayers. Prayers are the most powerful thing that we have, through them we invoke God's power in our behalf, if that is His will and that is the best thing we can do. Try to find what God's will is for us and to try and align our will with his. I would invite you to pray more sincerely and can promise you that not only will God hear your prayers but he will answer them also. Through your faith his power is yours.

The work is great, the people are great, and our God is great!

Elder Howland

Mark's mailing address for packages and letters is:

Elder Mark Howland
1815 Highland Ridge Blvd
Highland Heights, KT 41076

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Dear family and friends:

Mark is in Ohio!!!  Yesterday (Monday, September 28th) was the day.  I received a wonderful phone call from him at the airport as he waited for his flight.  He sounds good and is ready to get out there and get to work.

Please write to Mark...either an e-mail or a letter...he's going to need the support from everyone.  His e-mail address is  I'll post his street address as soon as he sends it.

Here's the picture of him with President and Sister Porter at the mission home:

Thank you all for your love and support.  this is going to be a great ride !!!

Love you...
Cheryl (Mark's mom)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Mark's first post from the MTC - September 18, 2015

Fridays are P day!

And queue the tears...
Haha sorry I am just assuming.

But let me tell you mom that the MTC is a blessed place where the spirit is stronger than the temple! It is everything I thought it would be and so so so so much more! I can't believe everything that I've learned already and I'm just days into it. I am so excited for the next two years because I get to be focused on the gospel 24/7 and what an amazing blessing is that??? It is kinda weird but I feel like I have changed so much already! I am enjoying what I am learning so much that I'm actively trying to learn rather than school where I would pay just enough attention so that I could do well on the tests. I have my notes out all the time and writing things down and each night I want to go over the notes to review them and solidify them in my mind. I really am learning so much and it is so fun. I remember saying to you that I didn't think I would change that much over the two years because I'm older and a more set in my ways, I just figured that I would just grow spiritually and that's it. Well I can tell that I am going to change and I'm super excited to see that and I hope it is a big change because I know it can only be change for good. 

So how did it go for me... it was like 2 days ago but it seems like so much more! So day 1 was pretty easy where we just did orientation stuff until the evening where we did a little seminar called People and Your purpose, they brought in 3 investigators and they had US teach them. There were like 30 new missionaries in the room and we all had the opportunity to stand and say what we thought the investigator needed to hear, we had a mediator that would pause and give us some direction. We met with one at a time maybe for half an hour then moved to a new room and met with a new investigator. It was cool to see how much better we got from the first investigator to the last. And even cooler was that we saw progress teaching on day 1! This is an inspired place and an inspired program and I see that time and time again. 

So my companion is Elder Swainston and he is seriously the best companion. It really isn't fair that he is my comp now because I only get him for 12 days and then out in the field I'm going to have a super tough Elder for like 3 transfers haha Our district has 6 elders and 4 sisters. Me, Elder Swainston, Bixler, Te'o, Nilssen, and Janson. The Sisters are King, Almond, Michas, and Wilhelmsen. I hope I talk about them a lot because they are an amazing group I am super lucky to be serving with them in this district. Elder Swainston and I decided after day 1 that we have a lot to learn from the sisters as they are far more prepared and spiritual than us! Me and Swainston are headed to Cincy together and the elders are headed to Irvine, CA and the Sisters are headed to Albuquerque, NM. The other district in our zone has 4 sisters that are headed to Cincy though, they are Sisters Pavaone, Clark, Feil, and one other that starts with an s... So we met our branch president last night... his name is President Lords! I thought that was pretty cool! He instructed us and we all recieved our first assignments. It is kinda like a singles ward where everyone has an assignment so that was good. Me and Elder Swainston were given Zone Leaders which is kinda rough because we were already thinking that we had sooo much to do and we didn't have the time to do it and now we have additional responsibilities. But honestly I'm glad for it, we were able to stay really busy and that is a good feeling, that we are anxiously engaged in a good work. I remember thinking before I came to the MTC, in the last week that maybe the investigators aren't going to be the only ones that I can help over these 2 years and that maybe I can also be an influence in the missionaries lives. As I was reading my purpose as a Zone Leader, it was really cool because it said that my purpose is to Invite other missionaries to come unto Christ by helping them recieve the restored gospel through faith in the lord Jesus Christ and in his atonement, repentance, baptism, recieving the gift  of the holy ghost and enduring to the end. Exactly the same as my missionary purpose but focused on my fellow missionaries.

I'm having an amazing time and am so glad that I made the decision to come out and excited to see what work the Lord has in store for me. I'm super grateful for all the love, support and prayers it is helping more than you know. I love you and it is so good to hear from you!

Elder Howland

(Mark has 0 e-mail addresses or physical address...apparently he didn't look in the book at the open house.  Please post your e-mail address to his Facebook page and I'll make sure these get to him.)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Mark's send off

Hello all.  I wanted to start his blog by sharing a little of what the last few days have been like, from my perspective.

Sunday was such a wonderful day.  It was fun to watch Mark's face as he was sitting on the stand in church.  When he'd see someone unexpected walk into the meeting, his reactions were priceless.  Mark's talk was fabulous...spiritual...  He started by bearing his testimony, rather than ending with it.  That set the whole tone for his talk.  The subject we were given to speak on (yes, I had to speak with him) was preparation...mine was temporal preparation and his was spiritual preparation.  He spoke about his experiences over the last year or two preparing to serve a mission.  Many mentioned that it sounded more like a homecoming than a farewell.

After Sacrament Meeting, a crowd came to our home...both friends and family.  It was delightful to have the opportunity to visit with everyone and it meant so much to Mark to have you come to support him.  I can't thank enough the family and friends who pitched in to help out.  It was great to be together, have some good eats, and visit.

After the big group had mostly cleared out, visitors came throughout the day...right up until about 9:00pm.  It was wonderful to have so many come to honor Mark.  He was thankful and humbled by the outpouring of love and caring.

Monday and Tuesday were spent getting the last minute things purchased, laundry done, and bags packed. As we packed the suitcases on Tuesday night, Mark discovered he could not locate his scriptures anywhere.  So on the way to the MTC, we stopped at Deseret Book and purchased a new set.  It's funny.  We'd been there the week before getting some last minute items he needed and had met and talked with a gal at the Distribution Center.  She was there working yesterday when we arrived and she came out to talk with us.  Her comments were something like, "Hey Elder, don't you have someplace else to be."  It was pretty funny.

When Mark purchased his clothing for the temple back in May, a different lady in the Distribution Center helped him.  As it happened, she has a son serving in the Cincinnati mission also.  She was there yesterday when we stopped by and we got to talk with her briefly also.

As soon as I learn how, I'll post some pictures to the blog.