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