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 cool...no 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!
Mark's mailing address for packages and letters is:
Elder Mark Howland
1815 Highland Ridge Blvd
Highland Heights, KT 41076