Tuesday, December 27, 2016

December 26, 2016

Elder Howland did not send home a letter for this weeks' blog post.  However, he sent home a bunch of pictures of his holiday celebrations with members and other missionaries.  I'm going to post those for you to see.  He was well taken care of by the members in Muncie, Indiana, and I'm ever so grateful to hear that.

Christmas eve was spent with the ward mission leader and his family...the Spauldings...and the sister missionaries, Sisters Feil and Cook.

Elder Tolbert, Elder Howland, Sister Feil, Sister Cook

This is a picture of the Spauldings with Elder Howland and his previous companion, Elder Swainston, and the sisters.

 Missionaries at the Spauldings on Christmas eve.

The Spauldings called me the week before Christmas to see what kinds of traditions our family has surrounding Christmas.  I shared a couple...one of those related to almond roca.  Most of you know that we make it every year and Elder Howland told people back there about it.  I sent him a pretty good supply to share...and that's what prompted this picture.
It also looks like Elder Howland participated in a nativity...perhaps at the ward Christmas party?  I don't always get an explanation of the pictures...

In lieu of his regular e-mail, I hope you've enjoyed these pictures of his holidays in Muncie, Indiana.

Monday, December 19, 2016

December 19, 2016

The thing about being a missionary during Christmas is that the Spirit is just soaring at all times! I have progressively felt that the Spirit is so strong and this week leading up to Christmas will be stronger even yet. The majority of people are thinking about Christmas and want to feel more of the Christmas Spirit than most any other time of year and so we are seeing wild amounts of success in helping families come closer to Christ. 

There are times when missionary work is hard and times when it is easy, however it is ALWAYS good. I feel like I can't even describe what the feeling is besides saying that I feel the Christmas Spirit. 

Let's talk about James and Misty for a little bit. They are always a treat to think about. I feel like they are family to us, we don't have our family out here and James doesn't have his family either, they are in Virginia. So we are going to hopefully go over there for Christmas and we can spend some time with them. We seriously love them, we have seen them make changes in their lives and do so much good and they started off already really good so it is wonderful to see. They are working so hard and overcoming so much and realizing how much power and choice they have over their own life. It is awesome to see Misty, she has a talent of being able to apply the scriptures to herself and James has a talent of digging deeper into them and seeing the morals of the stories. I could rave about my best friends all day long but if they saw it they would get bashful haha

We are seriously seeing so many miracles! Elder Tolbert and I are having such a good time, we are very much enjoying our time together! This is seriously the best time! We are loving our time together! :)

Have a marvelous Christmas and enjoy the wonderful time and take advantage of the time to share of the life of Christ! 

With much love,

Elder Mark Howland

Monday, December 12, 2016

December 12, 2016

I was talking with Elder Tolbert this week about how important the language that we use is. I have been obsessed with how often the scriptures use the words "speak," (in all it's forms)  "word" and others meaning the same thing. I mark all of them with the same color that I use for power because they are always referred to in using the power of God especially in testifying of God. 

Anyways I feel like it is so widespread to use self defeating language. I feel like it is so much more powerful to use language like "I will not drink alcohol" rather than "I can't drink." When we stand up for our beliefs I hope we remember that we use our agency to obey God's commandments. My Bishop from back home just sent me an amazing quote from President Packer that says, 

"Latter-day Saints are not obedient because they are compelled to be obedient. They are obedient because they know certain spiritual truths and have decided, as an expression of their own individual agency, to obey the commandments of God... We are not obedient because we are blind, we are obedient because we can see." 

We have such power within us and I feel like if we knew how powerful we really are, we would set our expectations for ourselves and we would achieve much more. God sees us for the power that we have and he loves us for it and I'm sure that he is so excited to see us come to grasp that power!

I hope you are appreciating the wonderful spirit that is surrounding us this time of year, I am!

With much love,

Elder Mark Howland

 Shopping for ugly sweaters...with Elder Tolbert.

Monday, December 5, 2016

December 5, 2016

Without any story or anything cool like that I just want to share my feelings with you about the joys of the Spirit, and missionary work.

This week I had a couple days where I was pretty low. My mood was bad, the work we were doing was slow (okay I lied I just remembered a story I will tell) and I just was struggling to find joy this week. Now everything is great, I'll tell you that first off but the process to get here from there was not over night.

So at the beginning of the week Elder Swainston got transferred and that was hard and sad. We had grown so much together and seen so many miracles. But now Elder Tolbert is here and Elder Tolbert has a very good skill of having fun and being very wise at the same time. While dealing with some personal inadequacies I went to him and asked him for some advice and it was amazing how he reached out and took some of the load off of my shoulders. What an amazing support he was for me that day, the next day I fasted. We had a packed day where we went from place to place to place and literally nobody answered the door. Even after a year, facing hours and hours of nobody answering the door it seemed fruitless. (If people had rejected us I could at least tell myself that a seed was planted and in the future they will listen). But with not even talking to anyone... it seemed like our work was a waste. 

Obviously we don't give up and we talked with a family walking down the road and they were awesome! We are going back this week to see them. Then again we talked with the neighbor of one of our investigators who used to meet with missionaries and wants the missionaries to come back over to help teach her and her 4 year old son! And things just kept going right from there. Without Elder Tolbert being my physical and mental support and without God being my spiritual support, I don't know if I would have stayed diligent. Luckily everything doesn't depend on just us though. We have God and our family and friends to rely on. They are there for us always.

I have realized that I have learned how to love out here to a degree that I have never before. I love the goodness in people, I love and appreciate my Savior and friend, I love each of you that prays for me and those I teach, I could go on and on. Heavenly Father has taught me how to love through service and gratitude. This is truly the best experience for my life. My eternity is changed. And the best news is that I am not a completed masterpiece! I still have a LONG way to go, and that is the most exciting part!

I love you so much! Thank you again!

Elder Mark Howland 

Monday, November 28, 2016

November 28, 2016

Thanksgiving was probably my favorite Thanksgiving of all time! We went over to a family's house in the ward and they had some other members there and they had some of our investigators there and we just had this really nice fancy classy dinner! It was soooo good and I ate soooo much! Totally worth it! And we read the address that Abraham Lincoln gave when he first instituted Thanksgiving. I love that tradition! We then played some games together and it just made for an awesome day!

James and Misty were at church this week again and it was amazzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzing! We have Stake Conference next week so fast and testimony Sunday was this Sunday. You know how you never know what you are going to get with those meetings? Well this was the most wonderful Testimony meeting I have ever been a part of! The crowning event was James standing up and bearing a strong testimony of Jesus Christ and the Book of Mormon. Misty was crying from the time church started til they left. It was a perfect day.

Transfers are tomorrow and I am staying here in Muncie and Elder Swainston is leaving sadly. Elder Tolbert is coming in and we are going to do great things!!!

Elder Howland

Monday, November 21, 2016

November 21, 2016

This week was awesome. I had the opportunity to go on an exchange with one Elder Jones. He has been out on his mission for about 4 months and is the quietest person in the world. He has a very very loud companion and has not as of yet taken much lead in his area, and so Elder Swainston and I discussed it and decided that what would be best is to allow him to lead it all the way. That was probably one of the hardest things to do. Not make any decisions. Not invite him to do anything. Just simply follow.

At first it was weird and slow. It was awkward and frankly without skill. It is easy for me to do it and to step in but it brought miracles by allowing him to do it by himself. I learned that God does not work in skill alone but he works by the Spirit. I learned so much with 24 hours with Elder Jones about God's calling each of us to the exact place that we are and he needs our individuality to bring about his purposes. I couldn't have done it. I talk too much haha Only Elder Jones could humbly allow those investigators that day to ask their questions and think about the things we shared. He taught me so much just by being himself. The power of being yourself and following God's will is unparalleled.

We are powerful beyond what we know.

Elder Howland

Oh what the heck?! How did I not mention James and Misty came to church!!! They were participating when a question was asked and very reverent and respectful at all other times. James is a social butterfly and went around introducing himself to everyone. Soooo cool! They are such genuine and loving people.

Monday, November 14, 2016

November 14, 2016

So this last week we were talking with an investigator and I really don't remember what we were talking about but from the conversation I remembered when I was serving back in Norwood (which was December-April last) and I remember being devastated by the most crippling doubts that I have ever experienced in my life! Although I had had spiritual moments and lessons and had a very defined testimony there were several weeks where I just questioned everything! It was all in my mind, I made sure that I didn't tell anyone else because I thought it was a weakness and I thought that I would hurt other people's testimony if I told them about it so all I did was pray. 

Day in and day out I prayed that I would be able to overcome the doubts and that I could have the confidence in the Gospel that I once enjoyed! It didn't come all at once and I don't think I ever noticed them really go away but all I know is that now I can look back at that experience and just be so grateful because I was able to overcome that which I thought I would never get out of. 

Really, that is the big trick. Satan wants us to believe that when we go through things we have no hope. There will be no end to the hurt or the doubt or the sorrow or whatever our current trial is. But you yourself are the testimony that that is not true!!!! Can you see that? How many hard days have you gone through? And how many of those hard days have you made it through? Yep you have a perfect score and so why would now be any different than alllll those days and years before? You will continue to get through. The only difference is will you allow Christ to carry you through so that you can have peace as you overcome your challenges? Because there are 2 ways to overcome something, one way is to be dragged through completely miserable OR you can decide to overcome triumphantly and confidently.  I hope you can see the hope. I hope you can see the way, because He is the way. Where faith is, fear cannot abide. Just like where light is, there can be no darkness. 

So this week was great! It is definitely cooling down out here and we are using thermals and jackets but the fact that we made it halfway though November is still pretty dang good! This happened last year when I was down in Kentucky also so we are hoping for another very mild winter! Although either way I am in a car area right now so I have that. Last year we were walking 100% of the time!

Also transfers are in 2 weeks and I've decided I want to stay in Muncie forever it is soooooo great here! Okay here are two fun facts. One, Parks and Rec is set here which a lot of people know about but here is another. Two, Bob Ross was filmed here also! We went over and did some service and painted a room in an investigators house and they had Bob Ross on which I love and he said that indeed that was filmed here!

I love you guys! Thank you so much for your unseen prayers for me and thoughts. 

Elder Mark Howland

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

November 7, 2016

Here is kind of a short miracle due to time.

We had a missionary meeting this week and it was all about reconnecting with God and not being repetitive with prayers and it made the biggest impact on me. That changed my life. Before that day I kept looking at others and at all the bad they had, all the pride, and all the annoying things. Once I connected with God again through sincere prayer it was a connection on a deeper level than I think I have in my entire life- all the strife of the last 2 months disappeared in a day.

Despite that poor attitude- Elder Swainston and I were obedient and hard workers and we saw many miracles together but the biggest miracle has happened this week and it was within us. We came together and worked together and became one with Christ and we humbled ourselves and it is literally a miracle. The tension has dissipated and love and respect has taken it's place. It takes continual work but the Lord was truly instrumental in helping us to be what we already wanted to be but couldn't accomplish on our own. By being more sincere in prayer, it has invited more power into our life and helped to change us. That is what the atonement of Christ does, gives us the power to fully repent and change! 

I knew my pride was standing in my way and for at least the last week or two I have been praying at nights similar to Enos just hungering for the humility to love others and he answered that prayer through the revelation in MLC (Missionary Leadership Council). It is almost inconceivable how reconnecting to God solved a problem seemingly unrelated and yet now looking back was the biggest problem itself.

When you are feeling down just think about the good in your life and if you are discouraged you should know that you are doing better than you think. All goodness comes from God and we have a lot of goodness in our lives!!


Elder Howland

James and Misty (they're getting baptized on December 3rd), Elder Howland, 
Brother Hinds (with the beard), Elder Swainston.
Elder Howland and Elder Swainston

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

October 31, 2016

(Sorry I'm late getting this posted to the blog.  I was home sick on Monday and Tuesday this week.)

Leanne got baptized!!!!!!!!!! What an awesome joy filled day that was! The topper was how she kept talking about it, she taught Gospel Principles the day she was confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and yes that day she also taught Sunday School haha And she bore a beautiful testimony right at the beginning comparing it to rain and a rainbow coming after :)

But wait the miracles don't stop there! Saturday night we were out walking and the house we were going to was just over the train tracks.  As we approached a train came and so we were forced to wait. While waiting we went to go talk to another family that was walking on the sidewalk.  That didn't amount to anything but in the 30 second walk the train went from 40 mph to stopped dead and we weren't exactly sure how that happened. So we turned around and went to another investigator in the opposite direction and on the way there we passed by a house where the man was coming out of his house and just said "Hey guys" as we went by. Normally we would say hey and keep walking but I was pulled by almost an ethereal beam that I couldn't control we just walked up to him and started talking. 

He said that he has been looking for God. He said that he has been needing a place to focus his energies. As we asked him the needed finding questions he answered them in almost quotes from the Book of Mormon, which he has never read before! If I could describe it in one word it would be "hungry." He is hungry for the gospel and was asking such good questions. We went back Sunday night also and had a member with us.  He asked us about how to feel free from sin and a feeling of guilt. We talked about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and shared about how it is through Christ he can be clean and he accepted a date of Nov. 26th to be baptized on. We met him 24 hours before and he is just so excited about it all!

Looking back on it we laughed because God literally stopped a train to guide us to him. God obviously knows his sheep. And things like this happen kind of often and we aren't exactly sure what we are doing to be getting these miracles but we are pretty happy with them haha

Miracles abounding in Muncie!

Love you all.
Elder Howland

Monday, October 24, 2016

October 24, 2016

Good morning!

This week was awesome, I feel like this is a third part to the same lesson.

Everything we are doing right now is all about 4 new investigators every week. That is like our side of the covenant and then God will help us find those that are prepared to hear the gospel (and a million other promises that I don't have time to type). So we are focused on finding 4. And we are getting better and better, on Saturday we had found 3 and so we worked on Sunday until the evening time (once again!) when Elder Swainston decided to call Lee Lee who we have been working with for a while . We asked her if she knew anyone that we could share the gospel with and she said we should come over and teach her friend Sam. So we did and Sam is awesome! And she said that she could see the changes that Lee Lee made which was sooooo cool because we aren't the only ones seeing it! It is changing her life!!!!! And we are going to be seeing Sam with Lee lee now. Lee Lee is going to be baptized this week and we are super excited for her!!!!!!!

Lee Lee has changed her life more than anyone I have ever seen. I have seen the Atonement work in my life that is easy to see, but we have been privileged to see the Atonement work in her life now too. In just a few short weeks we have seen her give up illegal drugs, alcohol, smoking, she is living the laws of chastity, tithing, she is reading the Book of Mormon almost every day. She puts herself into the scriptures and understands them in terms of how it applies to her. She has started looking at things more positively and is looking at life with a whole new perspective. Now she has a fresh new view of herself, God, and life.  We are seeing what usually takes people months and years to find and do in a matter of weeks. And the blessings she is seeing is condensed and amplified and she is receiving the strength to do it all through her literal Savior Jesus Christ. She is the perfect example of how we can and should be taking the Atonement into ourselves. 

Anyways I got off topic right there... so we were working that night and I turned to Elder Swainston and asked him okay it is after 8PM and we have nothing to do... and at this point I felt the Spirit as I asked him the question. What would we do if we didn't have 4 investigators? Or in other words how can we keep working as hard as we can even though we have met our goal? 

That was it! That was what God has been trying to teach me for the last 3 weeks! All of them put together finally got through, His patience in teaching astounds me. I just thought we were seeing miracles but no there was a lesson there! 

So whatever you are going through I would invite you to take a step back and look at your situation and ask that question. What is God trying to teach me?


Elder Mark Howland

Elder Howland and his companion, Elder Swainston

Monday, October 17, 2016

October 17, 2016

Hey so real quick I wondered if I could ask you to email me your favorite scripture at mark.howland@myldsmail.net? I am in a memorize kick right now and would love to hear some powerful and meaningful favs to use!

Two weeks in a row. 

Almost identical to last week's miracle, we exercised faith in God and his power wrought miracles. The divine mandate to our mission was to find those 4 people who need us and the promises were bounteous! So we are working hard to find everyone and at the same time help those we are currently teaching to progress and find the joy that can be found as we all come to Christ and follow him. If we had more time to do it, we would be fine but we never have enough time to do all that we want to do. 
So we found 2 new friends earlier in the week and now Sunday came and we needed to find 2 more to fulfill God's command. So Sunday night at 7:30 God led us to a wonderful family of 3 that welcomed us in and humbly listened and learned of him. God is teaching us that no matter what, his power is without bounds and he will work through us when we exercise pure faith in him without fear.

Miracles come over and over when there is faith. I love that I am learning this transfer that I need to trust in God completely. This week we are going to be better at trusting him throughout the entire week though and not just at the end haha No we really did work so hard and we are sanctifying ourselves so that we can have the spirit to be more and help others to feel it more!

I love you and thank you for your prayers and support,

Elder Howland

Elder Erikson and Sister Feil with Elder Howland

Elder Swainston and Jaren with Elder Howland

Monday, October 10, 2016

October 10, 2016

This is how things are going in Muncie: 

Mission Leadership Council was POWERFUL. We really caught on to the whole "Spirit of Joseph" thing (Joseph of Aramathea who begged and boldly asked for the body of Jesus. Not giving up until he got it. That is the simple version but really it was more inspiring than that haha) It inspired us to be better and to do better and we were on board to get 4 new investigators for the week and every week for the rest of our missions! He felt inspired that if we worked and found that many of God's children each week that were looking for this message then we would see success in each phase of our work. 

The next day we led a very powerful and revelatory zone meeting. It was great! Everyone was pumped and we really felt like the things that were talked about and trained on were inspired. As the week went on though, we were not seeing success with new investigators. We were working hard, we felt like we were petitioning God for Grace and doing what we could to receive it. 

So, here we are on Saturday night, and we still have no new investigators. We were pretty down about it, but we knew that we could get 4! As we were setting goals we decided that we would have faith and set a goal for 4 new investigators in one day! We made plans that would support that goal. We had church, a bishop report, and then finding for the remainder of the day. We went to bed feeling good.

On Sunday, though, things got off to a slow start and we were feeling a little deflated. We got out to work a little later than we had hoped and felt an extreme sense of urgency to the point that we were getting a little frustrated. We talked to a few people. Some didn't answer, others rejected, some were on the fence, some were busy. Still no new investigators. We went into our dinner appointment with no luck.

After our dinner appointment it was 630 and we stopped the car right before our next destination and decided to say a prayer. I offered a very honest prayer that we had things we could do better but we really tried to find those who were looking for this message to share it with. The spirit filled the car and we felt somewhat confident. We knocked on the door. Jackie, the lady we were looking for came out, and we had a powerful lesson. She was crying the whole time. And wants so badly to overcome her addictions and be closer to God and feel confident in her standing with him.

We knew that was a miracle. It was about 7:45, so we went to our next destination. As we started walking to the apartment, we saw that the house we were going to had a group of people outside. We started talking to them, one of them being the girl we were looking for, and they invited us in for some food (which was the biggest surprise because that neighborhood was not the most welcoming looking). We accepted of course because food is good. :) We came in, asked if we could share a message, and they accepted. As we were saying the opening prayer we both realized how merciful God is when we just trust Him! There were 4 investigators there, all of them very receptive to the Spirit! The message was received well and at least one of them wants so badly to be baptized- before we even brought it up he asked us if he could be. We are going back tonight and they are as excited as we are to be with them again! 

I guess the "moral of the story" is that miracles really do happen today. As I thought about this experience of setting goals to find God's children to teach and continuing faithfully clear to the end at 8 at night, I felt so privileged to be a witness to his power and realized this is the stuff you read about in the scriptures or hear about in general conference, and I got to be there! As we call down the powers of God and work our hardest, in faith, to receive his Grace, God provides. It was a very intense and spiritual manifestation of how God is SO involved in our work. More involved than us missionaries will ever be. This work is definitely not about us, it is not about a quota, it is not even about 4 new! It is about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. We got 5 new investigators, each one we love and they want the Gospel in their life, because 4 was a divine mandate and it was God's will. And through our faith, we secured the blessings that God was willing to give us. We just had to keep working and trust Him.

Love youuuuuuuu!

Elder Mark Howland

This is a fun picture.  Elder Macfarlane is on the right...he trained Elder Howland.  Elder Bee is on the left...Elder Howland trained him.  Very cool picture...

Monday, October 3, 2016

October 3, 2016

I am learning that not much can happen without trust. Trust between companions, members, and most importantly God. AKA faith. haha 

Last week we went on exchanges with the Ball State Elders (Ekpagha and Palmer). I went to Ball State with Elder Ekpagha and we had a blast! It reminded me of Utah State and the members there are so faithful...it was great to see! Elder Ekpagha is a strong teacher and optimistic person; in general a very enjoyable missionary to spend 24 hours with. Also he is from Nigeria, and when it is 90 degrees and the rest of us are melting... he is wearing a wind breaker! Haha he is crazy but I love him so so much!

So after a year I want to do a little self assessment and mention a few things that have changed about me because you all know "Mark" but Elder Howland from 10/2016 is quite different. For instance and those who know me best will find this most surprising... but I'm actually a pretty neat and organized person! We are living with 4 missionaries and my area is probably the nicest one. If anyone cleans the apartment I'm usually the first one to do it.  Almost all of my mission I have made my bed every day and little things like that... I just really like the feel of a clean space. I guess I should have learned that from my mom 20 years ago haha

So I have found that in the last month or two I have unlocked the scriptures to a whole new level! It is amazing the difference between reading and searching, studying, and finding the mysteries of God. I am learning at an exponential rate now and even after a week or two I can tell a difference in what I receive from the Lord. Line upon line is great when you actually take advantage of each line and use it to help you up to the next line.

I also have found that I am an obedient Spirit. After 7 years of inactivity, one might think "rebel" would fit me more.  But the thing that I love the most is the confidence that I can stand knowing that I have done all that I can!

Another very surprising thing is that I really enjoy eating healthy and exercising. I like the sensitivity to the body and helping me feel the spirit more when my physical laziness and bloated pain is not distracting me from it.

I enjoy talking to others and helping them feel loved by simply offering them my time and ear to understand them when they don't have many who care to listen. Encouraging, uplifting and inspiring are my goals when I am with another child of God.

All of this is a long way to express that a mission is exactly where I should be! Cleanliness, learning, obedience, healthy living, and loving are the fruits of a loving Heavenly Father and elder brother who sacrificed all to help me achieve far more than I could have on my own. And all these things are important to me.

Elder Howland

 Elders Howland and Swainston on their cheat day - pumpkin pie cheesecake shakes from Arby's
Jack and Dana Jones with Elder Howland

Monday, September 19, 2016

September 19, 2016

Our area had struggles this week.  We had some very nasty people talk to us all in a row and I like to think my skin is pretty tough and that stuff never bothers me, but this week because we got hit with so many all in a row it kinda got to us both. But as the Lord gives us trials and we go through them, he takes us to the promised land. And he needed to test our faith this week apparently but we then saw many miracles!

We randomly ran into this woman, Sabrina, as she was reading on her porch and long story short, she is a member who hasn't been to church in 20 years.  There were no records of her here and so we taught her and her teenage children who aren't members and they came to church!

Another miracle is Katina and her family of 6.  We were finally able to start teaching and they came to church also! Everything is aligning in this area right "when we were depressed and about to give up."

I love it here in Muncie, it is so hard but so good! :)

I just passed a year and I feel like the whole first year I was looking forward, hoping time would pass quickly.  But already I'm looking back and trying to grasp harder onto the precious time I have left. I love this work so much and would literally rather be nowhere else than here!

Be happy! Can I give you that advice? There is something wrong and something right in everyone and every situation.  You get to decide what you look for and continue looking at though. What will you choose? I am choosing happiness :)


Elder Howland

Elder Howland having ice cream on his "hump" day...September 16, 2016.

Elder Howland and his companion, Elder Swainston.  They were also companions while in the MTC.

Monday, September 12, 2016

September 12, 2016

 Elders Quinn and Manos in the front seat; Elder Howland in the back seat.
 Coffman family; Ryan (next to Mark) was his best pal.
 The Hubner family
 Elder Manos, Mandy - we were helping her come back to church.
A beautiful Muncie, Indiana road.
September 12, 2016

Literally my favorite part of being a missionary I just realized is the studies in the morning. We have the 1 hour of personal studies and I usually start my studies 15-30 mins early because I just love learning so much! I know that the most important way I will be learning is by applying things in my life each day but I LOVE my personal studies. I have found a way to mark things (haha MARK) that works really well for me and I am learning things that I never saw before and honestly it is making me love them so much more too! I was thinking this morning that if I were to lose these scriptures I don't know what I would do! God has provided all the answers to us and I'm finding that all I have to do is find them!!

This week we had a pretty hard hit, our golden golden golden investigator Kim recieved the Book of Mormon on Sunday and was to 2 Nephi 14 by Friday Which is unheard of! Members don't even read that much ahaha but she did and then on Saturday...she broke up with us over text! C'mon!! Yeah we got a text that said please don't come by or call anymore. That was a pretty hard blow because we loved her so much, she reminds me a lot of Jana Morrison to be honest, just amazing. But she read a lot in the Book of Mormon and so we are hoping that whatever she heard about our church will be not as powerful as the truth she read those few days and that sometime in the future that truth will emerge and she will come back.

We have taken it pretty well because we have seen other miracles!!! When one door closes and what not right? :) We are super excited, we have 2 investigators we are most excited for and they both have the same name! Terrie and Terry. One boy one girl. :) We love them both and are excited to see them move forward because they both have a testimony of the Book of Mormon and now it is just helping them to commit to live it!

So much love from Muncie, Indiana! Oh and I am with my old companion from the MTC, Elder Swainston!!!

P.S.  Elder Howland's new address is:

Elder Mark Howland
1505 W. Riggin Rd.
Muncie, IN  47303

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

September 5, 2016

The power of fasting is so real! This last Sunday, 8/28/2016, Elder Manos and I fasted because our teaching pool was dwindling down even though we are working. What a miracle that was! On Sunday night, a member from another ward in the stake called us and asked us to teach a woman in our area! What an answer to our prayer! Member referrals are much more solid than those that we find on our own efforts so that was a blessing. Then on Tuesday we received a call from a Sister in our ward who had a relative that she wanted us to start teaching! And we were like what??? We thought the blessing was the last member referral! Now there is two! And then on Wednesday we got another call from a member in our ward.  She asked us to go visit her brother (who is less active but in the ward) and she asked us to go on a specific day so that she and her whole family could fast for it to go well.

We thought the blessings were amazing just after that first one... It really taught me a lesson on God's grace. When we rely on our own efforts good things happen because he gave us moral agency and power to act but the real power and miracles come by relying on the Spirit and acknowledging His power! 

Transfers are tomorrow and I am leaving, I will let you know where I am going! 

I love you!
Elder Howland

Monday, August 29, 2016

August 29, 2016

Alright, so this week started off with a miracle! 

Monday- we are working with this Less Active named Mandy Moles, she is a huge blessing in our lives, she is so funny and witty. We have been working with her over the past couple of weeks and really have built trust with her. On Sunday her Mom who is very active came up to Elder Manos and started to just sob and thank for our efforts with her daughter. 

Apparently she has been so devoted to praying for her daughter to come back to the fold. Every time she would go to the temple she would put her on the prayer list and cry out in prayer every day to have something happen to have her back at church. Mandy would of never had missionaries at her house or would ever invite them back... 

This last week we saw Mandy, her mom and a friend. We were able to start out with a great conversion of getting to know each other that just faded right into a spiritual discussion. We taught a very powerful lesson about "receiving answers through reading the Book of Mormon". By the end of the lesson i asked if everyone can feel the spirit that was there. and Mandy answered with an excited "YES" because thats just how she is haha. After Brother Spencer and Elder Manos bore testimony about the Book of Mormon we left the commitment to study the scriptures with the purpose of finding the answers to the questions of your heart. Mandy was very excited to try this promise from the lord out haha 

Afterwards we had our "Family Home Evening" activity and ate M&Ms, fruit and played catch phrase and the evening that Mandy and her mother were very nervous about turned out to be the best thing they could of expected and were anxious to do it again soon!

Later in the week we had a great Mission Tour and Mission Leadership Council from Elder and Sister Hamula of the Seventy that was kind of the launch of changing almost everything about the mission. In short we talked a lot about being ready to lay it all down for the Lord,. Forgetting about yourself, Trusting in Him to take care of the rest, and living a consecrated lifestyle. It is something that the mission was needing because we have been seeing a trend of missionaries lacking in that aspect. Needless to say that the Tour was AWESOME. The Mission Leadership Council was very closely related to the tour but telling us more straight out that EVERYTHING is going to change in the mission.

We are very excited. its something that we have been hoping will change in the work. The Lord knows best :)

Love all of you!

Elder Mark Howland

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

August 22, 2016

This week we had such good work!  Cieara came to church with us and we had such a powerful lesson with her before. She had a powerful experience where the holy ghost was really strong and she is excited to continue learning. This week I learned so much about the power of following the keys because President Welch wants us to be more in Preach My Gospel and the other day I was studying and I spent the whole time in Preach My Gospel and the whole time things just felt different. The power was coming from doing what my priesthood leader asked of us. I realized that the commandment like from God doesn't matter so much as the obedience to it. That is why in the Law of Moses they had very different commandments than us and yet if they did it they still were blessed and progressed due to the obedience.

We are meeting with another man named John and he is the most sincere investigator I have ever seen. Heck most sincere than almost anyone! He cries during most lessons and even just during the prayers. He is like the most hardened man with such a sweet spirit. He has seen some incredible things that I can't even imagine and somehow he has gotten to a point where he is this in tune with the spirit. It really goes to show the power of repentance and the power of the Atonement that Christ gives us. No matter what we have done and no matter where we are at. God takes us from there and helps us progress.

Love you so much! 
Elder Howland

Monday, August 15, 2016

August 15, 2016

Alright this week was good but I'm finding out that as time goes along it goes quicker and quicker! That is crazy! So this week Elder Manos and I had fun in the rain! I have never experienced this much rain as the last week in my life! Every day it is just dousing us and it is so funny! Elder Manos is from Seattle (just south of where I lived) and he is loving the rain! Personally I like the sunshine more but it has been fun because only one other time (down in Arizona) have I experienced rain that pours so hard that the windshield wipers are not able to keep up! At church we went all of 30 feet from the car to the church and we were soaked even though we ran! Hahaha

So the work is progressing and we have been having a lot of success working with less actives recently.  We have 15 less actives that were at church this last week! The best part about that is that as they come back and get excited about the gospel we are going to help them work with their friends and introduce them to the gospel. There is this one less active specifically that we are working with who is 19 and we want to see him serve a mission. Me and him are exactly the same and I just love this kid to death!

We had a Zone Meeting this week and they asked that I conduct the meeting which was kind of random but it was cool because I got to see the other side of things. Being able to see the missionaries as they were furiously taking notes or as they sat pondering the things shared or some even as they took little naps haha.  But everyone was getting out of it exactly what they put in and it was neat to be able to sit on the stand and witness that. It is an eternal principle, it happens in church and scripture reading and everything. I realized that maybe it isn't the quality of the speaker in sacrament that determines how good the meeting is. Perhaps it is our preparation and the degree of desire that we have to take advantage of the atonement that day. This week we were invited to take greater advantage of the atonement during sacrament and I took that to heart and had one of the most profound Sacraments that I can ever remember. And that was because of my preparation before and my pleading with God during that changed it! God is willing to bless us when we use our agency to follow him!

Love you!!!!

Elder Howland

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

August 8, 2016

There was no e-mail to post from Elder Howland this week.  His time to e-mail was very short.  Here are a couple of short sentences he wrote to me...

Hey mom, so guess what? I love you!

I will tell you about last weeks' zone activity next week because it is a crazy story!!! All good things but I want to send a recording! 

I'm sending pictures of Elder Manos my comp (which he did not send). He is bold and powerful and a leader and literally my best friend. I finally have someone I can trust and confide in out here and it is such a relief. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

August 1, 2016

Things are going really well here, my foot is getting better now that it has been 2 weeks and in the mornings to work out we usually play some frisbee so I can run a little bit and start to stretch it out and exercise it but not too much to where I will make it worse. 

I just barely got a new companion whose name is Elder Manos and he is seriously like my best friend. I have had a rough time with companions to be honest I love them all but it has been a lot of work to mesh together very well BUT NOW?! Oh my goodness!!! I LOVE ELDER MANOS! And his name is not Spanish actually, it is Greek. It means 'God is with us'. I seriously had so much fun this last week and he is the same as me, we are going to do so much work here. We are in a struggling area hardcore and the last couple transfers we (me and my companion) haven't been unified in our efforts, I wanted to do a lot and now Elder Manos wants to do as much as me and so we are gonna do it! We are going to help the areas progress and see a lot of success... Long story short, I am sooo pumped for the next few weeks!

There is this German Exchange student named Marius here with a family in the ward and he has been coming out with us. Pretty much I've decided that when I get off my mission I'm going to go spend a couple months with him in Germany and it is going to be amazing, I love this kid so much and he is preparing to serve a mission.  So when I go we will definitely go do some missionary work to help prepare him more and help me continue to do it! 

My testimony has grown this last week. That is so cool to say. Every day seeing the progression is amazing. I have further deepened my conviction that I know that God answers prayers, I know that he gives us exactly what we need when we have the courage and faith to ask. Every day I have to be building on that faith and coming closer to him and make sure not to fall away. I look forward to the opportunities to do something hard and see if I trust God enough to do what he asks. 
I am super grateful for the emails, letters, cards that I received this last week where many of you mentioned an experience where you followed a prompting and saw a miracle. That was exactly what I needed, and your testimonies helped build my faith.  So thank you!

Elder Howland

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


Here are a couple of pictures from Elder Howland showing the bruising around all his toes from his dislocation (left foot) last week...yuk !!!

Monday, July 25, 2016

July 25, 2016

I realized something the other day again. I have enjoyed my time here serving a mission more than any other time in my life. When I serve God I am happier than at any other time! It is crazy that by doing the things God asks us to provides us with happiness!!! :) I go through "little Gethsemane's" and love it because that is where the growth is. I can enjoy the easy and fun moments because they're easy and fun, but the critical times that I remember most, and learn the most, and grow the most, and help others the most is when I am going through that refining fire!

For example, I had a certain companion out here that it was so hard being with him! Sooo hard! I wanted to be more obedient than he did and wanted to work harder than he did and yet I found myself being less obedient and diligent because I didn't want to make him feel bad. I was literally caring more about what men think than what God thinks. After a while I made up my mind that no matter what other people around me do, I will be obedient and diligent. Looking forward to real life and applying the same concepts, I realized that my friends or maybe even my spouse might not be as diligent or obedient as what I know we should and so I asked myself if, heaven forbid and this is very dramatic but, if my wife went less active in the church would I try and make her more comfortable by not going to church also? Or would I set the example and go and try and lovingly lead her back to Christ also? So now I know and it all came because of a hard time. :) That is why I love them! If I had been around a perfectly obedient companion my whole mission, I would have never learned that I had the power to stand on my own for what I know is right. And you know what? That companion started following my lead and being more obedient. Happy ending! 

Transfers are here but I dodged a bullet and I'm staying. Elder Wilcken is leaving which is kinda sad because he has 5 weeks left before going home and has to do it in a new area. Hopefully he goes back to an old area though! 

So I had a crazy week this last week, on Monday I dislocated a few toes while playing soccer and that has made walking all day rough but it isn't too bad. My companion Elder Wilcken and I also both got super sick with this ridiculous cough that has been plaguing us! I'm living in Dayton, Ohio and really like it. This place is like half ghetto and half super ritzy it is wierd. Kind of like West Valley except the nice parts are wayyy nicer! So the families that feed us dinner are the nicer ones and so they spoil us sometimes :) It is nice!

Love you all,
Elder Howland

Elder Howland doing a service project...

Monday, July 18, 2016

July 18, 2016

Today's e-mail from Elder Howland is super short.  Once you read it, you'll understand why:

So just so you know I am doing just fine. I'm doing A okay. But I just got back from the urgent care where I got a few toes relocated after dislocating them playing soccer. So I can't email a big one and I apologize but put this up there and it will be exciting :) Seriously I'm just fine. I'm walking around and everything. I'm doing well. But I will tell you about it next week. I love you and again I'm doing really well. I mostly just wanted to email you because I knew you would see the charge onto my debit account and would be worried. I love you and today is already much better than this morning :) I love you!

Elder Howland

P.S.  He sent a follow-up note saying it was only 2 toes, but one was dislocated in 2 different places.  Well, it'll be interesting to hear the story next week, right?

Monday, July 11, 2016

July 11, 2016

SO! On Monday the 4th of July we met this woman named Alice and I think I mentioned her in my last email. Well, she is a member who hasn't been to church in 17 years and after meeting her on her porch, she invited us back for dinner.  On Saturday they had us back over and we had an awesome time! They have amazingly behaved kids who are so involved in the discussion even though the 2 boys are 9 and 13 and the 2 girls are 15 and 18. Like whose kids are that into Jesus at that young of an age?! They are so great and we can tell that Alice really needs us, but we haven't found what that need is yet. She really needs help in raising her kids (even though she is doing an awesome job so far) she says. She says that they are individually and collectively in a place of crossroads so they want some direction from God. Alice is awesome; she still has a strong testimony of the gospel and it is funny because we didn't even really do much to find this miracle. 

What a testimony that God knows each of us individually and knows where we are and what we need. God knew Alice was there and so he sent a couple of clueless yet diligent missionaries to go find his lost sheep. What a humbling and awesome experience to be a part of it :) And then Serena (15 year old) came to church; the rest were out of town or at work sadly. But we are going to help them come this next week :)

This week was awesome, we saw miracles and we had interviews with the new mission president. We also had a leadership council and soooo many meetings but we ended up still fitting everything else in. God makes it happen; it is awesome! My testimony is growing so much and one thing that stuck out to me in church this week was "Go the long way home." We were talking about service and it is nice to think about each of us going just a little out of the way to go help some one :)

Love you!
Elder Howland

The caption that came with this picture was, "Scripture Power."

Dinner at a member's house, with their family.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

July 5, 2016

We had p day on Tuesday this week because of the holiday yesterday. I'll share a quick miracle with you from the holiday yesterday actually.  So it was okay... In the morning we didn't have much success... like at all haha. We were like ugh it's raining and lame and nobody is home and nobody is answering their door and we are being frustrated... So we ended up back at the car and we were like hey let's say a prayer! So we said a prayer and I was like hey, lets walk this way! Elder Wilcken was like alright! So we walked forward and turned the corner and there was this lady sitting on her front porch like 5 houses up and I muttered over to Elder Wilcken "target acquired" haha.  So as we passed he pulled the most cliche yet effective "Can I give ya a card" *insert picture of Jesus to hand of investigator* and it turns out she is a member already! So she hasn't been to church since she moved here to Miamisburg and now she has 4 kids and she invited us back over for dinner on Saturday (score!) and we will start teaching them then! Aww yeah!

Good stuff, I love that God is always leading us. When we are doing his work he leads us, but we have to invite in his Spirit and ask for it!

I am finding something new that is making the scriptures soooo much better! So when I read I don't read. I read the words, find the applications in there and then use them in my life! It makes them so great! Quick Example- Ether 6:5 is the first one that I did it with and is probably my favorite go ahead and read it before continuing......... Okay so this is awesome, we all go through trials in our life right. That sounds like these furious winds that are blowing us but the key here is where it is blowing us to. "Towards the promised land" Yes the trials and such that we are experiencing are taking us towards this glorious promised land, the goal of what God wants for us, which is what? Exactly, immortality and eternal life. The Lord sometimes sends these furious winds and sometimes we curse him for it but that is only because we can only see the waves and wind in front of us and we don't have that eternal perspective to see the land that it takes 344 days (for the jaredites it was that long but in the scriptures, like when Ammon wandered in the wilderness for 40 days, it just means a really long time. And like the Israelites wandered for 40 years? That means a really really long time). So it is fitting they would use it here because we can't see the promised land yet.  It is a really really long ways away but we can know that God is blowing us towards it because that is his work and glory. 

I hope that that made sense! I don't want to read through it again to make sure. But that is the stuff that I want to find in every chapter and every verse! That is why I am excited for 40 years of studies!

This is awesome, I have actually written something worth while for once!

Love you,

Elder Howland

This is Elder Howland with his companion, Elder Wilcken, and his new mission president, President and Sister Welch.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Elder Howland just notified me that the mailing address he gave me is slightly wrong.  It's supposed to be:

Elder Mark Howland
1103 Arrowhead Crossing Apt. E (not 3, which is what he told me initially)
West Carrollton OH  45449

Sorry about that !!!
June 27, 2016

This week was fantastic and I should tell you about it but what I need to do more is bear you my testimony because I don't do that enough.

I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior and Redeemer. He suffered and died for me and because he did, I am healed from my past, I am forgiven every day, and I am empowered to do His will. I can never forget Him for all he has done for me and because of all he as done for me He will never forget me. 

I know that the Prophet Joseph Smith is a Prophet called of God to restore the blessings and covenants that we need to attain our potential and glory. He lived and died so that we can have all that the lord desires to bless us with. I know that he translated the Book of Mormon and I know that that is God's word. I know that it is true, with every fiber of my being I know it is true. I am able to hear His voice through it and can find no more joy than when I am able to hear and act on the things He needs me to do.

I know that Thomas S. Monson is our current Prophet and leader and that if we follow what he and our other leaders teach then we will find happiness and eternal glory. God promises us this.

I know that God loves me and each one of us specifically and knows us more intimately than we can imagine. We are exactly where we are because he needs us here to protect his children and teach them his ways. 

I love each of you and am grateful for all you do for me and my family. 

Elder Howland
This is a picture of Elder Howland with another elder (don't know his name) at the Columbus Ohio temple.  They were able to go as a zone with their mission president before he left to go home.

Monday, June 20, 2016

June 20, 2016

We are going to the temple this week with President Porter, just our zone and it will be our last time seeing them. I haven't been to a temple in 8 months and it has been killing me, I am so excited to go! I also can't wait to meet Mr. Tim Welch (new mission president)! He is going to change our lives! And I hope he starts with a more lax music rule! Just kidding just kidding.

So this week was awesome, do you remember me talking about Jeffersina? Well we finally met her again and her family and they are soooooooo awesome! Like elect to the highest! We gave Jeffersina a blessing and her non-member husband and kids were so funny and were so great! They were like a mormon family but without the mormon, I didn't understand it haha but we will be teaching them. And then there is a family, the Griffins.  The mom is awesome and has read the Book of Mormon 3 times since January.  The dad is not a member but we have been teaching the two of them and they are reading in the Book of Mormon together every day.  He is making so much progress and it is fantastic! 

It is so fun working with families and we love them so much! It is just great :)

Love you all,
Elder Howland

Monday, June 13, 2016

Here's the picture right-side up.  Thanks Lamont for your help...
June 13, 2016

So... funny story.  My mission president said hey come down to Kentucky on Saturday so I drove an hour down to Kentucky without any idea of why I was going there. So I drive down there and we are expecting a bunch of missionaries aaaaand we were the only ones... So then we are sitting outside the Stake President's office freaking out and then President Porter was there and he said you are about to meet a general authority... Major freak out...  So we walk in and this guy who's name is Elder Grow sat me down and gave me a letter with my name on it from "somebody that you know" and I am like dead... Things going through my mind are like... I'm being sent home, MY MOM IS DEAD, horrible things, I don't even know what I'm thinking... So I open it and I'm like should I read it out loud?? He tells me to just look who it is from and... MOM??!!?!?!?!?!?! Are you kidding? I drove down an hour and met a general authority all so my mom could send me a letter hahahahahahaha It was so cool and when he told me and we were done, he said alright lets take some pictures! Haha 

So it ended up being really cool.  We were invited to some trainings for the Stake Conference where we learned about working with the ward council. Elder Grow is sooooooo funny! It was so great to have him teach us so many things and to receive revelation for our zone! 

That is probably the biggest thing that I have learned is the importance of hearing the voice of the Lord. I have found that revelation comes to us whenever we ask. It is funny how many times God tells us in the scriptures ask and ye shall receive. So I have developed a testimony of his talking to us. It has taken some effort but I have gotten better as I have written down a question, then studied and invited the spirit. God is bound when we do what he says. And I love him.

Elder Howlandhttps://ssl.gstatic.com/ui/v1/icons/mail/images/cleardot.gif

(Elder Howland sent a picture but it's upside down and I can't figure out how to rotate it, so I'm going to attach it the way it was sent.  I wish I was more electronic intelligent...)

President Porter, Elder Wilcken, Elder Howland, Elder Grow

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

June 6, 2016

Elder Wilcken and I and Sister Bukhari and Sister Witherspoon all bought matching t shirts and are wearing them right now. It has cats riding unicorns like horses all in the clouds. Yes I'm pretty sure I just un-matured like 6 years. (And my grammer apparently went with it) hahaha

I had this weird realization... 9 months is next week. This is the first step to where I'm like okay I have been here for a long time. I have been aware of each month just because it goes so quick and I literally can't believe that it is going so quick! But this is 9 months. It is just crazy!

This week was awesome, quick miracle and I have to go.

It was 8:30 at night and we got a call saying we needed to be at the church so we left but the spirit said that was a mistake. So we got out of the car and talked to a couple people no big deal. But then we decided to not go to the church and instead went to go see this other family that we met this week. We went there and there was nobody home but then we knocked across the street and found a member from years ago who used to be a missionary but came home early and invited us back over!!! He is all tattooed up and stuff but sooo cool!

Love you guys!!!
Elder Howland

This picture was sent to me by a ward member in Miamisburg, Ohio.  Elder Howland was working on a service project for the member's neighbor.