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