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