Monday, September 11, 2017

These are the last pictures before Elder Howland returns:

September 11, 2017

My friends! 

I didn't have this testimony to this degree 2 years ago. I remember after about a month out here I thought to myself that I had already learned more in 1 month than I thought I would in 2 years and I realized that this isn't a sacrifice, it is an investment that will continue to pay me forever. Now looking back I have learned even more but more importantly, I have BECOME. That is what this was intended for the whole time.

I am a witness of the joys and sorrows of serving the Lord. I am not exaggerating when I say that this has been the happiest two years of my life so far. The Lord has taken me from someone living far below their potential, to more of a man than I could have hoped to become on my own. The enabling power of Jesus Christ is real. His ultimate expression of love by suffering in Gethsemane has allowed me to be happier than I ever have been, lifted me every time I have turned to Him, and sculpted me into someone that he is pleased with. 

I testify that the Book of Mormon is the Word of God, I know that Joseph Smith was God's chosen prophet and revelator, I am firm in my knowledge because they have been witnessed to me by the Holy Ghost in a way that I will never be able to deny. These things I know to be true, but even more than these I know that Jesus Christ is my personal Redeemer. I am a living testimony of His power to cleanse, transform, and lift us to heights not attainable by our own efforts. I know of His personal love for me, I haven't seen it's depth but I know it is forever and real.

This is my last email. That seems crazy but it is here, I won't be able to next week so I wanted to share my testimony. This is literally the most valuable thing that has ever happened to me. And it will continue to influence my life in a significant way daily for many decades! I feel successful in what has happened in the last 2 years but I look forward to 40 years from now as the litmus test for my life. Will I be actively listening to and acting on promptings from the Holy Ghost? Am I acting in such a way that my children will see a worthy priesthood holder? Will I be able to personally kneel down before my Father in Heaven and feel clean and repentant? Do I respect and honor all of my covenants? When I can honestly answer yes before Him, and then continue to endure to the end of my life, that is when I will know that this mission has been a success. That is the only goal that matters to me. 

Elder Mark Howland

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

September 4, 2017

This was the fastest week of my life.

This experience happened last night. 

I was struggling this week on many levels. Elder Swainston asked me what was going on and the blessed thing is that we have a relationship that is built on trust and respect so I felt no shame telling him how I was struggling. We talked about how we both wanted to be better.

I know we have angels around us helping to guide us and strengthen us.  I went to another room and thought about the angels that are around me and decided to speak out loud to them (even though I felt dumb) and ask them to help me because I was struggling. (Not crazy I promise!)  

I went back to Elder Swainston and asked him for a blessing and he asked me to say a prayer first.  I said a prayer and that helped a little bit, and then Elder Swainston gave me a blessing that was perfectly what I needed to hear, and that helped a lot. Then he asked for a blessing also.  I gave him a blessing and after both blessings I did some self-evaluation and realized...a complete 180 degree change had happened. I recognized a completely different spirit about me and I knew that once again this was a testimony builder of the power and authority of God working in my life.

It is pretty incredible. I know it is true because I am the evidence of it. The things I have experienced I can never deny. They are too real. And I am so grateful that God's power is evident in my life and that I am serving so that I can witness it! It is so great! 

Thank you for your prayers and love

Elder Mark Howland

This picture was sent to me by a new member in Elder Howland's area.  Her name is Emily (recently baptized) and this is Elder Howland with her husband, Shawn.  They're presently teaching Shawn and Emily tells me they're very close.  Clearly...

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

August 28, 2017

Eclipse pictures...

August 28, 2017

That eclipse thing was pretty cool eh?

You know what else is cool? When members give you people to go teach the gospel to and the people LOVE it! We have a wonderful lady in the ward, Sister Collins, that told us to go visit her neighbor Tracy. We went over there and she said that she has lost over 15 people that were close relatives to her in the last year!!!!!! We were stunned, and we were able to bear testimony that she would be with them again and that through the Restored Gospel we can know of these truths.

One of the biggest things that I enjoy doing is 'testifying' and I feel like I didn't take advantage of it enough early in the time I was here. But I love teaching people doctrines that we believe and then saying I testify that it is true. 6 simple words that have a powerful impact.

My favorite thing to teach people about is the Book of Mormon. My testimony that it is the Word of God and that it testifies of Jesus Christ is one of my most prized possessions. It testifies of Christ and I testify of it. 

Elder Mark Howland

This is a lady named Ann that Elder Howland and his companion, Elder Swainston have been teaching.

Monday, August 21, 2017

August 21, 2017

This week was soooo great!

One really cool experience was when we were teaching Shawn! We didn't have much time so we just wanted to talk about his reading of the Book of Mormon.  We had asked him to read just 1 more chapter and he came back having read like 5! So that was cool. Really this lesson shows how it isn't about us as missionaries. We allowed him to lead the whole thing, we just facilitated it and asked questions to allow him to learn from the Holy Ghost.

We asked him what he really remembered and what stuck out to him from his reading and he said Nephi's bands. So we read those couple verses together, 1 Nephi 7:16-18. We asked him how it could apply to him...what were his proverbial 'bands' and how could he act like Nephi to have them loosened? He replied that he feels like financially he is bound, that is something he worries about, and frankly most people do. But the really cool thing was that he said one thing he could change was what he prayed for. 

We were blown away by how genuine and sincere he is. He is sensitive to listening to the Holy Ghost and willing to act on it. He is so funny, he always talked about being a tough cookie to crack but how great is it that Heavenly Father gets to be the one to teach him so we don't have to "crack" anything! Haha  He was taught by the Holy Ghost and we are already seeing differences in him and so is his wife. 

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is such a real thing. It is the only way to eternal life and it is also the only way to a really happy life. I testify of this because I AM HAPPY! 

I wish I could share more but time is short!

Elder Mark Howland

Monday, August 14, 2017

August 14, 2017

Here are some pictures from Elder Howland and from a member in his area, Lacey Miller.

 Elders Howland and Swainston taken by Lacey Miller...a member in their area.  The Millers had just fed the missionaries.

Elders Swainston and Howland (with unnamed sister missionaries in the back seat) on their way to Muncie, Indiana.
August 14, 2017

Life is so good!

Days like today makes me wish I was going to stay in Ohio forever (although my mom would probably have something to say about that!). I received some good advice to not miss the snow in the summer and miss the sunshine in the winter. Life is too short to be wishing it was the next part of life. Enjoy the summer for the heat and the lemonade stands and the Vitamin D and then enjoy the winter's offering of snow and opportunities for hot chocolate and sledding! Right now is the best right now we will ever have. I am so excited that I get to be here doing the Lord's work right now.

The families that I know are the best part of being out here really. We love going over to the Weidner's, the McCauley's, the Dawson's... just to name a few! Each time I go to a new area, that is my favorite part! They are just such quality people. And I often reflect on the people that I have met in other areas also...Tony Miller, the Spaulding's, the Smith's... It is so cool that we are in each others lives for such a short time, but literally I think about them all the time even if it has been years. I think that we will find that the impact that we make on others goes far beyond what we can see. 

As my mom taught me since I was kid, when you throw a stone in water, it creates ripples. I think of Alma when he ran from King Noah's courts. That was kind of a turning point in the Book of Mormon. Alma's decision to run from those courts allowed him to follow God and teach his son. Because he taught his son when he was young, Alma the Younger was able to remember those words and have a change of heart (Alma 36). Because Alma and the Sons of Mosiah went out and taught the Lamanites, there were thousands directly baptized by their efforts and we could go on and on. When we look at the bigger picture our thoughts, words, and actions have the ability to change everything. In D&C 58, the Lord teaches us that the power is in us, and when we use our agency to follow His will, we are able to bring a lot of goodness into the lives of those we love! It is all about the little things.

I am thankful for the little ripples that you have made in my life, it has helped me to be where I am now. And I LOVE where I am now!

Elder Mark Howland

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Elder Howland was visiting one of his old areas and a member there took these pictures and send them over.  This is Elder Howland's new (uh, old) companion...Elder Swainston.  This is their third time being assigned together and both go home next transfer in six weeks...

Monday, August 7, 2017

August 7, 2017

Elder Manning and Elder Cook are going home to Utah and Idaho and Elder Howland is receiving a new companion...not for the first, and not for the second, but for the THIRD time his companion will be Elder Swainston!!! Okay are you ready for this?? So DAY 1, I received Elder Swainston as my MTC companion and I spent 2 weeks with him there.  Then when we were out about 11 months, we served as Zone Leaders in Muncie, IN (my favorite area in the mission hands down...we saw so many miracles it was insane, and I met my good friend Tony Miller there too).  We served together for 2 transfers and celebrated our 1 year mark together. And now we are serving together for our last transfer. We joked about this from the MTC...start together and end together. But wow now it is happening. I believe that there was a premortal decision of our companions but serving 3 times, that means a lot. I love Elder Swainston, he is such a genuine person, strong leader, and righteous young man! It is going to be a blessing to continue learning from him! :)

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

July 31, 2017

Elder Howland send another item he wanted posted to the blog:

Today I was thinking about a good friend of mine from Muncie, probably my favorite area in the mission. But this man's name is Tony Miller.  Be was recently baptized and what I love is that that wasn't the end! Even when further trials came, he fought through it and continued to build his faith. I think that is what we all need to do. We all have ups and downs in our faith and progress, but we keep moving forward and keep building ourselves and others. That is what Tony is doing now...he is teaching the gospel principles class in the ward and honestly is one of the best gospel teachers that I've seen! It really shows me what I want to do and be always!

Monday, July 31, 2017

July 31, 2017

We had some wonderful experiences that probably won't come across as amazing in email form but just know that through the Spirit my testimony has grown this week. I have strengthened it and I love that I can continue to have spiritually defining moments every day. In my life I don't want to start stories about a significant spiritual experience with "a couple years ago..." I want it to always be something I am experiencing, I want to say "so earlier this week..." That was my goal this week.

So Tuesday I was on exchanges with the wonderful Elder Parker from.... West Valley City! We were working in Eastgate, where I served last transfer. Turns out he only lives maybe half a mile from where I lived the last 15 years! But you know Utah, that was a completely different stake haha. So I loved my day with him. We had so much fun, but the best part was when we decided in the middle of walking to say a prayer. In that prayer we pled with Heavenly Father and told him we have talked to everyone today, we didn't walk past a single person. We have been praying and we want to find people to teach who have been looking for this Gospel! Please lead us to them! And as soon as we said "amen" Elder Parker said I know where we need to go. They had received a referral that they forgot about several weeks ago but as we know the comforter will "bring all things to your remembrance." So we started walking there, we knocked on the door and..... nobody was home. But 3 feet away we knocked on the neighbor's door and there we met Andre. He came out and talked to us, then he invited us in and talked to us.  We shared some of our message and found a time we could come back to share the powerful message of the Restoration with him and his wife.  That was a clear answer to our prayer and Elder Parker told me they went back and taught both of them and they were just as welcoming. I know I won't see them all the way through, but that isn't the point I don't think. I think that for me it was enough to follow the prompting to stop and pray and for Elder Parker to follow the prompting to go there. That is how I know that Heavenly Father knows me and loves me, that is how I know that Christ lives, that is how I know that he answers my prayers. It happens. And it doesn't happen in the past tense. It happens whenever I listen. Now.

This is probably the most joyful thing in the world, I can't think of anything that brings greater happiness and fulfillment than hearing a prompting and then acting on it and finding out you are an answer to somebody else's prayer.

Elder Howland

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

July 24, 2017

Today is such a great day! I am loving life!  Yesterday we went to the Welch's for dinner to celebrate my birthday so it was fun! 

Let me tell you a quick story! 

So I picked up a new blue suit on Tuesday morning on the way to Zone Conference, I had called the night before and they said it was all ready and I was like sweet! I didn't bring a suit since I was going to wear the new one right? So I grab it and it looks great and I bring it to the church and I pull it all the way out to put it on and I look down and I'm like something doesn't look quite right... THEY DIDN'T HEM THE PANT LEGS!!!!!  They were like 8 inches too long!!!!! And this is all 30 minutes before the biggest meeting of my life and I am sitting up in front of everyone! So I call some sisters and have them go and buy some safety pins and then I have another sister come to the library with me and roll up and pin my pants while I am standing on top of the table!!! 

We got back in moments before it started and a huge travesty was averted! 

They are still not done, I will have to drop it back off the next time we drive out to that area. But it is a beautiful suit! :)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

July 17, 2017

To be short, this week was incredible!

Zone Conferences are this week and it is so much fun! Being able to spend time with other missionaries and our Mission President and his wife is always the best!

One cool thing is that we lost contact with one of our investigators last week, she asked us not to come back via text. Well that isn't the cool thing... this is the cool thing: We ran into her near her home one day and after asking how she is doing we asked how she felt when we were with her and in her words she said "it was a Godly feeling."

This is my favorite thing that we do. We get to bring a Godly feeling to those we talk to. We pray and we teach and testify of Christ. We invite them to come closer to him and we promise them the blessings that come from living the Lord's commandments! I can't think of a more fulfilling thing.

We got an email from a missionary that went home just a couple months ago. He was emailing us and at the same time scraping off some gum from under an elementary school chair... Man I am so grateful to be serving a mission! I am excited to be here and excited to spend the next few months serving the Lord.

This is the BEST thing in the world. I wish that everyone had the opportunity to spend these 2 years serving. Words can't describe!

Elder Howland

We received the flight itinerary for Elder Howland's return.  That makes his return so real...and so soon.  Just 2 months until he's back.  He flies into Salt Lake on the morning on September birthday.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!!!  I can't wait for a hug !!!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

July 10, 2017

Mondays don't feel like Mondays anymore, we don't really do much of a Preparation day...well actually that is all we do. Take care of the bare essentials and then work through a lot of it instead of playing. 

I am loving life I just need some additional sleep is all. But I can do that when I get home. But then I will want to see everyone and so I will be like I will sleep in a few months. And then I'll say I can sleep when I graduate and then I'll say I'll sleep when I retire and then I'll sleep when I am dead. Long story short. I'm never going to get enough sleep haha

This week we are starting Zone Conference and I am so excited for that! We get to be with all the missionaries and teach and train and just have a ton of fun! :)  I have given a lot of trainings to missionaries as a Zone Leader and District Leader but something is different when we are the ones training the Zone Leaders. We had a Mission Leadership Council and so all the Zone Leaders and the Sister Training Leaders all come and we train them so that they can go out and lead their missionaries in their zone. It is weird because we are doing all the same things at every level of missionary work but the only difference is what level we are teaching. Assistants train Zone Leaders who train District Leaders who train missionaries who train investigators. It is really interesting. This is really just an interesting assignment. 

Man being a missionary is so wonderful and simple and it takes so much but is so good! I am just trying to dig my heels in and enjoy every moment because it is going quick!!!!

Love to you all.

Elder Mark Howland
This photo came from a member in Elder Howland's area.  She sent it to me through Facebook Messenger and said, "Your son is one of my missionaries.  Today I cut his hair and he asked me to send this to you.  We thought you might like it.  He's awesome.  He's either very tall or I'm just that short.  I come up to his chest."  After "chatting" back and forth, I found out she's 5'1"...and Elder Howland is 6'3" or 6'4"...I can't remember which.

Monday, July 10, 2017

I finally got a new address for Elder Howland:

Elder Mark Howland
4610 N. Bend Rd.
Cincinnati, OH  45211

If you haven't taken the opportunity to write to him, please do.  He loves to get mail, just like we all do...

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

July 3, 2017

In just one week serving here I have learned so much! The biggest thing here is Elder Cook is talking to everyone. All of us make excuses and we find and create reasons to not talk to someone. Whether it is they are a little farther away or they are talking on the phone, there is always a reason not to talk to someone. Elder Cook's example has brought a lot of evidence of why we talk to everyone. Many of our new investigators this week came from talking to everyone. That and media referrals.

Elder Manning is a great asset to us. I feel like we are 3 different points of an equal triangle and with all 3 of us we are able to do more than any of us by ourselves.

One that was fun was when we saw Carla and her son Reggie. Carla said that her brother was a drug addict and in a really bad place...until he read the Book of Mormon and was baptized. She said the change that he made in his life was so visible! He ended up being so good and she said that she wanted that kind of change also. We taught them the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and they came with us Sunday to church but it was really a surprise when she brought her other daughter and granddaughter to church also! Afterwards she said she was excited to see us tomorrow for our lesson and would be back next week!

I have been out here for a while but one thing that I have kept with me is a constant attitude of being teachable. I want to continue to learn because in the gospel just like in life there is always a better way of doing things and always more to do and learn. I know what Enos meant when he says that when the thoughts of the joy of the saints and eternal life sank into his heart- he hungered. I feel that craving for more. A desire to be my very best. Throughout a lot of my life I have given part of myself, in academics and work I have given enough to get by. Enough to keep pace with everyone else in the race. But we are not meant to simply keep pace with the rest of the world. We are endowed with so much more ability than that. We are the noble and great ones saved for the last days. We are able to make a difference and to let our brighter lights shine in growing darkness. 

If we try and give a little more of ourselves I think that each of us will find that we can do it. We can pray a little more sincerely, we can study a little longer and deeper, we can build on our charity for others a lot more. We are able to do it and Heavenly Father will bless us with glories and joys that we can imagine and more. I hope that if you are reading this that you want to as much as I do. 

You can, you know. You can do it. 

And I love you.

Elder Howland

(FYI, Elder Howland was tranferred last Monday and made an assistant to the mission president.  There are three assistants right now...that's why he's talking about two other elders.)

Elder Cook, Elder Howland, Elder Manning

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

June 26, 2017

This week is the last week of the transfer and we just found out that both of us are leaving! :( Eastgate has been soooooooo good...if only for 6 weeks; it was awesome! The ward was most definitely the best part of being there and so am so sad to go! Luckily I get to stay close by Cincinnati on the West side. I just realized that I have spent half of my time here within 30 minutes of Cincinnati which is the mission name, so that is a blessing. I truly consider it a home away from home.

We have an investigator named Candice that we found and started teaching the last 3 weeks or so. She had previously investigated the church but had only seen missionaries like twice, so when we first went back to start teaching her she put us through the ringer! She was drilling us on what the Godhead was like and what the difference was between a spirit and The Spirit and more! But we answered her questions adequately and she allowed us to teach her. So we taught about the Plan of Salvation and she is so funny because she likes to go slowwww but get really deep into it. She has really good questions and when we answer them she feels that they are right and true and she is left always wanting more which is really cool!

The funniest thing though was she said that when she became a mother she had to learn different ways to say things. For instance when you want your kid to stop. You say "stop" but sometimes that doesn't work so you need a "STOP" and that doesn't always work so sometimes you need... (She did sign language for stop). I then interjected, "and you can say "alto" which is Spanish for stop". To which she responded quickly with, "I gotta say "QUITTIT" which is Ghetto for stop!!!"  Hahaha we died laughing because we are in the ghetto! So great! She is a crack up! Maybe you just had to be there.  

Glad to be here doing the best thing ever! I have reflected on Alma the Younger's experience which he describes in Alma 36 as well as Enos's story, and the thing that I love between the two of them is that both of them reflect on the words of their fathers. Alma says, "as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world." Enos described it as, "Behold, I went to hunt beasts in the forest; and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning Eternal life and the joy of the saints sunk deep into my heart. And my soul hungered." I can relate a lot to these two. Enos doesn't say it but I think there was a time where he wasn't valiant and obedient. Obviously there was a time where Alma was outright against the church. There was a time where I didn't do the things that I knew was right. But like them, I knew what was right because I had learned it from my father (and mother), and there came a time when I remembered it also. And that remembering and then ACTING on it set me on this course and I am forever grateful for it! :) This is still the best experience of my life! :) And I love it!!!!

I love you! Thank you for everything you have done and are doing for me!

Elder Mark Howland

Monday, June 19, 2017

June 19, 2017

June is upon us and oh so glorious! I can never say too much about the summers here! The intense heat with the muggy humidity doesn't bother me in the least... I actually kind of like it! And the summer storms are so cool, Utah rain is nothing compared to a good Ohio deluge! It usually only lasts for half an hour at the most but man it is like there is a lake out there! That has happened a couple times this week.

So we had Elder Timothy Dyches of the Seventy come visit our mission this week, we had 2 days with him and it was so fun! As he taught us, the thing that I kept getting over and over was that I just needed to work on doing the little things that I had let slip. Filling out all of my planner and being more invested in Preach My Gospel, really just using all the resources that I have available to me. Sadly I think that I look at all that I have and get over confident about it. I think I have all these resources so I don't need to worry about them, but since I have them I need to use them more and get them in my brain and even more get them in my heart!

At the end of this transfer 3 former companions of mine are going home including Elder McKellar who I am with right now so that is hard. I am going to miss them a ton and the reality of that is setting in. Lol He has already started packing it is so funny! Saying goodbye is hard but I love what a friend of mine said--going home is not about transitioning, it is about progressing. Just like the gospel, it is about trying to better where we are so that we are closer to and more like Christ. There should not be a transition back to being "normal" we are a peculiar people for a reason! We are supposed to be different when we return and stay that way and continue to progress. For that I am excited for them! Missionaries often refer to when they go home as a death and in a way kind of it is. I want to be excited for those who pass away in a mission field as well as from this earth because there are many more things to do on the "other side." This is a paradigm shift from sorrow to joy. And that is the blessing of an eternal perspective and the Plan of Salvation. There was a sister whose father passed away in our mission this week and so this fits. Please keep Sister Lundquist and her family in your prayers.

Love, Elder Mark Howland

Monday, June 12, 2017

June 12, 2017

Zone Conference!

This zone conference was all about a better way to find. The cool thing is though that it isn't just a missionary effort to find. President Welch and the Stake Presidents in the mission are all working together to help us to help the members to find those who are ready to receive the gospel! This is the ideal that prophets and leaders have been trying to teach for decades! We are finally implementing it. We aren't just meant to go to a home of a family in the ward and demand names of their family and friends so that we can teach and baptize them, we are supposed to go into the homes of families and teach them about the faith in Jesus Christ to find those who he is preparing to receive His message. Keys are the crucial part of this effort. When we are working alone, we have the keys of the Mission President alone, but with the Stake President encouraging the members, his keys unlock a power that we foresee bringing miracles to all those who will trust in the Lord and find the opportunities that He will place in our path.

(This is Elder Howland with all of his old companions that are still on their missions, except one.)

There was some time this week where we didn't have time for studies in the morning and I noticed the difference that made in my week so toward the end of the week even when we didn't have time for studies I made some time in the evening after we came in from working when we normally relax. By doing that I felt the familiar peace reside with me again. I love the gospel. 

We also put siding up and constructed a porch for our Habitat for Humanity home! New skills and a lot of fun, new people are there each week and we always get to talk about the mission since we have our nametags on. "Oh wait, both of your names are Elder?" We get that a lot and so then we get to explain it haha

Elder Howland

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

June 5, 2017

The first week of June! :) How blessed and marvelous and glorious :)

We got to go to the Indianapolis, Indiana temple!!!!!! This was the last one too! First I went to Louisville (pronounced as lul-ville) when I first came out, then Columbus a year ago, and now I have made it to the Indianapolis Temple! All 3 that are around us! This one was so beautiful! Oh how I have missed the temple!!!
Sadly I will confess that it has been almost a year since I have last been to the temple and wow does it make a difference! And guess what? I went in with a question and I received an answer for it! :) funny how that works isn't it? 

This is Brother Gygi and Elder Mc Kellar and we had such a great time it was literally an all day event! Driving up in the Tesla and stopping at Longhorn Steakhouse (and at a supercharging center) and making our way back! Such good times! :) The temple is really a house of God and is so peaceful :) Nothing but smiles all day! :)

We went on some exchanges this week and it was just what I needed! The work in our area is going slow with our personal finding efforts, the people we have are super super solid but the personal finding has been a struggle. One thing that we were able to do a lot on both of these exchanges though was FIND! We did a little tracting in my old area Georgetown and found some pretty fantastic people and in Cherry Grove we met the neighbor of an already investigator and she was just so excited to meet us and have the missionaries come back and teach her and her family!!!! 

(Explanation for the following pictures while Elder Howland was on exchanges...)
I planned on going over to this restaurant and buying food for my companion (while on exchanges) but we went to this place and he bought this burger called the Widowmaker it is like 4 lbs of food with the fries and everything and if you eat it in 9 minutes it is free... Well he did it!!!!!!!!!! So I didn't have to pay for him hahaha.  Here is the burger he downed! And then the fries were mounding over the plate also!

This dang mission is such a roller coaster, each transfer and even each day is filled with such emotion-filled ups and downs that weary me but the cool thing is that looking back all I see is the good! :) Not sure how it works but it does! So even when something is going my way I know there is something better coming around the corner! :) Today is a very good day!

Elder Mark Howland

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

May 29, 2017

It is almost June and it is starting to feel like it. I am loving the heat. So... not much happened this week so I will add a plethora of pictures to help!

Here is a young recent convert and and we are starting to make some more food at home because we are getting fat out here! 

Speaking of which we got a meal by someone in Salt Lake! That is weird right? Well it was awesome, we were spoiled by Tina a good friend of the family and she has taken it upon herself to make sure I gain a little bit more weight before I come home. I don't know if I mentioned it but at the beginning of my mission I gained 30 lbs and then later I lost those 30 also, I have been maintaining it well by running a lot in the mornings... but I'm pretty sure I am on my way back up.

Okay this hasn't been spiritual at all.

I know that we are led and guided where Heavenly Father needs us to be! Right now I am doing my best to end strong! Especially while serving with someone who is going home this transfer. But I am learning how to keep my mind engaged while accepting what is coming. I feel like this will be one of the greatest lessons to learn. The last point of the Doctrine of Christ is Endure to the End. The whole purpose of life is to build our Faith, Repent, make covenants like Baptism, receive and live worthy of the Holy Ghost, and Endure to the End. So while the world is full of starters, I am a finisher! When I have Jesus Christ with me I can.

I love you!

Elder Mark Howland

(Elder Howland sent home lots of pictures and asked me to post them here we go...  Enjoy!)
 This is Elder Howland with the other members of his district.
 The next 4 pictures of from their meal provided by a Salt Lake friend
(referenced in the e-mail above).

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

May 22, 2017

Turn to God.

It makes sense. I have known it forever. The scriptures say it all the time, whenever the Nephites get prideful and things start going wrong they turn to God and he delivers them. President Welch has been trying to teach it to us the whole year he has been here so far!

I finally get it.

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me yes but am I EARNESTLY going to Christ and asking him to strengthen me? Am I taking the initiative and asking specifically for what I want and need? Or am I expecting him to just give me strength and allow all things to work together for my good without showing any humility and asking for it first? Everything I do now is pleading others to turn to God and find their own deliverance. Find their own peace and safety through Christ the only one who can offer it! 

I am in Eastgate and serving with Elder Mc Kellar. We were companions a year ago in Norwood and best friends are reunited once again. It is his last transfer but luckily he is staying focused and we are just having a ball! :) Blessings from above!!

Much love from Ohio,

Elder Mark Howland 

Elder Howland and Elder McKellar with other elders

Elder Howland and Elder McKellar

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Elder Howland has a new address:

4610 Buckskin Trail
Cincinnati, OH  45245

I'm sure he'd love to hear from you...

Monday, May 15, 2017

May 15, 2017

I am so grateful for the experience I had this week! This is a real letter and not one that I hurry and throw together due to a time constraint. :)

So on Wednesday, May 3, 2017 (my sister's birthday) I made a commitment to read the book of Mormon by the end of the transfer which was today Monday May 15, 2017. I did it with another missionary because he was struggling especially in terms of his testimony of the Book of Mormon. We were in it together and we have worked it together. He was really struggling with even a desire to study in the mornings and I wanted to simply take Moroni's challenge which Preach My Gospel asks us to do often. So we did the math and we started reading 44 pages every day. All of studies consisted of reading and about 2 hours of personal time each day was focused on this. I knew that I would see some evidence that showed me God's love. I had seen it before and I knew I would again.
Saturday came and for some reason I struggled a lot. Sunday the same thing. I was lethargic and depressed and to be honest I don't think that I had felt that way in the whole time that I have served so far... BUT. Sunday I talked with Elder Payne which helped, and then even more so Lynn texted a scripture for me at literally the most perfect time. 

Alma 58:11 "Yea and it came to pass that the Lord our God did visit [Elder Howland] with assurances that he would deliver [him] yea insomuch that he did speak peace to [his] soul, and did grant unto [him] great faith and did cause [him] that [he] should hope for [his] deliverance in him."

I felt that scripture hit me like Joseph Smith felt James 1;5 hit him. I knew that I needed to look to the Lord for my deliverance. It kind of surprised me though because this is literally what we do all day long! Teach people about how they can receive relief and comfort through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and here I am not applying it! So I got on my knees and I told the Lord all that was on my mind and right then I felt the relief that I needed. All throughout the Book of Mormon the main message I have gathered this time through is for us to remember the mercy of the Lord in delivering our fathers out of bondage. I remembered right then the times that I personally have been delivered, this time as well as in times past.

I have taken the challenge of Moroni and when I read the Book of Mormon I remembered the many mercies of the Lord unto the children of men from the time of Adam. I pondered it and I asked Him to take my burdens. I know that he did. I know that Heavenly Father answers prayers because he did mine. I asked for a revelation that the Book of Mormon is true, and he showed his intimate awareness, love, and mercy for me.

Things are going really well here, I am sad to leave my area but I am going to a really nice area and with a companion that I used to serve with a year ago. Elder McKellar who is from Trinidad and Tobago and the funniest person in the world. I'm going to be his last companion before he goes back home. Eastgate here I come!!!

Elder Mark Howland

Elder Payne and Elder Howland

Elder Payne and Elder Howland with Lynn (right...his left) and a person he didn't identify.

Monday, May 8, 2017

May 8, 5017

May. May should not be cold. May should be warm! Haha turns out in Ohio it is FREEZING! Looking back on now it is funny but this week I had one of the most miserable days of my life! It rained literally all day, we walked literally all day, and my feet were walking in puddles in my shoes ALL DAY!!!

Well I love days like that because then the next day when the sun is shining and it warms up I am able to appreciate that a million times more!!! That happened this week, it was back to back days!

I don't have a lot of time today but I feel like there is a lesson to be learned right there and Lehi talks about it in 2 Nephi 2. The fact that there is opposition in all things brings us agency which really brings us a lot of power. As we decide to follow the commandments we empower ourselves and bring the blessings of Heaven upon us and our families. 

I choose to serve God. I choose to be active in the gospel and not just active in the church or the mission. I can do all the things a missionary does and not be a missionary in my heart. I choose to be a missionary with all my heart, might, mind and strength because I love God and I love those I serve.

I love you...thank you for sharing this time of my life with me. 

Elder Mark Howland

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

May 1, 2017

Here are a couple things that happened this week. 

We met this super crazy guy. Like straight out of his mind. He described himself as an "existentialist of hecidic persuasion tempered by universalism." I don't know if that is a religious affiliation or what. But it literally made our day. (And I had to ask him like 4 times to say it again and again because he spoke really quickly! Every time he said he was an existentialist of hecidic persuasion tempered by universalism. haha props to him)

"The adversary wants us to be busy doing good things so we don't have time to do great things."

Wow. My bishop said that in this week's testimony meeting. I love it so much! How empowering is that? Heavenly Father really does have such a great work for us and we are the only ones that are going to get in the way. We are capable of so much, and we can see it. We can see the moments of greatness and triumph, but they don't have to be moments of greatness. They can be habits. They can be the norm. We should have moments of weakness but expect excellence from ourselves always. When we humble ourselves and bring our lives into greater alignment with Heavenly Father's commandments (AKA repenting) we have the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ accompanying us in every step to lift us higher than ever.

"Am I using the wrong measuring tape?"

Sister Smith is an incredible lady in our ward and she and Brother Smith are just the best! This was a quote from her in testimony meeting and it meant a lot to me. She described using a measuring tape that wasn't accurate. And it is dangerous using numbers to determine your success as a missionary as is measuring success in life by worldly milestones such as wealth, position, or anything else. Those things will pass away and our answers to our Temple Recommend questions are how we should determine our success. That is how the Lord is determining our worthiness so why shouldn't we?

Things are just so excellent aren't they? Man life is so good! :) 

Happy May! 
Love from Elder Howland!

Monday, April 24, 2017

April 24, 2017

 Lynn said something to us the other day that she is tired of doing "good" things. She wants to start doing "God guided" things now. Don't we all have millions of good decisions in front of you but where is God guiding you? 

Another story from Lynn to answer the last question. So Lynn loves the Book of Mormon. LOVES it. She is in Alma right now and she only started reading it for the first time a month ago. She feels the Spirit really strong and it provides her with comfort and peace. So last week she started reading the Doctrine and Covenants and in a couple days she got clear to section 52 and the whole Joseph Smith History! She is so great! But on Thursday she was feeling spiritually low- she recognized that she hadn't been reading the Book of Mormon and so she read it that morning. She said that she didn't even read a whole page and she felt the restorative feeling of the Spirit come back into her. I think that that really illustrates what we are all are looking for. And simply I would call it 3 steps. 1 Recognition- self assess and notice something is disharmonious, 2 Humility-be willing to recognize that your way is causing the problem and 3 Repentance- making the changes necessary to bring you back into alignment with the Spirit. 

One other thing that reminds me of is this last General Conference. Wasn't one of the main things President Monson asked us to do was read the Book of Mormon specifically everyday.

I want to share a scripture with you that I memorized. These are actually my favorite verses in the Book of Mormon right now. Mosiah 29:19-20. This is a common theme throughout the Book of Mormon. 3 Nephi 4:33, Mosiah 7:33... There are so many times it talks about the Lord delivering us. That is truly his sole purpose. He is the one that can free us from the bondage we put ourselves in.

19 – And were it not for the interposition of their all-wise Creator, and this because of their sincere repentance, they must unavoidably remain in bondage until now.

20 – But behold, he did deliver them because they did humble themselves before him; and because they cried mightily unto him he did deliver them out of bondage; and thus doth the Lord work with his power in all cases among the children of men, extending the arm of mercy towards them that put their trust in him.

The Lord has and continues to deliver me. I know that this work is true. I know that Christ is our redeemer and I know that the Book of Mormon brings me peace and joy and love EVERY TIME I read in it.

Elder Mark Howland

Monday, April 17, 2017

April 17, 2017

Easter was such a great day! Our Mission President's wife volunteered us to sing This is the Christ in Sacrament a few weeks ago and so Easter Sunday was the day that we did it. Elders Hurst, Bischoff, Payne and myself sang while our ward mission leader played the flute and another good friend in the ward played the piano. It was so good and in combination with the talks- it was just a glorious, Spirit filled Sacrament. It was the first time I have performed musically in front of anyone (mostly because I have always been really just a terrible singer!) but I loved it a lot and can't wait to do it again!

We had a Zone Conference this week and it was the weirdest one I have ever been to haha President Welch didn't actually talk all that much, we had more music in it that we have ever seen. It was really nice though. The cool thing was that I received the answers that I needed even though there was much less shared than usual. (The only complaint that I had was that the lunch was awful haha) I came with questions and I left with answers... and more questions haha

Right now I am surrounded by some pretty stellar missionaries and so I feel pretty lucky! One thing that I was pretty sad about a few weeks ago was that I didn't feel very connected to many of the members here in this ward but over the last few weeks that has really changed and probably my favorite  part of missionary work has really come in again. This area is full of some of the best people and I could go on and on! 

I hope you had as great of an Easter as we were able to enjoy!!! :)

Elder Mark Howland :)

 Elder Howland and his companion, Elder Payne, with some other people.
 Elder Howland and his companion, Elder Payne.
Elder Howland with his mission president's wife, Sis. Welch.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

April 10, 2017

This week has been Glorious! 

Well it started off pretty bad in that the Sisters that I was in the MTC with went home... But on the bright side at least I can talk to them more now!

The rest of the week was glorious though! We had a social media day Saturday this week where we had the opportunity to teach people all about the Prince of Prince. I love sharing this message. The first thing we did was organize a service project across the street from our apartment this whole last week and so in the morning it was the first thing we did. It was awesome using the neighbors to help us to do a good thing. We took pictures. I'll send them next week. 

Sunday we had a cool experience! We were fasting for a miracle to happen among the Young Single Adults here and then we say a miracle! So We have been teaching this girl Chelsey. She said Saturday night that she was coming. Then Sunday morning she called and said that she was ready. We were going to pick her up with some members because this is her first Sunday coming to church. She called back again and said that she was having an anxiety attack and she couldn't do it. I assured her that it wasn't a big deal, she didn't have to go but I asked if we could still come and introduce the members. She allowed that. So on the way over with the members she called back again and said her anxiety is getting worse and that we shouldn't come... but we were right around the corner from her and so she said it was still cool that we come. So she came out and we talked for like half an hour. And after that she felt better and wanted to come! So we went to church and she loved it and she even bore her testimony! It was really cool and I love that we can add our testimonies to that of Peter when he declared that we have not followed cunningly devised fables but were eyewitnesses to His Majesty! We see miracles daily! God's work is going on and never halting!

Elder Howland

I'm not sure who the sister is, but this is Elder McKellar with Elder Howland.  
They were previously companions.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

April 3, 2017

Of course I'm going to talk about conference! It was so great!!

One that particularly meant a lot to me was by S Mark Palmer. Not just because his name is Mark haha and not just because he had a cool accent also! But I love the story of the rich young ruler and I love how he focused on the Lord's love for him! It seemed like every single talk had a list of 3 things to write down! It is really a great way to plan your talk but when every single person does it it's like cmon!! But I love how several people in conference talked about seeing others through God's eyes and S Mark Palmer was one of them.  The best part of conference was receiving answers. Another great part is receiving chastening. I had the wonderful opportunity to have both haha

I had a problem that I didn't know how to deal with and I won't go into specifics here but I needed some help from above. So going into conference I was determined to seek my answer and the way it happened was interesting. All weekend I was searching and on Sunday morning I woke up in the middle of the night with a phrase in my head so I got up and wrote it down so I wouldn't forget by morning, and it was "if something you want doesn't exist- create it." Now I don't know about you but that was kind of cryptic to me. I didn't know how that applied. But I liked it and I thought I could use it in the future for like my job or something. But during the Sunday afternoon session I realized that the answer to my question was love. And I was chastened for not expressing my love more. So I realized that love was what I wanted and didn't exist. So I need to create that love for all those around me. Everyone deserves to feel loved and I was withholding that from some because I didn't agree with some of the things they did. I don't know if any of this makes sense haha

Moral of the story: The Spirit illuminates our understanding and it also is like fire and chastens and corrects. The Church is truly Heavenly Father's Kingdom here on the Earth. Those that we heard from are His servants and they spoke the words He knew we needed. I know that they set us on a straight and strait course.

I love you.

Elder Mark Howland

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

March 27, 2017

This week has been glorious! I mentioned Lynn in my email last week well this week she got baptized! I will be sure to include some pictures. Now that the story is over let me share with you it from the beginning from my perspective!

So I came into Cincinnati without much going on... Lots of fun! So after a week we met Lynn! She knew the missionaries through her friend Mitchell and loved the feelings through the Spirit! 
We went to our District meeting that week and the Spirit was so strong. I was listening and was able to receive revelation straight from God. There are times when revelation comes as a generous thought or good feeling or softer inspiration. This time I heard God's voice. He spoke and I won't say the exact words but pretty much he said that there was someone in our area that was ready for the message of the Restored Gospel in their life and that they needed to be baptized while I was here this transfer. It was very specific. I rejected the fear that came from that promise and knew that I had to work my hardest to help bring it to pass. 

Well since we started to teach her she fell in love with the Book of Mormon flying through it spending hours in it each day. She knew it was true through the power of the Holy Ghost. We asked her to be baptized (after calculating the required 3 Sundays attendance) on April 8th.  She had some concerns and asked some questions but was leaning towards doing that without enthusiasm. Now that isn't in this transfer because our transfer ends on April 3rd so I knew that Lynn was awesome but there was still someone out there who was ready for the message of the Restored Gospel and who would be baptized this transfer. Several days later while studying for our next lesson with her I read in Preach My Gospel under How do I Help People Prepare for Baptism and had the thought that we should ask her to be baptized on March 25th. That didn't make sense to me because it didn't fulfill the qualifications for baptism, but I kept thinking about it ALL day. When we got to Lynn's for the lesson I still was thinking about it but I couldn't go through with it... Well about halfway through the lesson she was explaining something and I simply decided to act. I asked her if I could rudely interrupt her haha and said "I don't know if I am even allowed to do this Lynn, but the Spirit has been urging me all day that I should ask if you will be baptized, not on April 8th, but on March 25th?"

To my surprise and everyone else's also there were no questions, no hesitancy. Lynn said that she had been waiting for years for this and yes she would be baptized on March 25th and she was so excited! Well this Saturday Lynn was baptized and it really showed me 2 things. 1. God knows his children. He knew that over the last year Lynn had been praying for a church to start attending and for someone to come to her door to help her come back to him. 2. God's word is sure. When he promises something he WILL make it happen. It reminds me of a scripture "...for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them."

In Preach My Gospel it says that "You will succeed in your work as you learn to receive and follow personal revelation." The last few weeks of my life have been testimony of the truthfulness of that statement.


Elder Mark Howland