Monday, September 14, 2015

Homeward Bound - The Finale of Elder Howard

From Ethan: Mon, Sep 14, 2015
    Thursday is the day! I'll fly to Salt Lake City and then right on to MN so I'll arrive home at Noon. That seems so early compared to most missionaries but then again it's only a 3 hour flight compared to most foreign missionaries 15 hour flights. It still hasn't hit me that I'm going to be released and back home in FOUR days. I feel like I'll wake up in a week and still study and expect to go out and teach like normal. But, it will be so nice to finally be able to make a midnight Taco Bell run that's for sure! Freedom is eminent ha ha.

      This week has sure been a week of reflection. I read my whole journal one evening and it was amazing of the flood of memories that have come back into my mind! I haven't written in my journal as much as I should but I am glad for the times that I did write! Idaho is such an amazing place. I remember opening my mission call, expecting to go some exotic place such as Argentina, and reading Twin Falls Idaho. My first thought was, "What did I do wrong??" ha ha ha, but now after two years the words of my dear friend and Stake President at the time, "I feel an impression that Twin Falls is the mission just for you.", has rang true in my ears! I can't express the love that I have for such a beautiful land and people of Idaho. From the forested mountains of Salmon and Stanley to dry deserts of Mountain Home (true, the name doesn't fit the landscape) and Burley, to the canyons and gorges of Kimberly and Hagerman, the land of Idaho in all its simplicity has found a fond place in my heart. This week was Stake Conference here in Hagerman and almost all of the speakers commented on their love for the small towns of this state. I completely agree with them! There is a comforting feel of a small town and it'll be a shock going back to Minneapolis on my flight home. The biggest town in our mission, Twin Falls, is about the size of Andover or Anoka but still doesn't compare to the size.

       During Stake Conference we heard some amazing talks on bringing Christ into our Sabbath day worship, continuing the spirit from our Sabbath day worship to the rest of our week and viewing eternity with a "glass half full" kind of attitude. But nothing brought the Spirit to my heart more than the music that was shared. As I said, this week was a week of reflection and I thought to myself, I've had so much fun out here, a little too much fun at some points but I wouldn't change any of it for anything else. The experiences that I've gained and sometimes going through the repentance process has helped me understand our Savior's Atonement so much deeper than before. My heart was touched at the words of the hymn, I Stand All Amazed, especially the line in bold print, 
        "I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me,
       Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me.
       I tremble to know that for me he was crucified,
       That for me a sinner, he suffered, he bled and died
       I marvel that he would descend from his throne divine
       To rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine,
       That he should extend his great love unto such as I,
       Sufficient to own, to redeem, and to justify.

       I think of his hands pierced and bleeding to pay the debt!
       Such mercy, such love and devotion can I forget?
       No, no, I will praise and adore at the mercy seat,
       Until at the glorified throne I kneel at his feet.
       Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me Enough to die for me!
       Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!"

It seems that I now have the same condition of my father, getting emotional whenever I bear testimony or talk of sacred things. But it's okay because I know that it is the love of my Savior and Lord that I am feeling throughout myself when I bare testimony of the reality of the Atonement. As I said last week and I will repeat again, without Christ we are nothing. A line from my Patriarchal Blessing tells me that my mission will be a foundation for the rest of my life and I feel that will come true. I am so grateful to all the people who have supported me, especially my family, and I thank all the wonderful people of Idaho who I have grown to love. Last of all I thank my God and His Son, Jesus Christ for providing me will all the amazing experiences and knowledge over the last two years. My testimony of the gospel has never been more solid and I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true church on the face of the earth today. Thank you all so much and I look forward to seeing and talking to you upon my return! 
      -Elder Ethan Howard, of the Idaho Twin Falls Mission

(P.S.  In the picture Cameron is the short one and the others are Brandon and Katie Knight and Samantha McRorey, some of Cameron 's close friends and the ones who introduced her to the gospel!)

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Last Full Week in Idaho

Holy Comoly only 10 days before I return home to Minnesota! Today for ou r last P-day we are hiking to a waterfall at Thousand Springs here in Hagerman. This last week will probably go by way too fast. It's hard not to focus on going home because I am so excited to see my family, friends and to be able to do what ever I want when ever I want, but at the same time there is nothing quite like being a full time missionary. There is a certain part of the Spirit with us as set apart missionaries of the Lord and people can feel it. It's the Lord's help in our calling and I hope it's not a drastic change when I get released. So with that in mind I am planning on testifying of Jesus Christ and the Restoration of the Gospel more this week than any other week! Then again I should have done that my whole mission. I've thought the whole two years about going home with no regrets , "NO R EGRETS", but it seems at the end of any journey that hind sight is 20/20. The only regret I have is not being more bold about the truthfulness of our message 100% of the time, because I know it's TRUE! 

   Next week here in the Wendell ID Stake is Stake Conference. So yesterday was the last Sunday I was attending the ward here in Hagerman .  In fact it was Fast Sunday and Testimony Meeting, so I got to bear my testimony at the pulpit. The bearing of testimony is awesome because as we bear it, we can feel the Holy Ghost testifying if what we are saying is true and that makes the testimony even deeper. I have felt that every time I bear testimony of Jesus Christ being our Savior and Redeemer, of God being our literal Father in Heaven and the Restoration of the Gospel and the blessings it has brought into my life. Even Joseph Smith's testimony bears witness of Jesus Christ. 

      " And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!
       For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—
       That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God."
(Doctrine & Covenants 76:22-24)

 I can add my testimony to that of the Prophet Joseph Smith, that I know God lives, that Jesus Christ is His son and that we all saved through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ if we come unto Him and follow His gospel and teachings. I know that without Christ we are nothing , that without the gospel our lives will never reach the full potential that God has given us. A ll I've experienced in the last two year s point towards the truth of the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and His church on the earth today, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

~ Elder Ethan Howard

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Serving a Spanish Mission for the last 6 Weeks??

From Ethan: Mon, Aug 31, 2015 

I don't know if I mentioned that with our combination of areas, Wendell and Hagerman, that we serve in the Spanish Branch for the Stake also! Elder Calderon is native to Chile and moved to Utah when he was 13 so he is fluent in both languages. There is a lot of Spanish work here in Idaho, they say that almost half of the population of the Magic Valley (Southern Idaho) is Hispanic. So I've been working on my Spanish and I think the extent of what I can say is "Sorry I do not speak Spanish, but I know the church is true." and that works for testifying! Most of what Elder Schuck and I do in lessons is read scriptures in Spanish and I'm sure we sounds like a couple of blancos (white boys). I cannot imagine what it would be like to teach the gospel, understand peoples needs and be able to overcome issues while speaking a different language. I now have a higher respect for those missionaries that go to foreign countries with little to no education in a foreign language. I know the Lord helps them out with the gift of tongues in certain situations. I haven't put much work into learning the language but I hope I can experience that! 

Going in between Wendell and Hagerman has made us a lot busier but we can't get as much done with the lack of time. It seems like after Cameron's baptism, work here in Hagerman has really slowed down. We haven't been into contact with Xandre, and Vanessa is moving this week. We are going to see her tonight for one last time unless she needs help packing a few more things. Last week we did have an awesome lesson about Enduring to the End. Sharing 2 Nephi 31:20                         " Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life."
  and Mosiah 2:41, one of my favorite scriptures! " 41 And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness."
 We just encouraged Vanessa to continue with the gospel throughout her life and keep searching for truth in prayer. I can say with out a doubt that this gospel and the church is the best thing for people in their lives. As we come closer to the Lord and worship Him and follow Him, He blesses us in every aspect of our lives just like King Benjamin says in the scripture in Mosiah , " For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual." I have seen the Lord bless my life, my families lives and the lives of the people that have come to a knowledge of the truth of this gospel on my mission. All these experience in my life reconstitute my knowledge of the reality of God and His son Jesus Christ. I know it's true!! 

  Well, just a couple weeks left as a full-time, set apart missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am not excited to lose this calling, but I am excited to return home to my family and continue to share the gospel with those that I love. I assume my last entry on this blog will be my full testimony but over the two years I've shared parts my testimony throughout my writings and I hope they have given people hope in our Savior and His redeeming power. That is the main point of this whole thing! So I hope it helps :) 

Last Baptism?

From Ethan: Monday, August, 24, 2015

The Baptisms went great! Marilyn Medina an 11 year old who we were teaching in Wendell got baptized also that day. and Cameron's went super well! Lots of people attended, the Spirit was there and no hiccups or anything. Those will probably be the last baptisms I see before I come home so it ended well.

Here is a picture from Marilyn's baptism, she's the 11 year old from Wendell. I was waiting for pictures from Cameron's baptism and ran out of time so I'll send them next week!


A Trio Again

From Ethan: Monday, August 17, 2015 

Another mid-transfer change up happened! One of the missionaries in the area next to ours, Wendell, went home so Elder Schuck, Elder Calderon from Wendell and I are in a trio! Yeah for another Trio! We will cover both the towns of Wendell and Hagerman for the next four weeks. Elder Calderon is a Spanish speaking missionary originally from Chile but moved to Utah a couple years ago. He is our District Leader too! So we are bouncing between the two areas and using both houses, Wendell is about 15 miles from Hagerman. It's pretty crazy sometimes but we've got a good schedule to include both areas.

Cameron Lockler pushed the baptism back to this weekend the 22nd, because her parents had to close their restaurant last week and it was a little hectic, but everything is settled down and she's good for Saturday at Noon! It''s nice to see Cameron's parents really supporting her in her decision to be baptized. We have everything set up and it's on like Donkey Kong.  Xandre still is avoiding us and isn't doing well. It'll take time for him to get back to a point where we can teach him.

In Wendell there is a lot going on! there are two wards over there and some great investigators on each ward. Also this weekend on the 22nd an 11 year old girl named Marilyn Medina will be baptized! We have already had a couple lessons with her and will have two more before Saturday. We've been meeting everyone in Wendell and Elder Calderon has been meeting everyone here in Hagerman so we've had some great lessons and such this past week.

We have a bunch of exciting things happening this week so it'll go by quick! Tomorrow we are going to the Temple together as a District, that'll be the last time I go here in Idaho. Then on Wednesday we have a Zone Conference all day and then the two baptisms on Saturday!! It'll be a joyous week for us!

Here's a picture of last weeks fishing! and also some good ol' Hagermelon's

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Opposition in All Things

From Ethan: Tuesday, August 11, 2015

We've had some ups and downs this week. Xandre Orth has taken a few steps back. Satan is attacking him very hard in his personal life and it's tearing him down. A couple experiences at church and with his family have turned sour and they were all misunderstandings. I feel super bad for him. We are trying to help but he isn't responding to our texts or calls anymore. He was really progressing. His Aunt says that he is just going through a rough patch but still says things that shows he is working things out in his mind and heart. I firmly believe that the Adversary is working on Xandre because he doesn't want Xandre to have this blessing in his life. One week Xandre was really happy and doing well. Now this week he isn't. Like it says in 2 Nephi 2:11, "there is an opposition in all things." We are just hoping and praying that Xandre can win this internal battle and see the strength that comes from believing in Christ.

 But on the other hand, Cameron is getting baptized this Saturday the 15th! We were thinking the 22nd but that's one of the days of the County Fair. NO ONE MESSES WITH THE FAIR OUT HERE! It's a huge deal, so this Saturday in between morning and evening Volleyball tryouts for Cameron she's going to be baptized! It'll be awesome. It's been really cool to see the Spirit work in her life and her testimony grow since she's been taking the lessons and going to church.

Other than that we are still working with the Bieroths, William Percival and Vanessa Stone and her boy Chandler. Her other daughter, Cheyenne, moved back with her father in Washington this past week. We found out that Vanessa and Chandler will be moving up there in September. We'll be sad to see them leave. 

Today we are going out to Billingsley Creek Ranch, owned by the past bishop here in Hagerman. We will fish in the lake, play volleyball on the beach and just fool around with the rest of our missionary district! Should be great and I'll try and get some pictures!

~ Elder Ethan Howard

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Progression is the Key

From Ethan: Monday, August 3

Hey everyone! We got t he transfer call today . It looks like I will end my mission here in Hagerman with Elder Schuck!! I am super grateful for that because he has been one of my favorite companions and has kept me working hard. We've also been able to see the growth of many people and find success in our work every week! This week we are especially excited because both Cameron Lockler and Xandre Orth have told us that they want to be baptized! 

Starting with Cameron, one of our biggest things with Cameron is that we both felt that we needed to wait for her to bring up baptism and not push her in anyway to make sure she has a testimony for herself. She is very close with a lot of ward members here and we never wanted her to join the church because of peer pressure. Last week we committed Cameron to specifically pray to know if what we have been teaching her is tru e and she did just that. W hen we came into the lesson this last Thursday , she told us that she wants to be baptized! As we were talking we suggested a date at the beginning of September right after school starts . She replied, "You know, I was thinking before school started actually. I really want to do this!" We were astounded at her desire. So it's looking like August 22nd is the date that Cameron will be baptized! We are super excited for her and we have seen such a change in her countenance. She lights up the room every time she walks in the door and is seeking knowledge now instead of just hearing the words in one ear and going out the other. She has recognized the change in herself even and told us that she is more aware of her decisions, mostly modesty and language. I love how the gospel can change someone 's heart and I've seen that in Cameron.

We had an amazing lesson with Xandre this week too! He came into the lesson seeking knowledge just like Cameron and asked us a bunch of questions right off the bat. In answering his questions we were able to teach all of the Plan of Salvation and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When we talked about baptism he as well came forward to us in having the desire to do so. He even asked his Uncle, Tony Ramirez who was recently baptized in February, to baptize him before our lesson! Xandre is such a sweet guy who has had a lot of bad happen to him in his life. He was able to recognize the change in the Ramirez family after being baptized and felt the Spirit the first time we met together and he came to church. I've never seen someone become attached to the gospel as fast as him. We haven't set a firm date as to when he will be baptized but it'll be with in the next 6 weeks because he really wants me to be here for it.

  Seeing the change that the gospel brings to peoples lives reminds me of the quote from the movie, "Meet the Robinsons ," "Keep Moving Forward ." I love that quote because it encompasses what the path of our lives is all about. Through the rolle rcoaster of life we have our ups and we have our downs, but it's how far we go that matters. Progression in both Physical and Spiritual aspects is the key to living a fulfilling life. As I enter my last six weeks of my two year mission I must keep that in mind. When I get home I cannot "swan dive back in to Babylon" (My old life) as Kevin W. Pearson said, but I must Keep Moving Forward!! It'll be a trip that's for sure :)

~Elder Howard