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!)

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