Dear Mom, Dad, and Eric,
I bet at some point in the last couple of days, you questioned whether or not you were ever going to hear from me or not. Well here I am. I'm alive, I am well, and the church is true. There have been so many things that have happened over the course of the last week that it's difficult to explain them all in one email. I would like to preface this email with a couple of key notes: first is that I only have thirty minutes to write, so I apologize for any lack of description there may appear to be. I'll do my best. Also, I may mention very personal, spiritual experiences that I have had, but I feel that I cannot go into great detail over email for the format would be inappropriate.
So...I suppose that I'll start at the beginning (as dad has told me before). After you guys dropped me off, I was met with a whirlwind of events. People were handing me things, taking things, taking pictures of me, calling me "Elder." It was all very surreal. Following the initial rush, I was placed in a classroom with four other young men (one of which was my companion, Elder Neil), and two young ladies. I later found out that this is my district. Anyway....I sat down and the teacher, Brother Liu, looked at me and, from what I could ascertain, said something to the effect of ahj sdlkjf dlkfjalsdkjf zxsdkfjl asdkj adslfkjal;sdkfjlakkd weoiruokmck somciek iockslkdj opskciekkcd dkls dlkcidkikdc dkdkdkpd civjklajkl asdfjkl;jkl; sdklc nalksjdtf. I think that's about right. Needless to say, he was speaking Mandarin Chinese, and I hadn't a clue what was going on. It turns out that about half the class has had Chinese before in High School or some derivative of High School (I say derivative because one sister is from Australia (Sister Mitchell), the other is from Mexico (Sister Ochoa, who speaks English and Spanish impeccably), one Elder from the U.K. (Elder Chan...don't be deceived by the name, he is very British although his parents are Cantonese), and two Elders from Canada (one is French and the other is from Canada proper, both are fluent in French and English and are going to a Mandarin speaking French mission). Pretty cool so far. Anyway....as you may be wondering, I see Elder Taylor EVERYWHERE. He is not my companion, but we are in the same branch and he lives two rooms over from me. We talk all the time. It's great. The food is AWFUL. Occasionally there will be a half-decent meal, but they are few and far between. The second day, my cold made a viscious comeback. I was very very sick, but I didn't tell anyone and I powered through it. That aside, my companion....didn't seem to like me very much. He tended to walk off (when, as you know, we are supposed to stay together), and doesn't talk much, although it has nothing to do with being socially incapable. At the end of the day, I was sort of hating it all. It was so hard. I knew that there would be days like that in the MTC, but I hadn't a clue that they would come so early. In many ways, I wanted to come home. I had to ask myself why I was here, and once I remembered, I didn't want to leave at all. Now, I realize that I'm not making it sound very appealing, but I honestly love it here. I wouldn't go home if the prophet told me today that I had a choice to, and that if I did, I would be honorably discharged. I have had some of the most profound spiritual experiences ever. I finally understand better how to recognize the spirit (I listened to the GREATEST devotional ever on it by Elder Bednar), and how to get answers to my prayers. Elder Bednar essentially said to stop worrying about seeking out the "feeling" of the spirit. If you are good, you are being guided already. The Holy Ghost is guiding you every day to make decisions that you don't even realize are promptings from the Holy Ghost. Not because you are incapable of recognizing them, but rather because there's not really much to recognize. He gave very intense examples of this and it was glorious. "All that is good comes from God."
On the third day, they had us teaching in Mandarin, and we teach an "investigator" nearly every day. I can now bear a simple testimony in Mandarin, pray a simple prayer in Mandarin, discuss scriptures and other things as well. "With the Lord, nothing is impossible." And boy, ain't it true!? The hand of the Lord is definitely playing a massive role in my learning of the language. The grammar of Mandarin is simple, but all of the words look and sound the same, and the tones are killer. My companion has taken a couple years of Chinese, and went to a Chinese summer camp where they only spoke Mandarin. He is very talented and my crutch for the time being. If you would like, I can write out some Mandarin in the next letter, but it's difficult to do on the computer.
The greatest thing that anyone had told me prior to coming out came from Eric. That last night, as we went around the room, he told me to question myself as I faced situations where disobedience may occur, even if it be minor. Because of Eric, I resolved early on to be strictly obedient and I have felt the blessings of the Lord pour out upon me for it. I don't need to shave every night, but I do it anyway. I don't need to read my white handbook for five minutes every day (because I've already read the entire thing), but I do it anyway. I can go to bed early, but I choose not to, even when we finish class early, because that's not exactly what was asked of me. I will obey. I must obey. The Lord has been answering my prayers nightly and I can honestly say that I feel the prayers of you guys as I learn and study. Thank you. I keep pushing myself, but it is hard. Being on a mission is easily the most difficult thing that I have ever done in my entire life. Harder than college. Harder than High School A.P. classes. You name it. Those were childsplay. It's easy to slack off here, but I may never have this opportunity again or at least for a very long time, so I will utilize it fully. My time is almost up. Shocking! I know! I've included much, but not even close to everything. I want my plaque scripture to be 1 Nephi 13:37. This scripture has touched me profoundly and I will go into greater detail later. "More Holiness Give Me" is now one of my favorite Hymns. I will explain that later too. I also have a testimony that my companion was given to me by God for a purpose and I love him.
Love, Elder Woolsey