Dear Mom, Dad, Eric, and Belle,
What a week. As of today, it's a new move call (Elder Taylor is now senior companion by the way!): a fresh six-weeks to set goals, make plans, improve, and change. My trainer Elder Haag wrote me this week. He is a wise Elder. I'm grateful that he got to train me.
Speaking of Elder Haag, he has been made the new Assistant of the Taiwan Taizhong Mission. And, I would like to say that I'm surprised, but what a wonderful selection! I can't think of a better qualified Elder for the job of assisting the President in supervising and preparing training and other things for the mission. He is a dedicated, consecrated, servant of the Lord who desires more than anything else to do his very best for our Master and King. What a wonderful example! And he was MY trainer! I would like to share an experience with you. On the day that we were meeting our trainers, the trainers randomly selected a new missionary to sit with. Well, of course I figured out it was random, but I still sat with Elder Haag. I thought that he was a wonderful Elder as I sat with him, but thought that I didn't really want to be his companion. Then, as we were sitting together casually listening to President Bishop, I had a prompting that I should want to be his companion. An incredibly strange prompting, I'm aware. I then said a prayer and asked Heavenly Father if he would allow us to be companions. Well, much to my surprise (but I suppose not really) my prayer was answered a few moments later when we opened red envelopes containing our Trainer's name in it. I know that being with Elder Haag was set up by God. Heavenly Father rewarded me grandly with a wonderful kick-start to my mission that I'm still grateful for. And now the entire mission gets an opportunity to taste what I got to experience. I hope his parents read this in a way, because I think the world of Elder Haag.
With regards to the Christmas Call: I will call you Christmas Morning 10:35 a.m. in TAIWAN which should be Christmas Eve Evening at about 7:35 if I'm not mistaken. I will be using SKYPE so prepare whatever is necessary so everyone is there and visible at that time. I need to know the username for your SKYPE account NEXT MONDAY or I won't know what to do (I'll likely just call first if that is the case). Please prepare that for next week's email so that we can have an efficient, but happy and pleasant conversation. Also, please prepare questions, thoughts, visuals, etc. prior to the call so that we don't waste any time and we can say what we want (not that I think we could ever run out of things to say. Our call will last for 40 minutes only. It's short, but sadly it's the way it is. I can't wait to see you all at that time. The cameras and internet work much better here so I'm excited for the call.
I've heard some stories here that I had questions about:
1. A terrifying massacre in Connecticut
2. Lance Armstrong being stripped of privileges and defamed for drug use
These things have reached this end of the world and I'm curious what all has happened.
So President Bishop announced something very interesting in his email today. He said that because of the massive influx of missionaries, the stay for Mandarin-speaking Elders has been reduced to 9 weeks (they were doing the pilot program right after I left but I didn't know what it meant at the time) permanently. This has resulted in a three-week-long disturbance in that ALL return dates for missionaries currently in the field who return home after MARCH 2013 (so of course me) will be shifted forward or backward by three weeks. I don't know what the entails for me, but I thought it was worth mentioning. All missionaries in the mission field will receive new release dates soon which we will be notified. I will inform you of what it is at that time.
I 100% forgot about my birthday until I saw Eric's email. I can't believe it either. I had to look at my watch and check the date I was so surprised that it was this week. I don't know how to react. I'm no longer a teenager. It will likely pass without anything special happening. I don't think I'll do anything that day. The Christmas Activity, however, is this Thursday. I will send tons of pictures after that. It should be phenomenally fun. Elder Haag says it's supposed to be EPIC. As of this morning, no packages. I'm sure they're coming soon enough. Don't fret. They may have come today for all I know.
I am a little homesick at this time of year to be honest. I miss the food, the decorations, the snow, the fun, the movies, the love, the charity, the Christ story (which we still hold on to a bit), fireplaces, anticipation, the music, the laughter, wrapping presents, etc. It's hard to be away from loved ones at this time. My birthday and Thanksgiving I didn't notice. Christmas is definitely taking a little bit of a toll. I don't know. My time is so short here in Taiwan. I get 15-16 move calls. I have been here for 6 and am now on 7. I have less than ten full move-calls left. My time is so short, I don't know how to explain it. I don't want to go home any time soon. The new clothes store sounds really fun. You'll have to show me. The new washer sounds nice as well. The house won't be the same! That cake sounds DELICIOUS. I want a picture next time you get the chance.
I'm so happy for Jordan. What a wonderful accomplishment! He is such a great person with so much to offer! I hope that he has "heaps" of success as he pursues a degree in JOURNALISM.
Keep up the hard work in cycling, Dad. It sounds like you're really working to hit your goal. I'm impressed. The goal is just a wish unless it's written down and plans are made to hit it.
I don't really want to think about coming back for schooling yet, but I will need some serious help with regards to setting it all up. That process will begin very soon I would imagine. Only five or so months away before those steps need to be planned and carried out.
We had a great church turn out this week. We also taught an incredible lesson to a less active member and saw a miracle. The first is that we met this less active on the street who later met with us that told his he thought his life was a failure. He told us that he doesn't feel answers to his prayers and he doesn't know how to improve his life. I told him many experiences of how my prayers had been answered including the one I'm about to share with you and after that he thought for a long time and said, "really? is it true?" When I confirmed that it was he said that he was willing to give everything up to have that kind of happiness and relationship with God ("I will give up all my sins to know thee.") The spirit was so strong. We knelt in prayer and he offered the most sincere prayer. I expect great things from him soon. He knows the meaning of real intent.
That morning I was on an exchange with my Zone Leader. He and I had a rather unexpected lesson with a woman set up (you must understand that we need another man in order to meet with women). We didn't know what to do so we said a prayer and asked for the Lord's help. I felt the impression that we should go anyway and trust the Lord (1 Nephi 4:6-7). We arrived there and there was a utility truck outside. After we scoured the building, we found the utility man and it turns out that he was a member! He was able to accompany us. After this miracle, the investigator turned out to be a member who felt unwelcomed at church and therefore never returned. She still reads and prays daily however. She mentioned two friends that she had in the ward, but it wasn't enough so she joined the Jehovah's Witnesses. Then as we discussed, that very friend we were talking about pulled up with another sister in the ward and invited her to tons of activities including a family home evening tonight which we will be going to as well. Another miracle! Then, the best part happened the night before...when she called us. She told us that we had called her and as far as we knew, we hadn't. We checked our records and call-back in the phone and we hadn't called that number. It was incredible. Definitely set up by the LORD. He is a God of miracles.
We had a mission wide service activity two days ago. Our Zone went to an old-folks home (exactly like Crosslands, but all in Chinese) and shared the spirit of Christmas with music, a story, and other activities. It was really great.
I love you all, and I appreciate your sweet thoughts and prayers for me. Please write next week even though I will talk to you the next day. I still want to hear about the week and get that out of the way for the call. I miss and love you. Keep doing your best and remember to serve this Christmas. I know as you do this Christmas will be even sweeter.
- Elder Woolsey