Dear Mom, Dad, Eric, and Belle,
"The sun is setting, the lamplighters are at work, it is Christmas Eve for certain." Growing up I often contemplated the words to the popular carol, "I'll be home for Christmas," and lamented over the unfortunate men and women who don't get to be near their loved ones at such a lovely time of year. It brings new revelation and enlightenment, knowing that I am now one of those people who although they wish with all their might to be as near as possible to the ones who bring them the most joy, cannot for a period of time. I miss the fires, the hot chocolate, the snow, the lights, the excitement, the music (in English), the laughter, the food, the love. This Christmas I expect, however, to be the sweetest of all. The spirit of Christmas is within us all "wherever [we] find love." Heavenly Father "is mindful of every people, whatsoever land they may be in; yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth." I'll miss you, but I'll be alright.
My new companion's name is Elder Magnuson and he's a hoot. I think you all would get a kick out of him. He loves to talk and talks non-stop about everything that comes into his head. He loves the gospel and overcame a lot to come out. He loves telling, re-telling, and telling again about his personal miracles and stories. I ADORE Elder Magnuson. He works hard and has such pure desires. We're going to get along great. This is his fourth move-call in Taiwan (compare to my being on my seventh) and his Chinese and Taiwanese are great. He works really hard all of the time to improve it whenever he can. I see a lot of success in his future. He's very intelligent and is an avid student of the scriptures, well versed in all volumes. He loves basketball too.
We also had the Christmas Activity where I got to talk to Elder Erickson (who is now in my Zone!), Elder Taylor (Matt), and Elder Haag (my trainer now assistant), and others until I was blue in the face. They are such wonderful examples of diligent efforts and hard work. I really respect how great of missionaries they are. We went to a massive Buddhist temple in Mingjian to take a huge photo of everyone and a video which you will receive from President Bishop shortly. We then visited some Western-esque village and tourist attraction, but I pretty much talked to Elder Haag the entire time. We then ate at an all you can eat Steak and Stir-Fry (Timpanyaki) with all of the missionaries in the mission. Then everyone went to Taizhong for a Christmas devotional. It was so much fun to see EVERYONE in the mission. It's a unique opportunity that I will only have once more. Oh yes, at the activity, we discovered that our release dates have all been moved back. I am now released on January 21st. All sisters were pushed back three weeks. I'm not sure how I feel about that just yet. We received a gift from President Bishop that had part of Helaman 5:12 written on a cool-looking rock in Chinese.
I didn't do hardly anything on my birthday. I restaurant gave me free dinner which was cool. I began opening the two presents that weren't marked as Christmas. Today, me, Elder Magnuson, Elder Erickson, our Zone Leaders, and some other missionaries went to the Gaoxiong 85. An 85-story building here in Gaoxiong. It was really great and I'll show you all some pictures tomorrow through SKYPE. You'll love it. What a fun trip. We ate together and then came here. I don't have a lot of time left before I need to begin proselyting actually.
I want to see you all tomorrow. I want to see Belle, and I want to see your favorite present!
It's tragic about Connecticut and sad about Lance Armstrong.
I don't know what all I want to hear about tomorrow, just how everything is going. I want to maybe touch on schooling and please prepare questions for me. Any questions. Do you want to hear some Chinese? Tomorrow would be the time to ask. You didn't ask in May much to my surprise.
I'm still in Nanzi.
I know I'm missing a lot somehow. "I'll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams." I love you all, and I will talk to you all tomorrow.
- Elder Woolsey