Merry Christmas! I love this time of year so much. It's great to hear from those who wrote. Hopefully everyone is travelling safely. And those who already have, hopefully you are enjoying your time together. It's great to hear that Kim's surgery went without much complication; I pray that the recovery process can be as best as possible. The classic Christensen Christmas dinner and gathering in Salt Lake sounds like it went off without a hitch. How fun. Also, Johnathan's wedding sounds like it was a good time. I'm happy for him and excited to meet his new wife.
Well, it's definitely a unique, cool thing when my family knows what is happening with me regarding transfers before I tell them. I wasn't sure if you would know because I had forgotten whether the Lewis family was leaving before Sunday or not (looking back at last weeks email I see that they leave tomorrow). Nonetheless, the cat's out of the bag; my time in Rome is up and I'll be serving in Utica with Elder Miller as an Assistant to the President. I'm really looking forward to the opportunity for a lot of reasons. First, it will be very fun serving with Elder Miller ~18 months after serving with him the first time. We are quite different people now than when we served together in Schoharie Valley. As well with the capacity in which we are serving, our circumstances will be much different. I'm excited to associate with President Bulloch a bit more personally and learn from him. Also, it will be very fun getting to know all of the missionaries in the mission. This transfer (every other it switches off between a Zone Conference and the following) Elder Miller and I will be going around to each of the Districts in the mission and training at one of their District Meetings. That should be a good learning experience. And as we travel around we will be going on exchanges (or blitz's) where we work with the Zone Leaders there. Elder Miller informed me that I'll/we'll be giving 4 different trainings this week. With the new missionaries coming in we will go to the airport tomorrow to pick them up with President and Sister Bulloch. We will assist in training them tomorrow night and Wednesday morning (when the actual Transfer day occurs). Also, we have Zone Leader Council on Friday where we will be training as well. I enjoy training and getting in front of people like that so I'm excited for all of these things. There are going to be more things that I'll be doing differently from what I have been with the new assignment as an Assistant, more to come on that as I find out more what they are. I know my time on Pday's will be a bit more limited, ha. Also, Utica (the area; which has been coinciding with the Utica Ward boundaries) is going to be split in half now. Sister missionaries are coming in to cover 1/2 of it; actually Sister Pitts who has been in Ithaca is coming and training a new missionary. Anyway, I'm excited for the transfer ahead.
I've really enjoyed my time in Rome. It's interesting how we often don't appreciate the things that we have until they are taken from us. Although it certainly hasn't been butterflies and roses the entire time, looking back it has certainly been a great experience. I have grown a lot and learned a lot. I've especially enjoyed serving with Elder Bowles. He is a great missionary - from whom I've learned a lot - and who is now a good friend. Even though I know that people appreciate my service in the midst of my serving them, it becomes much more evident how much they appreciate it/me when I'm leaving. It's always a rewarding reminder. There were 2 investigators who came to church for the first time yesterday, which is great! Lois is taking the news of my leaving pretty well I feel. Hopefully she travels to Arizona this winter and those there in Mesa can meet her. She went to the Palmyra temple on Saturday and did baptisms for the dead, went to the visitor's center, and the Grandin Building (printing press). She LOVED it so much. We visited her briefly that night and she was on cloud 9. She's eager to go back to the temple and now more eager to bring her family into the gospel. I think her niece, Shar, will be taught here soon by Elder Bowles. We had some great experiences this week, too. We taught the Jamaican family I think I mentioned last week. Wow. They're so prepared and they are already preparing to be baptized on February 4; they remind me of Namukolo. (Speaking of which, it will be really cool getting to go back to Albany on exchange and probably see a lot of the people I know there!) It's great to see the work here in Rome pick up and I know that it's in good hands.
I hope that you all have a very Merry Christmas! Play some chimes for me and watch Wee Sing together at least once, ha. As far as the phone call is concerned, I have no idea what I'll be doing Christmas day in Utica. I assume that 1:00 or 1:30 (3 or 3:30 NY time) will work for the phone call. Don't be overly concerned, I'll make it happen. I'll call the home phone in Mesa. I look forward to speaking with you. I will bring all of the Christmasy things I have with me to Utica, of course. Enjoy this wonderful time of year. I love you all so much and I appreciate greatly the things you do for me and the people that you are.
PS- I may send home a box today with miscellaneous things I don't need/can send home with the transfer. So you can open it right away; I'll put in my memory card so you can look at that with everyone there.
I'll be in Utica today at 4. My transfer is happening early (rather than Wednesday) due to Elder Farrens' group flying home tomorrow rather than the usual Thursday, because of Christmas.
I'll be expecting some fun pictures in next week's emails :).
Love you all.