Elder Tolen's Transfer History

Elder Tolen's Transfer History
Elder Tolen's Transfer History


Monday, December 22, 2014

Week 3: Lost, Losing It, and Loving It!

Well everyone, this was a very eventful week.

To begin the week, I got lost. Yup. The three of us were trying to get on a train, but just as Elder Livingston was getting on, the door closed right behind him. The train left with my two companions, and I was left alone at one of the biggest train stations I had ever been at. It was fun. I just stood there and prayed. I followed the Spirit and watched a train go by, and then got on the next one, then got off at the next stop. I said, "Alright, I'm here. What should I do now..?" And the Spirit just said, "Wait right there." So I waited. And not 5 minutes later, my companions came running up, and it turns out they had gotten on the wrong train anyway. It was a fun experience to have in my first month in the field. 

On Wednesday
we had to drop Elder Squire off at the mission home. It was the strangest feeling. I felt like we were missing someone for almost 2 days. He's home now, and I'm sure he's having a blast at home. He was a fantastic missionary.

Saying farewell to Elder Squire at the Mission Home
One night my companion, Elder Livingston, and I were walking around, trying to carol (trying is the key word there. People in Japan think Christmas caroling is super weird. So that makes it really hard to sing to people), when we just hit a wall. I had gone on splits that day, because my companion became the new District Leader, so he had a meeting up at the mission home. So I went on splits with someone that was the same transfer as me, which made things really interesting. I don't think I've been rejected so many times in one day so far. It was really hard. But as we were caroling, with absolutely zero success, we decided to say a prayer. After that we just started walking. As we walked up these stairs, I turned and saw a house. My feet just stopped moving, and before I knew it I was ringing the door bell. What happened next was even more amazing. This old lady came out, and didn't do much, but told us how grateful she was to see two people working so hard. It was exactly what I needed to hear. She was so nice; she didn't want any lessons or anything, but she just came to tell us how grateful for us she was. It was amazing.

I've never felt so in tune with the Spirit before. It's crazy what can happen when you have faith, even when you're lost at a train station. I have a challenge for you. I want you to make each day memorable. Find at least one good thing every day. I promise you, when you do this, you will feel so much happier. I was having a bad day this week, and I was trying to pass out English class fliers, but no one would even acknowledge my existence. I was about ready to snap. But then this mom and her tiny child came up and the child reached up his hand. I gave a flier to him, and he quietly said "Thank you" in English. Then the mom said to say it louder. That, of course, was said in Japanese. So this little boy yelled, "THANK YOU!" so loud. He yelled it at the top of his lungs. And because of that, I was so happy. I was able to keep going, instead of going on a killing spree, which probably wouldn't have ended well. I know the Lord knows our limits, and I know he is going to push us to those limits, but He also knows when we need help.

I love it here in Japan, and I can't wait to Skype my family! It's going to be awesome! I haven't seen their faces in 3 months. That's a weird thought. I just want you guys to know that I love you all and hope you're doing well!


Elder Tolen
The apartment Christmas tree

Elder Tolen--Merry Christmas!
Elder Tolen and Elder Livingston playing a board game at an investigator's house

Elder Tolen and Elder Squire singing "Come Unto Christ" together (Elder Livingston at piano)

The apartment roomies after Elder Squire left

A little apartment goofiness!

Signs to make English grammar lovers cringe

Another grammatically disturbing sign

A large sculpture outside a mall

Monday, December 15, 2014

Week 2: Tom Cruise and Fermented Beans

Well guys!

It's been another week! How crazy is that? I've almost reached 3 months. It feels like I've been out forever, but also I feel like I just came out. It's really weird.

It's almost Christmas! Ah!! 
I got your package! We opened the stockings..oops...but nothing else. We hung up the tinsel. I'm ready for Christmas. It's going to be awesome, but different. 

Some of the Christmas decorations at the apartment (including the tree we sent
him with the personalized ornaments we made at Thanksgiving!)
Japanese is still as hard as ever, and sometimes I just don't feel like I'm learning anything. That can be really disheartening. But I know with the Lord anything is possible, and I love it all the same.

I've met so many people this week.  This week we went to a part member's house and celebrated their daughter's 13th birthday. When I walked in the mother said (in Japanese of course), "Whoa! You look like Tom Cruise and Leonardo DiCaprio! Amazing!" Apparently I look like both of them put together. That was a fun experience. I still can't see it. If any of you can, let me know.

After we talked for a while, we ate dinner. Let me tell you something:  The dad is a first class sushi chef. So I had some amazing sushi. It was divine. So amazing! But they also have this stuff called "Nato," which is fermented beans. He put some in the sushi. He asked,  "Nato o tabeta koto ga arimasu ka?" (Have you ever eaten Nato before?)  I said no, and he pushed the plate towards me.  It wasn't quite as bad as I thought it would be, but it still was really bad. Like really. I almost threw up. It's super gross. Then there is this tea that tastes like cigarettes. It's one of the only teas that missionaries are allowed to drink. It's called "Mugicha" (Moo-gi-cha).  But I still had a lot of fun!

We also had a meeting with a family that's investigating the church. And the man is really good at ping pong. We spent an hour at their house just playing ping pong. But then we ate dinner, and Elder Squire and I sang "Come Unto Christ." It was a lot of fun.

I hope you are all doing great! Japan is amazing. I love it so much.

I love you all. Keep being awesome!
Elder Tolen
Elder Squire (front), Elder Tolen, and Elder Livingston emailing on P-day
English class, including students, Sister missionaries, and Elders

A beautiful photo Elder Tolen snapped at the park one afternoon.

Elder Livingston entertaining Elder Tolen

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

First Week: Green Tea and Great Food!

Elder Tolen with a Japanese Book of Mormon..in Hodogaya (Tokyo) Japan!
Well friends. It finally happened. I made it to the great land of Japan! And it is amazing!

The first day we arrived at about 4 pm, and it was already almost dark outside. That was a weird experience. After we left the airport we all piled on to a bus and had some interviews with President Wada as we drove. The airport was about 2 hours away from the Mission Home. I was so tired. Once we got to the Mission Home, we dropped off our bags and had dinner. It was the best food I had had in two months. It was chicken noodle soup over rice--it was amazing. After that we had a little meeting, and then everyone filed off to bed a little early. I was in bed at like 9:30. The second my head hit that pillow I was out. It was one of the best nights of sleep I've ever had, even if it was just on a futon. The next morning, everyone woke up at about 5:30 and went for a jog. Let me tell you something: It is so much easier to run when I'm at sea level! Oh my goodness. We ran about a 3 mile loop, and then did some radio tai chi with a bunch of elderly people! It was a blast. After we made it back and had breakfast we had a meeting until lunch.

Sunset over Narita airport upon arrival in Japan
After the meeting we got to actually go out and do Missionary work! And that's where I had my first spiritual experience out in the field. So, as me and one of the A.P.s (Elder Yagui) were knocking on doors, this old lady comes out and says she can't talk because she's sick. Elder Yagui looks at me and says that we should go get her a warm drink. So we run off to a vending machine that gives out warm drinks (they have those here in Japan), and we buy her a green tea. Elder Yagui says that as long as we don't drink it we should be good. So we run back, but when we knock, the husband looks out the window at us, and then tells us to go away. So now we were just walking around with this green tea. At that point it was time to head back to the Mission home. But as we are walking, I see this huge guy smoking a cigarette. Those of you that know me know that I don't really have a problem talking to people--even if I shouldn't be talking. So I say to Elder Yakui, "I'm going to go talk to him. Let's give him that green tea." Elder Yagui was a little bit surprised. But I approached the guy and said everything I know how to say in Japanese, and Elder Yagui gave him the tea. I feel like because we gave him the tea, he really opened up to us. But after that point, I just had Elder Yagui take over.  We invited him to church, and he said he was really busy, but we gave him a flyer for English class, and he said he would come! That was awesome. I don't know if he came, because the next day I left with my two new companions, Elder Squire and Elder Livingston.

Elder Livingston, Elder Tolen, Elder Squire
Elder Squire is from Eagle Mountain, and Elder Livingston is from American Fork. So we have a Viking, a Pioneer, and a Caveman all in one companionship. They are both so amazing. They both work so hard, and I love being their companion. Elder Squire has actually been in the mission field over 2 years now. He heads home next week. He is a really awesome guy. On my first night out they took me out to dinner. We had Katsudon! Its like pork over rice with eggs on top--one of the most delicious things I've ever had. Yum. The only downside is that I'm in an apartment that is supposed to hold three, and there are five of us. It's kind of tight, but I love those guys. The other companionship consists of Elder Kerr and Elder Talentino. It's a lot of fun.

One of my first nights there we took an investigator to see a Christmas concert called "Little Witnesses." It was a beautiful Christmas concert. Too bad I didn't understand any of it. Everyone speaks Japanese so fast out here, it makes it so hard to follow! It's crazy. And if someone doesn't want to talk to you, they just pretend like you don't exist, which I guess is less rude then actually saying no. That's going to take some getting used to. Anyway, we took an investigator to the concert and it was amazing! Then later in the week we had dinner with him at a member's house. He is such an amazing guy. He is currently studying 15 different languages, and he studied English in college! That makes it so much easier for me to talk with him. I'll be sure to include a picture of him with Elder Kerr.

Elder Kerr and Investigator
So last night we were outside of a 7/11 and this guy just comes up and starts talking to us! We weren't entirely sure that he was sober, but he said he wants to take us out for drinks. That was interesting. We told him we don't drink, and he told us that if we are ever in trouble we can call him. And he wants to meet with us again! That's technically my first investigator I've found on my mission! I've just experienced so many miracles out here. I love you guys and I hope you are all doing well! Talk to you soon!

Elder Tolen
Tokyo Temple (which I assume Zach visited on his first P-Day in the field)...
Mt. Fuji

A familiar street that Zach visited with his dad when they went to Tokyo together 3 years ago

Missionaries and investigator at dinner at a member's house

Small apartment for 5 elders!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Another Letter from the Mission Office

So, I'm still waiting [on pins and needles] for an email from Zach on his first official P-day in Japan, but in the meantime I received this email today from President Wada (the mission president). It is great to know where Zach is serving and who he is with!


December 8, 2014

Dear Brother and Sister Tolen:

Your son arrived in the Japan Tokyo South Mission on December 2, 2014, in good spirits and ready to commence his proselyting assignment. We had a wonderful time with him.
Elder Tolen has been assigned to work with Elders Squire and Elder Livingston and they are serving in an area called Hodogaya. Your son can receive his mail at the following address (Mission Home address):

Elder Zachary David Tolen
Japan Tokyo South Mission
1-7-7 Kichijoji, Higashi-cho
Musashino-shi, Tokyo 180-0002

Attached is a picture of your son with Sister Wada and me, of himself, and a group picture of the new missionaries, trainers, and Assistants. We have also included a map showing the locations of the various areas in the mission. You can use it as a personal record of his assignments.

By the time you receive this letter, Elder Tolen should be adjusted to his new proselyting area. The positive sustaining support he gets from you at home will be a great blessing to him. May the Lord bless you and your family as you share in your son’s mission experience.
President Takashi Wada

The newest batch of elders and some assistants in the Tokyo South mission

Elders, trainers, and leaders in the Tokyo South mission

Elder Tolen in the Tokyo South mission home

Elder Tolen with President and Sister Wada

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Safe Arrival: An Email from the Mission Home!

I received this email from the Tokyo South mission home a little while ago, along with a couple of pictures from the airport and on the bus that took the new missionaries from the airport to the mission home.  I'm a happy mom tonight...and looking forward to the next email that tells me who his companion is and what area he's in. Here we go!


Dear Parents,

We just want to send you a quick note to let you know that your missionary arrived safely in Japan on Tuesday, December 2, 2014. President and Sister Wada fed the missionaries dinner, visited shortly, and then sent them to bed for a much needed rest.

Today is orientation and training day. On Thursday they will meet their new companion who has been chosen to be their trainer. In the afternoon they are off to their new areas to begin their missionary work. Pictures will be taken and you will receive another email with these pictures attached.

Our Mission’s preparation day is on Mondays. This is the day missionaries can email family and friends. When your missionary’s Zone has a temple day, which is normally on a Tuesday, this will become the preparation day. Please have your missionary let you know when the temple day is so you will know when preparation day will change.

Thank you for entrusting your missionary to us in the Japan Tokyo South Mission. We so appreciate all you have done to get your missionary prepared for this experience.


Sister Powell
Japan Tokyo South Mission

The newly-arrived missionaries at the Narita airport

Excited to be in Tokyo and heading to the mission home!