Elder Tolen's Transfer History

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


Saturday, December 5, 2015

Week 52 [61]: Tis the Season!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015
First of all, I would like to dedicate the beginning of this letter to a very special person in my life: My dad. His birthday was this past week, and I just want him to know exactly how much I appreciate him. He is such a wonderful example to me, and has always shown me what it really means to be a father, even when I treated him with much less of the respect than he so deserved. I love you Dad. You mean the world to me. I look forward to campouts, fishing trips, and campfire talks when I get home! Love you to the moon!

This week was busy! And next week is going to be even more so!

We had the opportunity to go caroling at a place we do service at every week, and that was amazing! In Japan, caroling isn't a thing. In fact it's kind of weird. So it really is a lot of fun to introduce people to a different culture, because a lot of people have never left their own country before!

After that, we had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner with our Stake President. It was actually the day after Thanksgiving! For our actual Thanksgiving feast, we gathered as a district, and because we had no plans with members we went out to an all-you-can-eat Okonomiyaki place! It was divine! After that, we went to the church and started preparing for a musical number we have at Zone Conference, and the Stake President walked in and started talking to us, and we just had a great discussion with him! Just so you know, the Stake President lives in our ward, so this isn't too unusual. But anyways, he asked us if any members invited us over for a Thanksgiving meal, and we said no. The members around here are all really young couples, so everyone is busy with work and things, so he just said, "Oh". And changed the subject.

Then that night, he called us up and invited us over for a Thanksgiving feast at his house the next day! It was amazing. I really look up to our Stake President. He is about the same age as my dad, so I kind of view him as my Dad that lives in Japan. He reminds me a lot of my actual dad!

Today we went to the temple, so that's why I didn't email yesterday! So instead of P-Day yesterday, as a district, we went out to the furthest inhabitable place in our area, and did a "No-splits blitz"! It was awesome. We saw a lot of miracles from that. It really was just out in the middle of nowhere! It was beautiful! I'll try and send some pictures home. It's hard to look at nature, and life, and think that God didn't create it all! I started pondering about how Jesus felt as he walked on the Earth, how it felt to walk upon your own creation, and see the beauty in everything. Every sunrise was astounding, because He painted the sky himself. Every petal of a flower had beauty locked in it, because He had woven it. I've realized how I want to try and appreciate the blessing I have been given more. Everything the Lord does for us is to draw out the beautiful potential He knows we have. Just like a flower bud contains a flower, he knows what we contain, and he knows the beauty we hold.

I love you all. I hope you all had fantastic weeks, and a wonderful Thanksgiving. I know I did.

Much love,

Elder Tolen

Having Some Fun on "No Splits Blitz"

Elder Tolen and Elder Burton Having Some Fun

Christmas Caroling in Japan!
Elder Inumaki and Elder Tolen at Church Headquarters near Tokyo Temple

Temple P-Day

Week 51 [60]: Striving Servants

Monday, November 23, 2015

This week was remarkably busy! Where to begin!

One Tuesday we had zone meeting, and then I had the opportunity to go on splits with someone from my MTC group that day! So we spent the rest of the day by the mission home so he could get his retainer! It was a lot of fun! We were able to meet lots of amazing people! And we met a tour guide that said he would give me a tour of Okinawa after my mission! That was a lot of fun!

Then that night, we had to hurry back because Elder Burton and I had the opportunity to go on splits with the Assistants! That was a lot of fun! I was able to spend time with a missionary named Elder Murakami! We then had to run back for our Volleyball night that we had! And our new investigator showed up! It was amazing! He is from the Philippines! He is awesome! He loves sports and video games. So we met him, played volleyball, then taught him about the importance of families, because he is a father himself!

It was fantastic! I was able to learn so much from Elder Murakami. He is a fantastic missionary. He goes home in about two transfers, so I was able to learn so much from his plethora of experience!

After that, the next day was literally chaos. We were supposed to end splits at about 3:30. Just to show you how hectic it was, the splits didn't end until about 8:30. We had to run all over the place! Assistants really have their work cut out for them! It was a blast! I was extremely stressed, but I never had so much fun just running around!

We have some sad news. Our recent convert has decided to stop coming to church, because he really doesn't like Japanese people. Which is interesting, because he is Japanese. But we are trying our best to help him find charity for his fellow man.

Something I've really been pondering this week is the importance of trials. I know everyone knows why we have trials, but that doesn't make it any easier. But recently I received a quote from my father
that I would like to share:

Sacrifice is not just about giving things up. The roots of the English verb sacrifice mean 'to make something holy.' Sacrifice includes taking something that is precious to us and offering it to God, making it holy because we give it to the Holy One. (Voices of Hope by Wendy Ulrich)

The reason a trial is a trial is because in our trials we always have to sacrifice something. That's what makes trials difficult! But when we take those sacrifices and try and consecrate them unto the Lord, that's when a painful trial turns into a wonderful period of growth! I know this is true! Keep striving!

Elder Burton and I came up with a theme for our districts this transfer, and it is "Strive". Strive to be the best you! Love you all!

Elder Tolen
Elder Tolen and Elder Murakami at Volleyball Night

Photos on the Train

Photos on the Train

Service with Elder Burton

Takao District at the Mall

Climbing Mt. Takao with the Ward

Week 50 [59]: Ping Pong Party!

Monday, November 16, 2015

This week has been busy! I am exhausted! First of all, I want to thank you all for the birthday wishes! They mean a lot! I'm 20 now. That's weird. I still feel 18. Anyway. Moving on to the actual important things!

This week, Elder Burton and I had quite the interesting experience! We were handing out English flyers, and a remarkably intoxicated man came up and started talking to Elder Burton. He continued for about an hour, and it got to the point where I ran out of flyers, so I went over to Elder Burton, and by this point, the man was just sitting on the road, in the middle of this train station. I came up, and we just started talking about his life, and before we knew it, we had a whole bunch of people around us! Nobody knew what to do, so eventually we got the man a taxi. A lady that was helping us remarked at how impressed she was with our kindness.

As we were walking away to go home, a man came up. He had been hanging around for a little while, but we were a bit preoccupied so he waited until we were done. Then he asked us if we knew a missionary he had been texting, and it was none other then our beloved zone leaders! We said of course we know them! After talking for a minute, he said how impressed he was by our willingness to serve, and we got his phone number, and he left. After that we called the zone leaders, and wanted to know if they knew this man, or if he was a potential investigator.  It turns out that he was one of their actual investigators, and they had been trying to get in contact with him for a long time, and he had actually just called them after we met him and set up an appointment! I'm so glad that the Lord always puts us in the right place at the right time! It never ceases to amaze me.

Other than that, this week we had game night, and it turned into a birthday party, and we just had a lot of fun. I played lots of ping-pong. I really do love ping-pong. A lot of P.I.s came, and they were able to become friends with the church members! It was a great experience!

Thank you all so much for all that you do! I love you all! I hope you have a great week!

Much love,

Elder Tolen

Out to Dinner with the Elders

Birthday in Takao
Birthday in Takao

P-Day Fun in Takao

Week 49 (58): Fall Is upon Us!

Monday, November 9, 2015

It has been quite the week. I am exhausted. But it is all for a good cause.

This week was transfer day, but that didn't really effect Elder Burton and me, since we are staying together, but we now have two new members of our district, Elder Inumaki, and Sister Hayashi! They are both Japanese, so it is a lot of fun. A great opportunity to work on my Japanese.

On Saturday, Elder Inumaki and I went to get flu shots at the mission home, so we went on splits for that day, and we saw quite the miracle. Elder Burton and I had been housing in this area the day before, and saw a miracle where we were able to teach a lesson to a man, and he became a potential investigator (PI), and Elder Inumaki and I felt prompted to go there again. So we went, and saw little to no success. At first. We almost decided to go to another area, but we decided to go back to a building that we didn't think we were allowed to go into again. And it turns out, we were allowed in! So we started housing, and on the second door we rang, somebody answered. The conversation went as follows:

Me: "Hello! We are missionaries for the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and we are sharing a message about Jesus Christ! Have you ever met missionaries like us before?"
Our New Friend: "No."
Me: "Oh really? We'll have you ever studied about Jesus Christ before?"
Our New Friend: "No, but I'm Buddhist so...."
Me: "Oh really? What sect of Buddhism are you affiliated with?"
Our New Friend: "(A certain sect of Buddhism)."
Elder Inumaki: "Oh wow! That's the one that my Grandfather practices! I really respect his beliefs, and we believe in supporting other people in their beliefs, and we think it is good to know what other
churches believe! I don't love my Grandfather any less because he is Buddhist."
Our New Friend: "Oh. Wait one minute please."
*comes to the door and opens it*
"Okay, please come in!"

And we were able to teach him the entire first lesson right then and there, and he said we could come back and visit any time! It was amazing! He was even in the middle of cooking dinner, so we taught him while he cooked, then tried to give us coffee! It was really funny--we also got to teach him a little about the Word of Wisdom!

In other news, fall is coming, and it is beautiful up here in the mountains of Takao. I think that about wraps it up.... I love you guys, and I hope you have a good week! Hope to hear from each of you soon!

Elder Tolen
Takao District

Takao District

Fall in Takao

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Week 48 [57]: Round Three!

Well! You guessed it! Elder Burton and I got transfer emails again, and we are staying together for a third round! It's crazy! That's really long! At least in this mission! I think it's because we finally found our groove, and now we can take this transfer and run with it! I'm really excited for this next transfer! Elder Burton will be the New district leader as well, so I'm excited to work with him again! As of now, he has been my longest companion. It's awesome!

So now that's out of the way, I'll go into the weekly report. So this week, to start everything, I had the opportunity to go on splits with Elder Cook, my amazing zone leader, and we were able to find a lot of new PIs, and two that are even on their way to becoming investigators. Elder Cook is really an amazing missionary, and it is so fun to work with him, because he just can be friends and share the gospel with anyone! It is always a pleasure to work with him! I'm really sad though, because he is transferring out of my zone... But he is actually going to go be companions with my dad, Elder Livingston! That should be a lot of fun. I know they will see a lot of miracles.

On Wednesday we had a Halloween party at the church, and two of the PIs Elder Cook and I found came! And they brought another friend! They are college students here in Takao, so it was really a fantastic opportunity to meet them again, and we actually set up another appointment to meet with them and go eat some food, so two days later, we did! And we talked about prayer with them, and they loved it! One of them even said, "Wow, I want to be a missionary!" and the other said that we have really changed his image of church. That was a really cool experience. It's amazing how much "you" can accomplish when you just give yourself up to the Lord.

I love you guys! Have a fantastic week!

Elder Tolen!
Family Home Evening

District P-Day

Monday, October 26, 2015

Week 47 [56]: Halloween Party!

Wow! Where to begin!  This week has been full of fun! And I have no time to explain everything that we did! Ha! So I'll do my best!

This last Saturday, we had a Halloween party at a place where we always volunteer, so we were invited, so we got to go, get kind of dressed up, and help run this Halloween party! It was so fun! There were also a whole bunch of college students, so we actually got three new P.I.s from it! That was also a lot of fun! I'll post a picture of all of the volunteers.

On Wednesday
I had the opportunity to go on splits with another member in my district named Elder Nakamoto. He is from Hawaii. So it was a lot of fun! We found a really awesome park, and we actually all went to the park today and just had a fun P-day. It was really cool; we just went and played sports, and rode down a giant slide. It was a blast.

Other than that, a Elder Burton and I have just been focusing on finding. Lots of finding! I actually was able to see a pretty amazing miracle this week. We were handing out English flyers, and a man who had probably had a little bit too much to drink came up to me and started talking about Mormons, then he freaked out because he wanted to get on a train that was leaving, but he missed it, so he sat down and said, "Well, I guess I missed it. Well. Are you going to teach me or not?" so I taught a lesson right there, and then he dashed off to his train. Then immediately after that a Korean guy came up and started telling me how Mormon missionaries taught him English in America. So he really liked talking to missionaries, and he believed in God, but he started talking about how his wife doesn't, and she was happy, but he wanted to know how to get someone who was happy and content to believe in God, so he asked me how. I had no answer, then all of a sudden the thought came to tell him to talk about the after life. So I mentioned that, and he said,"Wow. I've never talked about that with her.... I'll do that tonight! Thanks!" That was truly Divine intervention. "It will be given unto in the very hour." That has never been more true. The Lord will always help you as long as you do your part!

I love you all!

Elder Tolen
Sports Day at the Park

Long Slide at the Park

Halloween Party

Week 46 [55]: Zone Blitz!

The title basically says it all! This last week we had a zone blitz! And it was such a success! I had never done a zone blitz before, so I had no idea what to expect! But I loved it!

First, I went with a missionary named Elder Aoki! I lived in the same apartment with him while I served in Tama, so it was cool experience to be able to work with him again. He is so good at teaching. We saw lots of miracles. We talked to everyone that we saw, and were able to teach almost everyone we stopped! It was fantastic. It's amazing how many prepared people are actually in your path. Every single person you meet in a day is not by chance. They all have some sort of purpose. And it's up to you to figure out their purpose! That's why the Lord put them there!

After that I had the chance to work with one more Elder named Elder Tipene. He is from New Zealand. It was a lot of fun to be able to work with him as well. We met these two guys that were really interested in English! And, at the end of our contact, they asked to take a picture with us. So that was a lot of fun. They said if they ever went to New Zealand or America, they want us to give them a tour! That was really interesting.

Other than that, we had a conference with a Elder Yamashita of the Seventy. That was fantastic. Then we just had meetings every day. So that was a great experience as well. We have had so many early mornings though I think I'm going to pass out. I've lost a lot of sleep this week.

This email is relatively short. Not much time to talk.. So. Yeah! I love you guys! I hope you all have a great week!

Elder Tolen
Zone Blitz!

Origami Birds for Elder Kinjo's Birthday

Monday, October 12, 2015

Week 45 [54]: Another Baptism!

Monday, October 12, 2015

I'm going to cut right to the chase! We had a baptism yesterday! It was so amazing! He [the new convert] was so prepared!

Elder Burton had the opportunity to baptize him! I was so happy for him. It was the first time he's gotten to baptize someone, and he killed it! It was awesome!

Other than that, not much happened. Just lots of meetings, interviews, and traveling! It was a lot of fun.

We finally got to watch General Conference! And it was amazing! I learned so much! I do miss watching it at home though; sitting in metal chairs for 6 hours in one day is not quite what you would call comfortable! But much revelation was received nonetheless!

Probably my favorite thing that I learned this conference was from President Nelson. Interesting right? The thing that stuck out to me the most was something that was supposed to be directed to the sisters! I'll quote it because that is easier for me to do:

 [President Nelson:] Fifty-eight years ago I was asked to operate upon a little girl, gravely ill from congenital heart disease. Her older brother had previously died of a similar condition. Her parents pleaded for help. I was not optimistic about the outcome but vowed to do all in my power to save her life. Despite my best efforts, the child died. Later, the same parents brought another daughter to me, then just 16 months old, also born with a malformed heart. Again, at their request, I performed an operation. This child also died. This third heartbreaking loss in one family literally undid me.

I went home grief stricken. I threw myself upon our living room floor and cried all night long. Dantzel stayed by my side, listening as I repeatedly declared that I would never perform another heart operation. Then, around 5:00 in the morning, Dantzel looked at me and lovingly asked, “Are you finished crying? Then get dressed. Go back to the lab. Go to work! You need to learn more. If you quit now, others will have to painfully learn what you already know.”

President Nelson's wife's counsel really struck me. Recently I've been pondering about trials, since, as a missionary, they come in abundance, and this was an answer to my prayers. I've always known why trials are important, but I never looked at them from a third-person perspective. I've always viewed trials as being for our own personal gain, when, in reality, they are in order to help others as well. Sometimes in the midst of our suffering we try to find out how we can benefit from the trial, instead of how we can help someone else benefit because of our trial! If we choose to give up, someone else might have to suffer through what we just suffered. It brought to mind a quote by someone you probably know:

"I hated every minute of training, but I said, 'Don’t quit'. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion."  -Muhammad Ali

The trials are our training. Suffer them now, and live the rest of your life as a champion. You only get as much out of a trial as you choose. It's completely up to you!

Well. I just want you all to know that I love you, and I hope you all have a fantastic week!

Elder Tolen
Takao District (Minus Elder Burton)!

Week 44 [53]: Crossing the Year Mark

Monday, October 5, 2015

Well! This week there isn't too much to talk about..... So this email will be kind of short!

We have just been so busy trying to find people, and teaching our new friend that I talked about in my last email! He is getting baptized a week from today! How amazing is that. I've never seen someone more prepared. He is so ready. We just have to make sure that his testimony is strong! Because Satan always works his hardest right before the baptism. He really doesn't like it when someone enters the fold of Christ. 

I hit my year mark this week. That was full of different emotions. I don't really know how I feel about it yet. It is sad, and happy? I'm not sure. Never felt like this before.

So tomorrow is Zone Meeting, and I'm going to be singing a solo of a rendition of "Where Can I Turn For Peace," which I hope will turn out alright, and then, I am going to give a training to the entire Zone. That will be interesting. I have never given a training, and it has been a year. So I'm excited. I hope everything goes well. 

Today I went to Costco with some of my missionary friends, and I finally got to meet one of my EFY friend's best friends! I was really excited, because I exchanged a few emails with him before he came to the mission, and I was really excited to meet him! His name is Elder Carrasco! It was a blast. 

Last week, my father shared a story with me about handling problems the way the Lord would, and at the time I didn't understand it, but I had an experience this week that helped me understand! I would like to share that experience (I'm just copying and pasting a portion of the letter that I wrote to my dad, in the interest of time):

This week, my companion and I were handing out flyers for English class in front of a train station, where we had done on many occasions prior. An old man came up to us and started getting very loud and mad at us. He told us that we were not allowed to do that here, and he was going to call the cops.
As you know, before the mission, I was very quick to rush in with a hot head. So as this man was yelling at my companion, I walked up behind him. As I walked I was imagining what I could do. What if it turned violent? I didn't want to deal with that. And then I remembered your email.

I put my hand on this man's shoulder and looked him in the eyes, and just said, "I'm very sorry we did this. We did not know it was against the rules. Please forgive us," then bowed, as per Japanese culture.

The change in this man was night and day. He stopped yelling and saying awful things, and said, "It's okay; please just be careful. I'm just going to tell you this one time." So we said goodnight and left.

I don't know what came over me, because there would be no way that I could do something like that before the mission. But I just wanted to thank you for sharing that message, so that the Lord could bring it to my remembrance when I needed it most. 

I just want you to know that I love you all. Think about you every day. I hope you all have a fantastic week!

Elder Tolen
Elder Tolen and Elder Currasco at Costco

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Week 43 [52]: Adventure Is Out There!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Greetings! I'm short on time and I have a lot to say! Forgive any grammatical mistakes; I'll try and fix as many as I can!

I'm going to start this week off with probably one of the biggest miracles I've seen on my mission. Elder Burton and I have been trying to find a theme for this transfer, some sort of way we could work more effectively and more inspired. So we came to a decision. We decided, simply, that we were going to be exactly obedient. I know many of you might say, "You weren't being obedient before?" and my response to that is, I was being obedient before! But I guess sometimes it was more out of duty than out of love. So Elder Burton and I decided that we were going to completely consecrate ourselves to the Lord. So, we made this decision, and continued on. The VERY next day, while we were at a sports night with some members, we received an email from a man saying (this isn't an exact quote, but bear with me), "Hello! I live around your church, and I pass it every day. I've always wondered what you believe, and I have done some research on your religion, and I've wanted to talk to you for a long time, but I never had the courage, but for some reason, now it's different. I finally feel like I have the courage to talk to you. I want to meet with you and learn more about your religion, and eventually join, and maybe serve a mission myself."

Now, if you are like me, you see this, and you might think,"Wow, this is too good to be true. Nobody is that prepared!" But let me tell you, it is. We've already met with him twice, and we are meeting him again tonight, and he has told us that he will get baptized. We haven't set a date with him yet, because he says he would like to finish the Book of Mormon first. It is amazing. I've had my testimony strengthened so much about the importance of obedience. The Lord will truly bless us as long as we exercise our faith! I know with all my heart that this is true!

I'm out of time! I love you all! I'll talk to you next week!

Elder Tolen
The Day Elder Burton and Elder Tolen Got Lost in the Mountains!

Week 42 [51]: Baptism! and Transfers!

September 21, 2015

So! As the title says, we had the baptism! It was such an amazing experience! I had never performed a baptism before so that was an interesting, and very spiritual experience. I'm so grateful that I got the opportunity to play a part in that.

So this week we got transfer emails! And! Nothing is happening! Elder Burton and I are staying the same! I get to have another fantastic transfer with this Elder! We will be able to enjoy all the fruits of our labors from this last transfer! I'm very excited.

Big news about our Less-Active that we have been teaching! He had an interview with the bishop, and he is starting to change his life! He told us that he is starting to feel the Spirit again, and he is beginning to find hope. It is almost unbelievable hearing that from a man that was so devoid of hope when I first got here he wouldn't even let us enter his house. The Gospel truly can change people. It will change our lives, and I know that because I have seen it in my very own life.

In other news, we had to go back to the Clinic for my face, which is kind of far away, so that was fun. It took an hour to get there, and we sat in the waiting room for a couple of minutes, walked into the doctor's office, she said about three sentences to me, and we walked out literally three minutes later, then began the trek home. Needless to say it was awesome! We got some really amazing contacts on the trains.

This past week I've been trying to follow every single prompting  have, and I have seen so many miracles recently! I have found that as I show the Lord that I'm willing to act, he will put more people in my path to teach. For example, we were coming home from a zone meeting, and I sat down next to this man on the train and I greeted him, and tried to start a conversation with him, but he stood up and walked away. But I had prayed before and I knew I was sitting where I was supposed to, so I just waited. And almost immediately after he left, another man sat down in the exact same spot he was sitting, and we were able to have a fantastic conversation about the Gospel. I testify that as we show the Lord our willingness to follow His will, He will always prepare a way for us.

I love you all! I'll talk to you all next week!

Elder Tolen

District Lunch

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Week 41 [50]: The Apocolypse Is Nigh!

September 14, 2015

The title pretty much says it all! This last week has been crazy! So much stuff happening everywhere! It's a party! This week in Japan there have been earthquakes, landslides, typhoons, floods, and even volcanos erupting! Not to mention the weird disease I obtained on my face, which required a trip to the doctor! So needless to say, it has been quite a unique week.

But that doesn't mean we did not see miracles!!! Let's dive right in, shall we?

I'll start off with the miracle we were able to witness today! It involves a less-active we've been teaching. He is currently suffering from depression, and has had a lot of trials in his life, but Elder Burton and I have  been working very hard with him. We have not been seeing to much progress, but he wants to obtain hope more than anything! So in our last lesson when he told us that, I decided I needed to be more bold with him, because he has told us this before, and we tell him he needs to gain faith, and then he tells us, "Well I already have faith. I used to be a Stake President. I already believe everything." So, when I heard him say it this time, I don't know what changed, but I knew I would have to be a little bit more bold than I usually like being. So, I looked him in the eyes and said,"If you want hope, you need faith, and faith is a principle of action. If you really want to gain hope, what are you willing to do for it?" That's more or less the exact quote. It happened almost a week ago, so I forget exact phrases. Then the even more surprising part happened. Nothing. His attitude didn't change, he just continued talking, but I knew I said what I needed to say, and I witness the proof today.

Today, we received a call from him, and he said, "Thank you so much for always believing in me. I'm going to call the bishop right after this and set up an interview with him. Thank you for the advice." I have never been happier on a phone call. That made my life. My companion just started jumping around in the apartment! Literally! It was amazing.

Another miracle this week. We have been teaching a man who only wants to learn about the Gospel for educational purposes. Or so he said. He told us right from the beginning when we first met him that there was no way God existed. And slowly but surely I have witnessed this man change. He's not there yet, but he is on his way. Yesterday, during our lesson (we've been meeting with him for about 2 months now, every Sunday), he told us, if there is a God, I would want it to be a God like the one you are talking about right now. Coming from a man who said God could never exist, so it doesn't matter what He's like, this was a pretty big change.

This next Saturday I have to opportunity to baptize the sisters' investigator! So that is really exciting! It will be the first time I've baptized someone!

Well! That about wraps it up this week! Transfer emails are this Saturday, so I might have some big news next week! I love you all!
Elder Tolen
A Group of Kids Who Wanted to Play with Us!

Week 40 [49]: Every Day Is a Miracle!

September 7, 2015

Hello! This week wasn't too packed, just had lots of time to go out and work, but I'll tell you about a few of the interesting things that we were blessed to see this week!

So yesterday, we had dinner at a members house! It was awesome! Want to know what made it even more awesome? Their youngest daughter is a professional percussionist! And she is fantastic at marimba. Well, fantastic doesn't really do it justice. At an international competition, she placed third. In the world. So she is pretty good. And she even performed for us! It was so cool! Before that, they had me play snare drum for a little while, so that was a blast. We were able to talk about lots of cool drum stuff. I doubt you guys would understand. It's just drum stuff. It was way cool!

Another cool miracle we were able to see this week! We were housing, and, after finding a giant caterpillar that threw up like a billion times all over the place as a form of self-defense, we started knocking some doors, and we were seeing zero success. After about 30 doors getting slammed in our faces, we decided to pray before we started the next floor. We thought we would kind of "dedicate" the floor for missionary work.


It worked.

The second door we knocked, a guy came out and was one of the friendliest people I have ever met! He was so happy to see us, and he loved listening to the Gospel. He told us if we ever needed to go to the bathroom, and we were in the area, he said we could come use his bathroom. That was the first time I have even been told that. So that was really interesting. He told us to come back whenever. So that was a great way to end the day. We talked to him for an hour, and by the time we finished, we had another appointment we had to go to. It was awesome to see that.

I know that if we continually prove to the Lord our willingness to follow His will, He will lead us to where we need to be. He will bless us beyond our comprehension. I love you all; have a fantastic week!

Elder Tolen

The Family with the Percussionist Daughter

Photo from the Sister's Baptism

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Week 39 [48]: Summer Festival

This week was so busy! It was insane! First, it started off by me going on Splits with my zone leader, Elder Seiboch! That was a blast! We didn't get to do much proselyting because he had to do a baptismal interview for an area about an hour away by train, but I was able to learn a lot from him! After that, an investigator that has been in the Philippines for the past month came back! He is 16, and is completely fluent in English. It's awesome! He is such a great kid; he wants to spend all day with us, so we just take him with us while we do missionary work! And it's great, because he isn't Mormon, but loves to help people, and help them find the joys that come from knowing that there is a God! It's a blast!

After that, we had a Summer Festival! It was a blast! We do volunteer work for this one place, and they invited us to help them! So we were able to volunteer at the Summer Festival! It was so much fun! I'll be sure to include pictures! After that, we had a lesson with one of our investigators! Usually I haven't been there to teach him before, because we like to have a Japanese Elder there, because he uses really hard Japanese, but we couldn't do it this time, so the two American Elders decided to take on the challenge! And it was so amazing! It was a very successful lesson! Usually, he is very against hearing anything that we have to say, because he has gotten into a lot of "Anti-Mormon" material, so I don't know what it was, but I was able to show him that I was willing to hear him out, so he was willing to listen to us! And now he is reading the Book of Mormon! It is so great! I don't know what it is, but I'm just way happy! Takao is such a great area, and I've already seen so many miracle from finding and teaching. It's given me a boost to continue to push hard! It's the best!

Well, I've had some questions that were wondering what my Daily Grind is like, so I figured I would tell you my schedule!

6:30: Arise and Shine!
6:30-7:00: Get fit! Exercise!
7:00-8:00: Prepare for the day!
8:00-9:00: Personal Study! I've been studying "Charity" recently. It's a great topic. I would highly recommend it.
9:00-10:00: Companion Study!
10:00-11:00: Language Study! Gotta learn that Japanese.
11:00-12:00: Lunch!
12:00-9:00: This part of the day is always changing! But usually involves teaching, and or finding.

Dad! The Japanese is coming great! It's definitely been hard, but it's coming! A member told me the other day that I have the most Japanese-sounding Japanese out of any not-Japanese missionary he has ever met. So that was pretty nice. It still has its challenges, but it is definitely getting better. My current companion's Japanese is great! He is way good!  My current companion is Elder Burton! He is from Lehi! He is 21, and went to BYU for a while, and he is pretty good at a video game called "League of Legends." He is way good at soccer too! So that's a lot of fun! He is really good at making jokes in Japanese, but his puns in English are also quite good. He is a great guy! I like him a lot.

Mom! I got the package! Thank you! I love me some good old Mac and Cheese. You don't really need to send a box [an empty package with the instructions; I (mom) empty the boxes into individual baggies to save weight and space when I ship)]. I know how to make it better than I know how to speak Japanese. :) haha.

Well, I would like to end on a more spiritual note.

As I said before, I am currently studying Charity. So, to do that, I followed Elder Bednar's counsel. I took a soft cover copy of the Book of Mormon, wrote my question about Charity, color coded my marks so I know why I marked things, then I just started going. I've been doing this for about a week. And I'm at about 1 Nephi 3. I have found something I can relate to Charity in almost every verse of scripture that I have read. The thing that has stuck out to me the most is how charitable the Lord has been to us. All of the things he has prepared just for each of us, individually. He took to the time to plan out each and every one of our lives, with a very particular sense to detail. "If you ever feel alone, or unloved, you never are... The Lord has promised Angles on your left and on your right to bear you up, and the Lord always keeps his word." -President Henry B. Eyring

I love you guys! I think about you every day! I pray for you every single night! I hope you all have a great week!


Elder Tolen
Elder Tolen and Elder Burton at the Summer Festival
Elder Tolen and Elder Burton at the Summer Festival

Stake Conference Photo

Photos in a Cool Park in Hachioji

A Cool Park in Hachioji

Week 38 [47]: Lots of Lessons, and Rugby Fun!

Hello! I was playing Rugby all day, and lost track of time! By the way, if you haven't played Rugby before, do it! It is so fun! I'll talk about the miracle that came from that later!

This week was hot! But not as hot as it has been! That was really nice, except it has been raining a decent amount!

This week, we had an amazing experience. We had a day that we had no lessons planned, so we were kind of sad about that. But we woke up that morning and got up a little early so we could go to seminary. At seminary, we received a call from a less-active man whom we called the night before, telling us to come over that day. After that, we did a lesson with a member, then after lunch we went back to call some people. So we called a few people in our area book without any success, but then we called this one man who told us to come over as soon as we could, so of course we booked it over there. We got there, and sat down, and before we could even introduce ourselves, he dove right in with his questions about Jesus Christ! It was fantastic. Then we booked it over to our less-active's house, and had another fantastic lesson.

We got there, and he was acting like he didn't really want to have us around, but I received revelation that I needed to share a very specific video called, "The Savior Wants to Forgive, " so I did. And by the time the video ended, he was almost in tears. And he told us, "Please help me find hope." So we promised him we would always be there, and he thanked us, and we left. The Spirit was so strong in his home when we left. I'm excited to work with him.

So today while playing Rugby, we saw three guys just staring at us, and we asked them if they wanted to play, and they were elated! We played with them, and they said they would come again!

Sorry! I'm out of time, and next week is temple P-day, so my emails might be a bit short then too, but it doesn't mean I love you any less! Keep being amazing! By the way,  technically I live in a city called "Hachiouji", but the ward is the "Takao Ward." I live by a train station called "Hazama." I love you guys!

Elder Tolen
P-Day Rugby Fun in Hachioji

Monday, August 17, 2015

Week 37 [46]: Working in Takao!

Hello everybody!

This is my first P-day in Takao! It has been a blast out here so far! I'm literally put in the middle of nowhere. I love serving in really rural areas! I find people are more willing to talk to you out in these areas. Right now, I'm in a weird trio, because the group of missionaries going home this last transfer was so big that they had to split them in half, so half of them leave this Wednesday. So I'm with Elder Suzuki! I don't know if you remember him, but he was in my same apartment in Hodogaya with me. I'm so glad to see him again! He was always so funny!

The Takao ward is amazing! It is full of returned missionaries, so they are so helpful! We are actually going to play soccer and volleyball with a group of them soon. It will be a ball!

Not too much has happened this week. We have been really busy trying to help Elder Suzuki get ready to leave, so that has been a lot of fun. I came into this area, and we had like no investigators, so this transfer we are going to do a lot of finding and change that! We have already done a ton of finding in the time that I've been here and had a few potential investigators! So we will keep working and trying to accomplish what the Lord needs us to do here.

A miracle that happened this week! We have a potential investigator that loves to play ping-pong, and I do as well, so at our weekly game night, we dueled for a good hour-and-a-half, and after a close game, I came out victorious! I think I must have earned his respect, because he immediately came up to me after and said, "What's the purpose of our lives? Why do we exist?" And so I dove right into the plan of salvation, and taught him for a good 20 minutes about why we exist. And at the end he smiled and a sense of relief came to his voice. And he thanked me, then went home. So I was kind of surprised by that. I hope I was able to answer his question, because I felt the Spirit testifying through me.

I love you all!

Elder Tolen
Some of the Takao Ward
First District Meeting in Takao

Last P-Day in Tama

Monday, August 10, 2015

Week 36 [45]: Lions Among Sheep

Hello! I forgot to tell everyone that this week we had transfer emails! So! I'll cut right to the chase! I'm getting transferred! I'm going to an area called Takao. My new companion is named Elder Burton, and he is a transfer 10 missionary. So that will be a blast! I'm way excited to get this opportunity to serve out in Takao.

In other news, we have some sad news about our Iranian investigator. So, because his family is very opposed to him getting baptized, and if he gets baptized he will lose literally all of his money due to some reasons that are directly related to his family, he had to be interviewed by the Mission President. So after the interview, the Mission President told us he cannot be baptized at this point in time. It was very sad to hear that, but we are basically to treat him like a non-baptized member. So that will be a lot of fun. This man wanted baptism more than anything. So it was really hard to see that, but he came out of that interview with a smile on his face. This man is truly the definition of love and charity. He is always trying to serve other people in a country where he doesn't even know the language. He hands out Books of Mormon on the daily. He is truly a wonderful example to me in my life, so that's why I'm not worried about him. I know everything will work out for him.

In other news! I had a really interesting experience last night! I was on splits with my District Leader, Elder Dana, and we had just finished teaching an awesome lesson on the road, and we were walking home, and I just felt ecstatic! I was just so charged up on feeling the Spirit! We had had such an amazing day of work, I was exhausted, and I felt great! So we were on our way home, and this girl that was passed out because she had had a little bit too much to drink was getting carried out of this club, and I was a little confused, so I had a little bit of an interesting look on my face, and because of that, I think someone thought I was judging them, because from behind me I just heard a very angry and stern, "Hey man what's up? You got a problem?" in perfect English. So I just turned around and said, "Hey, how's it going?" Once I turned around I realized I was facing a very strong Japanese man who was much bigger than I. I think he was a bouncer for this club, but for some reason, that didn't really faze me, and I didn't even realize he was trying to start something with me. But the second I turned around and locked eyes with him, his eyes went wide and he apologized and walked off. I looked at Elder Dana, and he quoted a scripture, stating, "And they will go as lions among the sheep." It is very reassuring to know that the Lord will always protect us from danger. He is always looking out for us, and he has not forgotten us. "(For the Lord thy God is a merciful God;) He will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which He sware unto  them" (Deuteronomy 4:31).

I love you all lots! We saw lots of miracles today! So I'm emailing a little bit late... I'm sorry! I promise I'll do better next week!

Love you!

Elder Tolen

Tama District Meeting in 100-Degree Heat!
Elder Tolen's Last Week in the Tama Ward

Elder Tolen and Elder Parberry with a Book of Mormon...and a Giant Moth?

Friday, August 7, 2015

Week 35 [44]: Dripped Til We Dropped!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Well, if you look at the subject, you will basically understand how this week went. I have never had to consume so much water in all of my life. Seriously. It was, and still is, a ball.

So I have news! Our Iranian [Iraqi?] investigator is progressing so well, that we are going to move his baptismal date up! The problem: because he is from Iraq, if he gets baptized and goes home, he could die. So our Mission President is going to be interviewing him this Saturday to make sure this is really what he wants to do. It is definitely an experience I never thought I would have on my mission. So there is that. We have been with him almost every day this week, so most of the pictures I'm going to send will have him and our other Japanese investigator in them.

Some more news...We seem to have lost contact with our Filipino investigator who was going to be baptized soon. So that is troublesome. We are trying everything we can to get back in contact with him.... But we don't know what to do at this point, so we will just pray that he will come back!

Yesterday we went to a testimony meeting where all of the missionaries that are leaving in a week gave their dying testimonies and it was great! What was even better was, halfway through the meeting, a Japanese man sat down next to me. The entire meeting was being held in English. So guess who got their first experience translating? You guessed it! Me! It was a ball! I messed up a ton, but there was one part when the Mission President was speaking, and words were just flowing into my mouth. It was one of the most interesting sensations. I felt the Spirit so strongly during that meeting that I almost started crying while I was translating for this man, and he almost did to. It was an amazing spiritual experience. I just want you guys to know that the Lord will always be there for you, and he will always lift you up. As long as you take that first step, he will raise your other foot behind you and help you keep pressing forward. He doesn't give us trials to hurt us; like Lehi told Jacob prior to his passing, "Nevertheless, Jacob, my firstborn in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain."

I love you all so much; thank you for all of the support. If you have doubts, or you feel like God isn't there, get on your knees and pray. Because if you honestly pray, you will realize how close to you God actually is. Keep pushing forward!

Much love,

Elder Tolen
Elder Tolen and Elder Parberry at the church with the Iraqi Investigator

Enjoying Cheesecake Made by a Member

Week 34 [43]: Cooking Lessons and Repentance

Tuesday, July 28 2015

This week we have been so busy! This week was Temple P-Day, so that's why I'm a little bit late.

Right now we have two investigators getting ready to be baptized, so we are trying to prepare them, and we also have a ton of other investigators that were trying to help bring unto Christ! So it is quite the party! I've never been so busy!

This week, we had a fun meal with our Iranian [Iraqi?] investigator. He said he was going to teach us how to cook, and he told us to bring about 10 people. So we had everything lined up, but once we got there, only 5 of us showed up. He was kind of upset, because we promise him 10 people. So I said a quick and very fervent prayer that everything would work out. We felt prompted to call some people, and so we did! Soon after, after a head count, we got exactly 10 people to come! He was so excited! Then, after that, we taught him a great lesson on repentance, and we were able to relate it to our experience we had at trying to get people to come to the meal! It was one of the best lessons I've ever taught. This man wants to be baptized so bad, we might be moving his baptismal date up about a month--so in about two weeks! That's crazy. I've never met someone so prepared. It is such an amazing blessing to be able to watch this man change.

This week we also had a ping-pong party with the members, and that was a blast. It was fun to be able to continue to strengthen my relationship with the members. That about wraps it up this week. I love you guys! Sorry for the short email; we've got a lot of cleaning to do today! We're finally moving over from our old apartment to a new apartment! So that will be nice!

Keep being awesome! If you have any questions, feel free to email me!

Elder Tolen
Sharing the Gospel with Every Creature...Including a Cat Statue
Posing with a Strange Saxaphone Statue

Looking Out over Tama
Picturesque Scene Overlooking Tama