Elder Tolen's Transfer History

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


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Week 8: Some Lessons Are Hard to Learn

This was an amazing week. There were a lot of ups and downs, but that is expected in the life of a missionary.

So this week, on Saturday after District Meeting, the Zone leaders were leaving, and as they were walking out this guy on his bike rides up and starts talking to them, and says he's looking for his friend. They keep talking, and eventually I go out there, and he was looking for a missionary that left the area almost a year ago. He was super nice, and he really wanted to learn English because he wants to travel, so Elder Livingston and I took him into the church and started to teach him the most basic English, like self-introductions, and things of that sort. It was going really well, then we just started talking about tattoos, because he has a lot, and he got way depressed. I found out that in Japan it is a huge taboo to have tattoos. Usually only people in the Mafia or in gangs have them, so he has had a lot of hard times in his life because of it, and for some reason the Spirit told us to start talking about repentance. We asked him if he feels guilty for anything that he has done in the past, and he gave us a very stong yes. By this point his head was in his hands.

Then, somehow, I was able to speak fluent Japanese. I told him, "We all make mistakes, but through repentance we can all be made pure and clean." The word for pure or clean in Japanese is "kiyoi." After that he sat up and just said, "I can become clean?" It was one of the most spiritual lessons I've ever taught. The lesson finished and it was amazing. We tried to put his phone number in our phone, but it was already there, because the Elder that he had met a year ago had put him in. So we parted ways and I couldn't stop thinking of how amazing that was.

We also had a lesson with one of our other investigators about the life before we came to this world, and that lesson was amazing. After that we had sports night, where I continued to hone my Ping Pong skills, and went back to the apartment.

After we got back, Elder Suzuki, the new elder in our apartment, called Elder Livingston into a room so he could talk to him. It turns out, Elder Suzuki's companion in the MTC was the Elder who met him [the tattooed investigator] last year, and Elder Suzuki said that this man was more ready for baptism than anyone else in Japan. He hates alcohol, hates drugs, and wants to quit smoking. He has also had some amazing experiences that I don't know about. But Elder Suzuki said these things to Elder Livingston, and Elder Livingston just froze. He sat in silence for a minute and after a bit, he told Elder Suzuki that he wants him to teach him. That was really hard for me. I was really sad, because I had put everything I had into that lesson, and I wasn't going to be able to teach him anymore. But I also learned that I was a stepping stone for him. He needed that lesson, and so did I. The Lord needed me for that one lesson. But he needs the other Elders too. I was sad to have to pass him to the other Elders, but I also know that's what he needs to come closer to Christ. I had never seen anyone more prepared for baptism, so that made it especially hard, but I'm glad I was there to help prepare the way for him.

We also met our Canadian again this week, and he is doing amazing. He is reading the Book of Mormon like crazy. He told us he read it for 3 hours the other day, but he has some different beliefs, but I love teaching. I still find it ironic that the first person I actually found that wasn't already an investigator when I got here is a Canadian, in the middle of Japan. I think the Lord has a great sense of humor sometimes. We have been meeting him a lot more often this week, and he continues to learn, and it is great!

Well I hope you guys are all doing well. This week was another amazing week that I had the chance to experience. I just want you guys to know that life will get hard. That's a fact. I know that with all my heart, but God is there. He's cheering you on. He just needs you to hold on just a bit longer. You're almost there, just hold on a bit longer. I love you all--keep being amazing.
Elder Tolen
Another photo from the ward mochitsuki activity (New Year's rice pounding tradition)
From the ward mochitsuki--this little guy was such a hard worker!
Enjoying some food at a ward party
Food with an investigator at a ward party

The newest elder in the apartment: Elder Suzuki

Elder Suzuki ...and an onion?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Week 7: The Return of the Canadian, and Kicking Cans

An Interesting Local Statue, Providing Some Entertainment for Elder Tolen

This week was way fun. Let's see. So to start things off, I'll just tell about a story that I had this week.

So Elder Livingston and I were walking to go do some "housing" around a train station, when we passed a park with a bunch of 13-year-olds playing soccer. They were playing a weird 4-square-esque game, but with a soccer ball, and you could only use your feet. We knew we had to go play, so we went. It was super awkward at first. The kids didn't think we could speak any Japanese, even though we asked if we could play IN Japanese, but they just sat around and were saying things like, "What do we do with them? We can't let them play!" Eventually they just told whoever wasn't in the square that they had to kick the ball back and forth with us. That went on for about 30 minutes, and then they took a break. None of them really talked to us, but after a while, we went back to doing what we were doing.

Eventually they were like, "Hey! Let's play a game!" So we were like "Yeah!" So we got split into teams. It was really funny. They asked where I came from so I said, "Utah. Just kidding, I'm actually Japanese." Then I let that sit for a second before saying, "Just kidding." They didn't get it at first, but then one of them said, in English, "Oh! American joke! Hahaha!" So they all started laughing. It was funny. After a while of playing the game, they were like, "Alright! Half-time!" So we took a break. I think they were all going easy on me. I'm terrible at soccer. But soon they were like, "Hey, let's go play this game called Kick the Can!" It wasn't actually called that, but it was the exact same game. So we went and did that. I have never felt so strange, yet so normal at the same time.  When else, besides missionary work, would it be socially acceptable for two 19-year-old young men to play Kick the Can in a park with a group of 13 year old kids? After that, we invited all of them to church, but they said they had a soccer game. But those kids when they are older will always remember the time two white guys from the Mormon church came and played soccer with them, and maybe when they are older, they will be more willing to hear the Missionaries. That was amazing--so fun!

Then on Sunday, remember that Canadian guy I said we met at the train station [see last week's post]? We found him again! It was crazy! We walked out of church, and he just came up and was like, "Hey! I was just coming to find you guys!" The crazy thing is, we had just gotten out of Ward Council, and it went way long. If we hadn't gotten out exactly when we did, we wouldn't have been able to find him! It was awesome! So we start talking and he's like, "Is it alright if I walk with you guys?" So we were like, "Sure!" So we just started walking. Then we started talking about his beliefs, and baptism was brought up so I was like, "Well, do you want to be baptized?" So he said, "You know, I wouldn't mind being baptized a Mormon. But I don't think I would be a very good one, Hahahaha!" So we all laughed, and we just kept walking and talking. We actually did this for about 3 hours. It was awesome! Afterwards, we walked him to the train station and he was like, "Well, I want to go see the Hobbit part 3 tonight--you guys want to come?" I almost cried, I wanted to so bad, but the missionary part of me was like, No way, Jose.

But before we left, we gave him a Book of Mormon, and asked him if he would read it, and pray about it, and he said yes! As we were walking away, he was reading it. I was so happy. We finally got his phone number so we can meet again. He is such a cool guy, I wish I had a picture with him. Next time we meet I'll be sure to grab a picture with him.

So today for P-Day, Elder Livingston and I went to a Japanese temple, and got a lot of amazing pictures.  I'll be sure to send them. President Wada ended up not being able to meet our group for interviews this week, so our interviews won't be until February. Also, next week is Temple Tuesday, so I won't be writing until Tuesday instead of Monday. I love you guys! I hope you all are doing well! Until next week!

Elder Tolen

Photos:  In Japan, they have parties to celebrate the birthday of everyone who turns 20 during the year. This was one of the ward members in her party attire--what a stunning kimono!  Elder Tolen and Elder Livingston decided to just have some fun with a strange statue they found (above). They caught a shot of the bullet train as it rushed beneath a bridge they were on (I asked Zach not to lean over bridges where bullet trains were rushing past any more...). The other two are steps leading up to a temple/shrine, and the Japanese temple itself that Elder Tolen and Elder Livingston visited on p-day. Zach didn't remember the name of it.

A Ward Member in Her 20th Birthday Kimono
The Bullet Train on Its Way Through the City
Stairs Leading Up to the Japanese Temple that Elder Tolen and Elder Livingston Visited on P-Day

Beautiful Japanese Temple

Week 6: A Canadian and a Hand Towel (The Miracles Keep on Coming!)

The "Dream Team" of Elder Tolen and Elder Livingston stays together in Hodogaya through transfers!

Hello! This week was way intense. Let start things off with a miracle!

So, we were doing some contacting over the phone, and I'm still not very good at Japanese. But we were going through the list of all of the potential investigators, or people who were interested enough to give us their phone number so that we could contact them again, and it was my turn to talk. So I call the next guy and he answers, so I just go with what I know how to say.

"Hi, is this ......-san?"
"Perfect! My name is Elder Tolen, and I'm a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints! Have you ever met with missionaries before?"
"Oh. No I have not."
"Oh... Well have you ever heard of them?"
"Okay.... Have you ever been to English class?"

It was at this point that I look at Elder Livingston and say in a slightly panicked voice, "Hey, What do I do?!" He just looks at me, smiles, and says to do my best.   So I put the phone back to my face, and going totally by the Spirit at this point, ask him if he would like to meet with us so we could talk about our church and get some food together. Then comes the most surprising part: He said yes. I don't think I had ever been so happy! That was amazing!

So a few days later, we go to the place we decided to meet him.  Then the sad news: He doesn't show. We waited, tried to call again. Nothing. So I was kind of down, but for some reason, I still felt like we needed to be there. And then I saw him--the reason we needed to be there. There was a white guy who looked so lost. I knew we were supposed to help this man.  I told Elder Livingston, "We need to go. We need to go help this man right now."  So we went over to this man and it turns out he's from Canada. He was an amazing guy, but he had a very... "colorful"... choice of words. We got talking to him, and it turns out that he was heading to the same train station that we were heading to! So Elder Livingston just says, "Hey, you know what, we were actually waiting for someone, but it looks like they aren't going to show up, so we can just take you." And then on the train ride home we had such a deep discussion with him about the gospel. It was great. Afterwards we exchanged phone numbers, and he said he would love to talk to us about the Bible sometime, so yeah. That was awesome. It brings me peace to know that we don't always know why, but the Lord will put us where we need to be, as long as we follow the spirit.

Another miracle, which isn't as long, is we needed hand towels. Like bad. We were almost out, and it was kind of a pain to wash our hands, and not be able to dry them. And we had planned to buy some, but we totally forgot, and we didn't want to waste our finding time [proselyting time], so we were just going to wait for the next P-day. But as we were studying we just hear a little *thunk* in our mail box. We go, and there was just a little wrapped package. We opened it and in it was a towel. There was no name on it, but it was just amazing to see that the Lord really does care about us, enough to see that we need something as simple as a towel, and have someone give one to us. It was such a testimony builder.

Today for P-day we just came to the Church and played ping-pong and musical instruments, which was awesome! It was the first time I got to play my drum pad in over a month. I thought I was going to die. Let me tell you something: I'm going to come back a ping-pong master. We play it so much. Like really though--It will be a fun activity. So you guys better get a ping-pong table and start practicing! You could even put it in my old room!

So next week I have my interview with President Wada, so temple P-Day will be after that. It's crazy to think that I've already been through one transfer out here in Japan.... I only get 16  of them. I only get 15 more of these. That makes me really sad. I wish time would go slower sometimes.

I love you guys and hope you had a great week! Keep being awesome! I got my transfer call, and I get to stay in Hodagaya with Elder Livingston, which is just what I wanted! I hope you had a great week!


Elder Tolen

Elder, Sisters, and Investigators at English Class
New Year light displays in Yokohama

New Year light displays in Yokohama

Elder Tolen and Elder Livingston at the Mochitsuki (a New Year tradition of pounding rice into mochi)

With an investigator at a Mochitsuki celebration at New Years

Monday, January 5, 2015

Week 5: Finding Batteries in Flower Pots

This week was awesome! I'll start off with an amazingly simple miracle I experienced this week!

So! We were weekly planning on Thursday, when all of a sudden the Spirit was like, "HEY! You need to be with this investigator tonight." And I was like, "Alright, sounds good." So I told my companion, and he said, "Let's watch The Testaments!" So we had set our plan. We called our investigator and made sure that was alright, which it was.

After dinner we started setting up.  We got to the church and then realized that we had forgotten the movie at the apartment! But we went up to the TV, and there was a copy just sitting on top of the DVD player! But we had to turn on English subtitles, and the batteries were super-duper old, like maybe as old as my little brother. But we were like, "Well. Now what? We don't have time to go get batteries."

Just then I had this impression. The Spirit just told me to check the flower pot outside the church. So, not wanting to ignore the Spirit, we went out there and lo and behold, there were batteries just sitting in the flower pot!!! What were the odds of that? Well, pretty high when the Spirit is involved. But that was one of the amazing miracles that I was able to experience this week! The most important lesson I've learned is that you can trust the Lord. He will help you whenever you need it. Even if it's just finding batteries so that you can turn on subtitles. He wants to help you; you just have to let Him--even if it isn't always the help you think you need.

Happy New Years! I hope you all had a great one! New Years in Japan is even bigger than Christmas. Which I don't understand. But that's just how it is I guess. I hope you guys had a good New Years! I love you guys! Keep being awesome!

Elder Tolen

Elder Tolen and Elder Livingston-peace!

Elder Livingston and Elder Tolen taking a selfie
Eragon in Japanese--Elder Tolen hopes to be able to read this after his mission
Inside pages of Eragon

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Week 4: Christmas in Japan

Today we went down to a shrine by the beach for p-day. It was really awesome, but that's why I am e-mailing kind of late this week. sorry about that!

Elder Tolen and Elder Livingston at the shrine on p-day
Merry Christmas! This week was  awesome. Christmas in another country was very weird. But I did get to Skype with my family which was amazing.

So I decided that I'll tell you about how Christmas was out in the field. So! First we woke up, and exercised, then had a little Christmas party in the apartment. After that we all got ready and had study. Then we went to a cafe, and had an amazing district lunch. It was delicious. After that, we went and did weekly planning, and had dinner. Then we went caroling! Which, for some reason, is a really, really weird concept in Japan. Like really weird. My favorite reaction so far is an old guy who answers the door and just goes, "What is going on?!" It was awesome. But anyway, we went caroling, and we even got to bring an investigator. He's the other Elders' investigator, but he is an amazing guy. He is going places. I love him to death.

Just to give you a feel for what it's like, most people in Japan won't even come to the door when you knock. They just tell you to go away. Just so you know. But anyways, we are walking, and one of the sisters feels like we should go knock on one of these houses. So we do, and this lady sticks her head out the door and asks what we want. We tell her we want to carol, and she freaks. She tells us to wait while she gets her mom. Her mom comes out with her daughter and her daughter's son, and freaks out too. They say that they are going to go get their friends, and start running around the neighborhood gathering all of these people. In the end we got to carol for like 15 people! It was amazing! For those of you that don't know what Japanese people are like, this is really weird. Christmas miracles are real! One of the old guys comes up to me afterward and says that I look like Leonardo DiCaprio. I still don't see it. But I guess to Japanese people we all look the same.
Elder Tolen (aka Leonardo DiCaprio) rockin' his Christmas pajamas!
This week is New Years! Which is crazy. For Christmas in Japan, the only thing people do is eat cake. They don't give presents, or sings songs, or anything like that. They just get together and eat Christmas Cake, but then they make a huge deal about New Years! It's awesome.

I hope you are all doing well. Feel free to shoot me an email with any questions about Japan; I would love to answer them! Keep being amazing you guys! I love you!
Elder Tolen
Visiting the shrine on p-day
Closer view of the shrine

Companion selfie

Christmas packages on Christmas morning
Elder Kerr on Christmas morning

Elder Livingston opening his Christmas package

Creative photography from Elder Tolen