Wednesday, July 29, 2015

week 1 in the CCM (Missionary Training Center)

OK! So, this week has been something else. I was able to meet up with other missionaries at the airport. There was 34 of us! Just 3 out of the 34 on the plane are going to the Coban mission, and I am the only one in my CCM district going to Coban. Anyways our flight that night was super late and we had to land in Mexico City for 2 hours because someone was super sick. We got to the CCM like 4 hours late. It was the worst. I was able to exchange money, and I got my luggage and candies! I actually don't know what the guys name was who met us but he was nice.

We get to use English only when we have no clue how to say it in Spanish. My companion is Elder Wilkerson and he is seriously the best, he is this tall white guy that is like the perfect amount of goofy but also serious. The food is pretty good! There are some American meals so that is good! We share a room with two other Nortes (North Americans) and two Latinos so that is always an adventure.

It is hard to describe a day in the CCM because it changes everyday, but it is basically wake up, eat, have a a bunch of classes and study, eat, have a bunch more classes and study, eat, and then some more classes and study. My Mission President at the CCM is different than it will be in the field but the CCM Mission President is awesome! Everyone here really just wants to be in the field because the CCM is super boring. I honestly feel like I have been here for 7 months instead of 7 days. The language is coming along slowly but surely, I understand a lot more than I can speak!

I guess my spiritual thought this week would be on the power of prayer, because to be honest the first few days here were easily the hardest of my life. It wasn't like I missed home already; it was like I realized how long two years was, so I got really really homesick so I wouldn't have to worry about it later! But every time I'd say a prayer I would be comforted just long enough to get through whatever rough spot I was in, and now I love it here!

Alright, well, I love all of you!                                          

Love Elder Toolson

(Picture of the CCM, or Missionary Training Center, in Guatemala)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

First post from Elder Toolson!

I am alive! I only have five minutes to tell you that but I will write more later! I was told to tell you to write on Sunday because the days I can write will change. I love all of you! Please tell my friends I will respond when my next P day* rolls around, though I'm not sure when that is. 

Love, Elder Toolson

* editor's note: "P day" stands for "preparation day" - it is the day when missionaries have time to take care of personal duties like laundry, shopping and letter writing.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

And now... to Guatemala

Well, here we are. The day we have been preparing for since Joe was born. What an emotional whirlwind! It is hard to say goodbye for two years... two whole years. When Joe returns, he will not be the same teenager who left. He will have had experiences I can't even imagine. He will have sacrificed. He will have learned. He will be the Lord's man. I am so thankful that he is willing to serve; I know that he will be blessed, and that many lives will be improved as he shares the light of the gospel. The other day, a friend said to me, "I couldn't let my sons do it. I couldn't let them go." I was very tired that day, and only smiled and said "It is hard." I wish I would have said what is really in my heart - "How can I not let him go? Knowing what I know, how can I not want every other mother to have that joy? We all have a Savior who loves us. Families can be forever. If my son is willing, how can I not let him share that good news?"

We were up at five this morning so that we could drive to Wenatchee to meet with our Stake President. After talking with Joe for a little while, President Hunsaker set him apart as an Elder and gave him a wonderful blessing. Officially presenting Elder Joseph Toolson...

We had about an hour to kill, so we stopped for one last pancake breakfast at Sharri's. But then the time to go to the airport was upon us.

Once again, Joe had so much support. Gathered around to see him off were Grandpa and Grandma Toolson, Charlye, Jana, Jared, Casey, Kelly, Carrie, Itzel and our immediate family. Watching Bronte and Paul say goodbye to their brother is something I will never forget.

And now, as I type this entry, Joe is getting ready to board a plane for the last leg of his journey to the Guatemala MTC. He left Wenatchee for Seattle at 10:50 a.m. After a three hour layover, he flew to LA at 2:45 p.m. He will leave LA at 11:40 p.m. and is scheduled to land in Guatemala at 5:30 a.m. local time (they are one hour ahead.) You can bet I have been praying all day. We are anxiously awaiting the call letting us know he safely arrived. But at the same time, I feel peace. He is on the Lord's errand now, and will be guided every step of the way.

I love you, Elder Toolson. So very, very much. God be with you until we meet again.

Joe's farewell

On Sunday Joe gave his farewell talk at church. It was really incredible; he shared the top three reasons that he wants to serve a mission. His first was "I know the gospel is true." He talked about how he gained a testimony, and how that testimony has helped him through some difficult times the last two years. His second reason is the Atonement of the Savior. He said "I know there is no way to repay Him for that debt. But I do know that we can try, and we can do this by keeping the commandments and doing everything that we are asked. And if I am asked to give two years of my life doing service and the Lord's work, then that is absolutely nothing in comparison of the Atonement of Jesus Christ." The final reason he selected is - "I love this gospel." He said it makes him happy, and that it is exciting to know that he can be with our family forever. Hearing him discuss his reasons for serving reassured me that he is going to be just fine.

Joe had a great showing of support; I want to thank everyone who came to hear him speak. Mike, Kevin, Jana and Julie all came from Manson. Coby came over from Mukilteo. The Sorensens, Toolson grandparents, Bronte and Margot made a special trip to be at our ward, Becky is with us every Sunday, but we still appreciate her support!

In the evening we had an open house at the Hawkins. I am so grateful to Troy, Britt and girls for hosting - their back yard was perfect! We had an assortment of cupcakes made by Mom T, Celeste, Carrie, Jana and me. It was a great evening, and it seemed like the whole ward plus several friends from the community came out to wish Joe well.

It was another special day and more memories were made. I'm not sure when it will sink in that we are saying goodbye for two full years; maybe it is best that my mind and heart just can't wrap around that fact. Joe is such an amazing guy. He is going to be a great missionary. I am going to miss him very much.

Monday, July 6, 2015

I love to see the Temple

(Originally posted on our family blog July 3, 2015)

Today we had the opportunity to go to the Columbia River Temple with Joe in preparation for his upcoming mission. It was one of the best days of my life! The Spirit was so strong; I had a very sweet experience confirming Heavenly Father's love for my family.

Big thanks to Dad and Mom T., who drove up from St. George, as well as Carrie and Casey Sorensen, and Travis and Megan Schoenwald. It is always nice to be at the temple, but it is even better to be there surrounded by people you love. I know Joe felt your support.

Buying The Suit

(Originally posted on our family blog April 8, 2015)

Packing requirements vary a bit depending on where a missionary is called to serve. Because Guatemala is warm and humid, Joe's "What to Bring" list is shorter than someone called to, for example, Finland. He only needs one suit. This will be worn on Sundays and for special meetings; the rest of the time he will wear slacks with  mostly short-sleeved white shirts and ties.

Buying a missionary suit is a Very Big Deal. I would compare it to purchasing a wedding dress; from the moment I heard the doctor say "it's a boy!" I've looked forward to this outing. There is a great store in Utah called "Mr. Mac" that has a "Missionary Starter Package." This includes one two-pant suit, four shirts, four ties and a pair of shoes. First, we had to get an idea about fit...

They have a vast variety of suits, so once a size was selected it was time to focus on fabric and color. Joe opted for a suit with a high natural fiber content (breathability) in a medium grey color. Time to start tailoring... our salesman, Steve, was cracking me up - he kept saying "you're an athlete!" in response to the girth of Joe's thighs.

Once the adjustments were made to the suit, white shirts were tried on. This was really just too overwhelming - I should of taken a picture of the full deal, but I was too busy wiping my eyes! We thought these ties were appropriately conservative, yet complimentary:

And the final step (no pun intended): finding a pair of shoes that can walk miles every day...

This picture really gets me. It seems perfectly symbolic of stepping out of the world. Joe is going to be a wonderful missionary; he is humble, kind, and truly cares about others. I know that his mission is about him, his relationship with the Savior, and the people he will serve. Still, I am so grateful to him for giving me the opportunity to shop for a missionary.

Elder Joseph Leigh Toolson: Called to serve!

(Originally posted on our family blog March 16, 2015)

Joe has been counting the days until he could serve a mission since... well, since forever! Paperwork can be submitted 120 days before a person is available to serve. Before it is submitted, visits must be made to the dentist and doctors office to get medical clearance, plus interviews are held with the Bishop and Stake President. Joe had his final interview with President Hunsaker, who clicked "submit," on February 24th. He put his availability date as June 13th (one week after graduation.) We've been anxiously watching the mailbox ever since!

When I went to the post office on Saturday, this was waiting...

I quickly sent a text to Joe, Kurt, Paul, Bronte and David. Joe responded: "Oh my stars" followed by "I'm gonna pass out." Despite the excitement, he chose to wait to open the envelope until the following night. Three of his best friends, Jared, Jana and Davia, were at a camp with the youth from their church, and his cousin Luke was at a baseball tournament. He didn't want to open it without them. The hours on Sunday ticked by very slowly... the sun went down... finally, the moment had arrived...

"Dear Elder Toolson:  You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You are assigned to labor in...


You should report to the Guatemala Missionary Training Center on Wednesday, July 22, 2015. You will prepare to preach the gospel in the Spanish language." To echo Joe, oh my stars! Get the Atlas!

I know all of our minds were reeling as we tried to sleep last night. I am so happy for Joe, and proud of him. He is going to be a great missionary because of his strong testimony and sincere concern for the welfare of others. Now we just need to buy a suit, schedule his shots, order a passport and visa... my heart is bursting!