Elder Colton West

Elder Colton West


Monday, December 29, 2014

Week 9: Drunken Angels

This week has been a pretty awesome one for us.  For one, CHRISTMAS!!!   I got some much needed socks from my companion's mom (a missionary can never, ever have enough socks).  And a bunch of goodies from my family (peach rings!). Other than that, Christmas was a lot different than at home.  For one, Salvadorans celebrate Christmas on the 24th.  Don't ask me why, because I have no clue.  The other main difference is that instead of spending the day with family, the nonmember population of Ilobasco just have parties.  And at these parties they combine their two favorite past times, playing with fireworks and drinking.  Really intelligent, I know.  Between the bolos attempting to sing, and the fireworks going off every few seconds, I didn't get a lot of sleep on Christmas Eve. (Editor's note: "bolo" is slang for drunk person).

On the bright side, we got three Christmas dinners!  First off was chicken and rice at the house of an investigator of the other Elders.  Second was "panes rellenos" (stuffed bread, like a warm sub sandwich) from a member family.  And third was "baleadas" (I think that´s how it's spelled), a Honduran food that's kinda like a quesadilla with beans.  And then we took a cake to a recent convert!  He's a great guy, but a recovered bolo who didn't want to leave his house at all on the 24th because all of his friends were drunk, and he didn't want to have to deal with the temptation of alcohol.  So we went and spent a some time with him.  And he had fireworks!

We spent a lot of the rest of the week trying to make up lost time with lessons, because it's almost impossible to meet with people here on Christmas.  We've done a lot of walking over the last few days.  And by a lot, I mean probably 15 miles a day!  But all of the hard work has paid off.  We have two new investigators who will be baptized by the end of January, even if they don't know it yet!  One of them said that he wishes he would have joined our church a couple of years ago when he met the missionaries for the first time.  We've found some more very positive people that we're teaching right now.  And then there are the drunken angels.

We were out in Colonia Alcaine (a neighborhood on the north side of town) yesterday just before sunset.  We had just made a hasty exit from a member's home because her daughter was mad that we gave pamphlets to some of the kids (member's grandkids).  Crazy, I know, but people have their agency.  We were walking down the street on our way to go to another neighborhood about 10 minutes away, when we were stopped by an old man standing on a street corner.  He was probably 65 or so, and was hard of hearing, so it took a while to communicate with him who we are and what our message is.  While Elder Hood was talking to him, another man walked up in a cloud of alcohol vapor and told us to ignore the old man, that he's a drunk and that he isn't all there mentally.  Elder Hood told him "Este hombre es un hijo de Dios" (this man is still a child of God), and continued talking to the old man.  As we were writing down his name and phone number, an old investigator walked by.  Elder Hood and his old companion lost contact with him because he was in San Salvador for a couple of months. But he's back in Ilobasco now, and very excited to meet with us again!  When I turned around after saying hi to our new-old investigator, the old man had disappeared.  I know that he was probably just an old bolo, but in that moment he was an angel of the Lord, keeping us where we needed to be.  The other bolo was a temptation for us to leave, but just like the other temptations in life, he left when rebuked.  The Lord truly does work in mysterious ways!

Elder Colton West
El Salvador, San Salvador East Mission

Editor's Note: this is an excerpt from Colton's personal email to Cheyenne yesterday. I thought this was interesting info on his area and how hard they work so she shared it with me to post here:

A bit more about down here... Well, we live in the part of town aptly named "El Centro" (the center, which is exactly where it is). Our proselyting area (where we work) starts about a mile away in a neighborhood called La Palma. We have the outer neighborhoods on the west and north side of the city (La Palma, Alcaine, Jardines, La Elen, and a tiny part of El Siete). The farthest point we've been from our house is about 5 miles or so, on the far side of La Elen. And yes, we walk it all. So we're walking 10-15 miles on an average day. Unless we take a moto-taxi. I'm not even sure how to begin to describe those! I'll send a picture of one next week.

This week's pictures:

Us singing at the branch Christmas dinner.

Elder Hood trying to give a pass-along card to a cow!

This is Mish.  He lives with the member who put on a fireworks
show for us.  He hunts ants, plays with the straps of my
backpack, and sometimes tries to eat my shoelaces

Proof that my family loves me.  They sent me Sriracha!

Editor's pic! Skype call with our happy missionary!!!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Week 8: Hermano Misionero

Hola Everyone!  

This week's email is going to be short because I've been having computer problems here at the cyber cafe.

Almost everyone here calls us "Hermano Misionero".  I have no idea why.  We know when someone really loves and respects us when they call us Elder.

This last week we had a branch Christmas Dinner.  The plan was to have it outside on the basketball/soccer court (concrete) so that we would have plenty of room.  The weather disagreed.  So we had to move everything inside.  And by we, I mean myself and the other missionaries, with the help of a few brave souls who had faith that they wouldn't melt like the wicked witch of the west if they got wet.  I was soaked by the time we got all of the chairs inside.  At least the food was good!

We've had some good lessons this week.  There are a couple of investigators that we have that are very close to being baptized, so hopefully I'll be sending some pictures home of baptisms soon!

No pictures this week because of the previously mentioned computer problems.  I'll send a second email next week with just pictures.

Spiritual thought for this week is Alma 29:9 https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/alma/29?lang=eng

and this is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to  bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy.

Elder Colton West

El Salvador, San Salvador East Mission

(Editor's Note: We received the first picture below from Sister Vasquez last week! The Christmas pictures were all posted on Presidente Vasquez's facebook page and discovered by another ESSSE mom who is friends with him. They have now been shared around to our ESSSE mom facebook page. SO grateful for these fun pictures. ENJOY!)

Elder West with Presidente and Sister Vasquez after
arriving in El Salvador at the mission home Dec 9th, 2014
El Salvador San Salvador East Mission
Elder West, front row, far left
(the only one with his tag on his hat!)

Elder West with his district. He is 2nd to the left of
Presidente Vasquez. His first companion, Elder Wood,
is in between them 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Week 7: Welcome to the Jungle!

(Editors Note: We did not receive a "Week 6" email last week from Elder West. He was traveling from Guatemala to El Salvador, having orientation, and being transported to his first area. Below is his first letter from the field...ENJOY!!!  I've also put up some pictures of the town at the bottom of this post).

Hola everyone from scenic Ilobasco, El Salvador!  

I´m about an hour away from the capital, San Salvador.  And we are definitely in the jungle here.  I would send pictures of what the landscape looks like, if I had remembered to take any.

My trainer/companion (who is also the district leader) is Elder Hood of Mapleton, Utah.  He´s only been out for 4 months and is already a trainer, so he´s doing something right.

We have the biggest area in Ilobasco, a couple of huge neighborhoods that are right next to each other, and another new area that was just opened this week.  This week we got 24 references and have 14 new investigators!

Church here is way different than at home.  For one, there is only one branch in all of Ilobasco.  There are around 65 active members in the branch.  Not all of them can stay for the full 3 hours of church, so we had maybe 15 in Priesthood meeting this week.  Having church meetings in another language is... different.  I have to pay attention a lot better to get what they´re saying.

Now to answer a few questions.  We got to see the El Salvador temple for about 30 minutes when we stopped to help the ES West/Belize mission unpack their bus.  We spent Tuesday afternoon and evening at the mission home having an in-field orientation.  Tuesday night was spent at one of the missionary casas in San Salvador.  We came to Ilobasco on a Coaster bus Wednesday morning

We live in the nice part of Ilobasco.  By nice, I mean that there is a paved road in front of the house, and we have concrete floors.  There is no air conditioning, and we have running water two days a week.  On those days, we leave the tap on for an hour or two to fill up the "pila" (reservoir) in the house.  My comp has a small water heater that makes the water somewhat warm if you leave it on all night.  Since we don´t have running water, we take bucket showers.  It´s way different from life in the States, but I love it.  We are doing so much good work out here!

I feel like I can speak Spanish rather well.  My comp says that he´s never known any other gringo who can speak as well as I do straight out of the CCM.  I wouldn´t go that far.  The only challenge with the language down here is understanding the locals.  Their accent is very different from the accent in Guatemala.  The CCM teachers kinda turn off their accent for us poor nortes so that we can understand something.  That doesn´t happen here.  I´m already understanding better than I was my first week, but it´s still difficult.

Photos this week: 
1) Elder Hood with a flag his father sent for Christmas

1st companion, Elder Wood from Mapleton, Utah

I can't send any more photos this week.  They take forever to upload.

That's all that I have time for this week!  Send me any questions that you have!

Elder Colton West
El Salvador, San Salvador East Mission

Ilobasco is known in El Salvador, and internationally,
for its clay dolls and pottery

Dirt road in Ilobasco

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Week 5: Dia de Pavo

That's Turkey Day in Spanish.  By far the most asked question in this week's emails was what Thanksgiving in the CCM was like.  So I'll answer that first.  Dia de Gracias was like any other day in the CCM.  Lots of class, hours upon hours of studying the gospel and the Spanish language, good food (including an American-style Thanksgiving dinner).  Oh, and we also had a live-broadcast devotional where Elder David Bednar spoke to us!  Which was a wonderful surprise.

Those of you who aren't church members probably are scratching your heads wondering what's so special about another Elder speaking to a bunch of missionaries.  Elder isn't just a title for missionaries, it's also the title used by the General Authorities of the church.  Elder Bednar is a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.  We believe that these men hold the same office as the original twelve Disciples of Christ did in ancient times, and that they have the same responsibility to be special witnesses of the Savior.  So when one of them takes time away from his family on a holiday to speak to the missionaries, we get pretty excited about it.

Elder David A. Bednar spoke to all the missionaries on Thanksgiving!

This devotional was also unique in that Elder Bednar made it a question and answer session where missionaries from all of the Missionary Training Centers could email in questions that they wanted to ask him, and he would answer a few of them.  You're probably wondering what was asked, and the answer is that I don't remember.  I didn't write any questions or answers down, because we were given some very wise counsel at the start of this devotional.  Elder Bednar advised us to not write down the words spoken in the devotional, but to write down the things that the Spirit whispered in our minds and hearts.

The one thing I want to share from the devotional is about the Atonement.  Elder Bednar shared his belief that during the Atonement, the Savior atoned for each one of us individually.  That he saw one by one each and every one of us, and paid the price required to satisfy divine justice so that mercy could be extended to each of us as individuals, and because He loves us all perfectly and personally.  It resonates in my very soul that Jesus Christ knows us all, loves us all, and redeemed us all.  If any of you are struggling with anything in your life, I invite you to reach out to Him.  He is waiting with his hand reaching out to help us through our lives.  We just have to let Him help.

I loved reading all of your emails this week!  One week from today I will be leaving for El Salvador, so I probably won't get to read your emails at the same time as I usually do.  I'll be able to send a message out letting everyone know that I have arrived at the mission home safely, but I may not be able to respond to you all individually.  Two weeks from now I should have time for some individual responses though.

Adios until then!

Elder Colton West
El Salvador San Salvador East Mission

Monday, November 24, 2014


Elder West (top row, 2nd from left) with his district at the Guatemala City Temple!

Yes, surprise surprise!  

I'm emailing a day early this week!  The reason for that is that tomorrow I won't be in the CCM for most of the day.  They're kicking us out to clean again, because we're getting 100-ish more Latino missionaries in for the last two weeks that I'm here.  So tomorrow morning we're going to the temple bright and early at 7:30, and as soon as we're done there we're hopping on a bus and going to downtown Guatemala City!  From what I've been told, we're going to a park that has a physical relief map of the entire country of Guatemala, then going to one of the big markets downtown.  I'll let you all know about that next week.

Things here at the CCM have been interesting this week.  I've told you about our practice "investigators," and that they can be a bit difficult.  This week they ramped up the difficulty for us, so much so that we actually lost one of our "investigators." And by lost, I mean that he decided that he doesn't want to meet with us any more.  Two hours later, we found out that we're getting the same investigator back, but with a twist.  We have to pretend that we've never met him before, and pick up where another set of missionaries left off two years ago when he stopped meeting with them.  We have our first lesson with our new old "investigator" today.  Here's hoping that all goes well.

Learning the Spanish language continues to go well, but I wouldn't go so far as to say it's easy.  There's so much to learn, and so little time to learn it in before I'm out in the real world.  The thing that has helped me most with learning Spanish is reading the scriptures in Spanish, without using the English scriptures to translate.  You might think that doing that would be a good idea, but it's not.  When you do that, you try to directly translate phrases that don't have a direct translation, and it doesn't actually teach you the language.  Translating with a Spanish-English dictionary lets me learn the language and figure out some of the more idiomatic ways of saying things.

Interesting Spanish fact of the day: Spanish has three different ways to say the scriptural phrase "and it came to pass..."

Elder Colton West
El Salvador San Salvador East Mission

(Note from mom aka blog admin: I think somehow the end of his letter got cut off. It ends rather abruptly and he always signs off with an actual ending!  I will ask and add anything that got cut off next week. The big SUPER JOY is that we got pictures this week!!!! YIPPEE!!!!)

Elder West (top row, left end) with his zone at Guatemala CCM (MTC)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Week 3: "Parangaricutirimicuaropsicologia!"

Hola from the CCM!  

Week 3 is well underway and things have been interesting here.  
We now have somewhere around 110 missionaries in total here.  
I still don't know where they put most of them, because the 
second floor dormitory hall doesn't look that big.  But apparently
it is.  We all managed to escape the rumored room changes, thank
goodness.  So I'm still roomed with 5 other Nortes (North Americans).

Since I know you're all wondering what in the world the title of this 
email means, I'll go ahead and tell you.  According to one of the 
Latino Elders, "parangaricutirimicuaropsicologia" is the Spanish 
equivalent of "supercalifragelisticexpialidocious."  I'm pretty sure
that it translates into something in English, because it ends in
-psicologia (psychology), but I have no idea what it would be.

We didn't get to go to the mercado this week.  But we did get to do
something better.  We went street contacting for a little while on
Saturday evening!  For those of you who don't know what that means, it
means that we left the CCM and talked with people out on the streets
of Guatemala City.  And by streets, I mean one side of the block that
the CCM is on.  It's maybe a third of a mile long.  But in half an
hour my district (12 missionaries in total) managed to give 11 Books
of Mormon to potential investigators, with a challenge to read the
book and pray about it.  Not too bad for a bunch of kids (and me) who
have only been in the country for three weeks and barely speak the
local language.

Our instructors really pulled out the stops with our training
"investigators."  These "investigators" are just the instructors
acting like a person that they baptized on their missions.  Our first
"investgator," Jaime, was the perfect investigator.  Always interested
in the lessons, always kept his commitments, wanted to get baptized
ASAP, etc.  Our new "investigators," "Gabriel" and "Veronica," are
something else entirely.  They are both more difficult to connect
with, and have struggles that we have to help them overcome before
they are willing to believe in the gospel.  But I'm glad that the
instructors are being hard on us in this way.  I, and the others here
with me, are going to be dealing with difficult investigators for our
entire mission.  This lets us figure out how to deal with certain
things in a more controlled environment, one where we can make
mistakes without there being lasting consequences.

Scripture for the week: Mosiah 3:19..."For the natural man is an enemy
to God, and has been from the Fall of Adam, and will be forever and
ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit; and
putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the Atonement
of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble,
patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord
seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his
father."  If I had to pick one scripture to teach the Gospel of Jesus
Christ with, I would probably pick that one. (Note: I apologize if the
grammar of that scripture is incorrect.  I'm quoting from memory.)

That's all for this week!  I can't wait to read everyone's emails next week!

Keep on being awesome!

Elder Colton West
El Salvador, San Salvador East Mission

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Week 2: No Me Gusta Haircuts!

As I'm sure you can infer from the title, I was unable to escape the clippers this week.  I managed to get away from them the first week that I was here, but one of the teachers caught me during our volleyball game today and told me that I had to get a haircut.  So now I have something like a # 4 or 5 on top, and 2 on the sides.  Yuck.
This week, we're getting a bunch of Latino missionaries.  Like 70-something of them.  I just hope that I don't have to switch rooms, having to repack and re-unpack all of my stuff doesn't sound very fun.

Now to answer a few questions.  Yes, we've gotten to leave the CCM other than to go to the temple (which is literally 200 yards away from the CCM).  This morning we all got kicked out for a couple of hours so that they could deep clean the building before the new missionaries started arriving.  We went to a shopping center that is about a 5 minute walk from here.  That was a fun little adventure.  I found out that all of the soda here uses real sugar instead of HFCS!  Thank goodness.

We do have an assigned companion here in the CCM.  My comp is Elder Wallace, of Boise, Idaho.  He was on the BYU Lacrosse team before he came here.  After the mission, he is going back to BYU to finish his degree in... Psychology, I think.  I'll find out for sure, and include that in my next email.  Which will be next Tuesday.  In fact, all of my P-days will be on Tuesday at the CCM.  Last week was the exception.

Nacimos listos (title of last weeks letter) means "I was born ready."  That's what we sometimes say to the teachers when they ask us if we are ready for something.

Before I came here, I got a phone call from some church office somewhere in Utah.  They did a quick over the phone interview, and then told me that I would be put in an intermediate Spanish class in the CCM.  And had I gone to the Provo MTC, I would have.  There is no intermediate class here.  There's the native-speaker (Latino) classes, and the non-native-speaker (everyone else) classes.  Us non-natives are here for 6 weeks.  So I will be getting out of here sometime in the first week of December.

The last two weeks have been a unique time for the Guatemala CCM.  We didn't have any Latino Elderes or Hermanas here.  Usually there are at least half a dozen.  Today, the first few of that group of 70 are coming in.  Two weeks from now, when the Latinos leave, there will just be the Americanos who got here with me (24 in total) because they're closing this CCM until next year.  So that's going to be interesting.
That's all for now.  Email me if you have any questions!  Or if you just want to talk.

Until next week!

Elder West

Add on from mom: I caught Colton in real time on email today and was able to ask a few questions about his roomies and get a reply.  So here's a little more on that:

You did in fact catch me!  Yes, I'm liking my comp.  We get along well, and we're meshing really well with teaching "investigators." The rest of my roommates are good guys, and we're all getting along for the most part.  In my room, we have me and my comp, Elders Jones and Durbin (both going to the same mission as me), and Elders Neilson and Goldberry (going to the Guatemala South Mission).

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Week 1: Nacimos Listos! ("Born Ready!")

Hola from the Guatemala Ciudad CCM! 
(Centro para Capacitacion Misional, or MTC)

Today is my first day that I'm actually able to email everyone.  
Week one here has been rather interesting.  But before I
tell you about that, two announcements.  First, I need to let you know

that there will be no pictures sent while I'm in the CCM.  We are not
allowed to have our cameras for the 6 weeks we are here (yes, it's 6

whole weeks) because there have been incidents involving cameras in
years past.  As far as I know, it's just a thing here at the Guatemala

CCM, but rules are rules, so you'll just have to wait for 5 more weeks
to get pictures from me.  Second, I'm having to use the basic HTML
layout for my email because we have 25 missionaries using the
computers at the same time and taking up all of the bandwidth.  So let
me apologize in advance if the formatting of this email isn't so

Now, the good stuff.  Week one at the CCM has been......Different.

Getting used to the schedule has been a big adjustment.  We have to
get up at 6:30 every morning.  There's an hour to shower, shave, and
get ready for the day before breakfast.  Starting at 8:00, we have an
hour of personal study time, then an hour of language study.  After
that is two hours of instruction.  The topics vary, but it's mostly
basic Spanish that I already know.  Lunch is at noon, and lasts for 45
minutes.  After that, it's another three and a half hours of class.
Each afternoon, we get an hour of workout/sports time, starting at 3:15.

Now you're probably thinking that sports means futbol (soccer for you

Americanos), or other such stuff.  And you would be wrong.  The
Guatemala CCM is tiny.  Right now, we only have 42 missionaries here.
Yes, you read that right, forty-two.  In the whole CCM.  I'm pretty
sure that this CCM can only have around 120 missionaries at a time,
because we're supposed to be getting 70 latino elderes y hermanas next
week.  And I have no idea where they're going to put those people.
Back to the point though, our workout area consists of 2 basketball
courts and a small gym.  One of those courts has a volleyball net on
it, so during deportes (sports), there are usually two games of
half-court basketball, one game of volleyball, and the hermanas doing
some sort of fitness DVD in the gym.  So far, only two hermanas have
been brave enough to play volleyball with the Elders.  The rest of
them don't play until we go back inside.

After deportes (and a much needed shower), we have dinner.  The food

here, by the way, has been rather good.  It's mostly American food,
and I like it, but I would rather try some local stuff.  They do make
all sorts of interesting juices, and I'm one of the few people here
brave enough to try them.  The others don't know what they're missing
out on.  After dinner, we have 45-ish more minutes of class, then we
teach our first investigator.  And by first investigator, I mean one
of our teachers who acts like an investigator.  They wouldn't actually
stick us in actual discussions until we know the language much better.
The real discussions come during week 4 (I think), when we'll be
teaching actual less-active or inactive members.  After teaching, we
plan for the next day, then have 45 minutes of prep time.  Back to our
rooms by 10:15, and lights out is at 10:30.  Every once in a while, we
have a devotional instead of class or teaching in the evening.  And
that's the life of a missionary in the Guatemala CCM!

I'm doing pretty well with the language.  I'm remembering a lot of

stuff from high school and college spanish classes.  We haven't gone
over a whole lot of stuff that I haven't already learned, but I'm
still learning a few new things every day (mainly vocabulary).

I don't have too much time left, so I'm going to end here.  I'll be

able to email on my next P-day, which will be Tuesday!  P-day
this week was supposed to be yesterday, but we were scheduled with the
temple for today, and temple attendance is a big part of P-day here at
the CCM.

Email me any questions you still have!  Adios for now!

Elder West

Guatemala CCM (Missionary Training Center) - Elder West's home for the next 5 weeks!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

10/29/14: Safe & Sound @ Guatemala CCM (MTC)

Hola familia!  

I'm at the Guatemala City CCM.  They're letting us email really quick to let you know we made it safely.  I'm borrowing Hermana Cox's (the mission president's wife) iPad to email you because I can't get into my email account.  Hope all is well at home.  I'm not sure if I'll be able to email next Tuesday or Wednesday, so email me Monday night.  Love you all!

-Elder West