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