Elder Colton West

Elder Colton West


Monday, January 26, 2015

Week 13: Jaywalking the Pan-American Highway!

Buenas días!  

As you all know, last week was change meeting.  This week I am emailing you from beautiful Ilobasco, Cabañas, El Salvador.  Yep, same place as last week.  I stayed here! My companion for this change is............  still Elder Hood!  He gets to finish my training but, we all are pretty sure that, after that he will be transferred.

Now for some less good news.  The Sister Missionaries have been transferred out of Ilobasco, and replaced with two more elders.  They were such hard workers, and were doing such good work here, but now they're needed somewhere else.  The two new elders are Elder Beecher from Logan, Utah, and Elder Rojas from Perú.  For two elders who know nothing about this city, let alone their area, they are doing an amazing job, and we're glad to have them.

I've been getting questions about investigators, so I'll talk about a few of them.  First up is Mariela.  She is absolutely amazing!  She was taught by other missionaries about 6 months ago, but disappeared before they could set a baptism date with her.  We found here again because one of the elders who taught her last time happened to see her on the bus to Ilobasco, and he talked to her and got a reference for us.  We started teaching her last month, and she has progressed so much, so rapidly that I can hardly believe it!  The only thing holding her back was that she wasn't sure if she had received an answer to her prayers about whether she needs to be baptized.  That changed last week, after she repented of some things she had done.  I went to teach her with one of the new elders (we were on interchanges that day) and she said that she had received her answer and set her own baptism date!  She is getting baptized on the 14th of February!

Now for the story behind the title.  This happened a month ago.  I was on interchanges with the district leaders so that they could do a baptism interview here.  Elder Golden and I took a bus out to a small town 20 minutes from Cojutepeque.  Thing is, the bus stopped on the opposite side of the freeway from the town.  So after we picked up the member who we were taking with us, we had to jaywalk across the Pan-American Highway.  Now, before anyone gets worried, let me explain something.  There is no such thing as a crosswalk outside of San Salvador.  There are pedestrian bridges, but they are few and far between.  So if you need to get to the other side of the road, you jaywalk!

That's all for this week. Enjoy the pictures.

Elder Colton West
El Salvador, San Salvador East Mission

Me with Hermano Hidalgo, Kevin, and Ramon
(Editor's note: Hermana Hidalgo cooks one meal per day for Elder West
and his companion and does their white laundry each week.
At Christmas our son told us she is like the "mission momma".
I am SO grateful for her and her sweet family!)

Making tres leches cake at a member's house last P-day

The finished cake.  It was delicious!

San Vicente Volcano, just outside of San Vicente. 
Also know as "Chichontepec or Las Chiches". 
It is a stratovolcano and it's huge, the 2nd highest in El Salvador!

Elder Hood making pupusas at the Hidalgo's casa

Monday, January 19, 2015

Week 12: Proud Mary

Sometimes in our lives, God gives us neighbors that test our patience.  That is very much true for the elders of Ilobasco 3.  One of our neighbors likes music.  A lot.  So much so that he starts blasting his stereo at 5:00 am.  It used to wake me up every morning, but I'm used to it now.  This morning as my alarm went off, something sounded strangely familiar.  And no, it wasn't the obnoxious beeping of the clock.  I heard a strangely familiar bass line.  As I listened on, I heard the lyrics "rollin', rollin', rollin' on the river."  Definitely not the usual Latino pop music that this neighbor normally wakes me up with.  Turns out that he is a fan of 70's American music.  I have to admit, I much prefer that to the other neighbor who likes to blast Skrillex late at night.

Later this week we have the dreaded transfers.  Change meeting takes place on Wednesday morning.  We don't find out if we have changes or not until around 10:00.  So you'll just have to wait until next week to find out if I stay in Ilobasco or not.  I probably will though.  Elders who start here usually stay for a few transfers.  What isn't so sure is if Elder Hood will survive this transfer.  There's two reasons for that.  One: they like to have norteamericano elders start with another gringo, then switch them to a Latino trainer.  Two is that Elder Hood has been here for five months.  That's a long time to stay here.  But we just have to wait and see.

Last Monday was a zone P-Day.  We went to Cojutepeque and played soccer with the rest of our zone.  I learned that I can actually play fútbol, if I play defence.  I also cleaned house at Uno.  And we had real pizza!  Okay, it was just Pizza Hut, but it was the best pizza hut I've ever had in my life.

This week the Ilobasco Branch had 101 people in attendance at sacrament meeting!  That is the highest it has been since I got here (my first week we had 73).  Our branch president is helping with that a lot.  He's a recently returned missionary (2 years since he got home), and is reforming this branch.  We are having branch council and Priesthood Executive Council meetings, he's charged the Elders Quorum and Relief Society presidents with organizing home teaching and visiting teaching programs.  And he's training the leaders on how to be good church leaders.  It's awesome!

Elder Colton West
El Salvador, San Salvador East Mission

Myself & Elder Hood with the future Elder Alexis Herrera. 
He leaves tomorrow for his mission!

Around the World ping pong at Zone P-day.  
Elder Hood, my companion, dominates at this!

Sunrise in Ilobasco

One of my shoes after working in La Elen. 
That's the farthest out part of my area, and it's all dirt roads. 
Very, very dusty dirt roads!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Week 11: The Polar Bear Plunge

Hola norteamericanos!

This week I'll be nice and explain the title first.  I've mentioned that we take bucket showers out of an open-air pila (font).  We have a small plug-in water heater to keep the water from being absolutely freezing.  And I broke it.  The pila got kinda low over the weekend and I hadn't noticed just how low it was.  So when I plugged in the water heater last night, I just assumed that it was in the water.  Big mistake.  The water heater destroyed itself.  So I had to take a very very very cold shower this morning.  Not fun.

This week we had MultiZona.  That's a big zone conference for four or five zones.  We had to go to Ilopango (a suburb of San Salvador) by bus, which takes about two hours to travel.  It would be way faster if we could have rented a Coaster bus, but that's really expensive.  Bus fare from here to San Salvador is only 75 cents.

At MultiZona we were instructed on asking inspired questions.  A lot of missionaries fall into a routine, so Presidente Vasquez and his assistants want to make sure that we don't do that.  Presidente also gave a talk about being excited about the work, and how we are going to exceed our expectations for people taught and baptized.

Now to answer a few questions.  We still have plenty of mosquitoes around here.  Not a ton, but they're definitely around, especially in parts of my area.  Chikungunya is still running rampant here, because not everyone has mosquito nets, and most people can't really afford bug spray.  One of our sisters here got it last week and was pretty miserable for a few days.  She still tried to go out and work anyways.  Talk about dedicated!

The Ilobasco Branch is in the middle of a reformation right now.  We have a new branch president (he's been here for 6 months) who is a returned missionary and is deadset on improving this branch.  Yesterday we had 95 people who attended sacrament meeting!  That's the highest it's been since I got here, and the number has been getting higher every week!  The missionaries are kinda like substitute teachers for Sunday School and the Young Mens and Young Womens programs.  So far we've taught twice: once in Gospel Principles class and once for the youth sunday school class.

We haven't done any planned service projects yet, but we've done lots of little unplanned service activities for people.  It's gotten us in a few houses that otherwise wouldn't have received us.

All for now!


Elder Colton West
El Salvador, San Salvador East Mission

All of the Arizona Elders at our MultiZona (Zone Conference)

We have doves living in the lemon tree.
They flew for the first time today, but I missed it.

I found the coolest missionary bookmark while I was at the CCM!

My desk

Our "kitchen"

The pila.  We put some sort of salt stuff in it
to keep mosquitos from hanging out in there.

I broke the water heater.  Bad Elder!

The lemon tree

Monday, January 5, 2015

Week 10: Tamales and Coffee!

Feliz Año Nuevo!

New Year's Eve here made Christmas Eve look like a joke.  There were so many explosions that a war could have broken out and nobody would have noticed.  One of the fun things about New Year's here is that you end up dodging firecrackers, because the kids here are crazy and throw them out in the street without checking if anyone is walking by.  Keeps you on your toes.

Something amazing happened last Monday.  Right after our emails we went to wash some clothes at the laundromat and bumped into a guy from the states!  We had met him a couple of weeks ago and talked for a little bit.  He's down here for the holidays with a few of his best friends who have family here in Ilobasco.  And he invited us to have dinner with his friends and their family.  We, of course, accepted the invitation.  Elder Hood made a joke that since it's another norte (North American) who invited us, we would get a steak dinner.  And as it turns out, we did.  The family who we ate with has these big family and friends dinners all the time where they have pupusas and steak.  It was amazing!  We're planning to go back to that family and talk more about the gospel, because there were 30-something of them there, and they all love us.

Now, to explain the title.  We got invited for breakfast on the 1st to the house of a less active member whose wife is an investigator.  They had tons of food left over from the party they had for their neighbors the night before.  We sat down at the table, and our investigator served us three giant tamales each, and a giant cup of coffee.  But not actual coffee.  Down here they make a drink called "café de maíz" (corn coffee).  It's dried corn that is roasted until it's black, then ground up and brewed into a drink that tastes somewhat like coffee.  There isn't any actual coffee in it, so we're allowed to drink it.  So no, we didn't go breaking the Word of Wisdom.

Other cool things that have happened this week...  Well, we have a new family of investigators, and they are amazing!  They're in their early 20's, and have a 1-year-old daughter.  They're very positive about the gospel, and very attentive when we're teaching.  Oh, and they got married three days before our first lesson with them.  Unmarried couples are very common here, and that can be a challenge with investigators who want to be baptized, because some of them don't want to get married.  This family is prepared to receive the gospel in their lives, and we were guided to them.  Seriously, we were guided.  Our plans fell through, and we decided to go get a snack from a panadería that we've been to a few times.  We had the worst pan de piña (pineapple bread) that I have ever eaten, but happened to walk past this family's house while the dad and daughter were outside.  We didn't stop at first, because we were eating, but Elder Hood felt prompted to go back and talk to them.  And now we have a new family of investigators!

We have another investigator who has a baptism date for later this month.  She is the best investigator that we have.  She is so attentive to what is being taught, is always asking good questions, and she finally made it to church this week!  She's been twice before, several months ago, so all she needs to be baptized is to receive her answer about the gospel!

That's all I have time for this week.  I love hearing from you all, so keep writing me emails!  And be good!

Elder Colton West
El Salvador, San Salvador East Mission

Tamales and corn coffee.  Delicious, except for the bones.
Making lemonade last P-day.  We have a lemon tree in our house. 
Yes, in our house!  I'll send a picture of that next week.
Steak and pupusa dinner!  It's even better than steak and potatoes.