Elder Colton West

Elder Colton West


Monday, March 30, 2015

Week 22: Perseverance

Hey everyone!  

I'm going to apologize in advance, because this email is going to be a bit short.  I don't have a whole ton of time to write today.

This week was really good.  I learned a lesson in perseverance.  We went to pick up a family for church yesterday at 8:30 in the morning.  They weren't ready at all.  The daughter was finishing the laundry, and the son was still in bed.  The mom of the family invited us in, and we offered to do anything and everything possible to help them get to church.  My companion ended up ironing shirts, and I shined shoes to help them get ready.  We were a little late, but we got this family to sacrament meeting!

For District Meeting last week we did a little activity.  You're blindfolded, and have to make your way through a maze following the directions of one person, while other people are yelling wrong directions and making a lot of noise! This activity represents what it is like trying to follow the proper directions in life when surrounded by temptations and distractions.

(Elder West emailed back this afternoon and added this!)

Hey, I'm back for a tiny bit.  I only had half of my usual amount of email time this morning because we had a zone p-day.  I didn't get any pictures of my zone, because I forgot...  Supposedly we're going to have a multi-zone p-day in the next couple of weeks, so I'll try to get one then.

Elder Colton West
El Salvador, San Salvador East Mission

I finally got a picture in front of the
big catholic church in the middle of town!

Iglesia Parroquial San Miguel Arcangel

(Parish Church Saint Michael Archangel) of Ilobasco

District Meeting activity mentioned in letter above

Celebrating the 173rd anniversary of the founding of  
Relief Society and also Brother Hidalgo's birthday!
(Elder West, back row, 2nd from left)

The view from the gym this morning.
We can finally see the volcano again!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Week 21: Pack a Day

This last Saturday, the 21st, was my birthday.  It was really weird to celebrate a birthday away from my family for the first time.  Thankfully, I have people here who are like a second family.  Namely, the other missionaries and the Hidalgo family.  Sister Hidalgo not only made pupusas for lunch, she also bought me a cake!  And the family gave me a tie!  They are so amazing!

That family I mentioned last week has a baptism date now.  18th of April!  The daughter of that family is one of the most positive people I've taught!

We went on an adventure on Saturday morning.  We had tried to go out and work before lunch, but all of our appointments fell, so we stopped by a member's house.  That visit turned into an impromptu trip to a place called Casa de la Hacienda.  It's an amusement park on the far side of my area, and has a water park (which we can't use), a zoo, and a museum that supposedly has a bunch of really cool stuff from some of the Maya ruins.  We've been trying to plan a fun P-day where we go to the museum, but we found out that they're closed on Mondays.  Except for next week, thanks to Semana Santa (what they call the week leading up to Easter).  So we may go there next week.

Now, the reason for the title...  At the gym we go to there is a "window" (really just a part where there's no wall, just a fence to keep you from falling off of the building).  From this "window" there is usually a great view of the landscape south of Ilobasco, including a giant volcano about 40 kilometers away.  This last week we haven't been able to see the volcano very well.  There's just too much smog in the air to see it.  I made a comment to another elder that living here is like smoking a pack a day, thanks to all of the smoke in the air.  I can't wait for "winter" (a.k.a. the rainy season).

Elder Colton West
El Salvador, San Salvador East Mission

¡Cumpleaños Feliz!

Tradition here is that after singing Happy Birthday, you take a bite out of the cake,
and someone else pushes you so that you get frosting all over your face.
Gotta have some fun on the mission. (2nd Companion: Elder Chamorro)

Birthday cards from home!

I decided to make sure that my camera is actually waterproof by putting it in the pila.
It is indeed waterproof, and takes good underwater pictures.

We haven't been able to see the volcano for about 2 weeks.
It's usually because of how much smoke is in the air, but today it was because it was raining.
This is the view from the gym.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Week 20: Feel the Burn!

The missionary life is not an easy one.  We have to get up early, spend hours studying for our investigators, go out and walk for miles, talking to everyone and trying to get into houses to teach people lessons.  There are some days where by the time you get home you just want to collapse into bed.  So my companion and I decided to make things even more physically difficult by waking up early and going to the gym with the other Elders.  The funny thing is that it isn't nearly as difficult as you might think to wake up at 5:00 in the morning and go work out for an hour and a half.  It actually feels really good to start the day like that!

We have a trip to the temple coming up in a couple weeks (2 April).  This trip is for investigators, so we're inviting everyone, and have asked the branch to invite their friends and family.  Everyone is super excited about it, even some of the less-active (or inactive) members.

I'm adjusting very quickly to having a companion who speaks very little english.  It's way different to speak spanish all day every day, but it's exactly what I need to really master the language.  I'm finally starting to think in Spanish!  Now I just need to get down the verb conjugations...

We had a very interesting contact this week.  The mom of a family we contacted told us that she had met with the missionaries... 20 years ago!  Pretty crazy, but it gets better.  She said, wait for a second, I'm going to go get something.  When she returned, she had the Book of Mormon that the missionaries gave her all those years ago.  It's a bit beat up, but it was so cool that she had it after all of this time!  We're going back to teach them on Tuesday, and they are super positive!

Since somebody asked, Mariela is still absolutely amazing!  She's working on her family history, and is going to go to the temple to be baptized for her mom and grandma next month!  I'm trying to teach her 1-year-old daughter Sofía how to say elder.  So far I haven't been successful, but I think she'll say it at least once before I leave!

Love you all!

Elder Colton West
El Salvador San Salvador East Mission

Editors Note: Elder West mentioned Mariela (who he baptized Feb. 14th) going to the temple to be baptized for her mom and grandma.  For those of you who are not members of our church who would like to know why we do "baptisms for the dead" please read this link: http://www.mormon.org/faq/baptism-for-the-dead  If you have any further questions about this or any of our other beliefs, please don't hesitate to ask me or email Elder West :)

Elder West and his new companion, Elder Chamorro, from Nicaragua

President Vasquez's daughter, Melissa, was taking pictures of everyone
and everything at change meeting.  So I took a picture of her taking a picture of me.
She leaves for her mission to SLC Temple Square in June!

Distrito Ilobasco (Ilobasco District).
Work hard, play hard, preach hard.
(Elder West 2nd from right; his companion Elder Chamorro far left).

There's a place by my house that makes some very delicious crepes.
This one is a chicken parmesan crepe, which is super delicious.

The market.  It's a bit crazy in there, but so cool.
What you can see is maybe 1/4 of the market area.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Week 19: Echar la Vida!

Well, it has finally happened.  Elder Hood has finally left Ilobasco.  He had five full changes here, which is a very long time for a missionary to be in one area.  We actually got the call about changes on Monday night instead of the customary Tuesday night, five minutes before we were supposed to be in bed.  President Vásquez is apparently trying it this way for a little while to see how it goes.  We spent the day before changes with our recent converts, encouraging them, and... puchica, I can't think in English right now... animandoles about the gospel.  Everyone here absolutely loved Elder Hood, because he had been here for long enough to get to know all of them.  And he really loved all of them too.  That's the thing I learned from Elder Hood, loving the people is the key to success.

My new companion is Elder Chamorro.  He came to the mission from Nicaragua, but was born and raised in Costa Rica.  His spanish is way different than what I'm used to, but at least costarricense is easier to understand than the Salvadorean callejero (street language) that everyone uses here.

"Echar la vida" is a Costa Rican/Nicaraguan saying that I've picked up from Elder Chamorro.  It's pretty much their way of saying "dangit".  The way we say that here in El Salvador is puchica.  Which is totally fine here, you hear parents use it around their kids sometimes.  But in Mexico it's super bad.  Spanish is weird like that.

I titled this email "Echar la vida" because I forgot to bring my USB cord for my camera, so no pictures again this week.  Lo siento!  Next week there will be pictures, I promise!

Be good!  And if you can't be good, arrepientese!

Elder Colton West
El Salvador, San Salvador East Mission

Editor's Note: Thanks to Melissa Vasquez (mission president's daughter) official ESSSE photographer for these GREAT pictures from Wednesday's transfers. Down there they call it "changes".  Our missionary looks SO happy!!!

One happy missionary!

Elder West on right end; Elder Hood (his 1st companion) next to him

ESSSE missionaries on Changes 3/4/15

Elder West with fellow missionary, Elder Schmidt

Vehicles to transport missionaries back to the assignments

Elder West in red tie; Elder Hood on far left

He takes pictures! Now if he can just remember his USB cord next week!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Week 18: Ka-BOOM!


Election season has finally come to an end here in El Salvador.  For the last three months, everyone has been yelled at by political advertisements played from very loud speakers on trucks that drive through the streets.  We've had to take the long way to get places several times because the politicos have little support rallies out in the colonias (neighborhoods), and people block the streets.  Plus we're supposed to avoid those.  In short, politics here is just as annoying as politics back home.

Elections were yesterday.  It made things a bit difficult for us, because almost everyone was voting, working the polls, or just plain not home.  But it's all finally over.  The downside is that when the results come in, the winning side blows up half of town.  Or at least that's what it sounds like.  We were sleeping peacefully until around 3:30 this morning, when the biggest fireworks I have ever heard started going off.  The ones on New Year's were nothing compared to these.  Fortunately for us, this particular bout of pyrotechnically-induced insomnia only lasted for about 20 minutes, rather than the hour+ that we dealt with on New Year's Eve and Christmas.

We went on divisions with the other elders a couple of times this week.  Elder Hood thought that it would be really good for my training to have to lead the area for a couple of days while he was with the other elders.  It went well, and I feel like I learned a lot.

No pictures this week, because I forgot to take my camera with me.

Love you all!

Elder Colton West
El Salvador, San Salvador East Mission

Editor's Note: Elder Hood has been with Colton since he got in the field in early Dec. They have become very good friends and are a great companionship.  As Elder Hood has been in Ilobasco for 6 months or more I believe, and they have been companions for 3, it is very likely they will be split up and also likely Elder Hood will be leaving Ilobasco. We are so VERY grateful for the good companion and trainer he has been to our son. We know they will be lifelong friends. Elder Hood is already planning to come to Colton's homecoming in Nov 2016! I'm sure they will be at each other's wedding some day. We are so grateful to his parents, Dave & Kerri, for raising such a great son. 

Some cute things I thought I'd share from my personal letter from him since this week's letter was a little shorter than usual:

"Next package you send, can you put in a way bigger bag of peach rings? (one of his fave candies).  Some of the elders who have been out for a long time will pay good money for American candy like that, because it is impossible to get them here.  That, or I can get on a lot of people's good sides by giving them some!"

"I need to admit that I've been a missionary for more than just the gospel down here.  I've converted Elder Hood to sriracha.  He asks if you can send him a bottle."

The picture today is from Mariela who Colton baptized on Feb 14th.  She facebook friend requested me yesterday and this pic was on  her profile! What a nice surprise especially since we didn't get pictures today!

At Mariela's baptism Feb 14th
Elder West, top right with glasses;
his companion, Elder Hood, next to him
Elder Hood's mom shared this picture with me from his letter this week.
These are the elders of their Ilobasco district. Elder Hood is the district leader.