Elder Colton West

Elder Colton West


Monday, April 27, 2015

Week 26: The Day of the Racing Bus


It's a beautiful city, by Salvadorean standards.  I'm still getting used to being here.  It's way different.  You can't walk from one end of town to the other in the same day.  There's traffic here.  Lots of traffic.  I'm 20 minutes by bus away from Plaza Mundo, the largest shopping center in El Salvador (or one of the largest...I'm not entirely sure).  And the bus drivers are crazy.  There are two kinds of buses here: school buses and microbuses.  The microbuses cost 5 cents more to ride, but are usually a bit faster.  But to try to get more customers, some of the bus drivers will race to the next bus stop.  It's a wild ride if you're on one of those buses, to say the least.

And I have run out of email time again.  Sorry everyone!

Elder Colton West
El Salvador, San Salvador East Mission

Editor's Note:  Okay folks, I'm so sorry. I hijacked our missionary today! We caught each other in real time today and had many emails back and forth catching up on some things with family and friends. I PROMISE I will tell him (as only a mom can do) to do a nice LONG group email with LOTS of details next week BEFORE doing any personal emails.  He has been very focused on personal emails the last couple of weeks but I'm sure he will give us a huge update worth waiting for next week. In the meantime I will share some snippets from my personal emails as well as a line or two from his email to his sister.

Tomorrow is SIX MONTHS in the mission for our sweet missionary. He says: "I can't believe that the 6 month mark is here already.  Time has been flying by for my entire mission (except for the CCM.  That was an eternity)."  His time in the CCM seemed that way for him because the Mission HQ in Utah made a little goof. Before he left, they gave him a language assessment over the phone and said they were putting him straight into an intermediate Spanish class in the MTC (CCM in Spanish). Well, low and behold, he gets to the Guatemala CCM only to find out they do not have intermediate classes there! So he had to go through the same language classes as missionaries who arrived not knowing a lick of Spanish! He probably needed to be sent to Mexico or Provo MTC but for some reason was not. So having to do beginner's Spanish in the CCM after 2 years in high school  and 2 semesters in college before his mission made things a little boring for him there as he was not super challenged with the language. Nonetheless, he loved that CCM and knows he was sent there for a reason.

I asked Melissa, the mission presidents daughter, her opinion of how our Elder is doing with the language. She said he speaks very fast and has a great accent and that she thinks he's one with the most fluent Spanish! I told him that and he said "Wow! Coming from a native speaker, that's very high praise.  A member here told me last week that I am the most fluidly-speaking gringo he's ever met!!  A lot of gringos get a bit choppy when they use unfamiliar words."

Elder West writes to his sister: "I'm loving Ilopango so far. It's super chill, the people are really really nice. The members invite us over for dinner. We actually eat dinner with a family in the ward every night. It's really awesome!"  (missionaries LOVE food because they work so hard!)

I don't want to edit his email titles, but this one seriously should've been "The Wheels on the Bus Go Round & Round!"

Elder West LOVES old classic cars!

Living quarters in Ilopango

Not sure! Elder West forgot picture descriptions this week.
Guessing a neighbors dog who likes to visit through the wall.
Elder West LOVES Husky's. We had one when he was a young boy.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Week 25: The Man From Gringolandia

Hello everyone,

I had my first change of the mission this week.  I am now in Zona Ilopango, District Valle Nuevo, sector Valle Nuevo 2.  My companion is Elder Yaxon (ya-shon) from Guatemala.  He's a super good missionary, but only has 3 more changes left in this mission including this one.

So far I love it here, because my area is way smaller than Ilobasco 3 was, so I don't have to walk forever to visit my investigators.  And we have members in my area!  And they love us and give us food, so they are all awesome in my book.

Aaaaand I spent all of my email time responding to personal letters, so I don't have time to tell you about my week, other than that a member told me that I come from Gringolandia (Gringoland) and I thought that was super funny.

All of the pictures except for the last one are from a service project we did.  The first one is 4 generations of missionaries: me, Elder Hood (my trainer), Elder Vallecillo (assistant to the president and Elder Hood's trainer), and Elder Zabaleta (my zone leader and Elder Vallecillo's trainer.)

I'll tell you about all of the other stuff that happened if I remember to next week.  

Also, I realized about half an hour after leaving the cyber that I forgot to mention something!  Why I called this email "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year".  Late March marks the beginning of an amazing time here in Central America: mango season.  Here you can get mango all year, but most of the year they are small, green, and sour.  Sounds nasty, but they're actually really good.  Anyways, the mangoes are finally in season, and they are delicious.  And since the ward mission leader in Ilobasco knows that I love mangoes, he always had some at his house to give to us when we go there for lunch.

 Love you all, and stay good!

Elder Colton West
El Salvador, San Salvador East Mission

4 generation picture: Elder Zabaleta, Elder Vallecillo, Elder Hood and  Elder West
 (each was the trainer of the one to their left)

Service Project

Elder West's "don't mess with me I have a machete" face!

Elder West didn't say, but guessing this is his new district in Ilopango

The wonderful Hidalgo Family of Ilobasco taken the day before he left.
Sister Hidalgo did their laundry and cooked their noon meal.
They are Elder West's 2nd family!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Week 24: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Hi everyone,

I have a couple of things from last week to talk about because I ran out of time to write about them last week.  First off is Conference, which I think I mentioned.  That's how the Mormons celebrated Easter this year.  This year's conference was a good one.  There were a lot of talks about the importance of the family.  A couple of talks gave me some personal direction.  It was wonderful!

Thursday the 2nd we had a trip to the temple for our investigators.  My companion and I got 14 investigators to go on the trip.  Between the companionships here in Ilobasco and the work of the members, we filled a bus with people for the trip.  At the temple, we went on a "virtual tour" guided by a member of the temple presidency.  We also went to some smaller presentations given by missionaries that went a bit more in-depth about parts of the temple.  Overall, the temple trip was a huge success.  The mission as a whole had over 1500 investigators in attendance!  And everyone that I have talked to had a good experience there.

This week has been work work work.  And it has been a lot of good work.  We are finding lots of new people to teach.  We have had some really good lessons.  And we've had a couple of service opportunities as well.  One was to do some yard work for a member.  And by yard work I mean chopping down trees with machetes.  The banana trees are easy, you can chop that down with one swing.  The other ones were a bit difficult, especially because my machete isn't very sharp.  But in the end we got it done.  And we had a small bonfire to get rid of all of the leaves and stuff on the ground.

The other service project was to empty and clean a well for an elderly widow in the ward.  That's what all of the pictures are from this week.

I'm out of time, but let me now if there's anything you want to hear about.  Or if there's anything cool going on back home.  Or just write to say hi!

Elder Colton West
El Salvador, San Salvador East Mission

Editor's Note: I'm also posting some pics from the mission president's daughter of the Temple day activity. I posted these in a general Facebook post on Good Friday but they were not attached to his letter so some of you  may have missed them. ENJOY!

Service project-cleaning the water well for a widow in the branch

the well

Elder Chamorro in the well!
Temple Day 4/2/15 with companion, Elder Chamorro (from Nicaragua)

waiting outside the ward building in San Salvador with investigators
Temple Day 4/2/15

Waiting to go inside for Virtual Temple tour

The mission brought 1,500 people to Temple Day 4/2/15

San Salvador, El Salvador Temple

Class on The Plan of Salvation taught to investigators at Temple Day 4/2/15

Monday, April 6, 2015

Week 23: Who's blocking the street this time?

Happy Easter to all!  

I know I'm a day late for that, but I have a tendency to forget what day it is until I start my studies in the morning.  Also, I kinda can only write on Mondays, which makes timely holiday wishes a bit difficult.

Easter, or Domingo Santo as it is called in Spanish, is celebrated very differently here.  There's no Easter Bunny, and the only people who make easter eggs are the gringo missionaries.  Those kind of things are English/American traditions.  Down here, the Easter season is celebrated for an entire week, the Semana Santa.  En la Semana Santa, los católicos son un poco loco con sus cultos.  Sorry, I've picked up a tendency to slip into Spanish when I say a spanish word in an english sentence.  During Semana Santa, the Catholics here go a bit crazy with their services, or more specifically with how many services they have.  Normally they have Mass every hour starting at 5:30 in the morning (something that always woke me up and frustrated me, so we started going to the gym earlier).

During Semana Santa (or Holy Week), there is almost always a mass of some kind going on.  And on the last few days of the Semana Santa they have some special services.  Thursday during the day there is a procession where they recreate Christ being taken before Pilate, or something like that.  All I know is that a bunch of guys dressed up as Roman Centurions were blocking our way home from lunch after the temple trip.  For a full 20 minutes...

Thursday night they have the vigila (vigil) all night, commemorating the apostles waiting in the Garden while Christ was atoning for the world.  Friday is the really different, and kinda cool, celebration though.

On Viernes Sando (Good Friday), the people of El Salvador do something special.  Okay, two somethings special.  First, they make alfombras (giant sand drawings) in the streets.  The quality of the alfombras depends on the people who make them.  Some are kinda chafa.  Some are super cool and well made.  They depict various things: some are very religiously themed, some are more secular.  Pictures are included with this email.

The other thing that the Catholics do is hold a funeral procession for the Savior.  It's different, to say the least.  This procession starts at one of the catholic churches and goes on a route around town, destroying the alfombras as they go along (becasue they walk over them).  Why, I do not know.  It's just something that happens.

Saturday night there is another vigila that lasts until 3 or 4 in the morning.  Around 3:30, a million and one bottle rockets get shot off.  I'm only slightly exaggerating the number.  There are so many of them that I dreamed that I was in a war before the explosions woke me up!  Thankfully, the Easter bout of pyrotechnically-induced insomnia only lasts for about 20 minutes.  The following morning, everything in town is closed, and everyone is at home asleep.  Except for the Mormons.  We're up to something entirely different.

That something different is called General Conference.  These sessions of conference were absolutely amazing!  I learned a great deal from this conference.  Unfortunately, I'm out of time, so I'll have to tell you all about it next week!  

Elder Colton West

El Salvador, San Salvador East Mission

Editor's Note: Elder West spent some time writing family today and promises to fill us all in on their epic Temple activity AND his thoughts on General Conference next week.  I can tell how much he enjoys the culture and traditions in El Salvador and it sure is fun to hear about how things are done there. I admire our Catholic brothers and sisters and how wholeheartedly they celebrate the events leading up to our Savior's Resurrection. Beautiful! I'm sure Elder West agrees even though he does NOT like to get woke up any earlier than a missionary already has to get up!

Ilobasco District - Elder West and his companion,
Elder Chamorro from Nicaragua, are in red.

Sandpainting "alfombras" in the streets during Easter

Alfombras of the Savior during Catholic Holy Week

Another beautiful alfombras - "Christ was wounded, you were healed"