Elder Colton West

Elder Colton West


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Week 83: Ich ben ein Berliner

Wow, it's already P-Day again.  I feel like I just got done writing you all last week!  Not that I'm complaining though.  Nothing in the mission is worse than a slow week.

This morning we were told the changes......  And I stay in Berlín for another change!  I'm very happy about that.  I don't want to leave Berlín.  I love this town and the people who we are teaching here.  On the down side, my companion Elder Hernandez has changes.  We were both hoping that neither of us would have changes.  We've become close friends during the last few weeks.  Lots of conversations about scout camps (he participated in the Honduran Boy Scouts), computers, music, cars, motorcycles, etc.  I'll tell you next week about my new companion.  Who knows, maybe I'll be with another gringo.

Right now we are teaching an amazing family, the Martinez Family.  They're former investigators who started receiving the missionaries about 9 months ago.  The sister missionaries dropped them a while back, but a sister from the branch gave us a reference and went with us to contact them again.  Thank goodness that she did.  The Martinez family are powerful (literally translating the mission slang.  Sorry if it seems a bit odd).  They are a very kind, loving, and humble family.  We've had some wonderful lessons with them.  They have a great desire to learn about the gospel, and have a baptism date for the 2nd of July.  The only difficulty is that the dad, Noé, works in San Salvador during the week, so we can only teach him on Saturday and Sunday.  But other than that things are absolutely peachy!  The son of the family, Frank, and his cousin Josué went to church with us yesterday.  They liked it a lot, and want to bring the whole family next week.

That's it for this week.  Tune in next week to find out about the new companion and the progress of our investigators!


Elder Colton West

El Salvador, San Salvador East Mission

This is called a "paterna"

They are giant seed pods from a tree that grows here

You open them, remove the seeds, and eat the white fuzzy coating
(it has a sweet taste).  Then you can boil the seeds in salt water
and eat them with lemon juice and chile.  They're yummy.

Guacamole. Yum.

Yes, I actually eat avocado now.  I've learned to like it here!

A sign in the cyber cafe that we're in right now.
                 It's a good sign (ha! puns!)

Dinner after our Family Night with the Martinez Family

Monday, May 23, 2016

Week 82: Darned Ants! Foggy and What a Week!

Note: Elder West sent 3 different group emails this week to break up pictures into batches so as not to bog down the server.  I've combined them into one post for convenience! And yes, I've let him know that sending 12 pictures this week is much appreciated. The fact that 6 of them were of ants and the tree and NONE of the 12 had his face or any humans in them, not so much!  He's promised to send pics of his face next week and of their activity from P-day today!!!  Make sure not to miss the last 2 pics of the mountain paradise he's serving in!


They ate my tree!  Well, part of my tree.  

Here's how it went down.  We have a bit of a garden behind the house that the landlords put in before they moved to San Salvador.  One of the conditions of the rent is that we have to take care of the garden.  One of the centerpieces of the garden is a lovely little almond tree.  In a few more years it's gonna be nice and huge and shady.

We went outside after planning last Monday night and found this botanical carnage going on.  After taking a few pictures, my companion started spraying the tree with the hose to knock the ants off of the leaves.  We then proceeded to make war with the ants using garden-friendly Raid.  In total, they annihilated around 45% of the leaves on our poor little almond tree before we got there.  The good news is that they haven't come back!


We woke up to this a few days ago.  It stayed super foggy until around 9:00.  Only 2 photos because my comp took those pics with his camera on a super high resolution setting.


As the title suggests, it's been a week!  As I mentioned to my best friend Joel in another email, things never seem to turn out how we want them to.  The good thing is that, for us, God always gives us a helping hand when things go south.

So I mentioned that we are teaching "A", who has been investigating the church for around 6 months but hasn't been able to be baptized for some word of wisdom  problems.  He was good with all of that for almost a month, but the day before we were going to have his baptism interview he went and got drunk with his friends.  We found that out in his interview. Frustrating, but he did commit to a new baptism date for next month.

On the bright side, God definitely made up for the fall of that baptism date.  That same day we met our new baptism date for the 28th of May.  His name is Jefferson, and he is the son of a less-active family.  We had no idea that he hasn't been baptized until the Relief Society President told us last Sunday!  His mom hadn't mentioned it at all in any of the times that we bought dinner from her.  We taught  Jefferson for the first time on Tuesday and have visited him every day this week.  He's already ready to be baptized, we just had to verify that he knows all of the necessary doctrine and the commandments.  The only thing left is to ask Jefferson who he wants to baptize him.  Expect baptism pictures next week.

Well, that's all I have time for this week.  Stay the course, Keep the Faith!

Elder Colton West
El Salvador, San Salvador East Mission

the view from the mirador (scenic overlook) here in Berlín. 
Wednesday was the first clear day that we've had since I got here.

Another view from the overlook

Monday, May 16, 2016

Week 81: Sayonora Normas de Excelencia

Hey all!

Sorry about the lack of email-age last week.  Like I said, I had to write a report about one of my ex-companions.  He may end up getting sent home early.  Tough stuff, but that's what happens sometime.

Other than all of that craziness, things have been going very well for us.  We are getting tons of references from the members here in Berlin.  And not just references, super positive references.  People who actually want to learn about the church!  It's awesome.  Just this week we received 21 references, 10 of which were fom members!

We're working on preparing people for baptism as well.  Right now we're working with Arturo, who has been investigating the church for about 6 months now.  He's already received all of the missionary discussions several times, and has overcome difficulties with alcohol, tobacco and coffee.  We're hoping to baptize him next Saturday, the 28th.  We're also working with Blanca, the mom of a recent convert.  She loves the church and the doctrine that we have taught her.  Her only problem is that she isn't married to her "husband" and he doesn't want to get married.  We're praying that he will soften his heart, and are searching for ways to serve the family and gain his confidence.

We also had a very interesting Zone Conference this week.  President and Hermana Vasquez stopped by to tell us about something new in the mission: we will no longer use mission-wide Standards of Excellence like we used to.  The Standards of Excellence are goals for our key indicators (new investigators, investigators who attend sacrament meeting, etc.) set by the mission president.  Since I got here, we've had them.  Presidente set them shortly after arriving to the misson.  However, in his time here, Presidente Vasquez has noticed a problem with the Standards, or rather with the attitude that the missionaries have towards the standards.  He has seen that putting standards for the whole mission turns the missionaries into "checklist mormons."  In other words, many missionaries focused too much on the numbers and not enough on the people.  Rather than focus on baptism dates, some leader would chew out their missionaries for not meeting the standards.  President didn't like that very much, and neither did we (the missionaries who had numbers-focused leaders).

To solve the problem, Presidente has frozen the normas de excelencia.  In other words, we no longer have mission-set goals to reach.  Every companionship is responsable for setting their own goals and reaching them.  Of course, they have to do it by the spirit of revelation, praying to the Lord for what He wants in our areas, and what he realistically expects of us.  But it takes a lot of pressure off of us.  We no longer dread the nightly report phone call because President has re-focused the mission on people, not numbers.  It is wonderful, and I beleive that we are going to see great results from this change.

Well, time's up.  Take care!


Elder Colton West

El Salvador, San Salvador East Mission

A miracle has happened! I like avocado now.
I don't know how, but I like avocado now.

Crazy awesome cloud/fog that covered the whole
town of Berlin two weeks ago.
That's what we get for living on top of a mountain!

Parrots! They don't talk but they will "parrot" (ha!)
whatever you whistle to them

My hand got all beat up from using a machete to cut firewood for Blanca.
Those were blisters but the machete kinda sorta destroyed them.

We killed a ginormous scorpion in our house.
That's the third one we've found.
We fumigated the house with Raid when
Elder Hernandez found one in his bed!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Week 79: Winter is Coming!

Yep, it's that time of the year again.  Wintertime.  Almost.  It probably sounds pretty silly to you folks up in north America that winter comes in May.  Thing is, down here there is no summer and winter like we know in the States.  In Central America the dry season is called summer, and the wet season is called winter.  And in El Salvador, winter starts in May.  See the attached video for a short sample of Salvadorean winter weather.

Did you see it?  Yeah, it's pretty crazy.  And that's a relatively light storm for here.  It only lasted 15 minutes.  Normal winter storms are stronger than that and last hours at a time.  I still haven't seen a real central american rainstorm yet.

As far as the work, things are going excellent!  We've been contacting as many of the investigators of the other missionaries as we can.  So far, they're all positive.  However, our most positive investigator is a reference from a member.  Her name is D, and she is what we call a golden investigator.  The member who gave us the reference, O, is a returned missionary who has been preparing this sister for some time now.

Here's how it goes: D and O are nurses at the local clinic, and got to be friends there.  O is one of those people who is always sharing little things about the church, and D got interested for that.  O gave her a Book of Mormon and some reading assignments, and has answered every question that D has.  Recently, O invited D to meet with us, and D agreed.

We contacted D a week ago, and had one of the best lessons that I've ever participated in, and it was only a Lesson Zero (get to know the person and find out their gospel necessities).  At the end of that lesson Elder Hernandez and I felt that we absolutely had to teach Lesson 3, The Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Unfortunately, we had to wait until Saturday to do so.  D has one teeny tiny super huge problem in her life right now: she has some serious health problems.  She spent the whole week in San Salvador for exams and treatments, and didn't get back to Berlin until Saturday night.

So, Saturday night we went and taught her.  Oh my goodness, it was absolutely the best Lesson Three I have ever seen.  The things that we said were completely and totally inspired by the Holy Spirit.  It was amazing.  The Lord fulfilled His promise given in D&C 100:5-6.  We did not teach that lesson.  The Spirit taught the lesson, He just used our mouths to speak it.

D has a baptism date for the 28th of this month.  Be ready for baptism photos.

Well, time's up.  I hope that everyone has an awesome week!  Stay safe, say your prayers, and remember to write to the missionaries!


Elder Colton West

El Salvador, San Salvador East Mission

We washed a dog! We always semi-jokingly offer to wash the dog
when we offer to do service projects. The sister who cooks our
lunch took us up on the offer!

Awesome shoes that I found in a used store in Berlin.
Special Edition Marvel Vans

Crazy rain!
(Editor's note: Elder West also sent a short video clip of this but I can't get it to load.
Please check Facebook for a separate post...hopefully I can get it to work!)

The final installment of Tie-A-Day!