Saturday, July 30, 2016

Goodbye NY Hello CA (13 July 2016)

All those leaving the mission got to have a temple session 
with Pres. and Sis. Smith.




SUNDAY (17 July 2016)

Seeing my best buddies again!
(Dakota Pierce returned from the Singapore Chinese Mission 
and Jacob Snyder returned from the Philippine Cebu Mission)

Friday, July 8, 2016

~ Home is Here ~ My Last Email (6 July 2016)

Hi family...yes all of you - all of you are family.

My home is here. This is where I found who I am. This is where I found what life is all about - what eternity is all about. This is where I found my personal relationship with the Savior. The time has come to an end. Whoa...It has gone by faster than anything I have ever been a part of in my life. If life goes by like this, there isn't much time. The mission was very long going through it, but looking back it seems like a fleeting dream. I cannot lie. I am very sad. I want more. I want more of this. I never dreamed that happiness to this intensity existed. Every day I wake up, the more poignant it has become. I have come to love so many people. Children. Of. God. We are all brothers and sisters. I could do this the rest of my life.

There is a deep understanding of life that comes from being blessed to be able to serve a mission. You are lifted from the world. No TV. No internet. No phones. No news. No music. No rest. Praying 20+ times per day. Studying the scriptures for 2 hours. Going into homes that are in the worst possible situations. Seeing things you only see in movies right in front of your face. You show these people how what we call "the gospel of Jesus Christ" can change their lives. But you don't really know how it will. You've never been in their situations. Then as it does, you start to change yourself. As you share the same message with another family in the same situation, you then see it work for them. 
You literally see people who get so low, where there is no possible way out of their problems. They hit so low, that the only way back up is through. Through pain. Through change. Through repentance. Through forgiveness. Into Hope. Into Light. Into Happiness. Into Bliss. But it's help that only heaven can give. Your mind is never distracted from anything but reality. You start to forget the past. You lose your worries of the future. You see in a very unexplainable way what truly matters eternally - Eternity. You feel it. It becomes you. You obsess over it, because you feel yourself finally coming in touch with reality. You feel pure, flowing joy. True reality. Not reality that we create in our heads. Not a reality that's drawing from others in society through the many distractions in the world. The true reality of life. It becomes you and changes the very fibers of what makes you, you. It's from heaven. You walk around in the ghettos of the Bronx and Harlem, yet you are living in Heaven.

You see a lot of things. Things you don't want to see. Things I can't talk about now. A lot of broken homes. You see how the Gospel of Jesus Christ fixes everything.

I have come to love working. I love planning for the progress of these souls. I have come to love sweating outside in the 100 degree weather with full-on humidity, tracting project buildings. I have come to love walking outside in 0 degree weather with humid wind cutting through my clothes to my soul as I talk to those who are left with no hope. I have come to love everything. I have come to love hard situations. I have come to love Spanish. Oh, how I love Spanish. I have come to love rejection - it inspires me to be better. I have come to love spiritual experiences - they keep me in this reality I am talking of.

I'm looking back at the many experiences I have had on this mission that the Lord has blessed me with to be able to serve, and nothing comes but tears. I cannot express everything here. You will have to hear it from me in person. I am going to miss this place. I have been taught how to have charity. I have come to know and love these people here more than I have my own family. It is truly amazing to be able to meet some of these people, and as they express their life troubles to you, you begin to feel this rush (I say rush because that is how intensely it comes) of overwhelming love for them. They can be the most horrible people in the world, but you all of a sudden know on a spiritual level their potential. As they are telling you who they are, you in a very real way see who they can become. You love them as if they were already that person, and you start to see yourself in the same way. You start to see these people how God does. You start to see you as He does. Perhaps he gives us a little view or portion of the amount of love He has for them and the potential He sees they have. As you love these people, and as you watch them change their lives as they apply THE way in their life, you begin to understand the vast amount of love that Heavenly Father has for you. You understand on a spiritual level that you are a son or daughter of God. He created you. You weren't made to fail. You were made to be nothing but successful. I have found this on a very real level. I am not sure if I know anything else more than this.

I have come to fall in love with God's presence and the feeling of His spirit. I never want to do anything wrong ever again in my life. But I know I will. That's why I need Christ. I know He will always be there for me, even when I am not there for Him. I need Him.

I have let him into my heart. I have worked for that, too. My mission has been anything but easy. This mission is the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life, hands down. I have gone through a lot of different and difficult things. But I let Him in. As I have done so, He has taken away my pain, my sin, my sadness, and has replaced it daily with increasing joy.

I am extremely grateful for the time I have had to serve the Lord for two years. I feel He has given me far more than I have given on the mission. That is the beauty of our relationship with a loving Heavenly Father. He always gives 100 fold of what we give. He has blessed me daily by being able to be tutored by Him through His spirit as I have had both great and sad/hard experiences out in the mission field. I have come to find such purpose and happiness. I had a goal to find true happiness on my mission. I can say laboring daily in helping others come to Christ, forgetting about what it is that I desire, and seeing people truly change their being as they let the Atonement of Jesus Christ affect the very roots of their heart, has been happiness. It has not been easy. It has been quite honestly the opposite of anything considered easy. But, I feel as if the more difficult it has been, the more sweet the joyous times have turned out to be. The great depths of sorrow experienced only made those moments of elation that much more meaningful. In fact, it was probably those moments of difficulty that even made them possible to turn into joy. From the spiritual demands that are most common to that of a missionary, as well as the many emotional moments of shedding tears with those people you come to love with all your heart, you learn to carry each other’s burdens. Through sorrow, diligence, and many failed attempts resulting in rejection have come those small moments where peace increased to where it hit a point of happiness that could be considered bliss, moments that only heaven could bring.

You meet people and love them so much that it's impossible to say you did not know them before this life. They were my friends before.

I could spend all eternity telling you what I have learned on my mission. I will just have to show you.

I am not the same person anymore. Not even close. Don't expect the same. I am better. I am stronger. I am living a completely different life now. It's all because of the Savior. He has changed my heart and has created me into something that I never dreamed I COULD become. This is just the beginning. I can never be the same after this. I have come to find myself. I have come to find MY Savior. I can call him "mine," because I know him now. He's changed everything. The future is the brightest thing in the world. God has given me a glimpse of Heaven so I know what to live for. Because of the love and grace of the Savior, I don't have to be what I have been. I never do.

Honestly, every time I think it can't get better, it somehow does.

I found myself.

He found me.

I found Him.


I Found My Friends.

- Elder Austin Celaya

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Don’t Be a "New Yorker" (22 June 2016)

What a crazy week it's been. I've been pretty sick, my roommate went home on an emergency, and every time we walk out the door someone always seems to have something to say -- the "New York way!"

One night we were walking home. We just get off the subway, and we ran into the sister missionaries. We said hi and walked in front of them. As we were walking, there were these two guys holding hands walking in the opposite direction. One of them looks at me and says, "Heyyyy cute thanngg!!!"  And then his partner looks at him and smacks him and yells, "HEYYYYYY, don't you look at him!!" (now this was all said in a very voice-fluctuating type of tone). The sisters behind us just start cracking up and so did we. Very funny experience that I've never had - a guy flirting with me while he already had a partner. It was an experience I had once and thought that would be the end, but we actually have been getting a lot of these kinds of occasions recently.

We had a lesbian couple walk by (same place actually), they started laughing at us and said we were a cute couple. Haha. They thought they were so ironically funny. Right before that, we came out off an elevator and there was this "vote for Adam Clayton Powell" add on the floor (a congressman here who has a street and statue in Harlem). Well, the guy is still living, but the statue makes him out to seem like he's some hero from the founding fathers’ time. My companion was telling me about this, and this lady looks up at us and was like "Yeah, well there's no black statues in Utah" (in a very sarcastic ignorant tone). My companion didn't like that one.

- We had this member call us from New Jersey who happened to be in the same congregation of the man who runs the administration of the hospital here in the area (we had met with him on previous occasions). He called us up and asked us if we could accompany him to a lung transplant seminar. He worked in the subway tunnels here for 14 years and it destroyed his lungs. He was, in fact, telling us a few crazy stories. One time some guy tried to sneak through the turnstiles and this man tried to chase him down and yelled at him, "I hope you get hit by a train and die!" and the guy got scared, jumped into the tracks trying to cross, the train came, and BOOM, he was hit. Our friend said he ran back up to his position real quick haha. He told us, too, how the homeless people live down in the subways and how a man touched something electrical and fried black and our friend had to scrape him off the tracks. He has crazy stories! Anyways, his lungs are destroyed from working down there for 14 years. He needs a lung transplant (both lungs) and called the mission home to get it approved that we go with him. So we went to a 2-hour seminar with about 50 people hooked up to oxygen tubes, having to carry oxygen tanks around with them everywhere they go. The seminar was given by one of the top lung surgeons in the world and was so interesting. I honestly learned a lot about missionary work. It relates to everything -- especially human nature and human patterns.

We are having a baptism the weekend before I leave. We are working with Justin to get him there. His mom and sister were baptized a year ago, and his dad is now getting interested. We are going to work on getting them to the temple to be sealed. That's the goal.

There is a lady we have been visiting in the hospital who is from Philadelphia (4 hours away) who happens to be a member. She fell and now her intestines turned black and partly died, so they had to cut a large part of them out. She has been in pain for about a month now. She doesn't have anybody here who’s family except her sister who works at the hospital as a cancer researcher. Sunday night we needed to sync our area book and therefore needed wifi. We decided to go to the hospital. As we were sitting down a very strong prompting came to mind. "Go visit Diane."  So we walked in her room and she was sleeping. Whenever she is sleeping, we usually just come back.  But something said to wake her up. So we woke her up, and she began to express to us that she wanted to give up, that she wanted to die, and die tonight. We didn't really know what to do or say. We waited for a minute and the words finally came. We were able to tell her that clearly God had not given up on her yet, and that was the reason she was living...there was a purpose, she just had to find it. We spent 45 minutes helping her see the bigger picture. By the end of the night she told us she would fight to the end. It's been amazing to see how God puts you in people's path that you either need or they need you. Look for them. They are always there. I've found the more I'm looking to find those that I can help, the more people come into my life that can help me.

Love you all,

- Elder Celaya

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Do You Know Reality? (8 June 2016)

- Spanish, Spanish, Spanish. Gospel, gospel, gospel -- two best things in the world. Two things I'm addicted to. Good things to be addicted to, too :)

- We talk in Spanish all day. I'm so happy that California is basically a second Mexico or I don't know what I'd do without Spanish on the daily!

- Elder Bennet from the first quorum of the 70 is here all week. We have an 8-hour training with him tomorrow and then another 5-hour one the following day. It's going to be intense!

 - Justin. 17. His mom and sister just joined the church a year ago and we found him in the hospital. He had a series of surgeries and we would visit him each day between surgeries. Now we are teaching him. He has a baptism date for the 25th of June. Such an awesome kid. It's fun to find those that aren't really tainted by the crazy environment here. I have no idea how they stay that way living here. It blows my mind.

- How can we understand, comprehend, appreciate, and value eternity, or something eternal, when nothing in our lives has ever been temporary? Let's say you grow up with your family, they are still here, and you have your school and your job with friends and family. What in that life seems temporary? It's only when something becomes temporary like a death in the family or when you fight death daily with a terminal disease, etc...That is when we see reality, really as it is, and we understand more than we know anything else that death is real. More real than any of us seem to want to believe. Death is the ending of this life. As you meet the end that will also end everything else in your life, this is when you realize what really matters - not much more than that really does. All we can really control, and not even fully is the life we have here. We are still subjected to injustices and bad decisions of others, illness, etc...but at least we try to control it. But then we realize that by ourselves alone we cannot control anything of what follows this life. We don't know how, or even can by ourselves. That's where Christ comes in -- the only one who knows the "how," and He has given us the tools to make death only a passing phase rather than an end. It can only get better. It will be unimaginably better in the next life if we would only let Him change us and make it that way here. I've realized you can teach people this all you want. They may know it's true all they want. But to really find Him personally, on a personal level, it takes lots and lots of searching and work. But oh, is it worth it. He will take you out of this world and bring you to one better. You'll have one foot in heaven.

It's as C.S. Lewis said, "The men who did most for this world were the ones whose minds were caught up in the next."

I love this mission. I'm going to miss it dearly. I've never had to leave anything that's so close to my heart as this.

¡Haz lo que pueda a medida que le falte tiempo todavĂ­a! 

- Elder Austin Celaya

My last transfer. Saying goodbye to Elder Richards.

My new companion, Elder Price. He's from Redlands, CA. It's great - basically our whole zone is from California. Love it!

Cool mall in Columbia Circle