Another week dead and gone! I can't believe how fast the time is going by here.
This week has been rough. Our apartment (all of us 4 Elders ) came down with a nasty virus/flu and we have all been stuck in bed since Friday (which is a letdown because right when we get our car, we get super sick and can't do any work). Apparently something is going around that affects young adults and I think that's what we got. (Bad body aches, headaches, fever, throw up, cold, sore throat, etc)...it's been no fun. Haha. We seem to be kind of getting better. We're going to go and see a doctor soon because no matter how much sleep we get, we wake up feeling the same way. My companion says he thinks 50% of it is depression and this is how our bodies are coping with it. I totally wouldn't doubt it. South YONKERS is the most depressing place on earth. Haha. But it's ok, we are alive and well and got to get a few days of work in before the sickness hit.
Last Wednesday we went to Manhattan and went to Central Park, and went to the MET museum. It was awesome! They had different artifacts from different cultures dating back to around 600 B.C. Beautiful place. If you ever get the chance to go, do it! I will attach some pictures. We also got to go to the LDS Manhattan Temple (which is beautiful!). We got to go to the Apple Store which was awesome because the whole store is made out of glass. We got to go briefly check out Juliard school of music as well.
The people in Manhattan are so cool. It's like a completely different world compared to Yonkers. It's like the opposite of Yonkers. Everyone is on a mission and people are here to work and they are so nice! The fashion that everyone has in Manhattan is awesome too!
The subways get JAMMED packed here. (That's how we got to the city). It was funny, as we were waiting to get on the subway to go back to Yonkers, we had this crazy African American guy come up to us and started talking. I didn't understand a word he said. He then missed his train and was running back and forth yelling at the train, and then he came back to us and said "if anybody ever gives you any trouble, you let me know and I'll take care of them". Haha, all I can say is I'm super glad that guy liked us because I would hate it if he was against us.
David: the more I get to know David, the more I see how interesting he is. He showed us this video of this traffic light camera and how this truck came and was about to hit a bicycle and then this girl with glowing hands popped out of nowhere and transported him to the sidewalk. It looked like a five-year old photoshopped it and he claimed that it was an angel of God. Haha! This man is very gullible yet firm on his opinions. He is so difficult at times. It's hard when you give your all to help and teach someone and they don't want to understand due to being stubborn. It took us 3 hours to get through our lesson because he talks so much. We will be teaching him about a specific point and then randomly he will start talking about something else (like that video for example). He claims to be catholic and he tells us that no matter what, he will always be catholic and nothing we say to him will convince him otherwise. The funny thing is is that he never goes to church, he's never read any of the Bible, and refuses to read any of it. Same with the Book of Mormon. He tells us that he's here to teach us. Haha. He likes to be right all the time so if we are teaching him something that may be different from his opinion, he won't even give it a chance because it's so important for him to be right. On the bright side, we got to teach him the entire lesson and he ended with one of the most beautiful heartfelt prayers I've ever heard, and in the prayer he never even once asked anything for himself, he thanked God for everything else and blessed everyone else. He talked about how thankful he was for me coming to NY and prayed that my family would be safe and that we would be blessed all the days of our lives for giving service to him. It really was a genuine prayer. It was a good lesson!
Victor: this was by far the best lesson we have had. His wife ended up making us dinner and dessert, and as we ate, we got to know each other better which was great. Victor always tells us how he knows we will be fine in life because we are serving a mission. I don't know how he knows that but I'm glad he does. Haha. He also talks about how we will fall in love one day and how it will happen. It's funny how the people we teach love giving us advice. Haha.
Anyways after dinner, we taught about the gospel of Jesus Christ and the joy it brings in this life. The Spirit was so strong. We ended up sharing that video of the man who was lost in life and was going to end his life, but then his life flipped around and with time he found happiness (I sent it in one of my emails a few weeks back) and at the end of the video, Victor was tearing up, and he finally opened up, and he told us that he was looking for something in his life, but he didn't know what it was, and I asked him if he has prayed and asked God what it was, and he said he has, but not seriously because he wants to wait until his daughter graduates high school in May, before he makes any changes. At this point the spirit was so strong and I told him that when we open our heart all the way and let God in, he then begins to open our eyes - to truth and happiness and how to obtain both. I got the impression to leave him with a scripture. The very set of scriptures and numbers popped in my head, but I forgot what they were about but I was prompted to share them. It was a while since I had read those scriptures. I took the leap of faith and challenged him to read and pray about the scripture I gave him, and we ended on a very spiritual high note. Turns out the scripture was exactly what he needed. I didn't know that, but God did, and He impressed me to share that with him. Great lesson!
It's been great - we have had 4 dinner appointments now! There is this family named the Martinez family and they make the best Mexican food ever! They are my favorite!
I've never been more appreciate of good food. It's so hard to get good food here so mom the food you've been sending me means everything to me! Thank you! It's ok though that the food is bad because it teaches you how to survive off very little. It's pretty much been Raman noodles every meal. Haha. For next month, we are going to plan out our meals, budget and figure out how to shop so we can buy healthier food. I can't wait to have some good healthy food. Haha.
Anyways, I can't lie, I've been depressed here. But I keep telling myself it's not about me. Because it's not. It's not so much the mission, it's the city of Yonkers and the people in it. People tell me all these people need the gospel but honestly a lot of these people are too far gone. It's so sad to say but they are so involved in drugs and violence that they are almost at their animal instinct. The natural man has completely taken over. I don't know how to explain it. People cuss at each other at church and fight all the time. Even my companion who has served in Inwood, and The Bronx says this is by far the most depressing place he's ever been. I'm trying to lift my spirits, it's just very tough. I guess God is trying to teach me patience and perseverance. Even the members hate it here. It's funny! They will always ask me if I like it and I'm like "yeah sure I love it here!" And they are like "really!? I hate it here". Haha it's pretty funny. At least I'm not alone. I think what's frustrating is this isn't like a normal mission where you get to serve people, teach people, have dinner appointments and just be busy helping others. None of that really happens. Nobody answers their phones, they lie all the time about when they can meet, and nobody has any integrity here. Nobody wants to learn, they just want someone to tell all their problems to and it just brings you down! Im trying to be as positive as I can! Hopefully we will start to see some change happening in this place. We just need to find that one person or family that will make it all worth it!
This scripture (even though way more extreme than what I've been going through) has helped me a lot. Maybe it can help some of you too who are experiencing difficult times.
“And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” D&C 122:7
That's what I love about this gospel. God is always there for us. This gospel allows us to see how the good things and the hard times are placed in our life for God to shape us to becoming like him if we let him. We know that it will be perfect in the end and that's why we are always so happy even when there's no reason to be. Because we always have that eternal knowledge that as we work and show our faith through actions, the Lord will bless us in this life and the next. This is the only way to true eternal happiness. It lasts forever and only increases as we live right.
Keep going and things will get better.
With a whole lotta love,
- Elder Austin Celaya
P.S. I finally got to drive! New York drivers are not very good drivers. Haha most of the speed limits here are around 30-40 and I think there is a reason for that. Haha. Driving is so fun though.