Thursday, October 30, 2014

Quick Email (29 October 2014)

Hello all. I really want to talk about all the amazing birthday wishes you sent me but I don't have time this week. (Insert from letter to Mom referring to all the birthday wishes a lot of you sent: “I can't wait to talk about my birthday present. It was unreal. UNREAL!!!! Thank you so much!”). This week has been full of events. I don't really have time to write a large email today because we are going winter shopping here because it's starting to get cold. Next week you will have an email containing the stories of this week (and there are many) and next week’s. This week has been the best week in the mission for sure and also the most interesting. There is so much to tell you all, but I truly don't have time. I hope you all have a great week.

I just want to share a quick thought that Elder Dakota Pierce also shared in this email this week. We only have one chance at this life. Why not just go for it? Give it all you have!

"This is our one and only chance at mortal life—here and now. The longer we live, the greater is our realization that it is brief. Opportunities come, and then they are gone. I believe that among the greatest lessons we are to learn in this short sojourn upon the earth are lessons that help us distinguish between what is important and what is not. I plead with you not to let those most important things pass you by as you plan for that illusive and nonexistent future when you will have time to do all that you want to do. Instead, find joy in the journey—now. Rather than dwelling on the past, we should make the most of today, of the here and now, doing all we can to provide pleasant memories for the future." -Thomas S. Monson

I love you all. Expect an email full of events next week!

- Elder Austin Celaya


Me doing a puzzle.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Straight From Manhattan (3 months) (21 October 2014)

Hi family!

This week has been great. I bet you are wondering why I am emailing you on Tuesday instead of Wednesday. Well this week our preparation day (the day we email, do laundry, shop for food, etc.) got switched to Tuesday because we have interviews with President on Wednesday. Not a whole lot has happened here because I have still been recovering from my sickness. I am pretty much all the way better now, but my sore throat kind of came back -- I am hoping it goes away soon. My goal this week was to eat as healthy, and as much as I possibly could, considering how much weight I lost being sick. I have gained 7 pounds back so far of the 20 pounds lost.

This week my roommates and I are starting a training schedule. In the mornings, we are going to go running, or go play basketball on one of the courts here in Yonkers, and then at night we are going to do weight training and what we call the "Feliz Challenge". We have a deck of cards. We do inclined pushups. The way we pick how many reps we do in between sets is you pick the top four cards off the deck, and that's how many pushups you are doing until you get to rest. You then get a 20 second rest, and then take four more cards off the deck until you go through the entire deck. Mr. Feliz (the guy we are teaching who taught us this workout) was at a point where he was going through 15-20 decks of cards in one workout. One is super hard. I can't imagine 15-20!  I have been eating as much as I possibly can. I'm excited to get my strength back!

I had one of the most fun night's of my mission this week. In one of the wards we neighbor with, they had a talent show night (or what they call "Noche De Talentos") for a few of the wards here. It was absolutely amazing! It was the Spanish wards, and wow do they know how to throw a party! They went all out. There were five acts, and then they had intermission, and then it was eating time. There were taquitos, chicken, salad, empaƱadas, tamales, and a lot of Spanish dishes. There were Guatemalans, Puerto Ricans, Peruvians, Dominicans, and people from Chile, etc, so there was a whole group of different kinds of foods from all different countries. The food was so good! Then the show resumed. It was so fun. It was the first time I have been truly hopeful here in New York. It was a great morale booster.

It was great to get to bond with some of the members too. I met a guy who performed who actually is a music producer and surprisingly was pretty good! It was fun. Him, Elder Smith (the elder I went on splits with who is a music producer) and I, all chatted it up about music and producing. It was a cool experience. 

On Sunday - There is a member in our ward named Veronica, and she got her mission call and we went to the church Sunday night to watch her open it. Veronica is pretty awesome! She is the girlfriend of the guy (Brandon) we are going to start teaching (who is absolutely the coolest guy in the world). A note on Brandon: He already understands the Gospel and sees the eternal happiness it can bring him, and has a desire to listen to the Spirit and act to first learn, and then do more to be as happy he can possibly be. He knows this happiness comes from the gospel, because he says he truly feels it. That's one thing I have learned here in Yonkers. Our church location is in a ghetto part of Yonkers. There are drug deals going on outside, and people are always fighting, and I've heard gun shots outside of our church, but the amazing thing is, every time I open that back door and walk in, I completely feel the contrast of a dark, uneasy, and panicked feeling to a heavenly peace that feels as if God has lifted my troubles and lets me be at rest, dwelling in hope. Back at home, this feeling was harder to feel, but now since outside is such a bad place, going into the church feels so nice. You can truly feel the comforting feeling of the Spirit in the church, and that feeling is something Brandon can recognize. You can see it in him. There is one scene in the movie Inception where there are people who are dreaming in the chemist's basement. They come to him to be drugged to be put into a dream state. They then say that they don't do this to be put to sleep, they do it to wake up. Their dream is their reality. Every time I walk into that church, it feels like my soul is waking up...to reality - to eternal reality, to God's reality. There oftentimes is a facade that we all face that perverts the way we view and feel life, or rather our existence, truly is. Almost everything in our lives and the things in the world are meant to make us feel as if we will never die, and as if we do not need others to help us in this journey on this earth. A lot of the times it truly feels like dying is just a dream and will never happen. A lot of times, because we know in the back of our heads that we die, we make up hopes and wishes of a good life to come based upon exactly what we want in the next life, without actually knowing if it will factually come to pass the way we wish. When I say this Gospel "wakes me up," it wakes me up so I truly see what will come in the next life, the true nature of God our father, and how I and we can obtain the blessings our Father in heaven has in store for those who follow his words. Think about it. It is extremely easy. God sent us here to be in a state of probation...a state of testing to see what we will do with our lives, and what kind of people we will become. He has provided council to us and promises if we listen to his council, we will have many blessings including Eternal Life on the other side. He has also provided a way to know if these words are from man, or from Himself (and he promises that when we ask Him, having true faith, doubting nothing, we can know for ourselves by the power of the Holy Spirit [sometimes described as an eternal peace, or extreme heavenly love]), and then all we have to do is simply follow his words and the rest is promised to us. The greatest gift He can give us is promised to us, simply if we follow his words. That very gift of Eternal Life. Not just immortality -- for all beings will receive that -- but eternal life, where we get to live with God again and with our families forever in a state of happiness. It is as if a rich man came to us and told us that we can be the richest people in the world if we simply follow these few steps. The plan is completely laid out for us, all we have to do is follow that plan, and then spread the good news (the Gospel) to others and help them do the same. That's the very point of being a missionary!

Anyways, back to Veronica. The ward all got in a room and we watched as she opened her mission call. You can truly feel the divine calling of the Lord every time someone opens their mission call. It truly is a very peaceful feeling. I know that as I opened my call, I have never felt like God has known me personally more than I have at that moment, and every time I have watched someone else open their mission call since, I can truly feel that God knows them just the same. Everyone guessed she was going to California (including me...have to rep the home state) but she is actually going to Argentina! 

Today we are in the city! We are going to China Town and Elder Nelson (The new roommate in our apartment) is going to show us all around south Manhattan. He knows the area like the back of his hand because he served their in his last area. We are going to go to times square, the temple, ground zero, China Town, and just experience New York City on a beautiful day like today. I am excited. I should have some good pictures next week, along with some more exciting stories. Things have been kind of dry lately just because I have been sick. Yesterday was the first day we have gone out and done work since I was well. This week we are back on our grind.

I love you all. Try to be a little kinder. Try to do a little better. And don't ask God for what you are not willing to do. Think about that one =)

Love,

-- Elder Austin Celaya

P.S. I hit my three month mark tomorrow! Good bday present! Have a great week!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

"These N****s Ain't From Here - They Goin The One Way!!!" (15 October 2014)

Hi =}

I assume many of you are wondering about the title of this email. And I hope none of you take it offensive because that was not the intention at all. I will explain it later in the email.

So last week, I wasn't able to really send out an email because of transfers and I apologize for that. I will give you an update on everything now. So last week, like I said, I was very sick. They put me on an antibiotic but it wasn't working. I was on the floor almost in tears because of how bad my throat hurt and I was there for around three hours in the apartment. The elders that we live with walked in and found me on the floor, called the mission presidents wife, and she said to go into urgent care the next morning. I went in and they put me on a heavier antibiotic called augmentin. I started to take it, and it killed my system. It really felt like I was on some form of Chemo and everyone was telling me that it was normal because it was also killing the good in my body, but little did I know I was allergic to the medication. I felt like I was dying taking it. I woke up (day 4 of taking the antibiotics) and my entire body was covered from head to toe in the biggest rash, and everything was swollen. I took a picture, but I am saving it until I go home to show anyone because I really don't want you all to worry more than you need too. It looks funny now. So we went upstairs to the Senior Couple who used to be a nurse and she told me to immediately call Sister Morgan. I did, and she said to go to urgent care again right now. So, I went to urgent care again, and they said it was an allergic reaction to the penicillin in the antibiotic. Which kind of makes me frustrated because I told the mission doctor that I was allergic to penicillin and he claimed that I wasn't allergic but I just was sensitive to it. Every 3 to 4 hours I would get these terrible itch attacks where my entire body would swell up and started to itch and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I would take Benadryl and it would not work. My body was so done with taking pills. Haha. I have been on two antibiotics, I was taking advil like I've never taken it, Tums, and Benadryl. My body was dead.

So It's day 6 since I had the allergic reaction and the rash is just barely now going away. I'm so happy though because I am finally feeling better, physically, mentally and emotionally. I lost now 25 pounds being sick. I lost so much weight. I had my first meal yesterday where I could actually eat. It was complete heaven. I am so thankful now just to be able to swallow and to breathe and to enjoy the little things in life we ignore sometimes. Anyways, I am finally feeling better, and I plan to get all the weight back. My roommates and I put together a workout plan and an eating plan. Monday we start!

So transfers were last Wednesday. We got a new elder in our apartment. It was much needed. He is lively and likes to talk a lot and is so much more fun. The vibe in our apartment has totally changed for the better. On transfer day, I also was really drugged, and one of the side effects was that I would be really drowsy and forget things. Well, I ended up losing my iPad and I couldn't even remember losing it. I was totally out of it and I felt so bad. I was able to get a new one last night thankfully because it is literally impossible to do missionary work here without one. We do everything from our iPads. This week I haven't been able to go out much at all. I've been in bed for over two weeks now and I am so done with it. I'm hoping the rash will be all gone by Monday so we can start to go to work Monday.

On Friday, we were all able to see the movie "Meet The Mormons" which is in theaters as I write this. It was such an amazing movie. It really put clear to the public what and who we are as the world calls us "Mormons" and as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have never been more proud to be in this church. I loved the movie because it really put clear and destroyed a lot of the rumors you hear about us that many people believe. We watched it as a mission and there is a part in there where you see a story about a missionary leaving his family. Now all 280 of us missionaries have gone through that exact experience, and as he was saying goodbye to his family in the airport for two years, everyone was tearing up. I know as I watched that, it automatically switched me back to walking into security as I said goodbye to my family, as I kept looking back trying to take one last mental shot of the people I love most. Overall, it was great. Mormon, or not, go see it! It is a great movie. I challenge you to take some of your friends to go see it. You will see why we are the way we truly are and why we love what we call "The Gospel."

I want to talk of a miracle that happened this week. My dad always tells me, you have to find the one diamond buried in the dirt. Well, this week as we were at church, a man walked in, and we had no idea who he was. Nobody did. Turns out he wanted to talk to the bishop because he wanted to figure out how to turn his life around. We ended up talking to him and he said that his aunt is a member of the church in Honduras, and she told him that if he wants to change his life, that he needs to go to our church, so she looked up the churches in his area in yonkers and it happened to be our chapel, so he showed up this past Sunday. He is in the military and works as a construction worker. He gets sent on two year missions around the world. He hasn't seen his kids in seven years because his wife won't let him and he really is just finished with the way he was living. He needed something more. He really told us he wanted to change his life and was willing to do whatever to be truly happy. It was so awesome to see someone who was so humbled and prepared by God, and I was able to stand there and testify to him that I can promise him if he truly wants to change his life, there is no other way, and I told him from my experience, that out of anything in the world, this is what would make him the most happy. He wanted to know more, so we exchanged numbers and we will be teaching him next week hopefully. God truly does prepare people. It's in their own time too. At one day, we will all be in a humble state where we realize we need Christ, and his atonement, because He did something for us, that we or anyone else could never do. Be patient with those who want nothing to do with the Gospel right now. With time, everyone will know. I love this gospel. There literally is no better way to find one's self. I know many of you have been praying for me to be able to find the Lords elect and I have been praying for the same, and this truly was a direct answer to that prayer - someone walking in, begging to help him change his life. God truly is mindful of all of his children.

One thing I've also realized is how much I have not truly appreciated my parents and what my Mom and Dad have done for me to raise me. Nobody here has mothers or fathers that stick around, and being sick this week, I have felt so alone. My companion is such a great guy, but he is extremely quiet and won't do anything unless you ask him to, so I had to take care of myself alone this week and I had a lot of time to think about what everyone has ever done to help me in my life, especially the character of my mom and many of you and your mothers.

My whole life my mom has always put others in front of her own wants and desires. In a way that is extremely Christlike. Christ always put others in front of himself. He put all of us first, while he asked God to take away the pain he was going through as He suffered for all of our mistakes. I want to share this video. This video is of a mother who sacrificed what she wanted to do, to help others throughout her day. Notice while her little son is praying at the end of the day, what he thanks God for, and especially focus on what he says about what God wanted. This truly made me appreciate my family and all of you, and truly also inspired me to put off my desires and to become lost in helping others with what they need. Just imagine if we all focused on what others needed. We would never be worried about what we needed, because everyone else would be. We would be a united family, always caring for one another. Unfortunately we don't live in a world like that, but in this church, that's truly how it is. Enjoy this video.

I love you all, and I truly appreciate all your prayers. I have felt them more than I ever have this week. God puts us in situations we don't want to be put in so he can shape us into what he wants us to become - and that is perfect. Nothing less. He doesn't want less. It's a beautiful thing. I don't think this is a normal mission. Many have told me how this is one of the most difficult missions, but I think it's good for me. No matter where I go from this point in life after the mission, I will be grateful for anything. I feel like we are CIA agents and we plan where we are going to teach, we figure out how to safely get in the house, teach the lesson, and get out as fast as possible. When I look at it kind of like a game, it helps to relieve the stress.

So now about the subject of this message. Last night, we were driving home from getting a new ipad and we turned down a "wrong street." It was filled with black people and we were driving our very white roommate elders home and they had their windows down. Elder Paiz was driving and he drives sometimes really hesitantly, and he slowly rolled up to a stop sign. Now picture it. A car rolling up really slowly, with its windows down, filled with white people in shirts and ties, rolling up in an all-black drug dealing area. One of the Elders nodded his head at one of the guys and that was a mistake. The street apparently was a one way, and we turned down the wrong way. Right as we turned down the wrong way, a couple of the guys on the street started yelling, "These N*****S AIN'T FROM HERE!!! These N******S GOING THE ONE WAY!!!!!" Right as he said that, literally around 30-50 black guys popped up off the curb and started yelling at us saying it was a one way and they acted like it was the end of the world! My companion wanted to turn around, but that would have been a terrible idea. There were NO street lights and the street was filled with black people really upset because we were going the one way! Haha. I just thought it was hilarious because they knew we weren't from there because we were going the one way. It was the highlight of my night. Scary, but hilarious because they were so upset about us going the one way. haha. There is never a dull day here. Every day is an extreme, but it's very interesting. Literally, the mission can only get better from here and I'm looking at it with a positive attitude.

One last thing. We were able to go into a hospital this week and were able to give a blessing to a homeless lady who had a stroke and the spirit was so strong as we gave the blessing. She was not in the church, but her friend mentioned about blessings, and she wanted one, so we gave one to her and she was crying the whole time and kept saying how thankful she was. At that moment I felt very humbled to be able to have the opportunity to be a representative of Jesus Christ. The good moments here are few, but they are golden when they happen. I live for those moments.

I love you all so much. Do something nice for someone today. Be happy. Why be sad? If you are, change something in your life to make you happy. One thing I have learned is that if I want to be happy, I need to forget myself and help others. Have a great week! =}

- Elder Celaya

I don't really have any pictures because I just got a new ipad, but
here is a picture of me right now as I write my emails next to a
picture of Jesus. I will take some pictures this coming week for 
sure. Expect them next week!



Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Transfers!

Hello everyone! 

I don't have really any time this week because we had transfers today! I'm staying here in YONKERS with Elder Paiz because he's training me for 12 weeks. I've been really sick this week and had to go to urgent care...they

put me on antibiotics and I'm finally getting better. I'm very sorry I really just don't have time to write much.  I will recap everything that happened in my email next week.  I hope you all have a good week and I love you all. 

Here is a picture of everyone in my zone with President and Sister Morgan. All of these people are like my best friends! Even the elderly couple. She was a nurse and she would check up on me.


With love,


Elder Celaya
My first Zone in Yonkers!  I'm in the back - middle.
with Elder Paize

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

You Matter to Him - 1 Month in NY!! (October 1, 2014)

Hello my family!! How is everyone doing this week? I hope all is good! :) This week has been one of the most craziest, odd, and hardest weeks of my life. Even though it's been hard, there has been many tender mercies and many blessings that have come from it!

One of my good friends and fellow Elders went home this week. His name is Elder Wilson and he's the guy I actually met before the mission (the one who lifts weights). He was serving in the Bronx, and turns out he had depression. He lost 20 pounds being here and he didn't know why he was depressed. It was sad for us to hear about him going home and it kind of put a damper on the week. I couldn't believe it when I heard it. Pray for him. He needs it. He said that he would call President Morgan every night and talk to him about what he was feeling, and then he had a meeting with him. In the meeting he was crying and didn't know what to do, and President Morgan suggested that he should go home. Elder Wilson was disappointed that he couldn't say he served an honorable mission, and president got angry with this. He went and grabbed Elder Wilson's face, got up in his face and said "don't you EVER let anyone say you didn't serve an honorable mission. You cleaned your life up to get here, you wanted to serve with all your might, but because your body wouldn't let you anymore, is why you need to go home. Don't let anyone ever tell you this...ever." He then gave Elder Wilson a blessing and he flew home the next day. President Morgan has the perfect balance of being understanding and lovable, and tough in times where that is required. We will miss you Elder Wilson.

Last week I told you all I was sick and had to stay in bed most of last week. On the mission, being sick is very emotionally aggravating because you have sacrificed so much to be on a mission and then you are stuck at home because you get sick. You feel so frustrated and guilty which isn't good and just makes you more sick! Haha. So I couldn't take being inside anymore so I decided to go out with my companion and start to work again while being sick. That wasn't the smartest idea. It only got worse and worse and all the Elders in my zone kept telling me to call Sister Morgan (President Morgan's wife) and ask her what to do, but I didn't listen because I thought I would just get better. It was weird because I had a fever for two weeks straight, and body aches, my lymph nodes have been really swollen especially on the side of my neck (I look like Frankenstein or the hulk haha...my neck is super swollen right now) and I have had a really bad sore throat that keeps getting worse. I've had headaches and have felt restless. I checked my weight yesterday and within a week, I have lost 13 pounds. Not good at all. Yesterday we went on splits (so I went to Scarsdale and one of the Scarsdale elders came here to Yonkers) and I got to sleep in a nice bed. Their apartment was so nice! In all honesty it wasn't that nice, but compared to where we live in Yonkers, it was heaven. Anyways I went to sleep and I woke up in the night choking on my saliva because my throat was so sore, I couldn't swallow. So I spent the rest of the night in the bathroom spitting out my saliva so I didn't have to swallow it. It was a rough night! There is an elder named Elder Burton in my zone who also lives in the Scarsdale apartment and he saw me shaking yesterday from my fever, and he got up in my face about not calling sister Morgan or the doctor. It was needed and I thank him for doing so. I called Sister Morgan and she said I needed to call the doctor. I then called the doctor and after he looked at all the symptoms he said I had strep throat and an infection running through my body. He gave me a prescription for some medicine. I'm on that now, so we will see how it works. I haven't been this sick in a long time, and I think some of it was stress related.

When I get super stressed, I usually hold it in and don't tell anybody so my body then gets sick. It hit me this week. I had given up on myself here. I was eating ramen at every meal. I couldn't sleep because I was depressed. I stopped exercising, I would never drink water, and I completely just stopped caring about myself. In a bad way. I realized that if I'm going to be able to help anyone, I first needed to make sure I was healthy mentally, physically and spiritually. I had given up because most everyone else in this place has given up on their lives and it was infectious. By infectious I mean this. All the apartments/ houses here in Yonkers look like the houses were made out of sticks and slapped together in a day, then the telephone lines look like someone blind put them up, there is trash everywhere, everyone dresses like they are homeless (except at church haha) and everyone sits outside on their steps doing drugs. It's one of the most dirtiest places I've seen. It looks like a ghost town with people still living here. My companion calls them animals. Haha he says we have been placed in a concrete jungle of animals and it's our jobs to find the people still left here. Anyways, because of all this this, I really didn't like it here, and slowly started giving up on me. I had lost all hope. There was nothing I could find to get excited about. But I've been praying really hard this week for God to change this and let me see some hope, to feel some joy for something...anything. And slowly I started to feel hopeful, but I didn't even know what for. Being super sick, I realized I had to eat better, so I'm going to stop buying ramen and get some good healthy food. We are hitting up trader joes and whole foods today!

We went to visit a family named the Feliz family and the husband does calisthenics (street workouts) and he was in extremely good shape. He taught me his workouts which are very clever and creative. He was at a point in his life where he was doing 5,000-10,000 push-ups a day. And I believe it because he's in very good shape. Like crazy shape. This got me fired up to start working out again when I get better. We've been trying to teach this family the entire time I've been here, but every appointment has fallen through, and I know it was meant to be that we met with them this week, because this man gave me some hope again right when I felt like I couldn't go on anymore. I can't wait to get better so I can flip things around again. There's that saying, "Either I'm going to change the world, or the world is going to change me." I was letting the world change me...in a sense destroy me physically and mentally, and the only place I've been able to go for help is the Lord. But perhaps he means it to be this way. I will talk about this more later. Mr. Feliz is a really great guy. He's this big buff looking tough guy but he has a heart. He is looking for another job right now so he can quit his job now and come to church because he works on Sunday's. He lives in a crazy place so he scoped out the area outside for us before we left and was like a bodyguard as he walked us to our car. Cool guy! Can't wait to teach his family again.

We had an event this week where all the missionaries from our zone came to Yonkers and we went to a place called south Broadway and Getty square and we sang as missionaries. Both these areas are terrible areas to be in, but that's where they assigned the event. It was honestly pretty scary at first. Here's a group of 6-10 white missionaries, both Elders and Sisters amongst black, Dominican, and Hispanic people, happily singing in a courtyard filled with homeless people and druggies. It was interesting. Even though our surroundings were not the best, it was amazing the peace and joy I felt when we all sang those hymns together. The fact that you could feel the spirit so strong in such terrible surroundings was amazing to me. And that same spirit attracted some people to us, and one of them was a 19 year old guy who happened to be the boyfriend of one of the girls in our church. We talked to him for a while and he really wants to be baptized, and get sealed to his future wife and family for time and all eternity in the temple. Looking back, that whole event was meant to find him. The sisters in our Ward were having a baptism the following day in our church and we invited him to come. We told him we would make sure his girlfriend was there. She didn't end up showing up, and even though she didn't, he did, and he sat there and watched as this 11 year old girl got baptized by our bishop who holds the authority from God to do so, and he said after the baptism that he has never felt such a peace and such a heavenly feeling before. We told him that that was the Holy Spirit or the spirit of God and it testifies of truth, we told him the reason he was feeling this was because what he watched was truly of God. He told us he wants this feeling in his life and is willing to do whatever to have it. He told us he wants to start "hanging out" with us more, so we are going to start and help him out and teach him about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. It's amazing to see someone carry himself the way he does with good standards and good dreams in a city of the opposite when he's had nobody but himself to teach him of these good morals and ways of living that bring happiness. The Lord truly does prepare people to receive the teachings of God. We are going to start teaching him.

There is a special spirit there at baptisms. It feels like a peace of heaven opened up to you while you're still in this world, and you don't just now see with an eternal perspective, but you feel it. You can feel there's more. You can feel that it's right. You can feel that it's of God. There's no way anyone can experience that feeling of great joy and say it is of this world. There's is nothing I've ever felt that has made me this happy, except this feeling...the feeling of the spirit – God’s way of communicating to us, what is true eternally.  I had the chance to play the piano while Sister Smith and the girl getting baptized sang a duet. It was great. There was this family who was at the baptism...We had dinner with this family before and I got to know them pretty well and bond with their kids. I taught one of the kids how to spin a basketball on his finger and he loves it. This family was there and they came up to me (they have about 6 kids) and they told me that they all were praying for me to get better every day multiple times a day. All the kids and the husband and wife. It's so awesome to be able make these bonds with these people. It's definitely very humbling.

 We had dinner again at Judy and shasha's house and it was great. They were both really sick but they still made us dinner. These two are some of my favorite people here. Even though I won't miss much else here in Yonkers, I will miss them. Judy even called us last night because she felt impressed to call us and see if everything was alright. It was right when we were picking up medicine and she just wanted to check up and see if we were still ok. She told us anything we need, she will help us with. It was quite an odd call, but Elder Paiz and I both told her she has no idea how comforting it would be to both of our mothers to know there is someone like her watching out for us like we are her own. She is a very Christlike woman.  Mom you would love her.

We had a training conference this past week with President Morgan, his assistants and with all us new missionaries and our trainers. I want to share a few things that he talked about.
He was called as a bishop at age 32, and there was a couple in his Ward...an older couple who had served a total of 15 missions together. 15! They were truly consecrated to the Lord. They gave everything they had to Him. 15 missions are many years and years, serving others.  He loved his wife with all his might as did she love him with everything she had. One day, Betty (his wife) had a stroke and went into a coma. Her husband rushed her to the hospital and checked her in in the middle of the night. Well President Morgan got word of this (bishop at the time), woke up and rushed over to comfort him and his family at the hospital. Every day friends and family would come in and sing her songs of joy and life, hoping that she would wake up out of the coma. Her husband didn't sleep much at all during that time as he sat next to Betty in the hospital bed grasping her hand as she was stuck in the coma. A week went by and she was still in the coma, and then on a Saturday night, poor Betty passed away. Betty's husband was now left here on the earth without her. Betty and her husband every week would create these beautiful flower bouquets and they would come and decorate the chapel every Sunday. They built a greenhouse and planted the flowers specifically for this purpose. As Bishop Morgan walked out of the hospital that night with Betty's husband right after she passed away, Betty's husband looked him in the eyes and told him to not worry, he would make sure the flowers are there tomorrow Sunday morning at church. Bishop Morgan told him not to worry about it and that should be the last thing on his mind. He insisted he must bring them and he told him not to worry about it many times. Betty's husband then grabbed Bishop Morgan’s hands, looked him in the eyes, and said "Bishop Morgan, I really love Betty, but I love God more." He then brought the flowers just as he said he would to church, decorated the room, only hours after his wife had passed away whom he loved so dearly. He put off what he was feeling, so he could turn outward, and serve others. When in his darkest hours,he looked outward to serve the people of the ward, and ultimately to serve God. This man was amazing.

I have come to know, that even though God is so grand and has created creations beyond number, we matter to him. You matter to him. He knows more about what will make you happy in the long run than you could ever know yourself. He knows all of us by name. He knows everything we are going through, and he knows all our thoughts. He knows us better than we know ourselves, and I want to share a talk (at the bottom of this email) that has helped me come to understand that. So after this, grab a cup of herbal tea and go sit outside and get reading away :)

I had an interview with President Morgan, and I can truly say that he is a man of God, called by God. I don't think I've met anyone (besides Elder Nelson of the quorum of the 12 Apostles) who is closer to God than him. I could see him being called to be prophet eventually. He is more in tune with God than anyone I've seen. The first thing he ever told me was the biggest thing this mission is supposed to do is the following. He said it will be the by far the hardest time of my life ever, but it's because He wants me to get to know Him (as he points to a picture of Jesus). He told me this and it sticks with me through the hard times when I feel like giving up. He truly is a man of God and words cannot describe it (it's beyond any language - the feeling you get when you are around this man), but I have faith and know he is in communication with what God wants so if he assigns me here it's for a reason. He's amazing. Just know I'm in good hands.

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: Like this man, be different. Help someone this week in need, when nobody else dares to. A depiction of the Savior's parable of the Good Samaritan, in which a man is robbed and beaten by thieves, and a Samaritan shows mercy on him.

https://www.lds.org/bible-videos/videos/parable-of-the-good-samaritan?lang=eng

With much love,

- Elder Celaya

P.S. It's time to flip things around here in Yonkers!!!!

P.S.S. Here is the talk that is so peaceful:

You Matter to Him (by Dieter F. Uchtdorf)

The Lord uses a scale very different from the world’s to weigh the worth of a soul.

Moses, one of the greatest prophets the world has ever known, was raised by Pharaoh’s daughter and spent the first 40 years of his life in the royal halls of Egypt. He knew firsthand the glory and grandeur of that ancient kingdom.

Years later, on the top of a distant mountain, far removed from the splendor and magnificence of mighty Egypt, Moses stood in the presence of God and spoke to Him face to face as a man speaks with his friend.1 During the course of that visitation, God showed Moses the workmanship of His hands, granting him a glimpse of His work and glory. When the vision ended, Moses fell to the earth for the space of many hours. When his strength finally returned, he realized something that, in all his years in Pharaoh’s court, had never occurred to him before.

“I know,” he said, “that man is nothing.”

We Are Less Than We Suppose

The more we learn about the universe, the more we understand--at least in a small part--what Moses knew. The universe is so large, mysterious, and glorious that it is incomprehensible to the human mind. “Worlds without number have I created,” God said to Moses. The wonders of the night sky are a beautiful testimony of that truth.

There are few things that have filled me with such breathless awe as flying in the black of night across oceans and continents and looking out my cockpit window upon the infinite glory of millions of stars.

Astronomers have attempted to count the number of stars in the universe. One group of scientists estimates that the number of stars within range of our telescopes is 10 times greater than all the grains of sand on the world’s beaches and deserts.

This conclusion has a striking similarity to the declaration of the ancient prophet Enoch: “Were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations.”

Given the vastness of God’s creations, it’s no wonder the great King Benjamin counseled his people to “always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness.”

We Are Greater Than We Suppose

But even though man is nothing, it fills me with wonder and awe to think that “the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.”

And while we may look at the vast expanse of the universe and say, “What is man in comparison to the glory of creation?” God Himself said we are the reason He created the universe! His work and glory--the purpose for this magnificent universe--is to save and exalt mankind.8 In other words, the vast expanse of eternity, the glories and mysteries of infinite space and time are all built for the benefit of ordinary mortals like you and me. Our Heavenly Father created the universe that we might reach our potential as His sons and daughters.

This is a paradox of man: compared to God, man is nothing; yet we are everything to God. While against the backdrop of infinite creation we may appear to be nothing, we have a spark of eternal fire burning within our breast. We have the incomprehensible promise of exaltation--worlds without end--within our grasp. And it is God’s great desire to help us reach it.

The Folly of Pride

The great deceiver knows that one of his most effective tools in leading the children of God astray is to appeal to the extremes of the paradox of man. To some, he appeals to their prideful tendencies, puffing them up and encouraging them to believe in the fantasy of their own self-importance and invincibility. He tells them they have transcended the ordinary and that because of ability, birthright, or social status, they are set apart from the common measure of all that surrounds them. He leads them to conclude that they are therefore not subject to anyone else’s rules and not to be bothered by anyone else’s problems.

Abraham Lincoln is said to have loved a poem that reads:

              Oh why should the spirit of mortal be proud?
              Like a swift-flitting meteor, a fast-flying cloud,
              A flash of the lightning, a break of the wave,
              Man passeth from life to his rest in the grave.

Disciples of Jesus Christ understand that compared to eternity, our existence in this mortal sphere is only “a small moment” in space and time.10 They know that a person’s true value has little to do with what the world holds in high esteem. They know you could pile up the accumulated currency of the entire world and it could not buy a loaf of bread in the economy of heaven.

Those who will “inherit the kingdom of God”11 are those who become “as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love.”12 “For every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”13 Such disciples understand also “that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.”14

We Are Not Forgotten

Another way Satan deceives is through discouragement. He attempts to focus our sight on our own insignificance until we begin to doubt that we have much worth. He tells us that we are too small for anyone to take notice, that we are forgotten--especially by God.

Let me share with you a personal experience that may be of some help to those who feel insignificant, forgotten, or alone.

Many years ago I attended pilot training in the United States Air Force. I was far away from my home, a young West German soldier, born in Czechoslovakia, who had grown up in East Germany and spoke English only with great difficulty. I clearly remember my journey to our training base in Texas. I was on a plane, sitting next to a passenger who spoke with a heavy Southern accent. I could scarcely understand a word he said. I actually wondered if I had been taught the wrong language all along. I was terrified by the thought that I had to compete for the coveted top spots in pilot training against students who were native English speakers.

When I arrived on the air base in the small town of Big Spring, Texas, I looked for and found the Latter-day Saint branch, which consisted of a handful of wonderful members who were meeting in rented rooms on the air base itself. The members were in the process of building a small meetinghouse that would serve as a permanent place for the Church. Back in those days members provided much of the labor on new buildings.

Day after day I attended my pilot training and studied as hard as I could and then spent most of my spare time working on the new meetinghouse. There I learned that a two-by-four is not a dance step but a piece of wood. I also learned the important survival skill of missing my thumb when pounding a nail.

I spent so much time working on the meetinghouse that the branch president--who also happened to be one of our flight instructors--expressed concern that I perhaps should spend more time studying.

My friends and fellow student pilots engaged themselves in free-time activities as well, although I think it’s safe to say that some of those activities would not have been in alignment with today’s For the Strength of Youth pamphlet. For my part, I enjoyed being an active part of this tiny west Texas branch, practicing my newly acquired carpentry skills, and improving my English as I fulfilled my callings to teach in the elders quorum and in Sunday School.

At the time, Big Spring, despite its name, was a small, insignificant, and unknown place. And I often felt exactly the same way about myself--insignificant, unknown, and quite alone. Even so, I never once wondered if the Lord had forgotten me or if He would ever be able to find me there. I knew that it didn’t matter to Heavenly Father where I was, where I ranked with others in my pilot training class, or what my calling in the Church was. What mattered to Him was that I was doing the best I could, that my heart was inclined toward Him, and that I was willing to help those around me. I knew if I did the best I could, all would be well.

And all was well.15

The Last Shall Be First

The Lord doesn’t care at all if we spend our days working in marble halls or stable stalls. He knows where we are, no matter how humble our circumstances. He will use--in His own way and for His holy purposes--those who incline their hearts to Him.

God knows that some of the greatest souls who have ever lived are those who will never appear in the chronicles of history. They are the blessed, humble souls who emulate the Savior’s example and spend the days of their lives doing good.16

One such couple, parents of a friend of mine, exemplify this principle for me. The husband worked at a steel mill in Utah. At lunch he would pull out his scriptures or a Church magazine and read. When the other workers saw this, they ridiculed him and challenged his beliefs. Whenever they did, he spoke to them with kindness and confidence. He did not allow their disrespect to make him angry or upset.

Years later one of the more vocal mockers became very ill. Before he died, he requested that this humble man speak at his funeral--which he did.

This faithful member of the Church never had much in the way of social status or wealth, but his influence extended deeply to all who knew him. He died in an industrial accident while stopping to help another worker who was stranded in the snow.

Within a year his widow had to undergo brain surgery, which has left her unable to walk. But people love coming to spend time with her because she listens. She remembers. She cares. Unable to write, she memorizes her children’s and grandchildren’s telephone numbers. She lovingly remembers birthdays and anniversaries.

Those who visit her come away feeling better about life and about themselves. They feel her love. They know she cares. She never complains but spends her days blessing the lives of others. One of her friends said this woman was one of the few people she had ever known who truly exemplifies the love and life of Jesus Christ.

This couple would have been the first to say they were not of much importance in this world. But the Lord uses a scale very different from the world’s to weigh the worth of a soul. He knows this faithful couple; He loves them. Their actions are a living witness of their strong faith in Him.

You Matter to Him

My dear brothers and sisters, it may be true that man is nothing in comparison to the greatness of the universe. At times we may even feel insignificant, invisible, alone, or forgotten. But always remember--you matter to Him! If you ever doubt that, consider these four divine principles:

First, God loves the humble and meek, for they are “greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”17

Second, the Lord entrusts “the fulness of [His] gospel [to] be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world.”18 He has chosen “the weak things of the world [to] come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones”19 and to put to shame “the things which are mighty.”20

Third, no matter where you live, no matter how humble your circumstances, how meager your employment, how limited your abilities, how ordinary your appearance, or how little your calling in the Church may appear to you, you are not invisible to your Heavenly Father. He loves you. He knows your humble heart and your acts of love and kindness. Together, they form a lasting testimony of your fidelity and faith.

Fourth and finally, please understand that what you see and experience now is not what forever will be. You will not feel loneliness, sorrow, pain, or discouragement forever. We have the faithful promise of God that He will neither forget nor forsake those who incline their hearts to Him.21 Have hope and faith in that promise. Learn to love your Heavenly Father and become His disciple in word and in deed.

Be assured that if you but hold on, believe in Him, and remain faithful in keeping the commandments, one day you will experience for yourselves the promises revealed to the Apostle Paul: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”22

Brothers and sisters, the most powerful Being in the universe is the Father of your spirit. He knows you. He loves you with a perfect love.

God sees you not only as a mortal being on a small planet who lives for a brief season--He sees you as His child. He sees you as the being you are capable and designed to become. He wants you to know that you matter to Him.


May we ever believe, trust, and align our lives so that we will understand our true eternal worth and potential. May we be worthy of the precious blessings our Heavenly Father has in store for us is my prayer in the name of His Son, even Jesus Christ, amen.