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, empañadas, 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 =)
-- Elder Austin Celaya
P.S. I hit my three month mark tomorrow! Good bday present! Have a great week!