It's been a great week here in the New York New York North mission.
This week we had stake conference in Kingsbridge in the Bronx. It was difficult getting there because it is out of our area so we either had to take the subway, the train, the bus, or catch a ride with one of the members. We were able to catch a ride with one of the members in our Ward (the area of our church) and he happened to be the best English speaker in the entire ward! All the leadership positions had to go early on Saturday for the adult session, so we got there at 3, when the actual meeting actually started at 7. It was awesome because this was my first time that I actually got to go walking through the Bronx. I have been through it before just on the subways, but I have never actually got to walk through and experience it yet. The place called Kings Bridge in the Bronx is so awesome compared to Yonkers. It seems so much more live. There is much more going on, and I actually saw a white person there! Haha. There are some bad places in the Bronx, but it seems way more like a city than a third world country like it does here in the part of Yonkers that we do most of our work. It was awesome. I most likely will get a chance to serve there because I am Spanish speaking. As we were walking, Elder Nelson (the companion in my apartment) and I were talking about how most of these people didn't finish high school, and how they are stuck here mentally, and they really don't know that there is much more out there. That makes it hard knowing that, going to a place that feels like a compound, living here and now being apart of this life, when I know there is so much more out there. In that sense, I really can't wait to leave New York, but I need to learn to like it while I am here. There are projects everywhere here, and it's crazy how all these people live in these massive buildings, and they pack them full of people in these tiny little spaces. It's like they are storing them away so they don't escape. It literally feels like the Bronx and these cities around downtown NY were meant to be a place to keep all the crazy people out. I don't think I have seen a building that has been built here within the last 50-100 years. Everything is super old here and looks run down & ghetto. I learned this week that Yonkers was founded in the 1600's so it is EXTREMELY old! I am still waiting to get to the point where I feel like there is nothing I’d rather be doing in the world than be here on this mission. I am not there yet, and my companion tells me just to wait until I get out of my first area and then I will begin to love it. We have transfers coming up here in a couple weeks, and Elder Paiz will probably be leaving here because he has been here for 5 cycles (1 cycle is 6 weeks), and I will probably be staying here in Yonkers, so I most likely will be getting a new companion. He has some big shoes to fill. Elder Paiz is awesome. He is my brother. No one will understand the things we have gone through together here in Yonkers, but only him.
Ruiz (Roy) - First off, we have been teaching Ruiz, and he randomly told us that his name was actually Roy. Haha. So we have taught Roy twice since we last talked. On Friday, we were able to show him The Restoration Movie. It was amazing. Elder Paiz and I were both able to testify of the truthfulness of The Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ restored back on the earth again by His prophet Joseph Smith. We then invited him to pray about the things we were teaching him. We taught him how to pray, and he gave the closing prayer. In the prayer, he asked God if the things were true that we were teaching him, and if they were, to open his mind and his heart to learn and except more, enough to completely change his life. As he did this, I felt the spirit so strong, and after the prayer, he said he did as well. It was such a great lesson. He truly dropped from heaven into our hands, just randomly walking into church one day asking if we could help change his life. He is so ready for the Gospel of Jesus Christ in his life. That's one thing I have learned here on my mission. The people who are truly ready to receive the Gospel are the ones who are truly humbled - who have intensely gone through life without God, to where the things in life bring them so far down that they have nowhere else to go but to God. But one day isn’t that all we will have? All of us? Like I said last week in my email, we are all alone with God, and one day He will be all we have. Why prolong the hope and joy the Gospel brings because one is comfortable, or doesn't want to believe in something. Roy is ready and it is such a blessing we have been able to get to know him.
Last night, we were able to teach him about the plan of salvation. He was very receptive to it, and again we told him to pray about the things we were teaching him, and we also taught him how the Holy Spirit guides us in our life, but how it's through gentle thoughts, feelings and impressions (because God can't force us, he still has to give us our free will). He shared an experience about when his ex-wife was pregnant, that his son was supposed to pass away. He shared how for two weeks his ex-wife would go to church and pray all day long for God to spare his son, and so did he. She began to be depressed and stopped eating, which was a problem because the baby needed all the nutrients to survive. They could not afford a C section so the doctor said to wait it out. (They actually have hospitals for homeless people here -- that should explain the kind of place this is). Turns out, the security guard who talked to them while they were walking out of the hospital talked to the doctor, and got them in, and she had a C section which saved his son’s life. He testified to us of the power of prayer, and how God is really there, listening to us at this very moment, more than anyone else or anything and how he knows that God will give him an answer about the things we are teaching him. He said that God is there literally waiting to help us, but we must first reach out to him. Roy really gets it and it excites me every time we teach him. We will be teaching him on Friday.
Brandon - You just can't get ANY better than Brandon. Even my companion who has been out for over a year says he has never met someone so ready for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and someone who truly gets it. We taught him the Restoration also and he was extremely receptive to it. The Spirit felt during the lesson was stronger than I have ever felt it in any lesson. He had great questions. He thought it was truly amazing that Joseph Smith without any schooling was able to translate The Book of Mormon (Another Testament of Jesus Christ) from a language that no longer was in existence on the earth. He truly saw that the only way he could have was with the power and help from God. We asked him to give the closing prayer, but he did not want to. So I asked him if it would be ok if we taught him how to pray, and then if we could pray to kind of show him how to do it. We did that and then he agreed to give the closing prayer. As he did this, he asked if the things we were teaching him were true, and as he did this, he paused in the prayer, and there was a silence for a while, and then when he resumed in the prayer he was crying and tearing up in the prayer. The Spirit was extremely strong. After the prayer, he apologized for tearing up and I then asked him what it was he was feeling. He said he felt light. He felt like all the troubles that have ever weighed on his soul were leaving, and that he was becoming lighter. We testified to him that that was the Holy Ghost confirming to him that the things we were teaching him are true. He also told us that He has to figure it out for himself if these things are true. He said that he has to go in prayer and pray to God and wait for the conformation in his heart to know if these things are true. HE GOT IT! He completely understands. He understands that he has to go to God and work for his answer. He is Golden. He wants nothing more than to go to the temple and be married and sealed to his future family for all time and eternity. It's truly amazing to see someone's life change. When he walked into our lesson, he was super down about some things that had been happening in his life, and as time moved on within the lesson, you could literally see his countenance change as the Spirit filled the room. He became happier, more thoughtful and brighter. He walked out of the lesson like he had been completely rejuvenated. That got me thinking. God wants all his children on the earth to have the chance to accept or reject the gospel. As I was sitting there, I was thinking about my responsibility. I have the responsibility to present that choice to them, and God has trusted me to give that chance to his children. It really makes me want to give it all I have to be able to have the Spirit with me, and really become as close to God as possible so that I can really give them a sound opportunity. We teach Brandon next on Monday. I can't wait!
There is so much I could go on and talk about. Sometimes I wish I could just film my day....as a matter of fact, I think I will film a time laps so you can see what it kind of looks like here in the nicer parts as we drive. I want to leave you with a thought and a scripture that I have been pondering on that I heard in a song this week:
2 Nephi 2:22 - "And Adam and Eve would have no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.”
The song said, " You know how far North is from the South when God hands you the other." I won't say anything about this simply because I want you to apply it and ponder it in your life in the most organic way according to your circumstances.
I love you all and have a GREAT week. Have fun and do what is right. You will feel it in your heart. That feeling comes from God.
P.S. The subject of this message has nothing to do with anything I talked about but I thought it was amigos message.