Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas! FELIZ NAVIDAD! (24 December 2014)

Sorry for the lack of an email last week. Last week I was sick and didn't have the energy to write an email. Elder Nelson ended up catching the stomach flu and was throwing up a lot a couple of weeks ago. Well, last week somehow I got it as well and was throwing up all night and day Wednesday. Then my companion got it and then he was throwing up. And then just when we thought everything was good, Elder Nelson somehow got it again and was throwing up the entire next day. We call it the Yonkers Plague. Nobody can figure out why so many people get sick here. Haha. Now we are all alive and well, so do not worry. Being sick is no fun.

Brandon: It has been an interesting ride with Brandon. Last time we talked, he was doing great. Things have happened since then. Veronica (his girlfriend in the church) broke up with him because she was going on a mission, and also his friends have been telling him that ever since he has been meeting with us, he has been changing into to "soft" person and they want the old tough Brandon back. Over the last few weeks, each time we meet with him, he gives us less and less time. It's at a point now where he cancels the lessons. We will see what happens. It is just sad to see someone lose the eternal blessings of the gospel because he cares more about what others think. I wish he could have more of an eternal perspective. It doesn't matter what man thinks, if you know you are living your life doing what God asks of you. Living according to what God asks of us is ultimately the right thing to do, and you feel that in your heart. Because you feel that, you never have to justify your actions because you already know they are right and correct. I wish he could see this. Anyway, we are praying for him and hoping he does choose to come back and continue to change. He knows the gospel is true, he sees how it has been changing his life, yet because he is afraid of what others think, he is choosing to deny himself those wonderful blessings, and not accept it. He has so much potential. If only he could see that in himself. Then again, I'm sure this is just how God feels about us as well.

Roy: Roy is such an amazing one! I am a little confused at times with him. He opened up to us and told us some things that happened to him, and because of those things, it is as if he is stuck mentally at the age those things took place in his life. Sometimes it is hard to communicate with him, because it's as if we are talking to a little kid in very large man's body. He keeps telling us of new kids he is finding out he had, and he is constantly losing and obtaining new jobs. Over the past cycle it has been difficult meeting with him, but we met with him twice this week, and plan to do so in the following weeks. Yesterday we had a great lesson with him. We taught about the priesthood, temples, and eternal families, and we asked him how bad he was willing to work to get there one day. He said he really wants it, and he feels like each time he prays and asks God if these things are true, that he gets the feeling and the direct words in his head that say "you already know this is true, you already know what you have to do." It's so amazing to hear that, but he needs a little push. He doesn't commit very well to things, but he told us yesterday that there is just something inside of him telling him to go through with it. If only people could see the worth of the gospel in their lives! His baptism date was December 21st, but unfortunately, we had to cancel the date and move it back because we didn't feel as if he was ready to make that step yet. 

We have been doing a lot of less active look-ups and a lot of tracting. We have spent most of our time in the bad areas because that is where all the hispanic people are. Even though we spend every day in those areas, each day it surprises me how bad some of these people live. It is sad. Apparently, everyone who comes over to America from these Latin countries automatically thinks New York City is the place to go, but they can't afford it, so outside the city is the "next best place" and they end up here all in tight quarters. They don't understand that there are a lot better and cheaper places to live in America. I have grown to love some of the people here, and I just wish I could take them out of their situations here and show them how good life can be. 

We have these events called APF's where we get together with all the missionaries in our zone and do an area proselyting event. For example, our last event we went caroling, handed out free hot chocolate, gave away wrapped scriptures, and during that talked to all the people who came through. We do one every week. Well last week during our APF, I was on a split with Elder Hincapie, and we ran into an elderly lady who was picking up her leaves. We ran over to her and asked her if we could help her and she said she didn't need help, but we didn't listen and started to help her anyways. We got talking with her and chatted with her for about 20 minutes. We ended up showing her He Is the Gift, and let her meet the sister missionaries. They then talked with her for a while, and now they are teaching her! It was a tender miracle to see. 

I love our Zone. Every day we grow closer and they are all like my brothers and sisters now! You get to meet and make so many amazing friends on the mission. Tonight we are going over to one of our favorite family’s house for Christmas Eve, and tomorrow is Christmas! I hope you all have a great week. I am going to the city today, and we are going to go to the Rockefeller Center and Times Square and a few other places. It should be pretty packed on Christmas Eve. We shall see. I'm very excited. It is always so fun going to the city because you see so many new things in such a little amount of time. South Manhattan is a very live place. I love it. 

Have a fantastic week and a wonderful Christmas. Remember as you are opening your presents tomorrow, who really is the gift. :)

With love,

Elder Celaya

Picture (24 December 2014)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

One Week Until Christmas! (17 December 2014)

These are the missionaries who were in my district in the MTC. We had a chance to meet up this week for a Christmas devotional and got to see each other again. Have a good week. Never give up. 

D&C 123:17. This scripture has been my favorite this week. Super good. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Cali boy in snow in shorts and a tee (10 December 2014)

Hello my people back home!

I am going to start off with something funny that happened today. So we went into a city called White Plains today. It's like a mini NYC, and it is snowing pretty hard here right now. Well, I decided to go in shorts and a t-shirt, while everyone else walking on the streets was dressed up in warm snow coats, beanies, ear muffs, and boots. Haha. Everyone was looking at me like I was crazy. We went to Chipotle for lunch and I got a drink with ice. As we were walking back to our car, we had to get into an elevator to get to our car. There was this lady who looked at me for about 10 seconds as I was eating my ice cubes in the freezing weather with my summer clothing, and in her big old southern accent, she was like "Boy are ya tellin' me ya eatin' ice out in this weatha?! And Boy! How come ya ain't got no clothes on? Ohh my gosh hunny, ya poor thang. Hunny ya better go get yaself some clothes." I told her I was from southern california and she even freaked out more. She was like "ahh yo mamma ain't gunna be happy about this one. You ain't know about this weatha!" Haha as we walked out of the elevator I told her I was going to go buy some real winter clothes. Haha. It was hilarious.

- This week I have been exercising a lot lately. I created a complete exercise plan that I am going to do for the rest of my mission. It is extremely hard to stay fit on a mission, but I am being diligent in doing so. I love exercising and I truly do miss it.

- I really do not like our church ward. Our Bishop is something else. This is the first time in my life that I really am scared to go to church. So many things go down and you leave feeling horrible. They just don't understand how the gospel is supposed to be lived. I wish I could tell you what is going on, but I really don't think I am allowed.

- This week we went over to a member’s house who is from puerto rico. He moved to the bronx when he was 3, then at age 17, moved to Georgia and stayed there for 40 years. He got married, had a wife and kids, and his wife unexpectantly died. Turns out, last year, he needed a kidney transplant, but he had to come here (to Yonkers) to get it. There was this lady he met (she is a member in the church), and she invited him to come and participate on Sunday. He did, and last April he ended up getting baptized. He is now going to move back to Georgia with his new wife, and his found faith as a new happy man. It's amazing how God truly does work in ways we could never imagine. I think a lot of the things we go through that seem endless only seem that way because we can't see the full picture. God can, and when we trust Him (which can be super hard sometimes), it always works out better than we could ever imagine. Anyways, before they move, he is going to invite us over and make us some crazy southern food. He said he is going to go all out, and I am extremely excited. I am so tired of rice, chicken, and plantains.

- My companion. He is by far the most negative person I have ever met. We have gotten in a lot of fights over the last week. Last Friday I couldn't take it anymore, so I talked to my district leader, Elder Palmer. He gave me something to read that I have been reading every day that has really been helping me. I am learning how to fix the things I need to fix in myself before I ever lose my temper with him. I think he may have really bad home sickness problems and the only way he can keep his mind off of home is if he is always doing something. He panics if he isn't. When he is with others, he is very nice, but when we are alone, he turns into a completely different person. Today I was talking about how Yonkers has taught me how to have patience. He then told me that I was wrong, and that it hasn't taught me patience, but that was just my excuse for not working hard. A lot of fights have been going down and I really am trying to learn how to get through this. Something I have found that works is just do whatever he tells me to do. That way he always gets his way, and I don't have to fight with him. This has been extremely hard for me. Lucky, I most likely only have three more weeks with him and then I am out of YONKERS! We will see.

- Elder Nelson (the elder in our appt. who we live with) has been such a blessing to me. He has taught me how to truly be myself as a missionary. There have been days where I just wanted to give up, and it's because of him that I have not. There has been some crazy stuff that we have both been dealing with and I am glad we have each other to keep ourselves happy and to keep on going. I am going to miss him when I leave Yonkers.

- Roy. This week we taught him again, and we were able to have a member come with us to the lesson. We are going to move his baptism date back a week to better prepare him. My companion wants to drop him because he thinks he is not a good investigator. He wants to drop Brandon too. I don't really understand why. They have never told us no, and they keep their commitments, so I think we should at least give them the chance. I feel bad for my companion. I don't know why he is so miserable inside. Anyways, we met with Brandon and Roy, and they are both progressing. Roy only has two more lessons until baptism.

- This mission here in NY, is absolutely everything I never expected a mission to be. I want to paint a picture of what it is like here if I can. You wake up to people yelling and cursing as you hear the subway trains honking their horns across the way, or you wake up to gun shots. You shower in a tiny little shower (with hot water thankfully), then studies, then after that, you eat. After we eat we go and get into our car. As we drive people honk all the time for absolutely no reason. You get outside of the car and park in some crowded area. You look around to make sure you are safe. You get out of the car, and get on the sidewalk and as you walk, you pass rundown apartment buildings and tiny little delis. In between the apartment and delis are tiny little alleyways where there are people doing and dealing drugs. You pass by, hoping nobody wants to mess with you. As you walk down the street, you see and hear people yelling and screaming/cursing at each other. In the middle of that, homeless drugged people come up to you screaming some random name, asking you for money. As you walk through the buildings to try to find the person you are trying to find, you walk up to the apartment. Usually you can never get in because all of them have call boxes. Most people tell us to come over, but they know we can't get in because there is a call box. They don't tell you that they don't want to meet with you. They just say come over and once you do, they don't answer. Most of the time, you can’t get into the apartments. But, if you do, you go in and as you look around, it looks like a homeless compound where they keep people to keep them out of other places. You walk up tiny creaking stairs, and on each floor there are around 5-10 doors, and as you walk by each, you may hear screaming, the tv, but you always smell weed. These places are nothing like I have ever seen in my life. Sometimes you may walk by someone who is on drugs, and they don't like that you are there, or that you said hi to them, and they start yelling at you and threatening you. Racism is alive here. You open the door, and it's a very good chance the people who open the door will be completely naked. They do not care at all that they aren't wearing anything. They ask you who you are and we tell them, and most of the time they are extremely rude and threaten us. As the door slams in our face, we walk back down the stairs, hoping the guy who was yelling at us doesn't bother us. We walk briskly outside and onto the next place. These people here are INSANE! I wish I could describe it. I honestly cannot believe this is in America. It's sad to see. Basically these places are projects run by the government, who basically give these tiny places away to people who can't afford to live in America. They are supposed to help them off their feet to help them get moving in America, but most of them stay and smooch off the government. They get into drugs, and gangs. Then as time goes on, they either end up in jail, dead, or if they are lucky, their brains end up fried and they roam the streets. Everyone is trapped in this. It is a large pool that once you get stuck in it, you can't get out. This just isn't a normal society. I feel extremely out of place here. I am very surprised they send missionaries here. Most of these people seem way too far gone. But, it is our job to find those that are still human and left here just waiting to change their lives.

- A mission is 100 times harder than I thought it would be. I have never done anything this difficult in my life. But yesterday I was fortunate to go on a split with an Elder named Elder Hincapie. He is a very positive fun guy to be around. He has been out for 16 months and he has taught me that the harder the area is, the more you learn. 90 percent of the time, life is miserable. 10 percent of the time, life is absolutely amazing. It's during those 10 percent times that it makes it all worth it. It's during those times you say to yourself, "I wouldn't rather be anywhere in the world" as you see these people who have struggled all their life begin to change. You see a new light in them, and you see it in yourself. - That is what makes it worth it. You learn so much on a mission you could never learn anywhere else.

There have been things we have been dealing with here that no 20 year old kid should ever have to deal with. Members calling us up telling us things extremely serious, and us trying to put the situation in the right hands so they can deal with it fast, before these people kill others. I can't say much about the things we have been dealing with, but sometimes they are mind boggling for me. We are just 20 year old kids, trying to talk people out of killing others when they are furious with them. Life is crazy sometimes.

I'm sure many of you have seen the video entitled "He Is the Gift." This year it is a very big thing the Church has put out and our mission is the central point to it. We have had meetings with president about it, and also the big billboard in Time's Square is the 
He Is the Gift poster. It was on the front page of YouTube a couple of days ago. I would love to show it to you this Christmas season. It really has inspired me to understand what Christmas is and how I can discover what possibilities open up when I discover who the Gift is and what the gift has done for me.

- Elder Celaya

Pics (10 December 2014)

Elder Segura's dad came and visited us this week, and he was an
awesome guy! Reminds me of Robin Williams.

with Elder Segura

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Great Lessons Learned In Life =) (3 December 2014)

Greetings from the beloved city of New York! 

Time is starting to really fly by on the mission. At first it was going very slow, but now it has sped up more than it ever has in my life. Time completely feels different when you are on a mission. It's almost like, because you are forgetting yourself, you don't worry about time as much, and so you forget it. Time leaves the mind and the mission has felt like a really long day. Like I said, I feel like I am in a dream, and the day I fly back to LA will be the day that I wake up. It is very weird. None of this feels real.

I want to start off with something that is very interesting. We teach every kind of hispanic culture. We talk to people from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala, and I have yet to have Hispanic food like I have had in California. You can't beat it. We eat dominican food a lot and their special dish is Plantains that are fried. The common meal here is Chicken, Rice, and Plantains. Most of the time the chicken is not cooked. Last week, our church had a Thanksgiving party, and we all ate chicken that was pink and wasn't cooked all the way. We got home and all of us spent the night throwing up. We took turns who got the bathroom for throwing up. Nasty right? Haha it gave us a good laugh though. Thank goodness that's over!

My new companion is very interesting. He speaks great Spanish. He is from Madrid in Spain and has grown up there so he speaks really well, which is nice, because I can now really learn from him. He speaks english pretty well, but his accent is horrible. He even says it is. Haha. It's nice because he is bold and just get things done, but this week I have been struggling. Whenever he wants to do something, he says to me "ok this is what we are going to do...this is what YOU are going to do".... he doesn't let me suggest anything. If I don't understand his idea and even begin to question it, he pulls out a quote, and starts to chastise me saying I am breaking the rules. This whole week, whenever I have done something that he doesn't agree with, he writes it down on his Ipad. There are some other things going on between him and the companions we are living with, but I won't mention them. I just know that this cycle (6 weeks) is going to be extremely difficult. He and I do not get along when we are doing missionary work. When we are doing anything else, we are fine, but mostly all you do on a mission is related to missionary work.

I am struggling with him. He even told me he would be my hardest companion. Maybe it's just the culture, but that still is not an excuse. He is overly bold with people and extremely negative and uses the rules to condemn you rather than to inspire and uplift you (the reason we have them in the first place). I don't know what to do, but I think for now, I am going to try my best to just do whatever he says and try to go with the flow. Hopefully I will learn something from him. He works very hard, which is something I really do like about him.

He has served in Newburgh (the highest murder rate in the entire nation) and in Harlem. He says Yonkers is by far more depressing and scary than in either places. That makes me feel good! Haha. That means wherever I go from here will be great!

Sister and Elder Wilson are the senior couples who live in our apartment building and we went up the other day to ask them a question and we started talking and turns out their son served in Compton California during the riots in LA back in the day. I asked him how he liked it and they said it was not a good experience at all. There was a member who asked them to help him with some service. For their service they helped him take the dead bodies from the street and "dispose of them." Can you imagine? --as a 19-year-old having to be stuck in Compton during the riots dragging away bodies every day. He was stuck in his apartment for a good 2-3 weeks. I felt really fortunate for serving in Yonkers after hearing that.

I don't have much this week. This has been one of the hardest weeks in my mission because of the challenges I have been dealing with my companion. It really is a good learning experience because when you go on a mission you are assigned with many different companions throughout your mission whether you love them or highly dislike them, and you two have to figure out (with God being at the top of the relationship) how to make it work. You are with them 24/7, day and night, for months at a time. You see a completely different side of people when you are with them that much. Never in my life will I ever have to be with someone for 24/7 every second of the day. It makes you grow up fast. It's great preparation for marriage and learning how to deal with situations. This week I have really been hit with the reality of a mission. It's everything what I didn't expect. It's a lot more real than I ever expected. It's good though because even though these have by far been the hardest days of my life, I am learning so much. It teaches you how to survive with nobody there to help you, with nothing but God by your side. That is literally all I feel like I have at times. The hard times heavily outweigh the great times, but the magnitude of the great times are so much better and completely outweigh the hard times. 

-Elder Celaya

Pics (3 December 2014)

Here are a couple pictures. The first picture is me and my old district. I love this group of people. We are all brothers and sisters. The Elder on the left is Elder Palmer. Out of anyone on the mission thus far, he has helped me the most. He is truly like a brother to me and it's sad because he is going home next cycle, but what I have learned from him can't be measured. 

This second picture is of me pointing at the car outside of our church. Haha. Out in the hood. =) I have seen fights and shootings on that street. The only way I can stay sane is picturing this place as a zoo. I just need to find the people who are still left. Whether that's the right or the wrong way to look at it, I don't know. But I do know that that's the only way I can stay sane sometimes.