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
Check it out: http://www.mormon.org/