Wednesday, December 16, 2015

It Just Gets Crazier (16 December 2015)

When you thought Harlem was as crazy as it got....haha… ah, what a week.

- We are driving along this road in the middle of nowhere at 8:30pm, going 65mph and it’s pitch black.  All of a sudden, out of nowhere, the car in front of us looks like it gets hit... hard. Then we see fur fly in the air like an explosion. Not just a little bit of fur, but a lot
of it. The car spins out of control and we are left in awe wondering what just happened. So we pull about 100 feet in front of the car. We park fast, run out of the car, and there on the road is this massive (and I mean HUGE!!) deer twitching its way to its death, and in back of the deer was a car that was totaled on one side. We walked our way around the deer and went quickly to the driver to see if he was ok (from the look of the car, it didn't look good)... but thankfully he wasn't hurt too bad. Luckily the deer completely took out the passenger side and not the driver, but the poor guy was in so much shock. The kid looked like he was 20 and didn't know what to do. So we called the cops, calmed him down, and helped him.

- Found dead. So we had a member from our church pass away this week.  We live right next to a university and on the other side of the road and up a distance is our church. Well, this guy was attending the university here and then would go to church on Sundays. Well, rumor has it that he was found dead on a trail hanging by a tree. We kept trying to figure out more about the guy because we didn’t know him well, and we found out that the college was going to have a big memorial for him.  So on Sunday night we went to the college and listened to a lot of his friends and coworkers and professors speak about him. The guy was 20 and truly seemed like a great young man. People were confused about us because here they were amongst all these familiar faced college kids, and then there was us, who just seemed to pop up in the college out of nowhere. It was a great experience to be able to support the guy, even though we didn't fully know him. I guess I'm not in Harlem anymore, but the craziness just seems to follow me :)

- People - The people here are so nice that I just feel rude, especially coming from Harlem where you have to be straight up about things to get anything done there. Everyone here lives in old houses, with lots of farmland and tons of trees. It is like I'm completely in a different mission. I'm having to re-learn how to be a missionary. If you put me in a city with tall buildings and lots of crazy people, I'll know what to do, but this.....I have no idea. Haha. Everyone hunts out here, everyone makes their own homemade food, and everyone seems to be united as small towns. Then occasionally you get your "white trash" families who have 20 people all living in the same house who are all inbred, pack rats, and eat all day. But the towns are great. The other night they were having a Christmas tree lighting/Santa greeting/caroling for this small town. Everyone from the town was out participating—something you would only get in a small town. I love it here. I couldn't sleep the first four nights because of how quiet it is. I really haven't heard silence my whole mission, so coming out here in the mountains feels very odd.

- We do a ton of service here. This week so far we have gone into the forest and cut trees down and cut wood for firewood. We cleaned up a yard and got rid of tons of leaves and got all the scrap wood and burned it in a trash can (see pic below). We unloaded a massive pallet of bags full of pellet fuel for stove fires. Side note – everyone makes fun of my companion and me because we are both from Southern California and have no idea how to work all the burning and heating devices they use to keep their houses warm. They give us such a hard time. We cut up a massive tree that fell into someone's garden and took it deep into the woods. It has been fun and a lot of work. It really gets you into shape though.

- I've been going hard on working out every morning and night. We also have bikes and sometimes we will choose to ride those instead and race to our appointments to get a good workout in. My companion’s dad was a professional cyclist. You know what they say, like father like son, so it's hard to keep up with the guy, but it's great.

- The ward here is a branch and we have about 30 people who go to church. There is this member who is opening a pie shop and she made the most amazing gluten free pie for me. The members are just great! I honestly cannot believe how relaxed missionary work has been. Serving in an inner city my whole mission has been so much harder compared to this. I cannot believe this is how missions usually are.

- I can't believe how much I miss being in the Spanish program. I'm not used to this, haha. There are hardly any people here that speak Spanish. I've only seen two. But one of our members is from El Salvador and she says she has three families for us to teach that only speak Spanish. So tomorrow we are going to visit all three and I'm super excited to do so. I have this goal to talk to everyone I see that looks like they speak Spanish, even if we are driving down the highway and the person’s walking down the road. We will stop the car and I'm talking to the guy. My companion thinks it's odd, but you have to do what you have to do.

- We went to this place called Mohawk Mountain and hiked through a bunch of massive boulders. There was a very nice hotel at the top of this mountain with a massive lake and ice skating rink. We visited it with our mission leader and his family. It was such a challenging but fun hike. Then we had correlation meeting at the top of the mountain. Best correlation I’ve ever had.

- Ex Pro Tennis Player. We are teaching this man named Kenny who was an ex-pro tennis player who unfortunately was unable to continue his career because earlier in his life he had something wrong with his back. The doctors gave him the wrong medicine and it gave him brain damage. The guy is in his 40's, but has to walk with a walker due to what the medicine did to him. He's great though! We love talking about sports and going hard in life. He has a baptism date for next month. We will see how Kenny does.

- I want to share something that was spoken about at the young man’s memorial by his philosophy professor that I have been learning is completely true. He was talking about a concept professed by an early Chinese philosopher. He stated that when one goes out into the world to "find himself," he will never come to find who he is. It is only when he gives himself to others and then creates loving lasting relationships that he finds out who he really is. “Who he is" is the accumulation of all the relationships he has acquired. Who he is has nothing to do with himself. It is only when we turn outward that we find who we are. I used to think that by focusing on myself I'd found out who I was and who I wanted to become. But as I've been here trying to forget about myself, ironically, I feel as if I know who I am and what I want to become in life more than I ever have in my entire life, especially when I was solely focusing on myself. If you want to find who you are, forget you and remember others. I don't know how it works, I just know that it does. The ultimate example of this was Jesus Christ. How so? Here's a video that explains. We find us when we give. He was the true giver.

What can you do to give a little of yourself to someone this Christmas season? Imagine if everyone in the world was focusing on giving instead of receiving. Imagine what the world would be like. We can't necessarily change the world, but we can change ourselves.


Elder Celaya

from the New York Stake "Christmas on Columbus"

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

From Harlem to the Farms (9 December 2015)

Why hello family! So.....

- I'm getting transferred off of Manhattan island, out of Harlem, going about 2 hours up-state (basically the first time out of the city
my whole mission) to a place called New Paltz, and I'm being switched temporarily as an English Elder, to be with Elder Hansen who came out with me into the mission and whom I love! He is awesome! He's from California and we are good friends. We have made the joke throughout our missions that one day we would be companions, but we thought it would never happen because he was an English elder and I a Spanish one. But, now look! Haha. Don't worry though, I won't lose my Spanish. We drive a lot in that area, so I'll have a lot more time to practice it more than I have ever had in my mission. That way when they switch me back to Spanish, all will be good :)  So this will be my fourth area (Yonkers, The Bronx, Harlem, and now New Pultz). This will be the first time out of the city, so I'm stoked. I'm going to try and find the Hispanics up there, too. All you’ve gotta do is find the farmers and then they'll lead ya to those who speak Spanish, is what I've heard.

- Shot again. So this week as we were walking home, another cop got shot. It was nuts seeing the crime scene. Only in Harlem. I'm going to miss this place - that's not sarcastic either, haha. You kind of get used to the craziness.

- Photos. I've gotten a lot of people saying the locations of pictures that I take are pretty nice. So let me tell you how this works. Manhattan is a large island. It basically gets nicer the lower you go on the island. I only have really taken pictures down south and not in Harlem because I’m afraid to pull out my camera here.

- Angel Dust. Saturday we were walking to go downtown to our stake Christmas concert. On the way there, this guy came up to us and starting bawling, asking if we could pray with him. He had a rosary hung around his neck. So we started talking to him and he would randomly start screaming for help and kneel down on the dirty ground of Harlem. We were surrounded by the guys who smoke and drink on the streets of Harlem and he was really making a scene. He was acting very weird, so we asked him what was up. Turns out he was on a hallucinogenic drug called angel dust. He was saying he had $10,000 on him and he was scared because he was going to do something not so smart with his money. So, in the middle of thousands of crazy people, we stood, huddled, and prayed with Douglas as he held up his cross. It looked like we were performing an exorcism because he was yelling in the prayer. So we walked with him and started asking about his kids. He kept telling us he didn't remember anything we just told him, so we had him pull out his phone and record himself. We hit record and talked to him on the video and asked him: "Is this really how you want your kids to see their dad? Is this how you want them to see your example?" We gave him our information and told him what to do so he wouldn't do something stupid while he was on the drug. We talked to him and calmed him down for half an hour and then we left. The man needed so much help and was on the verge of doing something very dangerous. We have been calling him throughout the week to see how he is doing, and he literally thinks we are angels that God sent down to save him. We are going to set him up to get into the addiction recovery program. It was just amazing because my companion had forgotten his metro card, so we had to go back to our apartment to pick it up, and we met Douglas on the way back up, and we would have never met him if we had brought the metro card to begin with.

I'm learning that when things seem to go wrong, a lot of the times they are going right, you just have to be patient. Just like this situation, and the next.

- We took a taxi to transfers today, and we were running really late. At first we could not find a taxi, but finally one came. We started talking to the guy and turns out he is from the Dominican Republic and he had received the missionaries before. We talked for a while and he told us he wants missionaries to come visit him again. It has been about 10 years since they visited him. So we got his information and sent it off to the missionaries who cover his area. We were frustrated about no taxis coming and about running late, but God knew we needed to meet this man. It's just been amazing to see how God works through little things and how most of the time when doors seem to be closing, they really are just beginning to open.

- Patience is key, but not patience as in waiting for things to happen. Rather, doing all that you can do until you can't do anymore, and then go to God and say, "I've done all that I can do, now it's in your hands." Then wait for Him to help you help yourself do things that are impossible that you could never do yourself. I love it. I love how much you learn out here.

God is there, but He wants you to want to find Him and learn how to do it. That's the beautiful thing about this life—he leaves it all in our hands.

With love and hope,

- Elder Celaya

Goodbye Felipe (I love this man)

 Sister Feliz (she's like mother away from home)

With Frederico Torro

With Sebastian who lived in Oxnard
and always brings us Arizonas

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Thanksgiving in New York (2 December 2015)

Hello everyone,

Thanksgiving was awesome, wasn't it? It was very different on the mission, but different in a good way! We went to someone's house who didn't have a family, bought him a pie, ate it with him, and spent some time with him. It was great. Then we went to Felipe's and he cooked us a 20 pound turkey and a 15 pound ham...we made mashed potatoes and stuffing (with almond milk), and we spent some time with him. I love that guy. I don't think there is anyone I'm closer to on the mission. And he is a genius! He is a member here from Spain who speaks better English than I do and it's his second language...SUPER SMART. Smartest guy intellectually I have ever talked with. He works for the UN.

We are having a large Christmas concert here in Manhattan in Lincoln Square. Well, what's awesome about that is that a lot of the ward members go to Julliard as performers. So, this Saturday we are going to have an amazing concert. It is the best way to contact people. 

Yesterday, we were not feeling too good. It was very rainy, the people are nuts, and we just needed something to get us going! So, we went out and ended up knocking doors in this one older building. We got to talk to everyone except one door in that building. The entire building was Spanish speaking too, which was a miracle. 

It's getting cold here. The crazies are leaving the streets and going down into the subways. When people ask us for money (which happens about 20 times per day), we now act like we are deaf and start signing to each other, or start speaking in Spanish, and they just move on. If you deny them, they get very angry and start cursing at you. Sometimes though we give them some change.

I have been doing a lot of exercising lately. It feels so good to get back in shape. Exercising mornings and nights.
I have been seeing that life really is all about your mind. If you can believe it, you can achieve it, with whatever it is in life. People who really want to change, do. They put in the effort and will do whatever it takes. And by them just showing up, putting in the effort, they already win the big battle. Heavenly Father made us. We have divine potential. As we are (as humans), we are limited in power, but when we involve God and ask for His help, there is nothing we can't do. When we truly come to know what we are and who we are made to become, we start seeing life a whole lot differently - the way God intended us to. 

Love you all,

- Elder Celaya

Felipe with Pres. and Sis. Smith

with Elder Wadsworth

Central Manhattan Zone - "Central Man"

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Only in New York (11 November 2015)

Hello Everyone!

- Dwight Howard Yelling at Catholic Priest - So the other night, we went down to China Town because we had a lesson there. We were walking and this huge guy stops us and starts talking to us about Jesus. He was very enthusiastic, about 7 feet tall, and looked exactly like Dwight Howard (basketball player). Well, we were standing right in front of a Catholic church having a mass, and the doors were open. One of the priests came outside the door and kindly asked the guy if we could go talk somewhere else. The big guy looked at him and said, "Look bruh, if you was inside worried about what was actually goin on, ya wouldnt be worried about whats going on outside. So, shut up and get back inside and do ya mass." Then he looked at my companion and me and said, "You can tell that man don't read the bible. That guy ain't never read the bible in his life". Haha. It was a funny moment because he completely cursed out this Catholic priest. Only in New York.

Not much else interesting this week.

I have been thinking about the motives behind God and Satan. Satan promises us happiness now in this life, and tells us to forget about the next life, even making us feel like there isn't one. God says, happiness will come, even in this life, but the amount is uncomprehendible to the human brain. So, you have to trust me and just do these few little things to get there. Which one will you choose? Which one currently are you choosing -- maybe not so much by saying which one you choose, but by the way you are living? Think about that if I may invite you do to so.

Love you guys,

Elder Celaya

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Going to the ER (28 October 2015)

It's been a long time since I have written.  My apologies are given!

- Transfers were today and I will be staying in Harlem with Elder Wadsworth yet again! This will be our third 6-week cycle together.  I'm excited to stay! Harlem is fantastic.

- Helped a member move his house and we met this guy named SAX who is a drug dealer on the street. We joked with him that we were from the mafia and that we were from the Italian family, the Fibonacci’s. We convinced him to work for us. He offered us drinks and a smoke. He didn't know we were missionaries because we were in regular clothes, but we told him later. He knows everyone on that street, so now we are "homies" with all the thugs on that street. Everyone loves us now on that street.  It is pretty funny.  We know where to go if we ever have any trouble :) All these guys care about is literally, in their words, "drinking and running the streets." Some of these "street thugs" are really great people, it's just nobody gives them a chance.

- Hospital - So my companion and I have been having a few medical issues. We went to urgent care (this time for my companion), and they told us to get an ambulance and get there ASAP. We turned down the ambulance and the nurses were all freaking out. We took the train and buses to the hospital and went into the ER. They brought down the emergency ER surgeon and then 4 other doctors. The Dr. said, "Listen, you probably are wondering why there is all this commotion around you. Listen son, you could walk out of here today with one less body part, so we need to treat this asap!"  (It was a bad infection.)  So, I left the room, they did what they had to do, and luckily, it wasn't bad enough that they had to do the surgery, so they sent us off on our day--without any missing body parts! What a stressful day that was.

- Rise Up October - There has been a lot of protesting here for stopping what they call "police terror and murder." They have blocked off streets to protest, and there have been riots, etc.  Mainly it's a race thing. They are fighting against all the cops who have "murdered." They had a riot and march planned for Oct 22-24. Well, on Oct 20 a cop was shot in the forehead at a project right down the road in our area. We go to that project a lot and luckily we weren't there that day, but we thought that was going to really spark the riots. So we were prepared to see the city go nuts—we thought Harlem was going to burn. We found a card advertising the riots with a phone number. We called the phone number, and turns out all they were doing was "sitting on the grass in a park" and then they were going to march from one street to another. It was such a letdown.

- Columbia University - We went to Columbia University because we are trying to find service opportunities to help out with colleges and universities. Wow, was this campus amazing. It was filled with antique buildings and old English style structures. It was beautiful and very weird to walk from Harlem, filled with crazies, into a beautiful utopian little society. That’s how this place is. One street is Beverly Hills and the next is Watts.

- Daniel - Daniel is a member we just absolutely love. He lives alone here in NY.  He is not all the way there and is very lonely, so we go and visit him twice a week.  We are trying to help him shape his life a little bit. We have been helping him change his diet (he is pre-diabetic), and to fix his loneliness we are trying to get him a dog. We went into the shelter the other day with him and looked at the dogs.  There was this cute puppy that was so calm and perfect for Daniel. Well, he decided not to get the dog because he had to go pick up his pants. This dog was a $600 dog for only $50. He kept saying he wanted a Border Collie, a Pug, or a German Shepherd, which will NEVER be in those shelters. Ahh, good old Danny! The interesting part about the shelter is that it's filled with pit bulls because everyone here wants to be tough. They think by walking with a pit bull, you’re the tough guy. Everyone here has them. We are still working with Daniel.

- Abel - We are working with a guy named Abel. He used to be in the church, then came back. His story is so sad. He is here alone in NY trying to earn money for his family back in the Dominican Republic. His daughter, who is 5, is deathly ill. We have been praying and fasting for her. He called us last night and said she is not in good condition. The medical device that he needs to get her is too expensive for him to buy, and he doesn't know if she is going to live. He called us last night, and I have never heard a grown man of the age of 50 so scared in his life. It really made me grateful for my life and situation. Most of these people don't want to be here. The life here is so hard - a lot harder than it was for them back in their countries. It breaks my heart.

- Elder Reid – wow, what an example. I've known Elder Reid my entire mission. He was the first person I met out here. He went home today and that was such a sweet moment. He was the first person I felt that loved me when I came here, and when I was very, very sick in my first area, he was the one who kept me out here. I love his example. I will miss him.

- Danny The Beggar - We had been contacted to participate in an event for fighting against domestic violence at a hospital here in Harlem. We went and it turned out they already had too many missionaries. So, we were looking at our plans and we had planned to go do some look-ups. We were looking through our records and for some reason, a street number came to my head. I looked and saw if we had any look-ups on that street, and we had quite a few. So, we went down to that street. We came up out of the subway and guess who we ran into? Our man SAX! He was super happy to see us, and we talked to him for a while. As women walk by, he always yells at them and says, "Hey honey girl, I could see our baby in your stomach already." Then he laughs it off and starts talking to us again. These guys are hilarious. Meanwhile, there is this man behind us, watching us, who is standing in defeat begging for money. He waited until we were done talking to SAX and then he came up to us and asked if we could pray for him. We asked him what was up, and he told us he broke up with his girlfriend and now he doesn't have a home. He expressed how he didn't want to beg, but he had no choice, and how he felt like nobody loved him. He felt his potential was gone. It was amazing to stand there and show him that God knew who he was and that He loves him dearly.  As we did this, tears started flowing from his eyes. The feeling of the Spirit was so strong. The love, the humility, the peace—it was amazing. He then looked up at us and said, “I know God cares now because ten minutes before you guys came I prayed to God to send me his angels. Then minutes later you walked up and I knew you were his angels. He sent me you. I prayed for his angels, and those angels are you guys. He knows me. He loves me.” We sat there, all three of us, with tears in our eyes and we felt this overwhelming love for this man who had thrown his life away yet still had enough to come back. We told him we could help him change his life and he agreed. We are going to meet up with him in Central Park and start teaching him. We were meant to go there—God knew we needed to be there because He knew Danny was praying for help. This is something I will never forget. It was such a sweet and warming experience that will always help me remember that God knows all of us, and no matter what we have done or who we have become, through the grace of Christ, we do not have to be who we once were. He is change. He is forgiveness.

All things are possible through Him.


Elder Celaya