Thursday, January 29, 2015

La Republica Dominicana (28 January 2015)

Hello family! I just want to let you know that I love you all so very much...I really do. Now that that is out of the way, let's start the email.

- So I guess first off you should know that I am alive and well. On Monday they gave us 72 hour kits, made us go buy food and water for three days, made sure everyone had flashlights and we had to be in our apartments by 6. They told us that a huge blizzard was coming and that everything was going to be shut down for a few days including grocery stores. They closed down the subways, the busses, and the NY Police sent out a message to everyone here that all cars had to be off the road by 11 at night, and if any were on the road, they would be fined. So apparently something huge was supposed to hit. But, we woke up the next day and it wasn't much of a storm. Still there was a lot of snow (the most I have seen yet here), but nothing like they made it seem. So, I am alive and well and the storm did not live up to the all. 

- My Ankle. So last week, we were playing basketball and I went up for a layup and stepped on the side of my foot, and the guy who was guarding me, stepped on my foot after it was bent. So I ended up messing up my ankle pretty bad. I had to stay in for a day, and then forced myself to go out the next day a little bit. I can walk on it, but my whole foot is blue and green. I will try to send a picture. I can walk on it so that's good, it just looks like it is getting worse. It may be infected. I am not sure. But, either way I am doing what I need to do and I am feeling a lot better. We are back out to going out all day and doing things so that is good. Mom please do not worry.

- Brandon. Brandon is such a boss! We taught him about the Word of Wisdom and the Law of Chastity and he understood all of it and already has been living both. 
He has seen living here how much people become addicted to substances and he wants nothing to do with it. Usually the hardest two things to teach people were very easy to talk about with him! He is still on track for FEB 21st! He is awesome! 
We taught him twice this last week, and we will teach him twice this week, and he is coming to church on Sunday too! 

-- Words from the Dominican Republic. So there are TONS of Dominicans here. They honestly sound very weird when they talk. Sometimes I can't tell if they are all there because they mumble so much and I have an extremely hard time understanding their spanish because one, it's extremely fast, two, they mumble and cut off their words, always drop the S in words, and sometimes the R's too, and third, because they have TONS of slang ways to say things. So, I thought I would start creating a list of Dominican slang words. So every Dominican we visit, I ask for some words to add to the list. Here are just a few.

Las palabras de la Republica

Que lo que-what's up
La vaina ta heavy- The thing is heavy (meaning it is all good).
Ves pa lla-go over there!!
Que vaina es-what is this?!
Tigraje-being a Tigre
Esté Tigre es un Leon- a good looking Tigre (all the dominican ladies freak out when you say this haha)
Esta chivo- super tense or expecting something to happen.
Tirando muela- talking way too much
Ey- hola 
Esta Chico - very beautiful 
Sipote- a little kid
Patoja  - young man or young lady

These are just a few of the words. I have a huge list and maybe in a while I will send them all in an email.

Different cultures - Here we have people from all over the place. 
1) Dominican Republic
2) Mexico
3) Peru
4) Costa Rica
5) Honduras
6) Nicaragua 
7) Spain (more so in South Manhattan)

All have different cultures. That means different foods, different ways of living and different words mean different things to each kind of people. So, it has been a little difficult knowing what words to say and not say to some of these people. For example, the F word to people from Mexico means "thing" in Dominican. It is a great learning experience though because if I ever go to any of those countries, I will already be blessed with the knowledge of their culture and will know what words not to say and what to say! 

We have been able to visit a lot of the families here in the ward and they are all so great! 

I want to end with something I have seen a lot in others on the mission. Jesus told us to focus on getting rid of the BEAM that is in our own eye, before we focus on the smote that is in our brother’s eye. Oftentimes people criticize others for what they see as their own faults. People hate most in others what they hate most in themselves. Just think if everyone were to cast the beam out of their own eye! There would be no need for being hypocritical and everyone would be living in harmony. Being honest with oneself is a beautiful thing because it brings out change. When we judge others, it doesn't allow us to love them.  We don't have to "be right" all the time. Isn't doing the right thing (being kind) always the right thing to do?

The Savior was love. He is love. Every good thing comes from Him. Love is what changes people. I have learned not so much to focus on people's faults, but fix my own, and love the people around me. Love someone this week.

You all are AWESOME. 

Keep moving on.

With Love,

- Elder Celaya

Pics (28 January 2015)

Outside our apartment in Kingsbridge, the Bronx!

Me and Elder Lyons are back at it. We are currently jamming on the piano.

(Selfie in some random bathroom haha)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Journey To Huge-Ness Begins (21 January 2015)

This week has been filled with miracles as has the last one. 

- The Bronx. - So far, this place is SO much better than my last area. I love it here compared to there. Now this place would still never be my choice of living, but it is a lot better from what I have experienced thus far. The place is a lot bigger, the members are amazing as well, we have a full church now, and the ward is the biggest Spanish ward I have ever seen.

- Gym. My companion Elder Hausenfluck has a gym membership here along with the other elder we live with, so we wake up at 5:30 every day and catch the bus and head to the gym. It has been absolutely amazing. I forgot how much I missed it. The other day we all went to a Vitamin Shop and all got our protein, pre-workout and also mom you would be proud of me for this one...I convinced everyone to buy some liquid chlorophyll too. We work out with our zone leaders too and one of them has a full ride scholarship to BYU to play football as a center. He is a pretty big guy. It is crazy how much better you feel when you really do work out. The journey to becoming huge has begun ;)

- My companion - He is awesome! He is so loving and caring towards people here. He is always willing to help anyone. I hope to care and be as interested in others when I finish my mission. He is from Arizona, and he finishes his mission in May, so he is a bit "older" in the mission. 

Other Elders in our apartment - So we live with Elder Lyons who was my MTC companion (it's great to live with him again. We get along great and are always having a great time), and also Elder Enriques who is from Brazil. Now he is literally the same person as our fellow friend BJ Thomas. He is from Brazil, speaks Portuguese, but is fluent in English (has no accent), he LOVES going to the gym, he loves supplements and protein, he is super energetic all the time, can get along with anybody, and acts and looks exactly the same as BJ. It is unreal. He loves wrestling and rugby too - those were his two sports. We all have a great time together. 

Bitten by a squirrel - So this week Elder Enriques decided to feed some squirrels. Now there are two types of squirrels here. Regular brown/blonde squirrels and black squirrels. Everyone calls the black squirrels "sqwiggers". The brown squirrels hate the black ones and are always fighting. The squirrels here are just as corrupt as the people. Haha. Anyways so he tried feeding the squirrels and there were squiggers and squirrels. They started fighting and as he was feeding them, one came up and chomped onto his finger and Elder E flew him across the road. So then he had to go all the way down to south Manhattan to go get checked for rabies. Turns out they don't have rabies. In order to go get checked out, he had to call Sister Morgan (President Morgan’s wife). She thought it was hilarious and so did president Morgan. Everyone has heard about it and he has been telling jokes all the time about it. Just imagine BJ Thomas explaining him getting bit by a squirrel and this is exactly how it's been here - extremely hilarious. 

I DON'T WANT YOUR BOOK- Music. I have had three opportunities this week to use music as a way of opening other’s hearts and it has been amazing. We went and visited a less active man who is around 24. We taught him and his mom (who is a member) a lesson and she loved it, but he was pretty cold the entire time. We asked him if he had scriptures and he said he didn't. So I then asked him if he would like us to get him a Bible and Book of Mormon and he was like " uhh nahh nahh I'm good." I stood in shock for a minute and didn't know what to do. So I started asking questions about his testimony in the gospel and it was clear that he didn't really care about much. He said he didn't think the scriptures were applicable to his life so he didn't want them. The lesson was completely a fail, and we kind of ended it open ended with him because he was pretty cold and negative throughout the whole lesson. We then decided to try and get to know him better. We talked about music and turns out he likes playing guitar and has a guitar so he brought it out, and I got to play some songs for him that I wrote on the guitar. Immediately he completely changed into a different person. He all of a sudden became interested and excited. We ended up talking for about 30 minutes more and he actively invited us to come back. We are going back this week to teach him again. Before we ever got to play music with each other, we asked him if we could come back to see him again, and he said he did not want us to. It was cool to see how that one little experience opened his heart. We go back tomorrow. I had two other experiences like that this week as well :) 

Brandon - So it has been about a month that we have had any contact with Brandon back in Yonkers. So out of nowhere we got a call from Elder Segura in Yonkers telling us that Brandon came to church for Veronica’s farewell talk. Brandon lives in Kingsbridge and so Elder Segura said he was going to hand him off to us here in The Bronx. This was a very odd thing because we thought Brandon was completely done with the church.

THE MIRICLE - So last Monday after district meeting, my companion and I were going to go out to eat. He wanted to go to a Chinese place, but for some reason I felt prompted to go into this little bodega next to the church. I didn't even want to go get food there, but I just felt in my heart that for some reason I needed to go there. We ended up going on a little split with another companionship so I could go to the bodega. As we are waiting in line ordering sandwiches, guess who walks in? BRANDON!! We ended up talking and catching up and he was extremely surprised to see us there. We talked about meeting again and we talked about his life. I felt the spirit so strong in that little bodega as we talked. It was not a coincidence that I was led by the spirit to go into the bodega that day at that very time. Brandon even said it himself. He was like "The fact that we could come into this tiny bodega at the same time in the same place is no coincidence. This was God’s doing." Miracles happen when you follow the promptings of the spirit.

We are now meeting with him twice a week. We have had two lessons since then with him and each time the spirit has been so strong. He is literally a different person now compared to when we first started meeting with him. His countenance has completely changed. You can see the spirit working within him and seeing that change, and that is one of the best, if not the greatest thing about being a missionary - seeing that change in others, that only God can do. When Veronica left for her mission that is when it all hit him. That is when he said he really has to figure out his life, and he told us he wants this for himself. He wants to be happy without any other outside influence. It is amazing to see how different and enhanced people become when they choose to align their lives with God and his teachings. We challenged him to be baptized and he accepted with a full heart, so he is now going to be baptized on February 21st! My heart is full of joy as I have been able to see him literally flip his life around 360 degrees. Perhaps this is one of the reasons I was supposed to be transferred to this area. I really do love him as a brother and love his willingness to change. He is a great example to me. Please pray that he follows through strong with this. I am so excited for him, words can't describe it.

Greatest experience on my mission thus far - So last Saturday we had an APF. So I got to go on an exchange with an amazing missionary named Elder Sorenson. He is an african american guy from Utah who is such an amazing person who loves sports, so we get along. It's amazing how much more people will listen to you here if you aren't white. It's sad but people here are so ignorant. Anyways, Elder Sorenson is a boss. We get along so well. He is extremely positive and can really hone in on the spirit. We went down to the lower part of the Bronx (Concourse....the more sketchy part) and we were assigned to tract. So we went into this big building and went to the top floor. I had the genius idea of going to the top of the roof. Well, as I was walking up to the top of the stairs, the loudest alarm I have ever heard starting going off. It sounded like a bomb siren. As I turned around to run, Elder Sorenson was already down the stairs running. We got out of the building as fast as we could. The cops came and were looking for us but we booked it to another neighborhood. Well as we did this, we went up to the top floor of another building, tracted the first top floor and then went down a floor. We knocked on this guy’s door and he actually let us into his tiny project apartment. I have never seen this before when tracting, so it was a bit odd. He was from Nigeria and had a heavy accent. We started showing him a video about Lot and his wife, and about how we should not look back but forward in faith. Half way through the video, he asked us to pause it, and he got pretty angry. He started asking why we were showing him this? What was its point? Then he said to us "I want to learn something new! Teach me something I have never heard before!". Me and Elder Sorenson looked at each other and knew we should teach the restoration. We started teaching about how Christ's original church was restored to the earth again, and the way we taught in unity invited the spirit so strong. Elder Sorenson is an amazing teacher. The man asked some extremely difficult questions, not out of arrogance and anger, but out of true curiosity. I knew we were teaching by the spirit because we had the exact same impressions. As I was explaining something, I went to quote a random scripture I read in the Old Testament that morning, and as I said the scripture (I could not remember the exact chapter), Elder Sorenson already had it up ready to share and I didn't say a word to him. He was impressed by the spirit, as I was to share the same passage. This happened many times in the lesson, and we taught with complete unity with the spirit. We explained the complete history of the Book of Mormon and he asked if we could frequently come back. Elder Sorenson quoted the exact words from Joseph Smith when he talks about his experience with seeing God and Jesus Christ and I've never felt the Spirit so strong when talking about that. It again pierced my heart and I knew with even a stronger firmness that that experience really did happen. I felt it from heaven and so did he. We gave him the book, and he said he was going to read the whole thing after we left. No words can describe the progress of the lesson or the spirit that was felt there. It was so strong and I have never taught with better unity than I have with Elder Sorenson. He is a fantastic missionary who teaches and testifies with humility but with piercing power. Hopefully one day we can serve together. I will always remember the spirit that was felt there the rest of my life.  It was nothing of this earth.

I'm not going to lie, the mission is a very, very difficult thing to do. 98% of the time, it's extremely difficult mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. 98% of the time I am constantly trying to survive. The area here is very difficult too. The whole culture and place makes it very difficult to stay sane. It is the most demanding back breaking work I have ever done because it requires all of you. Everything you have spiritually, mentally, physically and emotionally. Every day you are drained of these things. I have had to rely on my relationship with God and his Son every day. It is the only way I survive. 2 % of the moments of being a missionary are filled with pure joy. Joy that isn't from this world. Moments like these (like the man we taught from Nigeria, or seeing the change in Brandon), somehow make it all worth it. The mission teaches you how to rely 100% on the Lord and it is really a refiner’s fire. I have learned so much already on my mission and I continue to do so every day. I don't really understand how 2% of this pure bliss can be worth the other 98% of struggling, but somehow it is. It is so worth it. I love those moments and thank God for them every day. I cherish these moments and hold them close to my heart, and they are what give me the focus and love to keep going. 

I love you all. Let the spirit of God do all the teaching in life. It is the only way people will truly change. 

Have a FANTASTIC week full of joy.

- Elder Austin Celaya 

Pics (21 January 2015)

(Flashback with Elder Segura. Yes it is green haha.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The BRONX (Week 1) (14 January 2015)

Hi family. Keep sending me emails I love them!

I am so angry right now because I just spent two hours writing an email, got it all ready to go, sent it, and it only sent two lines and deleted all the rest. All is well here (it's way better than Yonkers). All is well. My companion is awesome and so is Elder Lyons and his companion (literally B.J Thomas). Hahaha. it's great. Anyways, have a great week and I will talk to you all next week.

Here are the only lines that went through (more next week):

Greetings from lovely New York! This week has been one of the best weeks in my mission. We have seen many miracles and I have learned so much!  This week I want to start off with a picture that I found graffitied here.

Pics (14 January 2015)

From One Hood to Another (7 January 2015)

Hello all :)! This has been a great week! I'm being transferred out of Yonkers! 

I am leaving Yonkers and going to Kingsbridge in The Bronx (which borders Yonker). I have been to this area before but it is different when you serve there. My companion will be Elder Hausenfluck who will be ending his mission in three cycles. Everyone has been telling me they are very jealous that I get to serve with him because he is so great! He has a gym membership card and he has a membership where he can get someone else in free anytime he goes. My companion (Elder Segura) had him as a companion and he said he is great! He loves playing basketball too. We are both super excited and I can't wait to go to the gym every day now. Sometimes I really miss exercising. I have never realized how much it helps myself function until I've been on the mission and exercising is not available like it was before the mission. I'm very excited to serve with my new companion. We are going to live with two other Spanish elders. Both are awesome! And guess what? I'm going to be living with Elder Lyons again (my MTC companion)! This is going to be a great cycle. It's going to be difficult, but I'm up for the challenge. 

Last preparation day was a great day. Elder Palmer (my now old district leader), Elder Hincapie, Elder Segura and I all went to the Sleepy Hollow Seminary. It was a really cool experience seeing gravestones from the 1700's. After that, we brought Elder Palmer to the mission home (he was going home the following day), and then we went back to the church in Scarsdale and ended up playing basketball. Some of the missionaries were outside playing soccer with some non-members and invited them in to play basketball. They all played on their varsity team so it was really fun to actually play basketball again against some good competition.

I don't have much time today because I need to get everything ready before transfers. Don't wait to change. Start today. Life goes by quickly and you don't want to wait until the day that you are dying to decide to live.

This week has been great. I will let you know how the new area is. 

With love,

Elder Celaya

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy 2015 family!! (1 January 2015)

This week has been a great week here. Our stake president has sent us on a little mission, along with every other missionary that is serving in our zone. He is calling it the "Search & Rescue," which is where we are supposed to go out and find all the less-active young adults that have ever been on the church records in our area, and find their status (have they moved, if so, what is their new address, if they haven't moved, are they still interested in the church, and then update the list, and give it back to the stake president). It has been quite an interesting experience, but I enjoy it. It is fun because we go all over Yonkers, and we knock on all these different doors and you never know what you are going to get behind each door - I love that feeling now. It used to scare me (knocking on random people’s doors), but now I enjoy it. That is one thing I didn't know we did to the extent we do it (tracting) on the mission. We tract a lot and do a lot of lookups. We were trying to find one person from the search and rescue list and I knocked on the door, and this guy behind the door said "quien es?" which means "who is it?" in Spanish. We told him we were the missionaries and he went and got a lady to come talk to us. We talked for little over a minute and then she asked who we were, and then all of a sudden there was a pause...then she said to me "Um I'm sorry but here to talk to you....right now." I looked at Elder Segura and he started busting up laughing and I had to remember at that moment that that lady was a daughter of God, because my natural man within was telling me to talk back. Haha so I stood there for 10 seconds trying to regain my composure and said, "Alright, well you have a wonderful night!" and then we walked away and Elder Segura was laughing at me because right before this occasion, we went to go look up another less active. So on all of these apartments, there are two doors. You walk into the first door and then on the wall there usually is a call box, and you have to get buzzed in to get into the second door. So, Elder Segura pressed the person’s number, and a lady answered, and we told her who we were looking for. We gave her the first name, and she said she had no idea who that was, and then we told her the last name, and she randomly decided to tell us that it was her son. So we asked if he was home, and she said yes, and said she was going to go get him so we could talk to him. So Elder Segura asked if it was him, and he said "yeah that is me," and then once he asked who we were, and we told him we were the missionaries, he said that the guy we were looking for didn't live there, and he starting saying that he has no idea who we were talking about, and then hung up on us. The whole time Elder Segura was trying to keep it cool, but after he hung up on him, he started yelling at the call box in his heavy Spanish European accent. He was very angry and I made fun of him for it. Haha. So of course I got that out right back in my face the next door we knocked.  This is why this is fun, because you never know what you are going to get. You have to have a light heart about it or else you will take everything offensive. That is one thing that truly is amazing about a mission, is that you learn how to not take offense to things when you are rejected in any way. You just keep on moving and try to figure out a better way to do the work. Perhaps that will be a good business skill one day and in relationships. 

Christmas Eve: For Christmas Eve, we went to South Manhattan and spent the day in the city. It was pretty packed, but unfortunately it was raining a lot. We took the subways down (that is always an experience in itself), and then went to wall street, and walked all the way up, seeing different things and touring the city. It was a really fun day. I will attach some photos. We then went to one of my favorite families (the Osorio’s) homes for dinner. We had a big Christmas Eve Dominican dinner which was fun. I am still not too keen on Dominican food. But hey, it's a lot better than what I was eating the first month of my mission (only Raman noodles). Haha. 

Christmas: Christmas was actually really fun. It was one of the most fun days in my mission. We went to the church and played basketball with our entire district. We played for a long time and we would take breaks when people needed to Skype their family. Speaking of skyping, it was awesome to see my family again. One thing that was extremely weird is that I feel like my entire world has changed SO much within the last 6 months, and because of that, I have changed as well. I am not the same person I was when I left for my mission. It felt so weird skyping my family because it felt like home - it felt like I just walked back in my house and I was only gone for a day. It was just like normal, but I feel like a different person - an enhanced version of myself. It feels like I have left earth, and I just got to go back to earth for an hour and everything was still the same. It really was a comforting feeling. It was so fun talking with you guys and seeing your faces. 

Brandon: Veronica ended up breaking up with Brandon because she is leaving on her mission this month. We have not been able to meet with Brandon, and we don't know if it’s just because he has been busy, or if he relates it to Veronica and therefore wants nothing to do with her right now, so he doesn't want to meet with us. I know he wasn't just meeting with us for her, because I personally saw and felt how he was changing. I saw the spirit working in him and in his life. I saw his countenance change. That is something that is very interesting to see as a missionary. You can literally see a new light come into the person when they start to change their life. It is like they completely turn into a new person. You can also see, when someone has then decided to not want to change any longer and follow the gospel, you can see the light in them leave, and you can see they are trying to ignore what they deep down in their hearts know to be true. It is a very sad thing, but it is so easy to see in people. I just wish they could see it in themselves. Anyways, we aren't sure what will end up happening with Brandon. We love him and he is an amazing guy, so hopefully he can value the change he has seen in his life so much so that he will want to meet with us again. 

Roy: We feel as if Roy is holding onto his past, and because of that, he cannot see the hope of his future, and because of that, it is holding him back from progressing. We have had a couple of lessons with him, teaching him about eternal families, temples, and what priesthood is, and they were great lessons, but we feel as if half of his heart is still stuck in the past. We are going to meet with him Friday and teach about disconnecting himself from the past, and aligning himself with the gospel so he can continue to progress. 

Dominican Family: We went on a split the other week with our zone leaders, and during this time, Elder Segura and Elder Gore (our awesome zone leader) tracked into this Dominican family. They are awesome! The dad is super interested and his wife only has three months here in America. Somehow he lost his eye in the DR, but he is an amazing guy. I was on a split with Elder Palmer (my district leader), and we taught them the Plan of Salvation. Elder Palmer is such an amazing teacher, and he truly has inspired me to buckle down and learn Spanish. One thing I have noticed the longer I have been on my mission and the more Spanish I learn, the more I realize I don't know. I still have trouble teaching in Spanish, but I am forcing myself to learn, day by day. We are going to go back Saturday to teach them. They are awesome.

Julian: Julian is a guy that the sisters found. He is currently going to medical school and is working three jobs to pay for school. We had a pass off lesson with them and the sisters, and he is by far the most amazing guy I have been able to be blessed to teach. He is such a nice, deep thinking, and genuine person. He has such a strong and positive desire to know more about truth. He is not from Yonkers (he is from upstate), but he is here for medical school. I have never met someone so ready for the gospel. He is one of the most positive, easy to get along with, people I have met. We taught him the Restoration with the sisters, and there was such an amazing spirit there. I have yet to feel the spirit so strong teaching someone in a lesson. It's during those times when you say to yourself, there is absolutely no way this can't be true, because I have never felt anything this peaceful and exciting in my life. It's during those times I feel as if we get a little peek of what Heaven will be like. I am super excited to see what happens with him, because he has been prepared. 

We had President come into our zone meeting this week, and he surprised us and talked about a principle that has really affected and inspired me. He talked about becoming ONE with Christ and his gospel. He talked about John 15 in the bible. Read it slowly. It will change your life.  In John 15, Jesus gives a parable of a vineyard. Jesus is the vine, we are the branches, and God is the caretaker. He talked about how it's not good enough to be in proximity to the vine - that does nothing. You can't obtain nutrients when you are just around the vine - you have to be connected. He talked about how once a branch has borne fruit, we then have to let God purge the dead branches, because they are not allowing new vines to grow so they can bear fruit. It is not enough for us to be in proximity to the vine, we cannot be close to the vine, we have to be connected to the vine. Don't look back on the past, what could have been. Only look forward to what the Lord has in store for you. If we look back, once we have changed not just our behavior, but rather our nature, we are saying something like this: I want all I had in the past, more than I have hope for in the future. Don't LOOK BACK. 

The gospel is change. It's eternal change. Eternity is now. Don't wait. Become one with the Savior and your life will change beyond your current comprehension - that is something I have seen in myself. But I was not able to see it until I took the leap of faith. I can only see it now, after I have in a sense jumped. During this new year, don't just change your behavior, change your heart. Align yourself with God, and change who you are.

I love you all so very much, and I am so thankful for the many things I am blessed to learn on the mission. 

With love,

- Elder Celaya

P.S. Transfers are on Wednesday next week, and I am most likely going to be going out of Yonkers, so the next time you hear from me, I will be in my new area. I find out Saturday where I will be going. It is a bitter sweet feeling leaving an area.

Pics (1 January 2015)

 Christmas Eve in Manhattan

Christmas with the Rodak Family!

Skyping my family!!

Thanks Eskanders for taking us to lunch!