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 nobody....is 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.
- 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.