Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Take Him To The Trash! (18 February 2015)

What a crazy week here! The weeks are really starting to fly by. So, transfers got moved to Friday this week instead of today, but we already found out who is leaving the area and who our new companions will be. I am staying here, and my companion is staying here too. I have no words. I definitely did not expect that one to happen, but we are going to try and make the best of it! 

Diners - So this week we had the opportunity to go out and eat at some diners. The little diners here are SO good! If you are ever in NY, go to a diner, you will not regret it!

Food - I'm starting to get tired of the food here. Well, I guess not really the food, but the amount of grease they put on their food. Last night we had these mini tostadas and after eating three, the entire plate was covered in this orange fried oil/fat. It was liquid but after waiting 10 minutes, it got hard, and was like a jello. Just imagine what that is doing in my body! And I have to eat it every day. Ahhh. It makes you feel so sick after. Haha.

Brandon - Brandon is doing great as always! So, we had to switch him to the English ward here, so he needs to go to church in that ward for three weeks before he gets baptized.  We are helping him get acquainted with that ward and we are slowly going to turn him over to the English Elders. We have taught him everything, so we might go over everything again over these next three weeks before he gets baptized. 

Dominican Family - There is this dominican family that we are teaching that are awesome! The missionaries have been teaching them for quite a while, but they didn't go over to their house for a few months for some reason. I love how God works sometimes. We had our whole day planned out last Thursday, but our last appointment of the night canceled on us. We had the idea to just go check if this family still lived in that apartment. So, we went over to their apartment, knocked on their door, they let us in, and we were able to get to know them better, share some dominican words and then they asked us to come over every Tuesday night to start teaching them again! God has been so good to us with little miracles like this! 

Funny story - So every Tuesday and Friday we go to this Senior Center and work in the kitchen and serve everyone food. Well, there is this one table with this really sassy lady who always has something to say to us. So yesterday Elder Lyons was clearing the finished plates off that table and he went up to that lady and asked her if he could take her trash (pointing to her cup), and she was like "NO, this ain't trash!" I heard her say this and I jokingly said to Elder Lyons "come on you know better than that! What are you thinking?" and the lady was like "Yeah, he's right, this isn't trash, but you know what? You're trash!!" Haha it was very funny. As we were walking out, Elder Lyons had to go to the bathroom so they didn't see him walk out.  As I was walking out they asked me where he was, and I told her I threw him out in the dumpster in the back and they started clapping and cheering. Haha. It was so odd and random but it gave me a good laugh for the day. 

Dog Poop - The sidewalks here are always COVERED in dog poo. You have to look down the entire time you walk so you don't step in any. Kind of gross, but this place is so dirty I don't think anyone really cares here. 

Fights - It's crazy how many fights we hear from our apartment. Someone is always yelling outside or in the apartment building. They are drunk and screaming and fighting in the middle of the night. It's sad. Sometimes I feel these people have lost all respect for themselves or others. 

Last week we had the opportunity to go to Roosevelt Island (the small little island between Manhattan and Brooklyn and Queens). We took a tram over the water. I will attach some pictures. It was awesome. 

We also went to Nike Town which is the 5 story Nike store in Manhattan. It was super awesome. Each floor is separated by sport. 

I want to end with something I have learned this week - something I have decided to try to put in practice in my life. We should only care what God thinks about in this life. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks of us, it only matters what the boss thinks. If you are good with Him, it doesn't matter what else happens really. It's sad because there are missionaries who feel you have to be miserable to do the work of the Lord. They feel that if you are having a good time doing the work, then you aren't doing the work. We should be the happiest people alive because we are filled with the knowledge that all will be well in the end! What greater news is that to make someone happy? Be happy. If you aren't truly happy, make some changes so you can be the happiest person you can possibly be. With God, your happiness will expand more than you ever could have imagined. 

Just. Be. Happy. Easier said than done, but you get the point =)

With much love,

Elder Austin Celaya

Pics (18 February 2015)

This is Frita and I. She is one of my favorite kids in our Ward. We ran into them on the bus the other day and she always asks to take pictures and selfies so this was the result of that. She's great!

This is one of my favorite families too! They are the Hernandez family and they all call me Peter Parker from Spider-Man haha. This is us doing our evil faces haha.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Every day is a GIFT! (11 February 2015)

Hi family!

One thing I have learned this week is nobody is promised a tomorrow. Oftentimes many of us (myself included) live as if we will live until we are ripe with age, but in reality today could be our last day. It's something I've thought before, but I've never felt that a reality more in my life until now. As I've felt this and continually feel it throughout the day, it makes me want to do everything with my full heart, including changing my life. We waste this point of life if we just stay in the same place. We must strive to continually progress mentally, physically, and spiritually.

This week has been a great week. When i leave this area, I'm really going to miss a lot of the people here. It's kind of crazy how you come to a pm insane place like this, yet there are still some amazing people here amongst all the chaos. 

BRANDON - he came to church this week, but had a hard time speaking Spanish so we might be transferring him over to the English Ward. He is all ready to go! We had two more lessons with him this week and on Friday he is going to have his baptismal interview! It's great to see his progression. Please pray for him to stay strong.

There are so many amazing families here and one of those families is the Hernandez family. They have three kids who are amazing! I'll attach a picture we all took together. Don't mess with us. We go over to their house every Sunday. 

I'm getting really tired of Dominican Food, especially this dish they call sancocho. It's this soup they make with yuca, yams, plantains, oil, fat, and different kinds of meat. Like I said, they just drop huge bits of animal into the soup, bones, fat, meat, gizzards and all. One of our members offered to feed us chicken feet and grasshoppers this week. Ha we said we were good, so luckily we didn't have to eat that. I've come to the conclusion that this place is nothing like America. The most used language is Spanish, and there are no real grocery stores here like we have back home (just big Latino based supermarkets), there are almost no real stores either (just tiny hole-in-the-wall type of joints, and everything is crammed in, super dirty and you have tons of different people from all different countries. Everyone I have talked to from Mexico says this place is exactly like Mexico City. 

There is this family that I love named the Vega family. The dad who was the only active member had three strokes and almost died (early 40's), and almost left his two young kids (Melissa who is 10 and Julio who is 7) behind on this earth. He shared the experience with us this week. It was very amazing how spiritually it was and how much faith he had. They said the doctors were going to do brain surgery (I'm not sure why), but as they were rolling him in, he told the doctor no because he knew it wasn't his time yet and he would be fine without the surgery. He was then in the hospital for a few months, and finally got to go back home about 5 weeks ago. Their son Julio has autism and we have been trying to figure out a way to teach him about baptism. He absolutely loves super heroes and knows all of their names and stories, so we were looking for a way to relate that to baptism this week. We told him that he was going to begin training for a special mission to become a super hero. We told him that every super hero had some kind of suit (the white baptismal suit), and then we told him that when we get baptized, it renews us, and enhances us, and that is when we get our super powers (the cleansing effect of baptism). We then showed him a picture of Spider-Man shaking President Uchtdorf's hand and told him the church and super heroes are allies. It was pretty fun because he thought it was cool! He's super hard to handle and the parents were afraid that they wouldn't be able to have him be baptized. It was cute too because at the end, he asked his mom "mom can we keep the Hermanos (brothers in Spanish)???"

It was great! I don't have much more this week. There is tons that happened but I simply don't have time to write it all. We are going to Harlem today to get our haircuts from a member who owns a dominican barbershop. Ha that should be interesting. Then we are going to the city and checking out the legendary Nike store that apparently is 5 floors, and then we are going to the little island right in between Manhattan and Brooklyn.  It's going to be a great day. I love you so very much and have a fantastic week.

- Elder Celaya

P.S. Zach Snyder! I heard about your mission call to Mexico! We visited two members from Mexico last night and I asked him what he knew about the city you have been called to. He says the people are very outgoing and loud and speak fast like the Dominicans. He said it's pretty dangerous there too but it has its nice parts too. He said you will like it. He said down south by Pueblo (where he's from) it's a lot more relaxed, and the closer you get to the border the more crazy it is! So have fun brother! I look forward to being able to speak to you in Spanish when you get back! 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

RUSSIAN SPIES (4 February 2015)

Welcome to another week in The Bronx NY! 

This week has had its ups and downs but the ups outweigh the downs a ton! So to start off the week, I went off on a split with our district leader’s companion into their area (when you leave your area and go to their area and do work with one of the Elders in their area, while at the same time one Elder from that companionship comes here with my companion) and it was an interesting but fun day! 

He only has 4 weeks in the mission so he is rather new! He had the challenge of taking over the area for a day after only being a missionary for a very short time. We taught this lady a little bit of English or at least tried to. I say tried to because she can't read English or Spanish, and can't write, and so pronunciation was nearly impossible to teach her. It was an experience that needed patience. 

- RUSSIAN SPIES - so after that, we got a call from a lady who wanted us to come visit a guy in a hospital. Well, she didn't give us the address, or if she did we couldn't understand her (she was SUPER Dominican). So we now were left to find this guy with no address but a knowledge that he is somewhere in The Bronx in a hospital that apparently is in our area. Well we found this huge veterans hospital. We walked up to the door, and as we walked in, we had to go through security (just like the airport). There were guards with guns and we had to put all of our things into a tray and walk through the metal detector. We made it through ok, but the guy didn't end up being there. So then we left, and as we were walking, the cops stopped us and were quite stern with us. They asked us where we were from and what we were doing there. Turns out they thought we were Russian spies haha. Now remember, nobody is white here, so when they see two tall white guys who looked like they just got off the boat from Europe dressed in big black jackets with scarves around their faces, walking swiftly together, they are going to think something fishy. Haha. It was cool though because after a while we told the cop we were missionaries and talked to him for a few minutes, and after he really tried to help us find this man and kept thanking us for our service. So that was interesting. We never ended up finding the guy, but we found where he lived. The other Elders are still looking for him. 

Elder C - so as I was on my split with Elder C, we had a few conversations that were great. As we were walking, there was this crazy guy yelling his head off on the phone about how he's going to get all his guys and kill the guy on the phone. He was saying stuff like "send anybody at me, and I'll take their life and put them in the grave no hesitation," but in a way worse way and along with a big deep bronx accent, which can sometimes be intimidating. The guy was pacing back and forth, cussing and threatening to kill this guy, and Elder C was like, "hey let's cross the street because this guy is crazy." We were walking towards him on the same side of the street, and as he said that, it totally hit me what it was like to be in his shoes as a new missionary here dealing mentally with this crazy environment. He told me he was tired of walking on the streets, feeling like he was going to die or get shot or beat up. It's weird because now when I am faced with someone crazy like this guy, I feel nothing anymore. I don't feel scared, nervous, excited, or worried; I literally feel nothing. You get used to it here and I told him this. Back home people are usually pretty sane--when you see a person like that it's a big deal, but here there are so many crazies that you get used to it and realize that usually it's all talk. Perhaps that's why they are stuck here. Haha. Almost every person I have talked to who is trying to really be successful and raise a wholesome family is trying to move away and out of here. This place would make it so hard to raise a family here. I respect those who have! 

Workouts - workouts are going great! There is nothing better than feeling great spiritually, mentally and physically. It's crazy how much the mind, spirit and body are connected. If one of those things isn't healthy, it dulls the other. You have to feel good yourself before you can help others change your lives! 

Soup - so I will eat pretty much any food here that the people give us willingly, but one thing I don't understand is this. When they make us soup, they put parts of the animal they cooked in the soup. They put the gizzards in the soup along with bones and even huge chunks of straight fat from the animal. I get so frustrated when they feed me this because they expect us to eat it. It tastes horrible and I just don't understand why they can't give us plain meat without bones or no fat or normal parts of the animal. It's such a lazy way to prepare the meal. Ahh I just don't understand.  

BRANDON: Had two great lessons with him this week! I am so thankful to be able to still teach him in my second area! We taught him this week about tithing and fasting, temples, family history work, the priesthood, and obeying the law. It was great! So BRANDON works up at a diner in Yonkers and usually he has Sundays off, so he was planning to go to church this week. Unfortunately he got a call that morning saying he needed to come in and work that day because it was super bowl Sunday, so he wasn't able to make it to church (he has already been three times). His work was going to feed the employees as well and they were feeding them steak, sandwiches and some seafood. Brandon decided to fast that day and he stayed strong throughout the whole day! He said everyone kept offering him food and he wouldn't take any of it. We told him he only needed to fast for two meals but he ended up fasting for 5 and told us once he starts something he always finishes it! What a great example! 

Missionary work is very tiring! We are up at 5:30 and go until 10:30 every day nonstop, it’s crazy! I've never had to work this consistently hard and long in my life. It's just two years of flat out go go go go! There are some days where I feel like there is nothing I’d rather do than take a nap at that time - nothing in the world. Plus when I get tired, I forget my Spanish and that isn't good! Haha. It's okay though. You have to just enjoy the work and keep pushing on :) 

Today we are going to go to South Manhattan and go explore the city again! We are going to go to Madison Square Garden (where the Knicks play), the Empire State Building, and a few other places. Going to south Manhattan is my favorite! I would say my favorite thing is seeing all the different people. There are tons of people and they are all very different. You see people who are homeless to people who are millionaires walking the street. Last time we were on Wall Street we say Donald Trump’s son. That was kind of cool.   

I want to share something I shared in our Zone Meeting this week. This was me talking to the missionaries, but I think it can apply to all of us. 

"Because we strive to live the Lord’s teachings and because we are missionaries, I feel as sometimes we feel we are greater than others--that others aren't good enough for us or the way we are living. But imagine if the Savior felt the same way of those who are not as powerful as him? Who are those people? Us, or anyone who has walked the earth. Nobody on this earth is as powerful and great as the savior, so imagine if he felt that way about us? He doesn't. Instead, he came to this earth, ministered with humility and love among those who were considered "worthless" by society, and even died a suffering death, all for us who are far less progressed than the Savior himself. We should be the same around our fellow men. In fact, because we are closer to the knowledge of God, we can greater see our weaknesses. It is when we do not judge others that we can love them for who they are regardless of our standing. It is when we do this that we free ourselves and can become joyful in all things."

The Savior never thought he was any better than anyone. No matter who they were and what they have done, he loved them, and SHOWED them his example by who he was and the way he loved. Never once did he feel above another because he had more knowledge than anyone, nor did he ever teach words he did not live himself. Jesus was usually short of words. He never really spoke unless there was a divine purpose for it. But, what he always did was act like the son of a loving Heavenly Father. Humbly strip yourselves from pride and you will free yourself. I feel like we sometimes become prideful to protect our power, but the Savior was the most powerful being to ever walk the earth and not a speck of pride could be found in him. Love everyone, no matter what they have done or who they have become. 

A good test that I've been using this week is this:" If the savior loves them, then so should I."  It's super hard for me to apply that with every person in every situation, but I am trying. I'm still trying to strip the pride away from myself as well :) 

Con muchísimo amor por ustedes, Les ama mucho y tenga una buena semana. 

Con Amor,

El Elder Celaya 

Pics (4 February 2015)

This tiny elevator we found.

My companion is the small little guy on my right, or your left.
We look funny walking around together because we look so different haha.