Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Statue of Liberty (25 March 2016)

Just got back from the statue. It was a pretty cool experience. Here are some pics.





Wednesday, March 18, 2015

“El Brrrow” (18 March 2015)

El Brrrow (that's how every Hispanic says "The Bronx"). Ha or for "Kingsbridge" it's "Gibriree". It's especially that way for the Dominicans. Ahh I love the Dominicans :) 

Weather - It's been heating up here a lot but now it's cold again. Almost all the snow is gone now which is a huge plus! It's super nasty in the city as I've said before.

Some crazy things happened here this week, but I'll get to that toward the end. Best for last :)

Hymns - So the bishop this week asked me to play the hymns on the organ now on Sundays so now I'm in the process of learning the hymns. Wish me luck. I need it :)

President of Peru. So apparently the president of Peru's last name is Celaya, so the members call me "presidente". It's quite funny. Haha.

Whenever we ask people to come to church, a lot of them say "si Dios quiere," which means "if God wants it." Haha it's like, yes, God definitely wants it! 

A lot of people here have a "baby mama" or a "baby daddy," which means they have someone who had their child without being a girlfriend or boyfriend or without being in marriage. So this guy came to church on Sunday and we started talking to him. He is 18 and he asked if we could give him a blessing because his ex-girlfriend was pregnant, and he wanted to have us give him a blessing so that the son could be his.....ahhhhh. I completely face palmed on that one. Haha. Ahh.  We referred him to the bishop for that one.

So this week I was able to go on a split with our district leader Elder Burr. He goes home in July and out of anyone I've heard so far that's learned the language on the mission, he speaks Spanish the best! He is awesome. So we had nothing planned that day, so we decided to do some street contacting in the streets first. 

- Foot Stamps Line. So we found out that contacting people who are in the line (for some reason they had a line for the people who were buying food with food stamps) --waiting to get food is a great place to contact. They can't go anywhere so it was great! Very interesting experience. We just went down the line and started talking to people. We had some good conversations and set up a return appointment with one guy.

- God Is Aware. Elder Burr and I had an hour in between an appointment so we decided to go tracting. (As I was typing this, I just realized "tracting" is not a word so I'm not sure if everyone knows what that is haha....it’s when you go door to door seeing if people are ready to hear about the gospel). The buildings where we were around at the time weren't that big so we decided we would keep walking until we found a large building to tract. We were walking and we walked for about 20 minutes until Elder Burr and I both just stopped and looked at this random building. We both felt like we should go and try it. So we walked up and the door was unlocked! That is SUPER uncommon here. So we walk in this project building and we go to the top floor. We started with saying a prayer asking God to guide us to those who were ready to receive the lift of pressure upon their hearts that the gospel brings. We knocked half the floor and then we knocked the next door. This lady answers the door (mid-thirties), and she acted like she had never seen us before. As we talked to her more and more, she finally threw in that she was "already baptized in [our] church." Elder Burr and I just looked at each other in surprise because we didn't know what to do. I mean that's not that common here haha. So turns out the last time she went to church was back in 95 when she was in the Dominican Republic, so she was not on our church records at all. She said we could come back and talk to her again and her little boy. It felt awesome to make that connection again and you can tell she was happy we knocked on her door. So that was the first miracle. God knew she was there and prompted us to go there for a reason. 

Screaming - Immediately after that, we started to hear someone screaming at the top of her lungs. We heard things being thrown around and we heard loud bangs and crashes. It was all in Spanish and then randomly she would cuss in English at the top of her lungs. It brought a very dark feeling, but that's how a lot of these apartments are. They are filled with broken families and most of them never planned to be a family in the first place. It was acting on their quick fleeting emotions that got them here. It's super sad to see. 

Anyways, Elder Burr and I both looked at each other and we asked if we should go down and knock that floor and specifically that door. We decided to go do it. As we were finishing up on the floor above it (we couldn't tell which floor the screaming was coming from), the screaming stopped. But, we decided to continue and we wanted to find where the screaming was coming from. The challenge felt inviting and so we went down and started knocking. 

BAM - So we went down the stairs and started knocking. A guy opened the door and we started talking to him. All of a sudden half way through our conversation, the door behinds us flies open and you just see this lady throw a huge flat screen TV at a guy out the door, and then she starts throwing all his stuff outside the door, along with the TV. I looked to Elder Burr and was like "Yup I guess we found it!" We ended up getting right in the middle of it and it just wasn't good. The guy completely got kicked out of his home. 

Miracles - so we hurried up and finished the guy at the door and went quickly to the next floor. As we were talking to this guy, we heard in the background "Hey Los Elderes!". After we finished talking, this family came up to us and were like "Hey elders how are you? Our mom is a member and she hasn't been to church for 7 years since she moved here but she would love a visit. We also took the lessons from the missionaries back in Mexico and we would love to have you guys over again and teach us!" Me and Elder Burr were stunned because that doesn't happen every day. It was an amazing experience that completely testified to me that God is extremely aware of everything. He led us there and because of that, we were able to find those people just from knocking 2 floors and 2 doors. God is good :)

Shootings - So this week there were four shootings in our area. On Friday we had a meeting with all the missionaries at 4-5 at the church. After that we went to work for the rest of the night, and we had to meet back at the church that night because that was the day I was with Elder Burr. So we came back around 8:30 and turns out someone got shot at the church. God is good for keeping his missionaries away from the church during that time :)

All the busses were backed up and there was caution tape everywhere and we couldn't get into the church at all. 

It was weird because when we got the call that there was a shooting, it didn't feel weird. Before the mission that would have scared me to death! But sadly you get numb to it. Something that helps too and something I've seen daily here is that the Lord protects us - you can feel it. I've grown a testimony of that and I can truly feel it. We have one church for our whole zone, and there are usually always missionaries at the church, teaching someone throughout the day. It's a miracle that none of them "happened" to be at the church at the time. 

So last Wednesday as we came home from the city, we were eating dinner at our apartment. We decided to open all the windows to our apartment because it was hot and stuffy so we did. Now we live on the second floor facing the street so we can see and hear everything that goes on in the street. All of a sudden we see these two Caucasian men with guns on their side (undercover cops). We then saw ten cop cars block the street off so nobody could escape. Out comes a bunch of cops and next thing you know, they pull out their guns and they are running after a man in between his house right across the street as we were peacefully eating dinner. Right as they all pulled out their guns, we ducked below the window and then we just hear "DON'T MOVE," with a lot of curse words mixed in there and then they tackle the guy and throw him against the car and cuff him, and all the cops flood over and surround him. They put him in the car, and then they all just drove off. It was a crazy experience. Being a cop here would be a tuff job. It was just funny because it happened right outside our window and we're peacefully eating our food. Clearly there is tons of work to do here for us :) 

I want to end with a thought:

I feel as if so many of us (myself included) live only for the now, for quick satisfactions that do not lead to continual peace. One thing I've noticed is whenever that quick satisfaction is over, misery always follows. Whenever we give into that quick sin, misery is always the byproduct. Then we are stuck going back to that thing that satisfied us for that short time. Slowly we come to rely on that for our wellbeing. It gets to a point where you feel stuck as if something else has power over your potential. Many people say "I don't want to suffer now so I can be eternally happy...I just want to live how I want to live." But if you think about it, eternity is now. It's a part of now. When God talks about how we can be eternally happy if we follow His commandments, he isn't just talking about the next life, he's literally talking about now too. God gives us life - eternal life. He's given us a way to follow, to work for, and he has given us an example of something to strive to become, but we must first look to God and live.

Alma 37:47 -- “And now, my son, see that ye take care of these sacred things, yea, see that ye look to God and live. Go unto this people and declare the word, and be sober. My son, farewell.”

I love you all so dearly,

Elder Austin Celaya 

A little photo of me while my companion got a
haircut today in Harlem. Check out all the haircuts on the wall.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Greetings and salutations :) (11 March 2015)

Photo from 2 weeks ago

- Winter is ending. Every day here it has been very cold. The snow is absolutely nasty in the city. It turns to black mush and slush. Finally it's warming up here! That alone makes missionary work a lot more enjoyable. The only bad thing about it warming up is that here there are only two seasons - winter and summer. So that means pretty soon it is going to get very hot and humid, so I'm enjoying this "transition" time.

- Little miracles. Little miracles happen every day and you can truly see God’s hand in the work. Last Wednesday our appointments fell through, so we had a member who was having a birthday so we wrote a card to her and silvered the card with her favorite cookies. We were praying all night to be able to find someone new who needed to hear the gospel at that moment. Well as we knocked on this member’s house door, a completely random guy opened the door. We started talking to him and come to find out that he is renting a room in that member’s house and that day is his only day off. We talked to him for a while and we asked if we could come back and he said yes. Anyways, last night we were teaching a man named Uziel who is in the church but works on Sundays down in Harlem. We wanted to set a time to go teach the other man this week (Victor) and turns out Uziel works with him in Harlem. We talked to Uziel for a while and got a lot of information about him that will help us.  

After that appointment, we needed to pick up laundry detergent so we walked into the store and guess who was right in front of us in line? Victor! So we were able to talk with him and potentially set something up for tonight. There are many things like that that happen that truly remind me that God is here and he will place us where we need to go if we just follow the Spirit.

- Exercise. I've been running 4 miles every morning. That is going good but wow is it tiring. On Wednesdays (today for example), we go to the church and play basketball with our district and zone leaders at 5:40. It's so much easier to cope when you feel alive physically. 

- I went on a split with an elder in my district, Elder Cordon, and we were in a bus, and this huge guy comes up to us and asks us "do you know who died two hundred years ago today?" And we said, "no who?" He said "Malcom X." Then he gave us a bad look and walked to the front of the bus. Then it looked like he was getting angry and came back and asked us, "Do you know what is significant about this month?" Then Elder Cordon said "Valentine's Day haha" and that got him more angry and I said no. Then he was like "BLACK HISTORY MONTH. That's why I ain't Neva gunna join y'all Mormons.” He got really angry and walked away and cursed us out and I didn't really hear what he said so I said “thank you sir." But, Elder Cordon told me after what he said. It was honestly funny. Elder Cordon is rather new, so he kind of freaked out a bit but I thought it was hilarious. These kinds of things happen all the time and I just like seeing what they are going to do next. 

- Faith. It is EXTREMELY powerful. When we let God take the wheel, we can do things that are humanly impossible. It allows us not to be scared, it allows us to be great. Just imagine if you were the shrimp in high school who walked around the hall getting beat up all the time. You would sit there and think to yourself, oh how can I get bigger so I won't get beat up all the time? It would take a long time to get bigger and your progression would stop at some point because you are human and only one person. Now let's say you instead make friends with all the big guys at school and you walk into the cafeteria together, you aren't going to be afraid at all because you have something much, much bigger there than yourself protecting you (all your big friends). It's the same with God.

When we know we are nothing, that is when we can rely on God to do everything we can't, but only as we apply the almost "impossible" faith. We can only do so much as humans, but what we can't do, God promises we can do it with his help. I think we cheat ourselves sometimes. Here is a scripture that describes it (Mormon 9:21):

“Behold, I say unto you that whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him; and this promise is unto all, even unto the ends of the earth.”

With God’s help we can literally accomplish ANYTHING! We just need to believe and doubt nothing! God, self belief, and hustle are the only things we need to make it happen. Apply greater faith and set higher goals than you are not capable of obtaining, because with God's help, we can do anything. I love you all.

- Elder Celaya

P.S. I don't have any photos this week because we are getting new iPads tomorrow so we had to clean off all our photos. We are going to flight club, checking out the Atlantic records building, going to Times Square, going to the Central Park zoo and then going to a restaurant in Central Park that one of our investigators works at, so I will take a lot of pictures today! Preparation day here is great! Haha. Have a magnificent week.