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.

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