Hello my family and friends!
This week has been absolutely CRAZY in SO many ways! It has been the most crazy, interesting, and fun week of my mission by far! It has completely been an adventure that I could not get anywhere else! I can honestly say I’d rather not be anywhere else in the world! This is just absolutely great! For our P-Day today we are going to go ride bikes through Central Park. Then go to Whole Foods. Haha. It's nice. We get in a train and it takes us out of our third world country and an hour later we are in one of the most beautiful and most expensive places to live in the world (Manhattan). Sometimes I have to pinch myself. Haha.
This letter will be long, but it's because there were so many funny and spiritual things that happened this week.
This week I have realized that The Bronx is basically a third world country. The main language is Spanish and the only real place to buy groceries is in little bodegas or side shops or mini-marts. People here treat the value of human life differently. Everyone is packed in to these very old rundown apartments and there are drugs everywhere! And there were two more shootings this week.
-THE BRONX in the summer. So it's really interesting because when the summer hits here, everyone is outside and they set up chairs on the sidewalk, bring out BBQ's and dominos boards and everyone has these little street parties. The whole street in the afternoon is covered with all these street parties. So, since nobody is inside their houses anymore, we have been street contacting people like crazy (basically just talking to people that are on the street). It has been super fun. Elder Richards is great and loves to do it, and I do too, so it works out perfectly!
-Elder Richards is such a great guy! We have a lot of fun and he really is such an introspective person. He is so positive and kind and never judges anyone. You can completely be yourself around him and yet feel inspired to become better. I love serving with him.
-We met this guy over the last week and I can't say a whole lot about the situation, but I can say that he ended up loving what we do as missionaries. He was in the Special Forces so he knows his tactics. He told us if anyone were to ever mess with us he would be the first to hunt them down and end their life. Haha....He told us this so many times this week. That's kind of scary. But hey, I'm glad he's on our side. We know where to go if anyone is trying to hurt us ;) haha.
-Drunk lady. Elder Richards and I were walking back home one night, and as we were walking we saw this young woman (20's) with her friend and a few other people hanging out outside of a bodega and she looked like she was really drunk. Well, we wanted to see what would happen (because something always does seem to happen...I mean two white guys...in the Bronx...it's a little strange). She saw us coming and starting screaming "WHAT'S YOUR NAMES??" Her friend was sober and told us "just please keep walking, for your sake. She's crazy right now." Well, Elder Richards told her his name as we continued to walk by as her friend was holding her back from us. As we were walking away -- until we finally got to the end of the street -- she was yelling in a very dramatic voice, "RICHARDS, CONFIRM ME CONFIRM ME!" It was downright hilarious.
-DJ'n in the BRONX. So, there is this house we always pass by. There are always about 5 African American people just sitting out on the porch and one of them is always DJing. He has his whole mixing board out there and has these massive speakers and is just blasting the music so incredibly loud amongst all the apartment buildings. It is super funny because whenever we walk by, he is just so into it, and nobody is even there to listen. Well, after an appointment on Saturday, we walked past him and he was playing "Play That Funky Music.” As we walked by, I was nodding my head and gave him a thumbs up, and he got super happy and turned the music up even louder. Everyone on the street that saw me do that got angry. One lady was like "NOOOOO!!! Don't encourage him! He's been doing this everyday all day long! We are all just waiting for him to stop!!!" It was pretty funny. So now, I'm loved and hated on that street! :)
-Dominican Woman (Crazy). So, on Monday, one of our appointments canceled and we were just walking around trying to street contact people. As we were walking, we saw one of our members. We sat down with him in the park and talked to him for a while and we made a goal to contact everyone sitting down on all the benches. Well, right next to us on the following bench were four Dominican women. They were crazy just from what we saw. They kept looking at us the whole time we were talking to the guy from our church, and saying all sorts of things. Then all of a sudden they started smoking hookah and as we stood up, they were saying "Ven Pa Qa" which in actual Spanish is "Venga para aquí," which means "Come here!" We stood up and I looked at Elder Richards and was like "alright shall we go talk to them?" He said "no way, they are smoking and are crazy!" But, we went anyways and we walked up and said "¿Que Lo que?¿Dímelo?" --which means what's up or what's happening but in a very Dominican way. We started talking and we already knew where they were from, but of course they said the La República. Something we say when we meet people from the DR (Dominican Republic) is "Hasta la Tambora" which means "to the beat of my drum," which is a complete dominant phrase that basically means you are "cool" with the Dominican culture. It doesn't matter how rude people are when you talk to them. If you say that, their complete attitude changes and they crack a smile and start laughing and then will talk to you.
Anyways, so we said the phrase to the girls and they busted up laughing. It was so great. They offered us hookah and then one of the girls said "come on don't you know they don't do that or drink any of that stuff?! Respect their religion!" Haha it was pretty funny but pretty cool to see them stick up for us. My companion was still in shock so he didn't say much and finally one of them asked him if he knew how to speak. Then another one of them was like "ohhhh boy, I know he already knows how to speak! I see him talking to people all day, knocking all crazy on my door, waking up all the neighbors....don't you fall for his lies. He's a silent liar! Haha." It was just great. We asked them after some time if they were ever religious and they said yes. But one said she doesn't feel right going to church anymore while she's been drinking or smoking so she has stopped. We talked a little bit about why she feels that way, and then we gave her something that talks about the point of life. It was a really cool, unexpected experience. We have been trying to talk to everyone we see on the streets and it's so much fun! So now we are cool with all the street Dominican people in our area. It's nice. :)
-Two Irish ladies in the park. We found these really aged women in the park. We decided to go up and talk to them. They were both from Ireland (not a surprise here). Every white person here is either from Ireland, Russia or Albania. We tracked into someone from Bulgaria the other day and that was pretty awesome. Anyways, we were talking to them, and it was obvious that their lives were coming to a close. We asked them if they have ever thought about what happens to us right after we die, and they said they have, especially now in their lives. We talked with them and were able to talk about where we go after this life and what happens. We really had a great discussion about how you really never know when God is going to take us home and retake back the breath he's given us. It could be at any moment and we know that now is the time to change, to become better people, to do the absolute best we can do, and to prepare to meet God. I think what we testified to them really comforted them. At least when they do go, they won't be surprised about what actually will happen. It was a fun conversation.
-Home attendant. One of the families we visit has a home attendant for one of their kids. Well, come to find out, sometimes people take the message the wrong way when we missionaries try to talk to everyone and are interested in their lives. Haha. So one day I decided to talk a little bit to the home attendant. She is 21, straight from the DR and lives in the Bronx. Apparently after that day, she told the family she was attracted to me and I guess they had a whole conversation about it. Somehow it slipped and they told me. I asked what happened to her, and the mother told us. It was a little uncomfortable as a missionary. She could tell as well and finally she said, "to be honest, if I could, I'd freeze you and keep you for my daughter when she grew up!" Ahhh wow, was that awkward!!! Haha. But it's all good. We both played it off and forgot it, but it was something we definitely laughed about after.
-Ismael. He is a young man (18) who we found tracting about 2 cycles ago. We have met with him 3 times and have been trying to meet with him ever since. We knocked on his door one day this week and his uncle answered. We started talking to his uncle and he eventually let us in. We were able to teach him a lesson and that went really well. So, we decided to try Ismael the next day. We went back and he was there. We talked with him about the Plan of Salvation, and it was amazing because he soaks it all in and truly is prepared -- he doesn't let his opinion get in the way of what he learns in the future to be true. Half way through the lesson, I received an idea to sing the hymn "I Am a Child of God." So, at the end of the lesson, Elder Richards and I both sang the hymn together and asked him to focus on the words of the song (because it talks about our purpose here on earth), and at the end, he was in tears. Now I know that wasn't our singing, but rather the spirit testifying of the words and the message. We asked him what he was feeling and he said it was a joy he's never experienced before and he started thanking us for bringing that to him. He said he feels something different around us that makes him so happy. We were able to testify to him that that feeling was not from us but from the spirit. It was God communicating to him the path he should take that would lead him to be his happiest self. It was such an amazing thing to see the spirit change him, and also to see him accept it and not be afraid to follow after what he knew to be true. There's nothing like seeing people change to God. The spirit was piercingly strong and I am so thankful for that moment in my mission.
Well, basically that was only half of what I wanted to share with you all this week, but part two will come next week. Follow truth. Don't run from it.
I love you all so extremely much!
- Elder Austin Celaya
Selfie with cookie (my favorite dog here) haha.