Wednesday, July 8, 2015

What Matters Most (8 July 2015)

Hello family and friends!

This week has been fantastic, trying, difficult, satisfying and ultimately humbling. So, Harlem is a lot different than the Bronx. There are a lot more druggies here. They are all over the streets. There are so many people who are plain nuts! It is a "hood jungle" out here. You walk outside on the packed streets of Harlem and you just never know what you are going to get. Harlem is packed full of project buildings. They are everywhere and with projects, there are always cops! In fact, there is this place called the "polo grounds" (a series of projects up on 155th street in Harlem) and they have their own police force (for those of you who know who A$AP Rocky is, that is where he is from). It was cool because we went up there this week and right across the street is Rucker park (world famous street ball court), and they were having a large tournament there. They brought out the wood floors, there were tons of people and DJ's, and it was absolutely insane to see that in person. We were the only white people in sight. haha. 

Harlem basketball - Every Friday morning, a bunch of people from Harlem come and play basketball with the missionaries. THEY ARE SO GOOD! The basketball skill level here is incredible. It is very fun. 

Contacting in Central Park - So our area covers from 125th down to 59th street on the Manhattan Island (but we never go below 110th because there are no Hispanics down that low). So that includes half of Central Park (because we cover the east side of Harlem). We went down to Central Park and talked with as many people as we could. It was a very cool experience. We actually ran into (mom you will like this) two people from the orchestra from temple square (the orchestra that plays with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir) (a violinist and a cellist). They were there because the Choir was touring and we stopped and talked to them for a while. It was a pretty cool experience. 

Yankees game - Our whole mission got to go to the Yankees game this last week. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir was performing which was pretty awesome! They sang a few songs and it was just great. It was interesting seeing 200 plus missionaries there -- a sea of white in the stands. 

Yesterday - So yesterday we got a call from a lady (she wasn't in our church boundaries so we didn't know who she was). She told us about a friend of hers who needed a blessing. We agreed and really did not think much of it. She gave us the number of her friend’s wife so we could figure out how to contact the husband. Well, turns out, they were Spanish speakers and the guy who needed the blessing was all the way down on 16th street in Manhattan. So we called our Zone leaders to get permission to go down there. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into as we walked into that hospital building. We went up to the 7th floor and out walks this lady. She runs up to us and says, "Are you guys the Elders?!?! We have been waiting for you!" She began to tell us that her husband has been fighting leukemia for quite some time. He recently got pneumonia along with the cancer. And then they found an ulcer that exploded within him, which caused internal bleeding – he was bleeding into his lungs. They put him in an artificial coma for two weeks so that his body could try to heal. She was telling us all of this and then she told us that a few "episodes happened today." She said his heart stopped twice and they had to revive him twice. They flushed his body out both times after they revived him. She told us that he was only 36 and that she got married to him two weeks ago in the hospital.  

We met the guy’s mom, the guy’s brother and the guy’s aunt, and they looked like they were in so much pain. The family had not seen him all day, and apparently his condition had worsened and he looked a lot different after his heart stopped. Later when we were in the room, they walked in and started crying and screaming, and the brother was extremely frustrated and couldn't even look at his brother like that. 

We explained a little about who we were and what we did, and asked if there was any way we could give the man a blessing. She went and checked with the doctors and they said it was ok. So, we entered this highly sanctified part of the hospital (no other way to describe it) where, all of a sudden, as we walked in, it was extremely quiet. We heard the ambient sound of the respirators mixed with the sound of heart beat monitors, tracking the patients’ hearts. There were doctors all in a circle discussing the plans of Sebastian, the guy we were going to give a blessing to. As we walked through this door, there were about 6 patients in separate rooms who looked like they had died and come back to life. We continued to walk around the corner and then walked into Sebastian’s room. When I saw him, my stomach dropped, and a deep feeling of endless uneasiness entered my stomach – he was hooked up to countless amounts of tubes and needles. His face was extremely swollen and he looked like he had aged 50 years. I never have seen someone in such bad shape before. His whole body would move as the respirator forced the air into his lungs and suck it back out. I felt so little in that moment. Here I am a 20 year old kid, walking in on about 10 highly trained doctors with all of this man’s family next to us, and they were looking to us to save their son, their brother, and their husband. It was in that moment that I felt peace because I realized it had nothing to do with me. It was God's priesthood, his power that we were bringing that has infinite capabilities to compose miracles. We gave him a blessing and the longer I was there, the more peace I felt for him and the more of a desire I felt for the family.

As I was standing in that hospital room, the entire reason we exist shot strait to my heart and pierced my spirit. The plan that God has for us (his plan of salvation, was confirmed to me through the spirit in that moment)....It became real. Real in a different way than it ever has. The sorrow turned from me feeling for the guy and everything he was going through, to how it must have felt for his family who knew nothing about God’s plan. We were able to share and testify of the plan of salvation right next to him and his family and amongst the 10 doctors. Who more needed the knowledge of the plan of salvation than they did in that moment? We shared it with them, and left them with more info about it. They were eternally grateful, and as we left, we felt very grateful and humbled. There are no words to explain how we felt leaving, but it was such a testimony to me to see and to feel, and in that moment, to know in life what really matters -- to know why we are here and where we are going. No matter how bad life gets, God and his plan for us, is permanently in His hands. The peace and deep love I felt for those people yesterday, and the deep infinite gratitude I felt towards God and his son Jesus Christ, will be something I will never forget. I love my Heavenly Father. I love him so much.

I am so grateful to have this mission as an opportunity to separate from the world and to be exposed to what really eternally matters. 

With much love and gratitude,

- Elder Austin Celaya

My Zone in Harlem

Going to the Yankee's Game

The Mormon Tab Choir!!

President Smith and his son

Found Elder Segura (my 2nd NY companion)

Throwback to the Bronx

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