Wow what a few weeks and how they have flown by!
So, to explain the subject of this email...Remember how in the Bronx I told you that there are ice-cream trucks EVERYWHERE and they all play the one same song (I haven't heard this one until I came to NY), and there is no way to get away from it. You hear it all day long and because of how close everything is, you always hear it...on the streets, in appointments, at home...there is no running from it. Well, I thought I would get away from it coming to Harlem, but it just got worse. This is a tiny island and there are so many buildings, so everything echoes off of everything. It is the creepiest and most horrible song ever. It drives you crazy. So, that is why the devil is within the ice-cream trucks. The funny thing about it though is that the ice-cream trucks look very inviting and innocent—then you look at the driver and he looks like some thug that's coming out of the projects, covered in tattoos and piercings—and the best thing about it is they ALWAYS have their earphones in or headphones on listening to music because they know how annoying this song sounds. This song has been carrying over into my dreams too. I can't get away from it. It's going to haunt me the rest of my life.
About the french fry. Well, I haven't written an email for a while, so for those who don't know, I have been blessed to receive a brand new missionary! I love him and he is great. There are some things he is still getting used to, but everything has been so fun and I have learned so much about how to be yourself on the mission from him. But last night, we were at an appointment and he ate one french fry. There were about 10 people. All of a sudden he started choking and mucous starting flowing out of his mouth. He couldn't talk and we had no idea what was going on. Everyone began to be frazzled and he rushed to the bathroom. We all thought he had a bad allergic reaction and that we were going to have to take out an epi-pen and jab it in his leg and get him to the hospital. Everyone was yelling in Spanish "HE'S DYING, HE IS DYING. CALL THE HOSPITAL!!". He came out, and as embarrassing as it was for him, he told everyone that he choked on one french fry. Haha. It was such a good old rookie mistake :) Ah, it was very funny. We all laughed it off and enjoyed the night together. So yes, the devil is in the ice-cream truck and the french fry. Be careful kids ;)
We have been trying to find new ways to find people. So we thought, hey, this is Harlem. Everyone is addicted to drugs, everyone plays basketball, people are into poetry, and people are into spray painting everything, so let’s take our finding to a very personalized outline specifically for Harlem. We are thinking about starting an addiction recovery class, a Spanish class, a basketball class, a poetry class, and one thing we already found was this: There is a big place where anyone can place their art on a big wall here in Harlem, so we went and got a big board and spray paint and decided to spray paint a scripture on the board and hang it up on the wall. We put the scripture and then "call for hope" with our number attached. It looks pretty cool. (see picture attached)
-We met this guy and started teaching the restoration and something we call "How to Begin Teaching" and then he interrupted us and said, "Listen....you aren’t here so that I can learn, so you can teach me. I already know everything about God....You are here so I can see if your religion is wrong." He was pulling out scriptures left and right from his Bible in Romans and a bunch of other really complicated scriptures. It was amazing to see how the Spirit was able to guide me with such hard questions in a whole other language. My companion didn’t say a word because he can’t understand or speak yet...so it was all me...and lucky the Spirit. :) So, eventually we started teaching the plan of salvation...and he said it contradicted with the Bible. We asked him to show us where...so he did...and then we showed him the scripture in Corinthians which talks about the three degrees of heaven...and then he was like "Wow, so you are saying that the Bible contradicts the Bible!" and I said "YES!" (he was expecting me to say no). We then shared what the Book of Mormon was. And the thought came to me to teach him through his own Bible. So I grabbed his Bible and looked up a scripture in Corinthians that said basically that man cannot know things of God unless they are manifested through the spirit of God...and it was insane....because I was able to testify of the Book of Mormon and how to know if it’s true, and it was wild to see him finally submit and listen...you could literally see the Spirit working within him. It was a two-hour lesson (super stressful considering my companion didn’t say a word), but it was amazing how the Spirit turned it all around. So, we are going to teach him about the restoration of the gospel by using his Bible this week. It will be great!
Luis - So this is a little interesting. Luis and his wife are two people that the English elders found and passed off to us. They are an interesting couple. We got into the appointment and we started talking, and right away he wanted to get down to business. He pulled out this list that looks like he started making it in the 40's. It was covered in scribbles with all colors of different pens. So we are thinking "YES! He read and actually studied the Book of Mormon." It was very different than that indeed. We prayed, and then we planned to share with him the talk called "What is the Blueprint of Christ's Church?" He then stopped us in the middle of us saying the title and said, "No we can't look at Jesus’ plan...we need to look at God's." He started going off with all these weird calculations on his list about everything from when Jesus will come again, when the Millennium will start and end, etc...He talked straight for an hour and a half, and whenever we would try to say something, he would ignore us and continue talking louder. We didn't know what to do. Finally we had it. The spirit was not there, and there was a very dark, contentious feeling that was being radiated. So, we knew we needed to change something. We interrupted him and asked him, "What is the purpose of our visits to you?” And he said, "So you guys can come and learn from me." Then we asked, "Why do you think we choose to come over here as missionaries?" He answered, "So I can see if your church is right, and if it is, I want to baptize myself in it, and if it's not, I won't." We said, "Exactly! And how can you know our beliefs if you won't listen to us?" It was like a light switch popped into his head and he let us talk. We ended up sharing the talk, and I felt a very different spirit enter the room. You could feel the spirit of truth and love. It was amazing to see because at the end of the lesson, he completely changed. His countenance changed, and he couldn't argue about what he was feeling. You can never deny what you truly feel from God. You will always know deep in your heart that what you felt was true. And it was a miracle to me to see how the Spirit was able to crush the contention and open the eyes of someone who truly thought he was right. I love the gospel. It brings ultimate peace. Read or listen to that talk! It is amazing. "What Is the Blueprint of Christ's Church?" by Tad R. Callister.
For those of you who know Elder Fagan, the wonderful young man who served in our church ward 21 months ago and came back to our ward to finish his mission, he just went home today. I have been meditating on the great example he has been to all of us, and in a very personal way, to me. He saved me. He taught me in a very personal way how the spirit works - how it completely changes who people are. There is a better world out there. There is this dream world that so many of us have deep within us, but the hope of it flees so easily away as we let what we call "reality" shape what we believe. It is out there and it starts within ourselves. That is something Elder Fagan has taught me. If that endless love, that hopeful and pure blissful spirit is possessed within us, it will spread to others as we share with them what has made us that way. The gospel of Jesus Christ, when fully embraced, turns us into that. He has led so many of us out of the old world and into this new, fuller, more satisfying, enjoyable world, and to Elder Fagan I will be forever grateful. He taught me how to be a missionary and I hope one day to be even half as humble, compassionate, deep thinking, and Christlike as he is.
Turn to love. Let us not judge, but love. Let's create a different world here. It all starts within ourselves.
- Elder Celaya
This is the sign we made.
My dog friend Romero. Isn't he just so Happy?
This is a sign they made next to our apartment because every day at 7:00 am there is this Asian lady that comes by to dig for bottles and she just puts down her pants and starts peeing on the street. My companion every morning opens the window and starts yelling at her, but it's funny because she can't tell where it's coming from. Haha. So, kids, don't pee on the streets. :)
We got glasses so people will take us more seriously...
and wow does it work!
We just went to the new World Trade Center
and ground zero....and wow do you feel what happened there...
it feels hallowed there. It's a sacred place. You feel different there - almost empty...
you can feel the history there.
This is the Drake Face....they have pictures of Drake all over Harlem with this face...so
we do it every time we see a poster of Drake.
Just imagine a bunch of missionaries
walking around Harlem amongst all the
people, acting all tough doing our Drake face.
Zone Conference August 2015