Friday, March 25, 2016

Stoned in Manhattan (23 March 2016)

- Yeah are probably wondering about the title of this email ... you will have to wait :) Sorry mother.

- Knocked into this lady named Rosa. We taught her and gave her a baptism date. Then the other day in companionship study we looked in the church records and there was a lady with the same name who lived in the same building who was already a member. We called her and asked if she was, and she said no and that she never was baptized in our church. So we continued to teach her and then she came to church. Well, after the first bit she darted out and left without saying anything. We asked one of the ladies who talked to her what she had said. She said that this lady was a member of the church but is just less active. So we are stuck not knowing what to do because she lied to us about being a member. This whole time we were really teaching a member and she had been acting like all this stuff was new. We thought she was great, but clearly it was just too good to be true. Haha, bit of a heartbreak for sure.

- Ok, so now to the "stoning" hahah. We were walking down the street (a side street), and there was a big group of delinquent type people. They started saying all these things and then started throwing stones at as. We took the rocks and continued to walk away, holding back the anger. It shocked me though. I did not expect to get all these rocks thrown at us. None of them hit our heads :) God deflected them or something :) so Mom, we are all still intact.

- This week we needed Wifi to watch a video about how to work with members, but we did not know where to go. We realize that working with them brings consistent success. We also were really wanting to figure out how to do volunteer work at this major hospital in our area, but had no idea where to get started. But to find Wifi, we went to the library. Something just did not feel right. So we thought about where we could go, and the first place that came to mind was the hospital. We went to the hospital and were wondering how we could find someone to help us figure out how to volunteer, but the chances looked slim because of the process to get verified legally. In that moment of decision, the thought came into mind (I have not thought about this my entire mission) that for every person that you meet, there is a purpose for you meeting them. There is something you need that they have, or there is something they have that you need. It was a random thought, or so we thought. So we sat down in the hospital and started watching the video. This man walked up and sat down next to us, and we saw him watching the video, too. About five minutes later he introduced himself as a member of the church who finished his mission five years ago. He lives in New Jersey and works at the hospital. Turns out he married a woman whose father is the administrator of the entire hospital. "Turns out" as well that he happens to be a member of the church. Oh, and his secretary is also. We told him that we were looking to give service, and right there he called his father-in-law and the father-in-law said he would put us to work. Yesterday we had a meeting with him and a few other hospital administrators on how we could go about giving service, not just in the hospital but in the entire community of upper Manhattan. God is aware of what we need. It is a miracle to see what happens when we search for things. When we constantly are knocking, He constantly opens. We just need to keep our vision on the door. God knows us and He knows what we need—I saw that personally this week many times.

Love your enemies. It frees you from hatred.

- Elder Celaya

This is the lady who has been like my mother on my mission, Sis. Taveras. Elder Richards and I went and visited her on P-day (she lives in our old area when we served together in the Bronx).

New York City Library in the genealogy section

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Seeing Happiness When You Literally Can't (16 March 2016)

Most productive week of my mission hands down!

- We were able to see so many miracles this week.

- Prayed with 100 people on the street this week in the first contact with people we have never talked to. We knelt with a lot of people on
the street to pray as well. It's amazing to see how it turns a crazy, more hectic and dark environment into a very time-paused, peace-filled bubble where the presence of God can be felt. It's amazing to see how a flat-out "no" turns into "wow, tell me more" after they have the chance to feel what comes from the prayer. 28 of those people turned into people who set return appointments, who want to learn more. They are 28 new people we have to help, talk with, and teach.

- Elder Richards and I are completely exhausted though. We have been talking with everyone in sight and it has taken a toll.

- We found this man on the street. We decided to go and talk to him. As we did, we prayed with him right there and eventually went into teaching the restoration. He got everything. But what was amazing was that at the end when we were explaining the feelings of the Holy Ghost, we told him that he would feel those feelings as he read, pondered and prayed about the book. He looked at us and said, "Wait, but can't you both feel that feeling right now? Because I know I sure can and I already know this is from God." I knew I was feeling it, I knew Elder Richards was feeling it, and that is what moved us to share with him the feelings of the spirit so he could identify them. He pointed out right there how strong the spirit was and he had not even read the book yet. We gave him a Book of Mormon and are hoping to meet with him soon. It's amazing to see how easy it is to teach people the gospel who are ready. It feels like we are not even teaching. The spirit is very present in those teaching situations and it's like we (the missionaries) are not even there.

- One day we ended up talking to four people who we "randomly" decided to talk to, who used to invite the missionaries over in the Dominican Republic and were taking the missionary lessons. That was guided. You could feel it before you even started talking to them. I have realized there are little simple miracles throughout every day. We just have to look for them.

- Got caught in the middle of a big drug deal. It was about 8:30 at night. We walked down this rundown street to find an old investigator. Here in these apartment buildings, there are always two doors. First, the main one (you have to get buzzed in to get into both), and then the second door which leads you to the stairs. As we were walking up, we saw this big black SUV pull up. Everyone looked frantic. We opened the door to the building. This lady had gotten out of the SUV, and a group of people in the back of the SUV pulled out big, big bags (they looked very heavy) filled with powder-like substance. She grabbed them and ran into the building. We were right behind her. We got into the first door because the people opened it. So we were stuck in between the first and second door with this lady who had pounds upon pounds of drugs. A little boy came in after her (we found out he was all a part of this, too -- he had drugs on him as well.) The doorbell was not working, and the lady was stressing out because she could not get in quick enough. The people on the outside, who were watching to make sure nobody comes in and interrupts the deal, got worried and came into the first door where we were. They were heavily drugged (just think of your toughest looking street thugs, and that is them). The room we were in was tiny, and the problem we had was that they thought we were the police. The tension in the air was very serious. Apparently, in this building they do a lot of drug deals, so the people upstairs who take in the drugs rigged the door. So while these thugs and this lady and kid, and Elder Richards and I, were in the tiny little entrance, they locked both the first door and the second, so there was no way to get out either way. We tried but could not. We knew this was going to get ugly very fast because here are these big bags of drugs with the people who are delivering them next to us who they think are cops. So out of desperation, we pulled out cards of Jesus Christ and start frantically telling them all about Jesus Christ and how God has a plan for each of them and how this life is not the end or the beginning. Haha, it is very funny now, but scary in the moment for sure. They eventually got the picture that we were not cops, but it was very close to having something go down, so we got lucky. Jesus Christ can save us in any situation. Even His picture can ;) Then about 10 people came down and manually opened the second door to make sure there were no cops, and they all freaked out because they thought we were cops. The lady told them we were "Jesus people" and they all rushed the drugs upstairs. It was a crazy situation -- we were for sure in the wrong place at the wrong time.

- Things I learned from William. I have been reminiscing on a member back in New Paltz whose name is William Krom. He lives in the woods and is blind, but has taught himself how to play the piano beautifully. He writes his own music and can play just about any song you tell him to. We would visit him once a week, read scriptures with him, and then he would always bless us with the entire Sound of Music soundtrack on the piano, all without seeing a key. We would close our eyes to teach him so that we could, in a way, enter his world. For us, that made it a lot more personal. These are the lessons I learned from Mr. Krom:

He was the happiest man I have ever met. When the sun shined he would say, "Can you feel the goodness of God coming down? I just know that is his way of showing that He loves us and wants us happy." Although he could not see and could not do anything on his own, that did not stop him from being happy or giving service to others. He would go (with the help of a friend) to senior centers every day and play piano for whom he claimed were the people who did not have joy, so he could serve them and make THEM happy. He likes to help other people when, in reality, he was the one who needed help the most, but he didn't see that because he was too busy helping others and making them happy. I learned from him that when life seems like it's all caving in to a never-ending black hole, you will be able to find happiness and hope by finding those who need to be uplifted and lifting them up, despite you being crushed on the floor. It's amazing how when you help someone else, they just don't benefit from it, but rather the two of you are elevated. And who can elevate us anymore than Jesus Christ and God? There is nobody higher. But the only way that we can let them do so is if we lift others, and then we ascend together with Christ lifting us way past the height we could lift ourselves. In order to know Christ, we have to be in a sense like Him, and in order to be like Him, we have to trust Him enough to know that by doing what He asks, He will lift us to eternal joy. There is only one way to find out.

“Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” Psalms 16:11

No matter where we are, or how bad or good we are, He can give us new life.

With sincerity,

Elder Austin Celaya

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Praying in the Middle of the Street! (9 March 2016)

Hello from NYC!

I'm now at the top of the island of Manhattan which means I've been able to be blessed to serve in almost all parts of the island lengthwise.

- We have turned up the volume! Elder Richards is willing to put to the test any type of missionary work, which sometimes isn't good, but great at the same time because we will do whatever!  We have been talking to literally everyone. 

- We had a goal to pray with 30 people yesterday. God blessed us with 30 prepared people to pray with. It was LOTS of work trying to find them, but it happened. So far, we (Elder Richards, the Lord and I) have been able to find 8 new investigators (meaning you share a message with someone on the first contact, get their phone number and address, and set up a return appointment with them).

- It was in the late afternoon and Elder Richards and I were drained. We were talking about how our energy was gone. We were walking along one of the main roads and two seconds after we said that, this big black man with dreads down to the floor spotted us and he had a bottle in his hand. He threw it on the ground and it shattered. Then he came after us, trying to shake our hand. He grabbed our necks and started praying with us. He then started saying he was going to "kill them"... whoever 'they' are. He had us repeat a prayer with him, and then he stood around and shouted to everyone on the street that we were his Christian brothers. He then "anointed us" lol, and gave us like 10 hugs. It was the weirdest thing ever. God knew we were tired, but what a way to show us "not yet." (:

- Prayed kneeling down in the street yesterday with a man we just met in the ghetto. It was one of the most awkward but cool experiences I've ever had on my mission.

- We prayed with a pizza delivery man yesterday, too, in the middle of our apartment lobby. Haha, it was great because we told him we were going to pray with him, and then all of a sudden we just knelt down on the ground (which was very awkward). He refused to kneel at first, but by the time the prayer was over, he was kneeling too. I'm sure the people that walked into the lobby while we were praying felt very uncomfortable. But that's good. It turned out to be a very spiritual experience, and the man told us after how much he really needed that and was touched. We are both being super bold with people and relying on God 100% and he's given us miracles.

- We tried praying with this lady and she just wasn't having it. She told us Jesus already "saved her" from her cancer, so she doesn't need him anymore. Makes complete sense, right? So we walked and walked with her, trying to convince her to pray, and she kept saying "no no no no no." Finally, we told her, "You can't just not let us pray for you. That just isn't nice." Haha. She would not stop, so we walked with her and prayed as we walked down the road with this lady.

- Met a guy from Greece. We tried to pray with him, but he had dementia, so every time we tried to pray with him, he forgot that we told him we were going to pray with him. He would just start talking in the middle of the prayer, talking about how his brother died in the war. Haha. He kept talking about how bad the world is, and in between every sentence we would say, "and that is why we need to pray!!" So finally, in the middle of him talking about how horrible this world is, we started praying. It was a very funny experience because in the middle of the prayer he would remember we were praying and then two seconds later he would forget and start talking about his brother again. Haha. Great time though.

- We stopped to go to the bathroom in McDonald's and we ended up praying with five people.

- I've learned this week how much "talking to everyone" can change your entire mission. For you current or future missionaries out there....When it says everyone, it means everyone. I used to not do that, but as Elder Richards and I have tried to talk to everyone we see, you will find prepared people. It has been GREAT! And wow, is it fun. We try to picture this as a game. If it were a game, what would you not be afraid to do? So, every time we leave the apartment, we say to ourselves, "ok, we our out in our playground. Let's have some fun."

- My dad sent me a message this week: "If you knew you could not fail, who would you talk to?" Thanks pops for that because we are trying to apply that in everything we do. IF I knew I could not fail, I would talk to everyone. Imagine if we took that perspective in life.

IF you KNEW you could NOT fail, WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

"I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me."

Love you all,

- Elder Celaya

New Zone Leaders for the Manhattan North Zone

Missionary Leadership Council (MLC)

 Spanish class with Elder Zimmerman

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

"I'LL BURN YOUR BIBLE" (2 March 2016)

Hello Everyone!

- Crazy week.

- We were in a lesson and the next door neighbor came into the house, uninvited, and told us to get out of the house. He started cursing at us, saying we ripped up the grass and caused all this damage, and then he threatened to fight us and started taunting us, saying he was going to "rip all our little Bibles in half and burn them right there” as he “beat us till we died." This went on for about 10 minutes and then we got out of there. It was quite a funny experience. I have become so much more patient on my mission with people. Mom knows if that was the old me, it would have ended quite differently.

- Got transferred from New Paltz back down to the city, back into the Spanish program. I’m in a place called Inwood, at the top of the Manhattan island right above Harlem. I’m with my old companion, Elder Richards. It's Spanish haven here. I'm very excited to be back here in the city and with Elder Richards. We worked so well together and he challenges me to be better!

- Well, I think we all get to the point in life where we have phases that feel like ground hog day. How do we get out of the "stuck feeling"? Read the story of this man to see how we can change our own lives by ironically doing nothing to improve our own, yet it does everything to improve it.

Weatherman Phil Connors​ ​is dispatched one freezing February to a town in Pennsylvania. His assignment: to cover the Groundhog​Day ​Festival, involving a groundhog, its shadow, and the possibility of six more weeks of winter. Phil is bored and hostile; he bullies his cameraman; he disdains the cheery locals and their festivities; he can’t wait to wrap up this piddling gig and get back to Pittsburgh. But a huge snowstorm blocks his way home and he is trapped there for the night. When he wakes up the next morning, it’s Groundhog Day. Again. Same conditions, same people, same ritual. So it goes the morning after, and the morning after that, and on and on. Phil is in a loop, a temporal locked groove. He’s stuck.​ This goes on for what has been estimated for eight years. Every day, the same as the last, over and over again.​

​His day begins each morning at 6:00 A.M. His clock radio is always playing the same song. His memories of the previous day are intact, but he's trapped in a time loop, repeating the same day in the same small town.​ After briefly trying to rationalize his situation, and then thinking he is insane, he takes advantage of learning the day's events and the information he is able to gather about the town's inhabitants, and finds that his actions have no long-term consequences for himself. He ends up schmoozing people, stealing money, even driving drunk and experiencing a police chase. He begins to tire of, and then dread, his existence, starting the day by smashing the alarm clock. He tries almost everything to break the cycle.

Eventually, he enhances his own human understanding which, in return, makes him an appreciated and beloved man in the town. He is able to befriend almost everyone he meets during the day, using his experiences to save lives and help the townspeople.

During his days, he opens his heart to his coworker, and her advice helps him to gradually find a goal for his trapped life; to become a benefactor to others, to help others. After seeing an elderly homeless man die, Connors vows that no one will die on "his" day and performs many heroic services each and every repeating day, including performing the Heimlich maneuver on a choking man and saving a little boy who falls from a tree. However, he becomes despondent at being unable to save the homeless man, despite trying to get him medical care. When he demands to see the man's medical chart, a nurse tells him "sometimes people just die." "Not today," Connors replies, but he never manages to prevent it.

He then spent his days perfecting the good that he could do, and when he got it perfect, he found the time loop was broken.

We find ourselves when we lose ourselves in service to others. Doesn't make much sense, but it works :)

With love,

- Elder Celaya