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

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