Friday, April 29, 2016

Is true change even possible? (27 April 2016)

- Wow. Dominican Heights! Our area is literally a mini Dominican Republic. It's crazy. It's filled with Dominicans on the streets. What's even greater is when they see a couple tall white guys speaking Dominican Spanish. They love it. Speak Dominican Spanish around English people (which, in fact, I do...all the time, because I love Spanish that much :), and you'll see the most confused faces on earth.

- We speak Spanish here all day now.....well honestly it's more like Spanglish. EVERYONE here speaks Spanglish. They will literally have full-on conversations in two languages. For example, one person will speak in Spanish, the other in English in the conversation, and on other occasions one person will speak one sentence or paragraph in Spanish, the other in English. For example, "yo trabajo en ese ‘building,’ pero tengo que salir porque tengo una ‘appointment’ a las cinco." Which, besides the two words you already know, translates to "I work in this building, but I have to leave because I have an appointment at 5." Haha – awe, good old Spanglish.

- We give service every Tuesday and Friday now helping serve food, and we are also going to give piano lessons to the folks more mature in age. This is going to be interesting.

- I have been contemplating what solidifies true change. Almost everyone we talk to and work with is willing to change, but then once they start to do that, they fall back with where they were and fall into complacency. Change is extremely hard to solidify. But I've realized that change isn't so much an event. But a process. It takes time and major effort. There's nothing better than to see someone change their very lives so they can come closer to God. Those people have a light about them. They have a happiness to them that the rest of the world seems to truly want. There's this lady whose name is Brenda. She operates the elevators here in the subway station. We've become great friends with her. Para que sepa (just so you know), Brenda is this bigger African American woman in her 40's from, I believe, the Bronx. Haha. Enough said, no? Well we talk every time we see her and she is the most outgoing lady in the world. The other day the elevator was packed full of people (about 30). Brenda starts telling the entire group of people in the elevator the following: "Oh my gosh, would you look how handsome these fellows are?! Always so clean cut and nice and wow, I just can't believe how nice they always are and always happy. They are always bright and have a light to em'. I don't understand how they can always be so happy! I want that in my life! If y'all want to be happy, just talk to these fine young gentleman because every time they talk to me, my entire day be flipping around." What a great lady. It's amazing to see how people want the light and deep, eternal-based happiness we have been so blessed with that so many people don't enjoy in this life. To see someone stuck searching for something more and then see them discover the "more" and how their entire being changes when they begin to do the There is nothing better. I love this work. My heart is filled with love for these people. Oftentimes I feel as if I love them more than they do themselves. That's when I realize it's not my love I'm feeling, but a tiny little bit of how God feels for them.

- Missions are the greatest thing you could ever be a part of. They are extremely hard, but so worth every difficulty. It makes the joy that much more sweet.

- Serving in these types of areas is very eye opening at times. It's sad to see so many people living the types of lives they live here. Most people here are not happy and they will let you know, too. It's a tough group of people, but ironically they make it that way on themselves. By their desires and their choices. Many people think that our reality is controlled by outside forces (family, religion, government, school, friends, etc.), but truly our reality is controlled by our own choices. Choices in this life are so critical. Every choice we make either changes us for the better (to become more like Christ), or it changes us for the worse. As we solidify CHOOSING the right, we will solidify the change within us for good. We teach this guy who was going to be so successful in life. He is 6 foot 8 inches. He was the #4 basketball player in the nation as a high schooler. He had a full ride to Syracuse University to play ball. He got into heavy drugs, started running on the streets, got a girl pregnant and has fallen into a few other things. He lost his scholarship and now dives into the pain of his current reality in drugs. We have been teaching him and trying to help him change his life. We have been trying to get him to come to church, but turns out his girlfriend stabbed him on Sunday so he couldn't come. It's so sad to see someone who really does have potential choose to throw it away. Choices truly matter. Every little one matters. What is amazing to see that even though he's so far gone down the wrong road, the atonement of Christ can heal it all, IF HE LETS HIM, not by mere grace alone, but by repentance.

- The Atonement heals all, but only IF WE LET IT.

Si yo hubiese sabido de que lo que elegimos determine nuestro éxito en la vida, hubiera cambiado todo más temprano en mi vida. Yo amo a la misión y todo de lo que se aprende. No quiero estar in ningún otro lugar en todo el mundo. No hay un otro lugar mejor esto -- el servicio del Señor. (:

- Elder Celaya

Inwood District

Thursday, April 14, 2016

NYC Car Show and Bunkbeds (13 Apr 2016)

- First off, I've never been happier in my life. I love how close I feel to God and how much of His joy I feel daily. Nothing in this world compares to it. Once you experience it, you'll never want anything else and you'll do whatever you can to have it.

The weeks are coming to a close. I can't believe I am going to be coming home soon. I am just trying to finish strong. I have never, ever in any sport event or anything like it worked this hard or felt this tired. Even President Smith was saying that he used to wake up at 3 in the morning, take a 2-hour flight to his iron man race, then bike 120 miles, swim around 2 miles, run a marathon, and then fly back home...and he would be able to wait until he got home to fall asleep. But he said that now, here, doing 5 hours of interviews with the missionaries, he goes home and just crashes completely. Working in the Spirit is so hard and difficult. It literally takes everything out of you. But it's good. I know if I am able to do this, I can do anything in life.

- Wow, was General Conference AMAZING OR WHAT? It was cool because we knew beforehand what Elder Holland was going to talk about and that he was going to speak at the end. I guess that's some of the perks for having him here in person (which was surreal)....such a crazy thing. Let's just say I've seen the most growth from me during this last week on my mission. I have had “ah-ha” moments (yes mom, I remember those still, haha). It was the best conference I have ever been a part of…I felt a lot.

Here are some of my thoughts from my notes and what I've been studying:

Do you ever carry around a lot of pain, guilt or regret? "Certainly those who are less spiritually mature may indeed make serious mistakes--yet none of us should be defined only by the worst thing we have ever done. God is the perfect judge. He sees beneath the surface" (from Conference).

Has there been someone who has seriously hurt you in your life? It is the same for you as it was promised to Jacob (Nephi's brother) in the Book of Mormon that God “will console you in your afflictions, and he will plead your cause, and send down justice upon those who seek your destruction” (Jacob 3:1). Come close to God and with Him who can be against you? With the power of God, no one can harm you in the end.

I love this too: "One key to forgiving others is to try to see them as God sees them. At times, God may part the curtain and bless us with the gift to see into the heart, soul, and spirit of another person who has offended us. This insight may even lead to an overwhelming love for that person."

I think there will be a lot of surprises at judgment day because people judge others by their actions, we judge ourselves by our intentions, and God judges us by our circumstances mixed with the amount of potential we have chosen to develop with the knowledge we have been given.

I love this as well: Forgiveness is the very reason God sent His Son, so let us rejoice in His offering to heal us all. The Savior’s Atonement is not just for those who need to repent; it is also for those who need to forgive. If you are having trouble forgiving another person or even yourself, ask God to help you. Forgiveness is a glorious, healing principle. We do not need to be a victim twice. We can forgive.

- So on more of a funny/awkward note, Dominicans don't believe in neutering there dogs (at least not the ones I know). So they are always very aggressive and excited. Well, they love the missionaries. In fact, this week I've gotten forced upon by 6 dogs in the middle of appointments, right in the middle of teaching how to have eternal families. Haha. I will never see dogs the same way again.

- We had a fun Pday (preparation day). We got to walk around the New York International Auto Show. It was the CRAZIEST THING I'VE EVER SEEN. Dad, you would die. Even you mom would die. We need to come back next year during this time so dad can see this. 

- So we were in an elevator with our two other roommate elders yesterday moving someone from an apartment. We took apart the bunk beds and put them in the elevator. Up comes this lady on the stairs and she just starts looking at us weird and watching what we are doing. We ask her if we can help her—she says she was just trying to get to the elevator so she could make it to the basement (there are no stairs here to the basement). We tell her to come on in. So in this tiny elevator are the beds, her, and us four elders. She asks us if we are from Utah. So we knew right there that she had heard of Mormons before. We explained where we were from and then she told us, "Yeah, my ex-girlfriend was actually Mormon." We said, "Really!?" Haha, and she said, "Yes, and it was quite interesting and a little bit awkward." Then one of the missionaries who didn't understand what she was saying asked her in a very enthusiastic voice, "Wait, really?! Why is that!?" And then she said, "Well, for very obvious reasons I would say" hahaha and we all (including her) just started busting up laughing and he was very embarrassed. It was a good laugh. She was awesome. Very funny highlight of the day. I've never had that happen before on my mission.

- I've come to feel the happiness that the gospel brings. My soul daily is filled with the spirit and joy. There's nothing in the world that compares to it. Whatever we have to do to have that spirit more in our life, it's infinitely worth it. I love how there is no end to feeling closer to God. The more we choose to act in faith and follow Him, the more we are happy! It never ends. It just keeps getting better and better.

- Oh, I almost forgot. Elder Richards and I were asked to do a musical number for the mission leadership council meeting and so we decided to write (in 2 days) a rendition of God Be with You Till We Meet Again. We did it and it turned out beautiful. We are going to play the duet in the Spanish and English ward, and I'm a little scared because the English ward is full of musical geniuses...especially opera singers. All the big opera singers in NYC who are Mormon and come from all over the world live in the Inwood there's a lot of pressure. :)  Every time we walk into the church there's opera going on.

Mission Leadership Council (MLC)

Family, thanks for being my eternal family!  I love you guys.

Ya tú sabes que la vida está buena cuando tienes Dios en ella :)
(You already know that life is good when you have God in it)

Elder Celaya