Saturday, July 30, 2016

Goodbye NY Hello CA (13 July 2016)

All those leaving the mission got to have a temple session 
with Pres. and Sis. Smith.


GOODBYE NEW YORK!

and

HELLO CALIFORNIA!
































SUNDAY (17 July 2016)


Seeing my best buddies again!
(Dakota Pierce returned from the Singapore Chinese Mission 
and Jacob Snyder returned from the Philippine Cebu Mission)

Friday, July 8, 2016

~ Home is Here ~ My Last Email (6 July 2016)


Hi family...yes all of you - all of you are family.

My home is here. This is where I found who I am. This is where I found what life is all about - what eternity is all about. This is where I found my personal relationship with the Savior. The time has come to an end. Whoa...It has gone by faster than anything I have ever been a part of in my life. If life goes by like this, there isn't much time. The mission was very long going through it, but looking back it seems like a fleeting dream. I cannot lie. I am very sad. I want more. I want more of this. I never dreamed that happiness to this intensity existed. Every day I wake up, the more poignant it has become. I have come to love so many people. Children. Of. God. We are all brothers and sisters. I could do this the rest of my life.


There is a deep understanding of life that comes from being blessed to be able to serve a mission. You are lifted from the world. No TV. No internet. No phones. No news. No music. No rest. Praying 20+ times per day. Studying the scriptures for 2 hours. Going into homes that are in the worst possible situations. Seeing things you only see in movies right in front of your face. You show these people how what we call "the gospel of Jesus Christ" can change their lives. But you don't really know how it will. You've never been in their situations. Then as it does, you start to change yourself. As you share the same message with another family in the same situation, you then see it work for them. 
You literally see people who get so low, where there is no possible way out of their problems. They hit so low, that the only way back up is through. Through pain. Through change. Through repentance. Through forgiveness. Into Hope. Into Light. Into Happiness. Into Bliss. But it's help that only heaven can give. Your mind is never distracted from anything but reality. You start to forget the past. You lose your worries of the future. You see in a very unexplainable way what truly matters eternally - Eternity. You feel it. It becomes you. You obsess over it, because you feel yourself finally coming in touch with reality. You feel pure, flowing joy. True reality. Not reality that we create in our heads. Not a reality that's drawing from others in society through the many distractions in the world. The true reality of life. It becomes you and changes the very fibers of what makes you, you. It's from heaven. You walk around in the ghettos of the Bronx and Harlem, yet you are living in Heaven.


You see a lot of things. Things you don't want to see. Things I can't talk about now. A lot of broken homes. You see how the Gospel of Jesus Christ fixes everything.

I have come to love working. I love planning for the progress of these souls. I have come to love sweating outside in the 100 degree weather with full-on humidity, tracting project buildings. I have come to love walking outside in 0 degree weather with humid wind cutting through my clothes to my soul as I talk to those who are left with no hope. I have come to love everything. I have come to love hard situations. I have come to love Spanish. Oh, how I love Spanish. I have come to love rejection - it inspires me to be better. I have come to love spiritual experiences - they keep me in this reality I am talking of.

I'm looking back at the many experiences I have had on this mission that the Lord has blessed me with to be able to serve, and nothing comes but tears. I cannot express everything here. You will have to hear it from me in person. I am going to miss this place. I have been taught how to have charity. I have come to know and love these people here more than I have my own family. It is truly amazing to be able to meet some of these people, and as they express their life troubles to you, you begin to feel this rush (I say rush because that is how intensely it comes) of overwhelming love for them. They can be the most horrible people in the world, but you all of a sudden know on a spiritual level their potential. As they are telling you who they are, you in a very real way see who they can become. You love them as if they were already that person, and you start to see yourself in the same way. You start to see these people how God does. You start to see you as He does. Perhaps he gives us a little view or portion of the amount of love He has for them and the potential He sees they have. As you love these people, and as you watch them change their lives as they apply THE way in their life, you begin to understand the vast amount of love that Heavenly Father has for you. You understand on a spiritual level that you are a son or daughter of God. He created you. You weren't made to fail. You were made to be nothing but successful. I have found this on a very real level. I am not sure if I know anything else more than this.

I have come to fall in love with God's presence and the feeling of His spirit. I never want to do anything wrong ever again in my life. But I know I will. That's why I need Christ. I know He will always be there for me, even when I am not there for Him. I need Him.

I have let him into my heart. I have worked for that, too. My mission has been anything but easy. This mission is the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life, hands down. I have gone through a lot of different and difficult things. But I let Him in. As I have done so, He has taken away my pain, my sin, my sadness, and has replaced it daily with increasing joy.

I am extremely grateful for the time I have had to serve the Lord for two years. I feel He has given me far more than I have given on the mission. That is the beauty of our relationship with a loving Heavenly Father. He always gives 100 fold of what we give. He has blessed me daily by being able to be tutored by Him through His spirit as I have had both great and sad/hard experiences out in the mission field. I have come to find such purpose and happiness. I had a goal to find true happiness on my mission. I can say laboring daily in helping others come to Christ, forgetting about what it is that I desire, and seeing people truly change their being as they let the Atonement of Jesus Christ affect the very roots of their heart, has been happiness. It has not been easy. It has been quite honestly the opposite of anything considered easy. But, I feel as if the more difficult it has been, the more sweet the joyous times have turned out to be. The great depths of sorrow experienced only made those moments of elation that much more meaningful. In fact, it was probably those moments of difficulty that even made them possible to turn into joy. From the spiritual demands that are most common to that of a missionary, as well as the many emotional moments of shedding tears with those people you come to love with all your heart, you learn to carry each other’s burdens. Through sorrow, diligence, and many failed attempts resulting in rejection have come those small moments where peace increased to where it hit a point of happiness that could be considered bliss, moments that only heaven could bring.

You meet people and love them so much that it's impossible to say you did not know them before this life. They were my friends before.

I could spend all eternity telling you what I have learned on my mission. I will just have to show you.

I am not the same person anymore. Not even close. Don't expect the same. I am better. I am stronger. I am living a completely different life now. It's all because of the Savior. He has changed my heart and has created me into something that I never dreamed I COULD become. This is just the beginning. I can never be the same after this. I have come to find myself. I have come to find MY Savior. I can call him "mine," because I know him now. He's changed everything. The future is the brightest thing in the world. God has given me a glimpse of Heaven so I know what to live for. Because of the love and grace of the Savior, I don't have to be what I have been. I never do.

Honestly, every time I think it can't get better, it somehow does.

I found myself.

He found me.

I found Him.

&

I Found My Friends.

- Elder Austin Celaya