Elder Michael Cevering

Elder Michael Cevering
Puerto Rico, San Juan Mission

Monday, December 30, 2013

Email December 30, 2013

***(CHRISTAS PHOTOS ARE BELOW)*** Hello Family, Well, this email is going to be rather short. First off, I had a great christmas! I loved talking with you! It's always bitter sweet. The big news: I am leaving Aibonito! I got transferred back down to the city. To Bayamon, where the office is. I'm not an office elder, but that will be my area. I'm really excited! My companion is from the dominican republic, and he's one of the elders I've been hoping to serve with. Here in PR you always want to serve with the dominican republic missionaries because they get along with all the puerto ricans and they also get along with all the dominicans on the island--and there are a lot of them. So I'm excited to go down there. I also have met members from that ward. For example, Esteban (lin's previous boyfriend) is from that ward. It's going to be great. I head out tomorrow. There were 38 people again in church, which was super great! 3 weeks in a row there have been 38 people in attendance in the branch. When Elder Contreras arrived in July, there were only 16 people consistently attending. Now there are more double that! So it's really great. The primary kids and the branch president's wife made me cry yesterday during church. They wrote notes to me since they knew I was leaving. They invited me in to the primary, and the branch president's wife told me that she and they were so grateful for all I'd done in the branch. She said I was an "angel" for them--she was crying, I was crying. It was really touching. The other fun thing we did this week will be coming in photos: I'll explain to you the theme for this email "Be Like Dan Jones" in the pictures. Love you all a lot! Elder Cevering

Christmas Pictures

Monday, December 23, 2013

Email December 23, 2013

Hello family! This letter is going to be really short because we'll be talking on Wednesday. It's going to be great! We had 38 people again in sacrament meeting! The branch is seriously growing stronger. Our goal for next week is 45. If the members would be more consistent about attendance that would be a simple goal. But it's great to see how they've grown to be much more consistent. I sang O Holy Night in sacrament meeting. Of course, it was in Spanish. People really loved it. It was the Sally Deford version, so you can look it up if you want. One of the new zone leaders is from my group: Elder Baldwin. He plays the piano, so that's how we were able to do the musical number. It's such a blessing to have someone who plays the piano. It makes a huge difference in the reverence of the meeting. We had an AWESOME branch council on Tuesday. It was the best I've had in my whole mission. The leaders are truly excited to go to work now, and we have the model set for the coming year of how the meetings will be held. That's all for the week. Tomorrow we'll be with President at the mission home to celebrate Christmas eve. For Christmas we'll be here in Aibonito: we have a food appointment with our elders quorom president and his family. It'll be good. Love you all! Elder Cevering

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas lights in Barranquitas & Caonillas Puerto Rico

Email December 16, 2013

Hello from Puerto Rico, I think this past week felt like one of the longest weeks of my mission. I can't really give a reason why, but it felt like two weeks combined into one. Great things continue to happen here in the Aibonito branch: there was a baptism Saturday night, 38 people came to church, and we have a baptismal date set up for January. We're excited. This email is going to be pretty short because we're going to be going to a member's house pretty soon but first I want to be able to send some pictures of the Christmas lights and such. The baptism Saturday night was of an 18 year old girl who the zone leaders have been teaching in Barranquittas. She is a really good basketball player: we play basketball with her and some other kids each Friday or Saturday and it's been fun. The zone leaders need to take advantage of teaching more of those kids. This girl really want to serve a mission. She said after her baptism that the missionaries were "the light to (her) life" and said she will be turning 19 in about 7 months, so she wants to do the same thing for others. It was a really spiritual meeting. We've been working hard to increase the attendance to 40 people. It's been consistently between 30 and 35. That was why we were so excited yesterday when 38 people came. The greater news too is that two families that usually come to church weren't there, which would have made the attedance 46. Good, good work. We have a branch council meeting tomorrow and we're going to talk with the leaders about some things, so we're excited. Our investigator Junito accepted a baptismal date for January 12th. We've been working hard with him, and he's never come to church. Last week we took him pancakes before church and he STILL didn't come. But he tells us he's really excited to be baptized and he loves having us over. We just need to get him to be converted to the gospel, not to us. Amarilis and Anna are doing well. Everything is falling into Amarilis's hands for the wedding: they have received a lot of donations from people for their wedding. Walgreens is going to give them all their pictures free. WOW. Super cool. We're going to have a really good week this week: our planning session was great last night. I'm excited. The title is from an experience I had with our elders quorom president. He's from Colorado. He never remembers my name, even though I'm at his house every Sunday for lunch with his family. While we were there yesterday he asked me where I was thinking about going to school after the mission and if I'd thought about coming back to Puerto Rico. We talked, and he said to me, "Let me give you some dating advice, Elder Sylvestre. When you see a girl that you really like, just take her by the elbow and look into her eyes like this..." So he grabbed my elbow and looked into my eyes. He just stared at me...and his wife pulled him away and said, "Whatever you do Elder Cevering, don't do that to a girl." It was really random and weird. I thought you'd enjoy hearing that story. Love you all! Elder Cevering

Monday, December 9, 2013

Email December 9, 2013

Hello family! This was a pretty good week. I'm really surprised at how fast all these weeks are going by. There's a part of me that just wants December to already be over and be able to say: "I did it! All of 2013 is now behind me. One ENTIRE year in the mission field under my belt. The most challenging, heart-wrenching, yet edifying year of my life is now behind me. Now I can move forward to 2014 and all that it has to bring." That's exactly what I'm going to say on January 1st. I'm going to open the door to the cold mist of Aibonito and shout: HELLO 2014, I'M ELDER CEVERING." And then somewhere in the distance a Puerto Rican will shout back: "AMEN!" And I'll be happy. I'm in a really good mood this morning. I slept really good last night! It's a perfect temperature outside: good old 70 degree weather. The sun is out, which means we'll have warm water tomorrow. And Elder Contreras got three emails from his girlfriend. It's a good, good day. The BIG news: a new member moved into the branch! I'm super excited. His name is Junior. He served a mission in Panama I believe and he's a Melchizedek Priesthood holder. I was shocked when I heard he was moving in. I remembered all the men that suddenly moved in to Carolina and remembered the major impact they had on the ward, and realized this man will be able to do the same thing here. It's all part of the Lord's pattern of building up His kingdom. I'm excited to be here. To be honest, not a lot happened this week. Our car battery died so we had to go down the mountain to get a new one. Elder Contreras was sick with the flu, so we weren't always out on the job. We went one day to the chapel because I wanted to download some Christmas music to my ipod. That was when disaster striked: all my music on my ipod was erased. So, naturally I wanted it back, so I just started buying music. That's why you'll see a big bill on my credit card mom. Do you want to go in half-and-half on the bill as part of Christmas? haha. I felt so stupid after I bought the music cause I realized: how many missionaries have all this music and could have just given it to me? I acted without thinking. But I'm really happy: I got some songs I'd really been wanting to listen to and it's made having a car much more enjoyable because now we have new music. We had a really great lesson last night with Amarilis and her mom Anna. Anna's been reading the Book of Mormon. In fact, she read the testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith that's in the beginning of the Book of Mormon, and when she finished she saw where the book says to read in the Pearl of Great Price to find the whole story, and she called Amarilis to ask, "Where's the Pearl of Great Price? I want to keep reading the story of Joseph Smith." We read the first two chapters of the Book of Mormon with her last night. "HALLELUJAH" she said after reading about the pillar of fire that appeared before Lehi. It was probably the most entertaining reading of the Book of Mormon I've ever been a part of. And the Spirit was there, so we were able help her understand the purpose of the Book of Mormon and the promises it contains. She says she believes the Book of Mormon is the word of God and called it "different" from other books that testify of Christ. She used the word "different" in a good way too. While we discussed the introduction of the Book of Mormon where it tells us that if the Book is true then the church is true, she asked us why it was so important that we all have the same "opinion" about the things of God. To answer, we pulled out a hymn book and asked her to hold it and then let go of it. When she did, it fell to the ground. We asked, "What happened?" She said, "It fell because of gravity." We asked her to pick up the book again and drop it, asking her if she thought it would fall to the floor again if she let it go. She said she believed it would fall, and it did. We repeated the process and the question, and everyone said we believed the book would fall to the floor when she let go of it the third time: and it did. That was when we talked about absolute truths with her. I told her, "Opinions about God can't save us. True doctrine saves us." to which she nodded and said, "Okay, I understand." So we'll see what comes of it. We invited her to continue praying and reading, and I think something great can come of it. We might go with her to her church this week. We'll see what happens. I'd really like to go but I also don't want to cause any contention. One of our Zone leaders was called to be the new assistant to the president. That was just a little bit sad because we all got along so well. But the elder that came to replace him is an elder from my group: Elder Baldwin. He plays the piano too, so now our branch has a piano player and it made a huge difference in the reverence and spirit of sacrament meeting. The members were so happy when they arrived and heard him playing Christmas songs in the chapel. We're going to plan a special musical number too where I'll sing and he'll play. I'm excited. Good things are happening! Well, I love you all a lot and hope your passing this Christmas happily and safely! Elder Cevering

Monday, December 2, 2013

Photos from Elder Cevering

Email December 2, 2013

Hello Utah! It was a cold week here in Aibonito: just a bunch of mist, rain, cold showers, and hot chocolate with cheese and bread for the missionaries. It's been getting darker earlier here, which is a bit depressing but I'm grateful to be up here in the cold and dark and not down on the coast suffering from the winter heat! I love Aibonito! And the good news: it's sunny today, so we'll have warm water again. It hasn't felt much like Christmas yet. But our Thanksgiving meal was really great! We spent all day Thursday in a meeting with Elder Cornish of the second quorom of the seventy. He brought six pages of instructions from the First Presidency for our mission: I've never taken more notes in any mission meeting. The Lord wants a lot from the members here in Puerto Rico, and He expects us to do a lot to help them. The instructions were the following: 1--Baptize and Reactivate, 2--Focus entirely on the less-active members and those they know--working with the ward counsel to make all visits, and 3--Missionaries are the mentors. It's not an entirely new concept: we've been working on all of those things for a long time here. But now we see how much the First Presidency (and thus, the Lord) wants us to take charge of some things. It's not a matter of stepping over lines of authority: it's about the First Presidency giving missionaries assignments to help the leaders exercise their priesthood authority. I felt really good about those instructions because I felt like that's been what I've been striving to do in my mission: work with members and strengthen them in order to baptize. It's kind of ironic, but I've said it over and over again in my emails and to other missionaries: if we can get into the houses of members and help them grow stronger--even if it requires us to spend a good amount of time in their houses--then we will see more baptisms. Why? Because that's what the scriptures teach us. And because if the wards/branches aren't strong--if they aren't functioning the way the Lord has designed--then people suffer and new converts will not be retained, and thus all baptizing will become a thing for numbers and pictures. Now, I'm far from the perfect missionary: but I'm trying to strengthen the areas where I'm serving, and the Lord is letting me see miracles and is helping me to change. Anyway, at the meeting with Elder Cornish I sang Savior, Redeemer of My Soul. I was going to sing Amazing Grace, but the only version we had sounded too Gospel. I thought you'd like to hear that mom :) We got back up to Aibonito around 5:30 where we had Thanksgiving dinner with the Cartajena family. The food was really good! The turkey we had last year was better (because the family cooked it in a brick oven) but there were other really good things. You know those tres leches from Cafe Rio? They have those here in Puerto Rico but usually they're small and expensive so I don't eat them. The Cartajenas gave us tres leches that was really good! Turkey, Tres Leches, Rice and beans, and this really good potato salad that they make here. I love Puerto Rico. Amarilis is really progressing! To clarify: Efrain is a member who's trying to turn his life around and get back into the church. They live with Amarilis's mom (Anna), who's super Pentecostal. But we had a miracle with her this past week. It's usually really hard to teach Amarilis if Anna's there, so when we arrived and saw her car was gone we were excited. We went down and talked about their wedding plans and such, then began with a prayer, and as we prayed I heard someone swinging their keys coming downstairs, and I thought, "DANG IT!" The good thing is, Anna loves us. She came and sat down with us and said, "Carry on!" So we started the lesson of the Restoration, which begins by talking about God being our loving Father. As we discussed the characteristics of God, Anna suddenly got really emotional. She said, "You know, it's interesting how God speaks to us. When I got home just now and walked into the kitchen to start making you both hot chocolate, I had a really strong feeling come over me that I'd never felt before. I want you to know that you are special, and that you have had a large impact on this home." She said it with tears on her cheeks. I felt the Spirit whisper in my mind, "You have to teach her NOW." So we talked to her about the Book of Mormon, and for the first time she listened without eyes of scrutiny. I was shocked. It was even more surprising when Amarilis started testifying of the power of the Book of Mormon. She talked about how similar the Bible and the Book of Mormon are: that they teach the same gospel and that they are both the words of God, just to different people. In the end, Anna said she is going to read it, so we're planning on having a lesson with her this week. I'm really excited about it! Amarilis and Efrain are getting married in February because their family reserved a reception area for them for the 15th of February. Blah. Elder Contreras and I are both sad because we don't think we'll be here for it. But we're grateful to have been instruments to helping them grow converted to the Lord's church. We had a lesson with our investigator Tato this week too. He lives in the coolest part of Aibonito: he has a view of the whole valley. When we were with him it was all covered in mist, but I didn't have my camera. That's something I have to improve on. But we were there with him talking for a good amount of time about the Book of Mormon. He told us he doesn't go to church because the church where he was attending always asked them for money to buy new things like windows and such. He was really against that. We talked to him briefly about the apostasy when he told us that, and then set up a return appointment for Saturday night. Haha. Then we go back Saturday night and he was there with his girlfriend. It was really awkward. Tato's twenty two years old and studies in Bayamon (an hour and a half drive from here) so he's a busy person. But he's not hard to get ahold of. He plays basketball with us almost every week and brings Jose and one of his friends. We haven't been able to teach Jose more, but we're trying. Mom, I got your package. Thank you so much for the hot chocolate! I'd been telling Elder Contreras that that was my favorite brand of hot chocolate in the days before. And the member who I gave the M&M to loved it. This week marks 16 months the mission. I remember imagining what I'd feel like at this point in my mission. 2/3 down. Well, that's all that happened this week! I love you all a lot! Elder Cevering

Monday, November 25, 2013

Photos from Elder Cevering (in Aibonito)

Email November 25, 2013

Hello Utah! Our week was pretty good here in Aibonito. It got colder this week: I think it drops as low as the 50's or low 60's here. I love it because everyone gives us hot chocolate. Puerto Ricans like to put cheese in their hot chocolate. It's kind of weird, but it doesn't taste bad. The first time I had it I didn't know it was in there, and it had a flavor I didn't recognize, but it was good. That trailer incident is pretty crazy! That really is a miracle that it didn't collide with the house. Aibonito is really pretty right now: it gets covered in fog. I'll try to send some pictures. On Thanksgiving we have one food appointment set up with some members. We're excited. Here in Puerto Rico they call it zangiving, and they eat turkey, this really good pudding made from coconut, rice and beans (I love rice and beans), that macaroni salad you really like, and this thing called arroz con dulce (which means sweet rice) which is just rice with cinnamon and raisins. It's going to be really good. In terms of numbers we had a really good week. We received four references, taught 10 lessons (which is BIG for Aibonito) to investigators, and 9 lessons with less-active members. We thought because of that we would have a really good attendance. But for the first time in over a month the attendance dropped below thirty. None of our investigators came, which wasn't devastating, but it's always sad when they don't arrive. They had some good reasons why they couldn't come though: one went down to San Juan for a birthday in his family, and Amarilis and Efrain were out partying late...maybe the last one's not a great excuse haha but they've been really good at coming every week so that didn't make me sad. Amarilis is really progressing. She does missionary work now. She brought her mom and her friend to the "Zangiving" party we had at the church on Friday. Her mom is super, super, super Pentecostal. It's really a miracle that we have such a good relationship with her because before she never let missionaries come close to the house: but she loves having us over. Last night we sat down with her and drank hot chocolate and we asked her to tell us how she came to know there was a God. It was a good experience. The Lord is really blessing Amarilis and Efrain. They're really poor and have no money, but the Lord is helping them with their wedding. People have been popping up out of nowhere giving them free things. A member offered to buy Amarilis her wedding cake, some family members are paying to rent an area for their reception/party, and they've been receiving some small things too from random people. Amarilis told us she knows the Lord wants them to be married because of all the miracles. We still don't know when the wedding will be, but they want it to be soon. We can't set up a baptismal date with Amarilis until there's a wedding date. It will be an incredible opportunity for her and for the branch to really grow stronger when all that happens. We watched "On the Lord's Errand" with them last night, and she cried while watching it. She really has a testimony of the church and of the Book of Mormon and of President Monson. Our plans with Jose and his family fell through this week: they were supposed to come to our branch activity but some of them were sick so they didn't come. We were really disappointed. We're going to try really hard to teach them this week. The branch activity was a great success: we had six investigators present, and the zone leaders had two more. We see a lot of potential in the branch. What I hear from branch members when I visit them is a lack of confidence that the Lord will really help them raise up this area. We're trying to help them see that He is already at work. They often don't see what we missionaries see: they don't see how the attendance has risen, they don't see the transformation of investigators like we do, and they don't always see the work that is being done daily to help the kingdom grow. To help them out, we're working on a few different projects: the Planchas (or plates) of Aibonito--where the members write their testimonies and experiences--is one of those projects. The next one we're working on is a bulletin board in the chapel that says "And thus we see the great call of diligence of men to labor in the vineyards of the Lord" Alma 28:14. We're going to put up pictures of the members in their baptisms and other things. We just need approval from the facilities people and it will be UP in the chapel. The branch president already gave us the go-ahead. The next goal we have is to have our branch counsel meeting. For the most part, the leaders are doing their work: they go out and do visits and such. But they aren't communicating. That is what causes problems in the branch. So we're working to have a branch counsel meeting on Sunday. I feel really scatter-brained right now haha. I'll tell you about a lesson we had this past week: a member asked us if we would be willing to help one of her friends who is struggling with anorexia (spelling?). So we went to the member's house and sat down with her friend we we talked. We gave her a small little notebook to write her feelings in and in the front we put a picture of Christ, and three questions for her to write about: When do I feel peaceful and happy? When have I felt a desire to love others? and When have I overcome a challenge? We talked with her about those things, and we talked about the love of the Lord. It was one of those lessons that reminds you just how much God loves His children. At the end of that lesson, this girl said the prayer, and I've only ever heard one other prayer like it in my life. She was TRULY grateful for what we'd talked to her about. Thinking about her words bring tears to my eyes. She said, "Thank you for sending me these missionaries. They are good people. Please protect them so they can continue helping others. Thank you for them." Man, it does your heart good as a missionary not to see the results of your work, but to know you have HELPED. For me personally, I'm glad I don't see all the results of my work, because I'd get proud. But I'm always touched when I can see that others are happy because the Lord called me to be there for them. Perhaps you can see in this email just a little bit about what the scripture from the title says: "And thus we SEE the GREAT CALL of DILIGENCE of men to LABOR in the vineyards of the Lord." This is what the Lord is teaching me about right now. He's teaching me to hear this great call of diligence. I'm grateful to all the people in my life who have heard that call and who are changing the world with the Lord. I know that my life has been changed and touched by such people: but of course, that change came from the Lord, not from men. I love you all a lot. I really am grateful for all that you have done for me and all you do for the Lord. I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving! Elder Cevering

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Photos of Elder Cevering with his District

Email November 18, 2013

Hello Family! Transfers were this week and Elder Contreras and I are both staying here in Aibonito. YES! We are super excited. We already have appointments for thanksgiving and such and it will be great because neither of us will have to spend Christmas getting to know a new ward or branch. Six more weeks in the mountains! The only problem about being in the mountains at this time is the cloudiness: I love how cold it is up here, but because of the clouds our solar panel doesn't heat our water. Yum: good old cold water in the morning. This past week was a really, really great week. Miracles are happening here in the branch. The Melchizedek priesthood holders are coming back to church. Another man who hasn't been to church for many, many years came to church on Sunday and really enjoyed himself. I'd never seen him happy before like he was there. The branch president is really excited about that: he and his counselors are discussing callings to extend to these returning men. It's all part of "real growth." I'm not sure if you've heard about that, but I'm sure every missionary in the world has. It's kind of the theme right now for missionary work. A miracle occurred in the life of Amarilis this week. She has been reading the Book of Mormon and one day just felt that it's all true. She read in 3 Nephi 11:29 about the spirit of contention casting out the Holy Ghost and so she prayed to the Lord for forgiveness for having "contended" with us about women not being able to perform priesthood ordinances. Then she went out and defended the church to two of her friends, invited another friend to the branch activity we had last Friday, and is reading the Book of Mormon to her mom. WOW. I was in shock when I heard all that. I felt the Lord's approval of all we'd done to teach her and felt how true it is that the Lord knows His children. We also had a really incredible experience with our investigator Junito. He's been having a hard time with alcohol. We went to his house last Monday with a member of the branch. When we entered the house, the member said, "This man used to be my hair stylist." We talked about the blessings of being part of the Savior's church, the member shared his experience with coming to know the church and living the commandments, and then I told him, "Our purpose as missionaries is to invite people to come unto Christ. Elder Contreras and I are the only two authorized people here in Aibonito to help you to do that in your life right now." I felt the Spirit really strong when I said that. I'd never said that before to a person. Then I said, "And we are the only two authorized people here in Aibonito who can invite you to come unto Christ through baptism. So, Junito, we invite you to come unto Christ by being baptized by someone holding the authority of God. Would you do that?" He looked at us seriously, and for the first time in all the time I've talked with him, I saw him truly smile. I'd never seen such joy fall on someone's face. He said, "Yes." After that lesson we got into the car and started driving away. We asked the member if he thought Junito's faith had increased. He said, "Yes. But something else. When he remembers me, he will remember that he and I used to wake up drinking together at the bars." That was touching: Elder Contreras had felt inspired to take that member with us to the lesson, and it turned out that he and Junito had once been drinking pals. Again, the Lord knows His children perfectly. We're also now teaching two young guys (cousins) that we play basketball with. Their names are Jose and Tato. They are family members of a family from Carolina, and that's how we met them--through the reference from my good old friends back in Carolina. Jose's dad died and when he heard about the atonement of Christ he started to cry. He grabbed the plan of salvation pamphlet immediately after Elder Contreras put it on the table, and started reading it. That same week, his sister had put on her facebook that she wanted to learn more about the resurrection and about life after death. So we're hoping to meet with the whole family this week. The ENTIRE family--meaning Tato's family, Jose's family, their aunts and uncles--are coming to our branch's thanksgiving party on Friday with the family from Carolina. We are excited because we're going to be showing some Mormon Messages and talking about the church, so it will be a really spiritual experience for them. We also have this tradition of going to a bakery every p-day here. I've gained 5 pounds. But I'm not fat haha. There's a girl that works at the bakery who's in love with Elder Contreras. We asked if we could share a message with she and her family and she said she'd let us know the next time we passed by (today). We're hoping she says yes: she told us that she is one of 14 children. The work is good in Aibonito, and I've got 6 more weeks here. Then Elder Contreras will probably leave because he'll have 6 months here at the end of the transfer and President Smartt doesn't want missionaries in the same area for longer than that. I'm hoping that will apply in this case so I can spend more time here out of the hot Caribbean sun. Love you all! Elder Cevering

Monday, November 11, 2013

Photos of a hike to San Cristobal Canyon

Email November 11, 2013

Hi Mom & Dad, We took a 5 hour hike today to San Cristobal Canyon with a less-active family so I don't have much time to write. Sorry. We had a good week. We had three investigators in church--including the ones the zone leaders brought. The attendance has stayed at more than 30 now for more than a month which is a really great improvement. Amarilis and Zuly both came to church. Elder Mena--one of the zone leaders--and I spoke in sacrament. We all felt the spirit really strong. A lot of the members cried and were really grateful and responded positive to our messages. We're hoping that it can change the ward. I spoke about trials and God's perfect love for us. I'm not worried about talking about missionary work with the ward because I know they need to understand other things before they will be willing to be involved. I'll continue writing in the next set of photos. Anyway, we also went down to Caguas on Saturday because the stake young mens' presidency asked us to go down to share our testimonies to the youth about our experiences in seminary. It was a good experience. I met a girl who just returned from her mission in New York and was a part of Cragun's zone. Her name would have been Hermana or Sister Pagan. You could ask Sister Liston to tell him I met her. Things are going well: we are happy and we have a really full week ahead of us. We have 3 or 4 service projects planned for members. We're also going down to Orocovis tomorrow to visit some members and investigators. It's going to be a really good week. We find out about transfers on Saturday. Mom, can you send me another one of those miniature pillows? Hermana Molina--the member whose house we live in--wants one for Hermano Molina because...of something. She washes our clothes and stuff and saw my little pillow and wanted one. I love you all! Elder Cevering

Monday, November 4, 2013

Email November 4, 2013

Hello Family! These weeks are really going by so fast: I can't believe this transfer is almost over. We've got some good plans for the next two weeks too, so it'll be over before we know it. Things are a little crazy here in Aibonito: One of our investigators has a crazy lover who came over to her house while we were there the other day. He broke her car window, threatened to beat her daughter, and then drove off. Then Saturday night we visited her and she was back together with her old boyfriend. Ay ay ay...We don't really know what to do with her anymore. We're planning to have a lesson with her to talk to her about the atonement. The struggle is that she is super flaky. Amarilis is progressing. We taught her last night about the priesthood. Before that, she told us she's reading the Book of Mormon and that she believes the church really is the kingdom of God. However, she just sticks to those things she was taught in the methodist church. She said, "I never heard them talk about the priesthood in my old church." We taught her about the apostasy (AGAIN) and explained that was why. We (for lack of a better way of explaining) gave her a smack down last night about the priesthood and about needing to pray to know if what we're teaching her is true. We have only taught her about the doctrines relating to the first lesson (the restoration) because she needs to gain a testimony of them. It's really frustrating that she simply won't pray. We asked her if she was afraid to find out if it was true, and she just said, "It's not easy to be taught one thing your whole life and then be taught another thing." She's right, and we understand that completely. It would be incredibly difficult! I have all the sympathy in the world for her. But the stress within me is caused by that reality that if she doesn't accept the truth, it will only bring her grief. We're praying for her to continue to have faith in the Lord. The great thing in the branch is that there is a consistent number of people now attending: 29-31 people each week. The biggest problem is the consistency, and that seems to be changing. However, there are some strong members--needed members--who are still inconsistent. I have it in my plans to visit one of them this week: he used to be the gospel principles teacher but had a fight with his wife and stopped coming to all three hours of church. I'm going to go with one of the zone leaders to visit him: I'm going on exchanges with them. For Halloween we had to be in the house at 6:00. We went down to Barranquitas to have a family home evening with the zone leaders and one of the young families in the branch, then we stayed the night down there, playing cards with the zone leaders. The bed was really stiff, but they have a sweet apartment. We are helping with the seminary class here. The seminary teacher is a really great guy: he has a lot of desire to be obedient and help the youth. But he has a really mixed up understanding of the scriptures. Oh man. Lots of work to do in the kingdom. From the smallest part to the biggest part. Love you all! Elder Cevering

Monday, October 28, 2013

Email October 28, 2013

HEEEY Family, This was a really great week! I can't believe October is over this week. Wow. This was probably the fastest month of my mission. And this past week was probably one of the fastest: we had interviews with President Smartt and a leadership meeting, and some other things. I'll give you all the details. So, interviews with president: I LOVE president Smartt. I felt nervous before my interview because interviews with president Alvarado were always so intense. But when I went in and sat down to talk with President Smartt he just said, "Alright Elder, what would you like to talk about?". It was great. I talked with President about Lin, the pastor's daughter in Carolina. She's been having some struggles, and I've been wanting to communicate with her but can't by the rules. So I asked him permission to talk to her and he said, "Of course! She's one of the people you helped enter into the kingdom of God. You SHOULD talk with her." And he said, completely apart from anything I had told him, "Write her every Monday. But if you start having romantic feelings, just be a man about it and come talk to me, and we'll take care of it." Haha. It was so funny. I really respect President Smartt. He's smart. Ironic right? Because of our interviews and then our meeting in Ponce, we didn't spend a lot of time in Aibonito this past week. But in the time we did spend here we saw the work of the Lord moving forth with our investigators and with the branch. First off, Zuly's boyfriend finally left the house. Supposedly he's doing back today with the police to take his things and officially move out. Zuly was really stressed about it: she hasn't wanted to live with him. They were always fighting, and there was no love between them. And since she wasn't married to him she couldn't be baptized. So now we're going to follow up with her and see where she's at. The only thing that keeps her from being baptized is her need to regularly attend church. But we're confident she'll be able to do that. Her two daugthers were already baptized, and one of them comes to seminary so that shows us that they do put the gospel in their priorities. Second, Amaralis came to church again. We talked with her Saturday night and read in the Book of Mormon. She's super pentecostal. The chapter we read was Mormon 6 I believe. In that chapter there's a verse that talks about singing praises to God in the heavens. She got excited by that. (((Personal comment: I love to sing. But personally, an eternity of singing praises is not what I would call my ideal heaven. But then again, we're all different.))) But she has doubts about works for the dead. We talked about the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, but above all things we are trying to help her understand that the answer to whether or not the doctrine is true is found through prayer. She hasn't knelt and prayed to ask about the truth of the gospel, and it's because she's too focused on the differences of the doctrine of the church and the Methodist church. We're going to be teaching her this week about the priesthood. She wants to know why women can't give blessings. She had a female pastor once, and she would always put her hands on their foreheads and cast blessings on them. So we're going to talk about that with her. Woo hoo. Third, for this one I have to give you some background information. The First Presidency sent President Smartt some instructions about what they want us as missionaries to be doing here in the Puerto Rico San Juan Mission. President Smartt first gave those instructions to the missionaries in the other islands. The result has been incredible. The instructions were that we need to work to having 51% member attendance, and need to have/search 20 men who hold the melchizedek priesthood and pay tithes. So, that's what the missionaries in the islands started to do. A couple weeks ago, the branch on Dominica jumped from 40 people in attendance to 98, with 11 investigators in church. The branch on St. Kitts jumped from 40 people in attendance to 120, with 16 investigators in church. The branch on Tortola is planning 19 baptisms. Etc. And they accomplished this by going to their branch presidents, presenting the instructions from the First Presidency, and then praying together to know which of the men from the member lists were prepared to come back to church and receive the melchizedek priesthood or become worthy to use it again. It's a miracle! So, this is what President Smartt is asking us to do: or in other words, on behalf of the Lord, the First Presidency sent these instructions to us, and President Smartt is simply implementing it. With that in mind, we now go to the Aibonito Branch on Sunday October 27th. The elders quorom president left to take care of his family, so I was left in charge of the elders quorom class. I stood at the front of the class to give the lesson and asked a question, "How many of you hold the Melchizedek priesthood?" I was surprised when two men, who had come back to church for the first time in years, raised their hands: a large number of 6 priesthood holders were present, apart from us missionaries. It was a miracle! I realized what President Smartt had told us was true: the Lord is looking for His priesthood holders. In the Aibonito branch there are 9 men who hold the melchizedek priesthood that have come to church since I've been here. There are more who are inactive. There are two aaronic priesthood holders who we have reactivated, and they are both of age to receive the melchizedek priesthood. Do you see the miracle of that? The Lord's work is moving forward. I gave the lesson about the power of the priesthood. After seeing that the majority of the men hold the Melchizedek Priesthood, I then asked them, "When was the last time you exercised that priesthood?" They all fell silent. Then one man said he'd given a blessing recently. So I asked another question, "Apart from giving blessing or performing the ordinance of the sacrament, when was the last time you exercised your priesthood authority?" And no one could answer. So I went on to explain that the power of the priesthood is so much more than giving blessings and effecting ordinances. We had a really spiritual discussion, read some passages from the Book of Mormon about how prophets used their priesthood, discussed ways that those men in the Aibonito branch had used the priesthood, and then ended with a prayer. It was really great! I was grateful to talk part of that class. Well, apart from that, nothing else exciting happened. I'm so happy to see miracles here in the work of the Lord. It's not easy AT ALL. In fact, I feel like the longer I'm here the harder it gets. But I take comfort in some things my patriarchal blessing tells me about what will happen in my life as a result of the experiences I have as a missionary. I am SO glad that Colby found a job! That was definitely an answer to prayers. And I'm so glad that Jacob is doing well in the MTC. He's going to love California. I wrote him a letter, I just need to send it to him. And I'm grateful that Mikayla is doing well. I'm going to write her a letter :) And Mom and Dad I love you a lot! The experiences I have as a missionary--most specifically my opportunitites to teach members of the church--cause me to reflect on how incredible you both are. I love you both! Elder Cevering