Elder Michael Cevering

Elder Michael Cevering
Puerto Rico, San Juan Mission

Monday, January 28, 2013

Email January 28, 2013

Hello Family! Well, what a week! Haha I'm so excited to take a SHORT nap today. I've been super tired all week long: missions are a lot of work. It's spiritually and physically trying because you don't just labor with your body: as you exercise your faith in prayer, teaching, and fasting you find that you get worn out in spirit. Let me tell you a story! Yesterday we had 19 new faces in church. :)--smiling just like that. Haha. We had 8 of the family of 15 with us, 5 other investigators, and an inactive family that recently moved from Bayamon. The chapel was pretty full, which made the members so excited. After everyone had gone we had a meeting with the bishop, and the second counselor of the stake presidency came in and told us: "Tremendous work elders!" He told the bishop: "You have a FORCE with these elders to do whatever you need." And he said, "I wanted to take a picture of the chapel!" It was really great: they all really enjoyed it too. But back to what I was saying about being tired, when the final speaker in sacrament meeting said "amen" I had this random exhaustion come over me. It was a huge relief to have gotten all of these great new people through church--after a week of praying and teaching and organizing--and my spirit was at rest...for a little bit. Haha. When we got back to our apartment I sat down and sighed in relief, then realized: "Wait a minute, now we just have to work harder to get ALL of them their next week." HAHA. Oh man. In my life, I've definitely had trials and times when I labored hard to open the doors of heaven, but I've never so consistently been tried like this. But I've never had more joy in hardship than I have now. The week started with zone conference where President Alvarado announced that the mission is no longer a "knocking on doors" mission. He showed us the numbers of inactive and less-active members and said: "Get to work." Elder Delgado were already working with lists of the less-active and inactive, but the focus was intensified after President Alvarado made the announcement. Now all of our proselyting work is done through members and through the neighbors of less-active and inactive members. It's really effective. And let me tell you: the Lord prepared Carolina for this. When the members saw how many people we had in church this Sunday, they were moved upon! We got some references and invitations to dinner, which we weren't getting before. One of our investigators, Pablo--he lives out in the campo--didn't come to church yesterday, which was really disappointing. He has a baptismal date for this Saturday, which fell through because of his lack of attendance. We're meeting with him tonight--I believe--to talk to him. He's a really humble, intelligent guy and I hope he hasn't given up on the gospel. He has cancer though so he is pretty busy, which is understandable. He goes to the doctor a lot during the week and needs his rest. We bought him some hot chocolate mix to help him quit drinking coffee, so we'll see how that goes. We also contacted an old investigator last Saturday and he told us he is ready to accept the gospel now. He said he's just been kind of waiting for a reason to come to church: and then we showed up. It's really cool how that works out: when I very first got here to Carolina I went through the records of old investigators and picked out 6 to contact. Of those 6 we found this guy last Saturday--his name is Ismael--, another guy named Edwin--the guy who led us to his mom's house and told us that he wasn't actually Edwin--and a woman who invited us to her house this Tuesday. I don't remember her name. But it's been cool to see how they have all progressed: Edwin and his mom and son came to church on Sunday, Ismael invited us back to teach him this week and prepare him for church, and this other woman. The Lord is really guiding us. I told Elder Delgado that he and I were foreordained to break down the boulders that had caused so much damming here in Carolina. He said: "YEAH!" He and I aren't really great friends: I don't want to say a lot, but I'll just say that these past 4 weeks have been a great lesson of patience. We are becoming friends though. We have disagreements and a lot of differences, but we can always laugh, which is really good. I do miss having Elder Peacock as a companion though. Haha. I imagine that's how I'll feel a lot in the mission. Well, I love you all and miss you! Six months down: where did the time go? And: HAPPY BIRTHDAY GRANDMA! I love ya! Elder Cevering

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Elder Cevering enjoying a yummy dinner!

A view of Carolina, Puerto Rico

15 people live in this tiny little home

The Bishop's house in Carolina, Puerto Rico

View from the Bishop's home in Carolina, Puerto Rico

Pictures of all the people baptismed during 2012 in the Puerto Rico Mission

Checking out some kind of Puerto Rican 'fruit'??? (Not sure what it is)

Elder Cevering in Carolina, Puerto Rico

Email January 21, 2013

Hello Family! This was one of the toughest, but the most miraculous week of my mission yet. I am very excited to tell you all about it! First off, let me give you a follow up on Atawelpa: he has finally come to accept Jesus Christ as "different" from other men, but he still doesn't really believe He atoned for us. I really don't understand why, and he hasn't given us a good reason for that belief either. I think he's been reading things on the internet: we all know that there is a ton of ridiculous viral information. But I haven't asked him about that. He is progressing, and I know that because he told us that when he first received the Book of Mormon he didn't really think much of it, but now he says it's "sweet" and "flavorful"--those are his real words. We tried to set a baptismal date with him, but he said he needs a LOT of time before he gets baptized. We'll see what we can do about that. Well, this is where things are going to get exciting: first let me tell you that in this mission we don't really live the 9:00 or 9:30 or 10:30 rules of bedtime/be-in-apartment times. We are always asked to do something more. This past week I drove Elders from Guaynabo back to Carolina, and we didn't get to bed until 12:30, and we had to be up for a meeting at 5:30. Really crazy. But I only bring that up because last night we had a miracle: as we were reporting our numbers for the week--at 9:00--the zone leaders asked us to go out and try to have one more member present lesson: the entire zone was doing that as a way to exercise faith in the Lord's hand. So...I thought for just a moment and a less-active member came to my mind immediately. So we drove to his house, unsure if it would even prove anything: the member present lesson rule is that you have a member with you when you teach a lesson to a non-member. Going to his house was a complete leap of faith, considering he is less-active and it was 9:00. But we acted according to the impression. When we got to his house the lights were out and Elder Delgado said "He must be sleeping." But I pulled into the driveway and we called him anyway. Ether 12:6 ran through my mind: there will always be a trial of your faith. I figured the lights being out was the trial of our faith regarding the inspiration. So we called him and he answered the phone. We told him why we were there and he said: "I am on the phone with my friend down the street who is really sick. Do you want to give her a blessing?" YEAH--said us. So we went with him down to this woman's house and we gave her a blessing, along with a lesson about the power of the priesthood. Less than five minutes after we gave the blessing her son called her and she told him: "I feel fine! Really, I'm suddenly beginning to feel so much better." It was a very humbling experience to know that the Lord knows His children so well to inspire our President to tell our Zone Leaders to ask us to give just a little bit more effort, just so we could go and give this woman a blessing and relieve her of the pain she was feeling. Another very humbling and very miraculous experience we had was that of finding a family of 15 people who live together in the same house. The mother inherited the house from her father when he died, and now she lives there with her husband, children, and grandchildren. The house is right between two factories, and some of the leakage from the factories has caused the house to sink into the ground quite badly. They are really poor and don't have a bathroom or shower, they live basically off the land, and the house is so small most of the kids have to sleep on the floor. One of the boys had his birthday just a couple weeks ago and he asked his mom for a cake, and she cried as she told us how she had to tell him they didn't have the money to buy one to celebrate. I have never seen anything so sad in my life! As I thought about it in my prayers this morning I just began to cry. But we have seen the miracles with them. The bishop and relief society president went with us to their house yesterday, and the plans are already in the making to get them all to church this week. We took them a big box of toys, some cakes, and a lot of clothes and towels all from people from our ward: even some of the investigators we are teaching have contributed. It's really incredible, and I have seen how it's beginning to impact the members of the ward. Something that we've been trying to do here in Carolina is get the ward members working with us, and we have been working hard to get the Bishop to understand that he has a responsibility to work for the salvation of those we are teaching. We taught him that he has the "keys to the facts related to the salvation" of the people in his ward (D&C 128:11). Because of this family the ward is finally working with us, and so is the Bishop. So the family is finally getting the help it needs, and the ward is strengthening, and the work is progressing. To give you an idea of how many investigators we will have in church next week, let me just say Elder Delgado and I are about to break the record for the most investigators ever in a sacrament meeting here in the Puerto Rico San Juan mission. Not that we have a record book or anything, but there has never been as many as we will have next Sunday: 23 investigators. We have three baptismal dates as well. The Lord is in charge of this work, and I am so grateful to be trusted with the sacred opportunity to be called His servant. As much as I miss you all and love you all, I know this is where I need to be. I hope you're all doing well: pray for me to have the faith and strength to help the Lord bless these people. I love you all! Elder Cevering

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Email January 14, 2013

Hello Family! This was actually a pretty eventful week: let me tell you first that I ALMOST spoke with a member of the seventy yesterday. The Bishop in Carolina asked me if I would speak with him--President Andersen, the president over all the Caribean. So I prepared for it and was going to speak about the Book of Mormon and its testimony of salvation through Christ, but then something happened--which I didn't understand--and a member spoke instead. I was very disappointed haha but the member gave a good talk so that's ok. I think what happened was the member was asked to talk but said she couldn't speak, and then she showed up randomly. That's a very Puerto Rican thing to do. So, this week Julio dropped us because he decided trying to live the gospel took too much effort. We're going to visit him again this week, but I think that he's lazy. He's nothing like Atawelpa! Atawelpa reads and studies so much, but we found out that he has had a huge doubt all along: he didn't believe that Jesus Christ was really the Son of God. He believed that Christ was a very intelligent, very persuasive leader of Jews who were rebelling against the corruption of the Pharisees and Sadducees. When he told us that we just though: "What?" But it was good we found that out because we were able to focus on his doubt and know in what direction we needed to help him. Elder Delgado went with one of our zone leaders to teach him this past week--I went with one of the assistants somewhere else--and they had a great lesson with him and helped him understand that Christ really was the Son of God. I don't know if he understands it entirely yet because knowing Christ is your Saviour is sort of a difficult process in my opinion. You can know what He did and believe it, but finally receiving a powerful testimony of it really requires repentance and mercy. But I'm just glad Atawelpa is on the path to discovering more about his Savior. When I was with Elder Udall--the assistant to the president--we went to visit an old investigator named Edwin. Edwin had a baptismal date and every thing but because of problems with his wife he never went through with it. But that was four years ago. So we went up at his house and were shouting in the window. This man shouts back: "Who are you looking for?" And we told him "Edwin". So this man comes out and looks at us and says: "He doesn't live here! He moved into my mom's house. He's my cousin." Then as we talked he told us that if we really were servants of the Lord that he would take us to his mom's house. So we followed him to this house: his mom was outside and we talked with her. Then this little kid shows up in the door--12 years old--and the guy tells us: "Yeah that's Edwin right there!" Now, as you know, 12 year old kids, even in Puerto Rico, don't have wife issues and baptismal dates. Haha. What happened was this kid was actually the son of the guy who led us to the house, and the guy who led us to the house was actually Edwin! Haha. He was faking his identity. We figured that out before he told us that he actually WAS Edwin, but it was so funny. And it turned out that his son came to church, loved it, and will probably be baptized. Edwin didn't come because of work, and his mom didn't either because of her asthma--lame--but it was still good that his son went. Being with a trunky companion is super tough! He is really lazy: he takes naps and calls people all the time to talk to them: members, other missionaries, etc. I have really wanted to get angry with him, but I just try to encourage him and get him going. He's a tough person: he has a really short temper and doesn't take jokes from anyone. Sometimes he's rude to the members too because of that. Luckily Puerto Ricans are very laid back, and I think they understand that Elder Delgado has those issues. But that's why a lot of members won't work with us... The good thing is Elder Delgado and I are able to get along well for the most part. I've been preparing him for an English test--which he is taking right now--with a BYU professor by SKYPE. The purpose of the test is to prove fluency in a language, and it's a really big help for Latin missionaries who are trying to get into BYU, which is Elder Delgado's goal. He speaks really good English. Now he just needs to be immersed in an English culture and he'll speak even better. He still doesn't know all the little words: that's where the title comes this week. We were going to visit a family of old investigators, and Elder Delgado said: "It stinks really bad because they have a pork." Haha. It was so funny. Well, it sounds like Utah is getting pounded by snow. I think I appreciate the heat a little more now :) But I am very ready for some cooler weather. Luckily we're getting a lot of rain lately, and rain season is coming--I believe. I really love Utah: I never realized how much I love it until I left. Not that Puerto Rico is bad: I really am coming to love Puerto Rico. But Utah is just home I guess. I love you all, and miss you! Elder Cevering

Monday, January 7, 2013

January 7, 2013 Email

Hello Family! Well, I'm sorry but this was a bit of an uneventful week--even though it was Three Kings day yesterday. I'm assuming that a lot probably happened that I didn't know about, but I'm not in an area where I know much about it. In Arecibo we would hear celebrations all the time, which included a lot of sirens and cherry bombs going off, and fireworks. But here there hasn't been much anything for the holiday: they coolest thing I saw was a pretty big fair, and some cool Three King lights on all the street lamps. Carolina is a really big area: it's based off one of the more principal streets so most all our areas revolve around the freeway. They're small little urbanizations of houses, which can be confusing but also really convenient because people live closer together that way. We did a lot of "Inactive/Less-Active-Member" contacting this week, and because of the set-up of these little urbanizations it was a lot more efficient than what it would have been like in Corozal or Arecibo. The city is a lot more organized than the jungle! haha. I imagine you could understand why. We found a couple of really cool people to teach through contacting members too because a lot of them had moved--that's why they were "Inactive" on the list--and new people had moved in, or people nearby would come tell us that the houses we were contacting were empty. So it was pretty efficient. We are teaching quite a few people too: there's a man named Atawelpa and another man name Julio who have baptismal dates--we set them with them this past week--for the end of January. Julio has been investigating the church for awhile but has never made any true commitment to it. We had to be firm to set a baptismal date with him for the 26th. haha. But Atawelpa is very new to the church: he has attended church twice, reads a LOT, and has really good doctrinal questions. We're going to teach him the Word of Wisdom today because he is a bit of a drinker, but I believe he's really prepared to receive the fulness of the gospel. I do like Carolina, but I'm still adjusting to the change. The city is nice because everything is so close together, and there is some jungle and mountain areas where we are going to be working. But it's always weird to be in a new area: this being my THIRD area in three transfers. It's weird to be always meeting new members of wards and trying to learn the culture of the wards: here in Puerto Rico the wards are always different. Arecibo was more of a growing, young ward; the ward in Toa Baja--the ward of Corozal--was more full of families and more matured members of the church. I don't really know what to call this ward here because I was only here for sacrament yesterday--I was really sick with "la monga", which means the flu. It sounds really bad though doesn't it? Haha. La Monga! We were living with two other missionaries, but they left to live closer to their area. So now it's just Elder Delgado and I living here. He's from Panama,but he only has this transfer left and he's kind of trunky. A lot of Puerto Ricans talk in "Spanglish", meaning they talk with Spanish and English words in the same sentence, or they have taken English words and made them into Spanish verbs. So like we would say: "Oh my friend is texting me" they will say things like "Esta texteandome mi esposa". That's what an investigator told us this week. HAHA. "Texteando." That's funny. They also say things like "Swimear" and "Checkear"...oh man. So great. Well, lastly, I am feeling MUCH better in my abdomen. Your fast and prayer must have worked :) I love you all a lot! And I miss you too. Elder Cevering

Christmas Day at a member's house

Elder Cevering at Isaias & Genoveva's Baptism

Elder Cevering at El Yunque Waterfall

San Juan Mission Activity - The entire mission hiked El Yunque

El Yunque Waterfall

Last day in Corozal. Left to right: Sister Maritza, Junito Ivalys, Enrique, Junior & Elder Cevering

December 31, 2012 Email

Hello Family! Well, the big news is that I was transferred again! Haha. I am now serving in Carolina--far, far east from Arecibo and even Toa Baja. I don't know where it is in regards to San Juan, but it's on more of the eastern side of the island. So far it looks like a cool place: it's kind of a mixture between a lot of campo and city. My companion is Elder Delgado: he's from Panama and he leaves for home this February. He speaks pretty good English. I was with him a few times before when I was living with Sister Visker and he was back in Bayamon. The past week was a good one: talking on SKYPE was both heart-warming and heart-wrenching. But I wouldn't have had it any other way because it was a much more effective way of talking and it was good to see everyone. Puerto Ricans don't do a lot to celebrate Christmas other than put out big Christmas lights, eat really gross food called pasteles, and make cherry bombs to blow up. There's also a thing called the Mascarra--I don't know how to spell that. It only takes place in Hatillo, which is a part of the Arecibo area. These people dress up in thick, bright costumes and decorate big floats, then drive around and attack each other. They spray shaving cream on car windows and slide across the fronts of cars with bells attached to their belts. It's supposed to be a really crazy holiday: we weren't allowed to go over to Hatillo that day so you don't have to worry. The baptism of Genoveva and Isaias went through last Saturday and it was so great. I felt--for one of the first times as a missionary--the sacred nature of my calling on a mission. To see them enter the water in white, and considering on the symbolism of baptism, was a very powerful experience. It reminded me of the words in D&C 84 where it says the power of godliness is made manifest in the ordinances of the priesthood. That's so true. Another of the great things was to see that, though I wasn't the one baptizing them, I had contributed to so much of what they learned before their baptism. Elder Garcia and I were the ones who began teaching them everything, so that's cool. I don't know the "why" of being transferred to Carolina, but I do think I know just a little bit about why I was transferred back to Arecibo. I was able to find a Colombian family last week that Elder Garcia and I contacted, but who Elder Garcia had never followed up with before being transferred. I took Elder Astle to this family and we taught them and it was a very spiritual lesson. They were strongly impacted by the Book of Mormon and in their prayer at the end of the lesson the father said: "If this is your will, please let us know that the Book of Mormon is true." I don't know the fruit of that prayer: but Elder Astle will let me know :). But if I had never gone back to Arecibo they may never have found that family again. The quote this week comes from the gas station this past Saturday: the moon was HUGE and gold and Elder Astle was recording a video of it on Elder Thomas's camera. He said "Look at the size of that moon" and started talking in an Australian accent like some animal planet narrator. Then Elder Thomas turned around and says "Are you recording?" Haha. It was really funny in the moment, especially when we watched the recording. To end, I just want to share that I learned something new about the atonement this past week: something I had never even thought about before. I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior, and is the Savior of the world. A greater understanding of the atonement enriches our lives: although right now I am definitely still emotional about the transfer (because I love Arecibo and was excited to work there), I know that there are other people who need the atonement in their lives. Maybe I'm called to bring it to them? Anyway, love you all! And I miss ya. Elder Cevering