Elder Michael Cevering

Elder Michael Cevering
Puerto Rico, San Juan Mission

Monday, March 18, 2013

Email March 18, 2013

Hello Family! I never really know how to begin these letters. It always sounds the same doesn't it? I spent the last week in meetings with Elder Castaneda--my new companion. He's fresh from Utah: he was born in Utah but his parents are from Chile, so he is fluent in Spanish. It was cool to receive a fluent Spanish speaking companion from Utah--because I understand the Puerto Ricans more and it makes me feel cool :) The new missionaries arrived Monday night and here is the big announcement from Puerto Rico: the 18 year old elders and the 19 year old sisters finally arrived. All of them and all of us trainers were in a small meeting with President. He looked at all of us and made the announcement that history was being made that night in Puerto Rico because of the arrival of the "new generation" of missionaries. Then he made us a promise. He said: "You trainers have been chosen to change this mission. Your responsibility is to train these missionaries in 6 weeks. And then they will train new missionaries immediately after that for the next 6 weeks. So it looks like you will have a lot of work to do." The training program we use is called "The 12 Week Program." It's a small booklet full of fundamentals and principles taken from Preach My Gospel. It narrows down the way we should be teaching and gives us some indications to our success as missionaries. I don't know how best to describe it. But, as it's named, it's intended to help us train missionaries in 12 weeks. The President wants us to take the 12 week program and teach it in 6. And on top of that, Elder Peacock was put in charge of all the new missionaries and their training, so he'll be coming to stay with us every once in awhile to help us in the training. I'm excited about that: he talked to me and said he was excited to come work with me in Carolina. "Now you'll be the senior companion" he told me. Haha. It's all a little bit crazy, but the Lord really is helping us to train in 6 weeks. We have been able to apply the fundamentals in each of our lessons--as it should be--and it has really yielded a lot of great results. We received a reference from a woman in Hawaii this week to visit her niece. We went to her niece's house and taught her about the Restoration. This girl knew nothing about what a prophet was or how a church should be run. She's 20 and has been living alone without really any direction in her life. When we taught her about prophets and the direction they give us in life I saw her body SHAKE as she considered the doctrine. She felt it too: I don't really know to describe it. But we testified of prophets and her body just like trembled. And she said, "Whoa". Then I asked her how she felt, and she said, "I've never felt this way before. It's a really really deep peace. It's a good feeling: weird, but really good." I was shocked by the manifestation of the Spirit. I asked her if she wanted guidance from a modern day prophet and she, very seriously, shook her head and said "Yes!" That whole experience got Elder Castaneda so excited. Haha. It made ME so excited. I've never seen someone be touched by the Spirit like that before. She literally SHOOK by the power of the Holy Ghost falling upon her to testify of Joseph Smith. Wow. Yesterday at church the whole family of Juanita came again, not just a few of them. I gave a lesson about prophets in the gospel principles class and it was amazing to see the responses of all the investigators. As I felt the Spirit stirring among us all I asked Juanita, "How do you feel?" She said, "I feel really warm and peaceful. It's a feeling I always want to have. I believe Joseph Smith was a prophet, and I want to keep coming to church and be baptized." Why can't she just be divorced already??? Haha. She has to pay a lot of money to get divorced, and there's a lawyer in the ward who is helping her with that. But I don't really know the details of the whole case right now. Besides Juanita, the wife of Pablo--Maria Teresa--was also in that Gospel Principles class. She was crying as we talked about Joseph Smith, which was an answer to our prayers. This past week we were teaching her and Pablo and in the end Elder Castaneda invited her to be baptized and she said no. She said she knew she needed to, but that something was missing. I felt impressed to ask her the baptismal interview questions and we immediately found out that she still doesn't believe Joseph Smith was a prophet. So after that we and the Collazos began a fast for her. Then yesterday in that class the Holy Ghost testified to her that Joseph Smith was a prophet. And I don't say that because she was crying--tears aren't necessarily a sign of testimony--, but I say that because I know the tears came from the feelings she had in that moment. It was a really incredible experience. I also had a very humbling experience this past Friday. On Thursday we had a ward rescue activity when all the missionaries in the zone came here to Carolina to work with ward members. The Elders Quorom President had been really lazy lately, so I decided I would pressure him into having the activity soon, and it worked :). So all the missionaries came--12 of them--and left with members of the ward to find the less active and invactives. It was a great success: a lot of people said they wanted to come back, and they had family living with them who aren't members who want to learn about the gospel. It was really great because we have more people to teach and visit now, but it also really excited the ward members who participated in the activity and saw the fruits of it. But that's not the humbling part: as I said, it was last Friday that I had the experience. We were at the house of the Pichardos and sister Pichardo wanted to cook us food. But we have a new rule that we can't eat in members' houses unless we are teaching an investigator. She's known that for awhile, but she doesn't really care about it. And her son Rodney--who has been inactive for 10 years--said to me, "Then teach me so that you can eat. I'm inactive, that should be sufficient!" I asked him, "If I teach you, will you listen?" He shrugged his shoulders and then began to tell me about how dumb he thinks the rule is. He said to me, "It's great that you missionaries work hard to find people to teach and that you focus so much on finding people. But why does the church focus so hard on finding new people when there are so many who simply go inactive? Like me: no one has visited me since I went inactive 10 years ago, and I was baptized." That made me stop. I explained to him what our focus was on going "to the rescue" and he accepted it. But for the first time--to anybody but his parents--he opened up and told why he's continued inactive. He said, "No one has come to visit me since I stopped going to church. And it makes one feel that the ward doesn't lack anything without them." It was a real eye-opener for me. I had never considered talking to Rodney before because Elder Delgado, and even Rodney's mom, told me that Rodney didn't really want to talk to us. But there it was: Rodney has wanted someone to show that he's wanted. I testified to him concerning the work of missionaries. He didn't disagree to that. And when he and his mom continued saying that the missionaries need to visit more with members or else they "inactivate", I said "The missionaries have a responsibility to help strengthen everyone. But the members' first source of strength is their personal effort. Their second source of strength is the ward. In Utah we have a home teaching organization." Sister Pichardo said, "And so do we!" Then I said, "And does anyone do their visits?" That shifted the gears of the conversation. I continued, "If members don't do their part to become converted, and if no one does their home teaching, then it doesn't matter if the missionaries visit or not." Sister Pichardo gave me her thanks for talking with her about that, and she said she wanted to be better, and then gave me her thanks for talking to her about her Rodney. She asked me to share my experience with Rodney with everyone in the ward when I got the chance. I decided then and there that I need to be better when I come home, and better now, at seeking out those who simply want to feel wanted. It was really humbling to me. It's funny how the mission just seems to do that to you. But I want you to know that no matter how much I enjoy the mission, and how much I love the people I am teaching, I still love you all back home. I miss you and look forward to the day when we all get to talk again face to face. The first three things I want to do when I get home are #1-sleep on carpet, because everything is tile here, #2-eat a really good pasta dish, because we only eat rice and beans and chicken, and #3-sleep for three days. So after we have our parties, that's what I'm going to do. I love you all a lot! Elder Cevering

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Email March 11, 2013

Hello Family! Well, this past week was a crazy one, and I actually didn't think I was going to get the chance to write you today, but here I am. I've been with the zone leaders the past few days because Elder Arteaga was transferred to the islands--St. Croix: the poor guy was scared cold. He speaks a little bit of English, but nowhere near enough to sit and have a conversation with an islander. They don't speak normal English. And he didn't have any classes before heading out. He was really afraid, and the transfer came out of nowhere. He was in an interview with President and during their prayer President felt that Elder Arteaga needed to go to St. Croix. So he left, and now that he left I was made the district leader of the Carolina and Pontezuela areas, which are going to be receiving two more companionships next month. And until I get a new companion I'm just with the zone leaders working in Carolina. The past week was pretty exciting. Last Monday as we were driving to Carolina we received a call from the Collazos. Elder Arteaga talked to them, but I could hear them because of how full of energy they were. They had just been in the house of Juanita and had left running because one of her sons--who had never listened to us before--went to her house and tried to kill her with a group of his friends. Omar started fighting with them, and later on the police came. When we heard that we were pretty afraid and we thought about them all night because we obviously couldn't go to the house. But the next day we passed by and everything was really peaceful and it appeared as if nothing had happened. Pretty crazy. As far as things are going with them, they took a step backward this week: Juanita convinced Rosa to wait until next year to get married--Omar doesn't agree--and Abigair doesn't want to get baptized without Juanita. But Juanita acts like she's our best friend. She invited us to her house and she had made this big dinner for us: I felt horrible because I knew that she had spent a lot of money on the food, which I knew was a really big sacrifice for her family. She loves us a lot, and that's great, but she needs to change her attitude and not be so worried about what everyone else in the family does. We're going to visit her this week with President, and I think that will do great things. While doing some contacting we found a family of 9--all of baptismal age--who live in an area named Campeche. They are really open to hearing about the gospel. The oldest son already knew who we were and a little bit about what we teach, and he was really open to talking to us. They live in three different houses with other parts of their family--grandpa, aunts, cousins, etc. I think that might be an example of the field being "white and ready to harvest." But before I make that claim I have to go back and teach them. I'm going to go with the Collazos on Wednesday to teach them. There are a couple young girls who were found by the missionaries in Carolina last August, who have only been taught a little bit. I had an impression a few weeks ago to call the sister missionaries to find out how the girls were doing, and the sister missionaries said that they were having a hard time contacting them because they lived so far away. I told them that we would try to visit them because we live closer and have a car. So we started visiting them, and we were finally able to set up an appointment with them for last Thursday. They were so prepared to hear the gospel! One of them, who didn't know much about the Book of Mormon, said that she had always felt something really special and important about the Book of Mormon but didn't really know what to do with it because she didn't understand the story. But that's not all: their mom, who had never wanted to talk to the missionaries before, arrived in the middle of the lesson and went straight to the kitchen, not saying much. But after awhile of listening while she was cooking, she came and sat down and listened attentively. At the end she said, "Wow, I'm sorry I never listened before. You teach beautiful things: please tell Nicole and Minelis when you are coming back, I want to be here to hear more." I was so happy. Haha. We also began teaching the daughter of Milagros--the woman who was in the hospital for stomach cancer. It was a really random lesson because we had only gone to Milagros' house to set up an appointment. But when we sat down and began to talk with her, the daughter started asking us all sorts of questions: "Why are there so many religions if there is only one God?" "Why do some people worship idols?" "How can I know which church is true?" I felt like I was being tested. We immediately began teaching her about the apostasy and the authority of prophets. When we finished we gave her a Book of Mormon and she began reading it even before we left. It was really cool. This past week we were reading the Book of Mormon with one of the recent converts--Jonathan--and it was really funny. He really understands what it means to apply the scriptures. He was reading about when Laman and Lemuel tied up Nephi in the wilderness, and he was mentally in pain by the idea! Haha. He said it out loud: "And Laman and Lemuel bound Nephi." And he stopped and said really loud, "Oh man!" And then he kept reading. haha. It was so funny. Well, I wish I could send you pictures: I know that you probably like getting pictures more than my letters. But this week I really wish I could send you pictures because I got a haircut: the man sheared me like a sheep. I call it the "caribean cut" because if I had dark skin I would be a Dominican! I got my hair cut last Monday and, well, usually people don't know what to do with my hair. And I always take off my glasses when they are cutting: bad idea. Haha. I left there with less hair than I've ever had in my life! I can't wait to send you pictures. I love you all and miss you! Elder Cevering

Monday, March 4, 2013

Email March 4, 2013

Hello Family! This week was a bit of a tough week for me. I've just felt really tired. We're just working, working, working. We had some good contacts that ended up falling through when we went back for lessons, and the ward members didn't help us much this week. Only one member left with us last week, which was a change from the three members who left with us the week before. I was really disappointed. Yesterday in the second hour of church--sunday school--I was waiting in the class to give an announcement to the members of the ward. There were SIX members seated, and all the rest (about 30) were outside talking about who knows what. I felt like Christ when He saw all the people selling animals in the temple. Let me plead with you all just one thing: If you have a testimony of missionary work ask yourselves this question: Do I have a testimony that it's important that the full-time missionaries do missionary work, or do I have a testimony that I myself am a missionary, with the responsibility to do missionary work? Let me tell you an experience from this past week: we asked one of the counselors do the stake president if he would be able to work with us ONE night that week. He told us, "Elders, I am really busy. It will have to be the next week." Then he said, "But talk to my wife about a time you can come to dinner at our house this week." Do you see the irony of that situation? We set up an appointment, and then rather than cooking for us they took us to Sizzlers and we were there for two hours. Two hours of missionary work lost. I was so disappointed. In all that time we could have been working with the counselor to the stake president, he took us to Sizzlers. I have gained a greater testimony of the word "Covenant" as described by Alma in Mosiah 18:8-10. Anyway, the good things of the week :) We had some great success with part of the the family of Juanita. There are two investigators--Omar and Rosa--who we taught a lot this week. Omar is the son of Juanita, and Rosa is his girlfriend. They told us this week that they will be married on the 23rd and then baptized, with their two children Gordo and Luis. It was a true answer to our prayers because before they hadn't wanted to be married. Omar didn't really explain to us what happened, but they almost got married and then he backed out. But he really loves the gospel: he told us that in his life he's done a lot of bad things. He told us that the only bad thing he hasn't done is murder. But he also told us that he doesn't want that life for his children and that he wants to receive forgiveness for his sins. He said, "You're going to have to baptize me four times." Haha. He and Rosa are so great. Rosa likes to text during church, so yesterday Elder Arteaga and I were acting like we were calling and texting her from outside the classroom. She was laughing. Haha. Okay, maybe I wasn't reverent in that moment and I was distracting her from the relief society lesson, but she really loves us a lot and loves the gospel. The biggest trial that they have is Juanita: Juanita is beginning to have panic attacks because she doesn't want to be the last one to be baptized. We found out that she asked Abigair to wait to be baptized with her, and not be baptized with her sons Felix and Jonathan who were baptized two weeks ago. Well, yesterday we found out Juanita has been trying to convince Rosa to wait until next May to be married and baptized at the same time as her. Why next May? Because Juanita needs to pay $200 in order to get divorced and won't have that money--prospectively--until next year. So she doesn't want everyone else to get baptized before her. We're going to have a good talk with her about that :) Other than that, we really are just working hard with other investigators. We visited with Maria Teresa last night: she was sick last week but we went and gave her a blessing and she felt great the next day. She has some sort of infection--I don't remember the word for it in English--and has to go to the hospital. But since she had the blessing she told us the majority of the pain has gone away. She will be in the hospital until Wednesday night and then we'll go visit her. We're trying to set a baptismal date with her for next Saturday (the 16th) but she is hesitant because she's not sure she can give up coffee. She's really prepared though from all her experiences, so I'm not worried about her. She has changed a lot. Well, I love you all and miss you. This was a tough week honestly, but the tough eventually turns into something good. We have some good plans this week so I think we'll be alright here in Carolina. Elder Cevering