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

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