Elder Michael Cevering

Elder Michael Cevering
Puerto Rico, San Juan Mission

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Email April 29, 2013

Hello Family! This week was hectic and crazy. Elder Castaneda and I both received new missionaries--greenies--so we're both training here in Carolina. And I am opening up the "new" or just untouched area of Carolina: the campo. It's like going back to Corozal, except it's not so high in the mountains. But there is no foundation of work in the campo right now, so my companion and I are starting it up. I have a cool story about that later on. We had a good planning session today where we get everything worked out for this week. My new companion's name is Elder Smith. He's from Stansbury Farm, Utah. He's a really nice kid. When I decided to go work in the campo I had the inspiration to go and talk to one of the ward members who had grown-up there. When we asked him to take us up there he was really excited. He knows basically everyone up there--because a lot of them are his family. Going with him was like having a door be opened to a "seemingly insurmountable wall" as David O. Mckay said. We met his family and friends and they invited us back, so I'm excited about that. Another exciting thing is that Omar and Rosa are officially getting married and baptized the first week of June. That will be really cool :) We played basketball with Omar and some of the members and other investigators last Friday and it was really fun. My body was so sore though: I haven't done anything nearly as rough as that since tearing my abdomen. I was really sore in that area for the next two days. Haha. But basketball was so fun because here are all these Puerto Ricans and then four missionaries from Utah. They thought they were going to run all over us: but we won 3 out of 5 games. We were joking about Preach My Gospel having a secret basketball-playing section. Besides all that, nothing exciting has happened. Just working. And being tired. I had some really good fresh-made guacamole the other day with some tacos. I love Puerto Rico. And I'm almost 20: the oldy years. Anyway, love you all! Elder Cevering

Monday, April 22, 2013

Maria's Baptism - Dinner with Lin & Esteban - Elder Cevering on his balcony with San Juan in the background

Lin's Baptism and $2.00 Pincho Stand

Email April 22, 2013

Hello Family! The world's coming to an end, and I'm on an island. Everywhere I go people ask me, "Did you hear about Boston?" And I say, "No, but did you hear about New York in 1820?" Haha. That's got to be the new catch phrase of the missionaries. We are the "Hasteners" as we (or I) say here in Puerto Rico. It's catchy. "The Hastening 2013". Who wouldn't get excited about that? This past week was the most gratifying week of my misson, for one single reason: the baptism of Lin. In the past I've always called her Lym--I was wrong. Her name is Elienitza, but everyone calls her Lin. Super embarassing for me. But that's not important, her baptism went through. It was the most spiritual experience of my mission. When we were waiting to begin the service, Esteban--her boyfriend--asked me to come sit by him. I sat down and he said to me, "I just want to tell you thank you. Do you know what I said in my testimony last week at church? I bore my testimony of missionary work. I made the announcement that Lin was being baptized, and it was all because some young man come from Utah and finally helped her have the faith to take that step. Thank you so much." I was filled with that Spirit again that God really loves His children. I felt that great happiness that comes from knowing God can use you as an instrument, no matter how imperfect you are, and no matter if you sound like a gringo when you speak Spanish. Then as the service continued my heart and chest swelled, and when I got up to give the talk about the Holy Ghost I felt really emotional. But I didn't cry ;) The Spirit was just so strong. And it was really cool as I stood around the corner at the font and saw Lin walk in to Esteban and they share an excited look, then he performs the ordinance, she comes up smiling, and she gives him a big hug. It was just such an awesome experience: I thought, "When is the next baptism?" And it was without pride: I just wanted to feel the same way I did, and I wanted others to feel the way that Lin did in that moment, and I wanted some member to feel the way Esteban did. It was such a powerful experience. Lin asked me to perform the confirmation, which was cool too. Besides that we just worked, worked worked. Milagros ended up in the hospital (again??) and Atawalpa decided to still not trust the promise of the Book of Mormon and didn't pray about it, so their baptisms didn't go through. I'm taking the bishop to Milagros' house this week to have him interview her to see what he thinks of the situation. The fruits of our labor really showed yesterday in our ward council: we are finally getting a ward mission leader and ward missionaries. YAY! And I can be even more excited about that because transfers have passed and I am still working here in Carolina. Elder Castaneda is staying too, but we are both going to train new missionaries. That means we have to split the area and our investigators, but I'm excited about that. I'm headed up to the campo area of Carolina :) Anyway, love you all! And I miss ya! Elder Cevering

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

April 15, 2013 Email

Hello family! What a week! I cannot believe it's already over, nor that it's already the 15th of April. This was a good week: we had the baptism of Maria Teresa. It was really stressful actually because we had to plan it in Toa Baja because that's the closest chapel with warm water in the baptismal font, and Pablo and Maria got lost on the way there. Haha. We were there way early to start filling up the font because in order to have hot water you can't fully release the water from the valves. So we got to Toa Baja at 12:30, the baptism was at 4, and at about 3 o'clock the font wasn't nearly enough full. So we started filling up pots of water to boil, and we were filling big water igloos with water and then throwing them into the font. It was really hectic but really great. Milagros and Edwin didn't get baptized last week because Milagros entered back into the hospital Friday night and didn't leave until yesterday morning. The cancer is really giving her a rough time, but when we talked to her yesterday she still wanted to be baptized. She said: "I don't care if the water is freezing cold, I will be baptized!" Haha. And then she gave us her sister's address and asked us to go and teach her. It was really cool! Lym couldn't get baptized last week either: I'll just say it was her "time" of the month. I can't use other words because I'm a missionary. But she is set for this Friday to be baptized and she's really excited. The only thing is that she wants to keep it a secret because she doesn't want her parents to argue with her and try to keep her from being baptized: she's 24 but lives with them and she has a lot of fear that they will kick her out or do anything else to stop her. But we want her to be open about it, not hide from the truth. It would be worse for her family to know she did it behind their backs than to know it straight up. But she's really afraid. Apparently her sister just recently got her ears pierced and her dad slapped her and got so angry that he left the house and didn't come back for a day. Some pastor?? He was a bit eccentric when we met him at his church. :) But here is something else great: we set a baptismal date with Atawalpa. Do you remember him? He's the one who's been investigating the church since December and has been reading the Book of Mormon ferociously. Well, we've been trying to set a baptismal date with him for a long time, and he always says: "I want to know without a doubt that this is true before I get baptized." But we felt that we needed to invite him to be baptized this Friday with Lym and Milagros and Edwin. It was a crazy inspiration because he hadn't come to church yesterday and we hadn't had a lesson with him for a whole week, and he had been so closed off before. But we went to the lesson and really prayed. We began by talking with him in Alma 32 and how he has been wanting to know the truth but hasn't acted. We also asked him if he has prayed about the Book of Mormon. He said, "I have prayed but I don't believe that's the way my answer will come." I said, "How do you expect to learn the truth of the Book of Mormon if you don't do or trust what it tells you to do?" Using the example of his cell phone I said, "I can't come here and give you the directions of my cell phone to teach you how to use your phone. And if you did, and your cell phone didn't work as my instructions say, would you just throw it away?" He said no. So I continued, "You can't read the Book of Mormon thinking to discover the truth of it in a different way than it tells you. You have to get down on your knees and pray and trust the answer will come." That really struck him. And we had some intense moments: but it all ended with him sitting back, mouth twitching with wanting to find something to say, and then just saying, "You have to read." Then Elder Castaneda hit him with the invitation to be baptized this Friday and he said yes. WHAT!?! We went into that lesson thinking, "How is this going to work...?" And then we left thinking, "HE ACCEPTED THE INVITATION!" It was a really incredible experience. I've never had such an intense lesson before, and I really know that it was a lesson inspired and directed by the Lord. I've really learned that there is no one invested more in this work than the Lord Himself. I've really learned that He cares about His children. Yesterday we were just driving to church from an investigator's house and a white van pulled up next to us and honked. A woman inside asked us how to get to walmart: she was super lost and was on vacation, and didn't speak any Spanish. We told her we would drive her there: so we guided her and she was so thankful. I could see the stress had left her face after we got there. It was a blessing to know just to what extents the Lord goes to put us in the perfect positions to help others. I gave a talk yesterday in Sacrament meeting about Alma 37:34 and Mosiah 18:8-10. It was a really fun experience. I have really come to love this ward. The members are not perfect, but I love them a lot. I talked with them about how hard we've worked and for the fruits we've seen, but I told them that it's not the end but the beginning. I shared with them my gratitude for their work with us, and talked about how we need to continue working and keeping our covenants, even when we are exhausted, and that the Lord will give us rest. I spoke about Alma 7:24, which teaches us that if we have faith, hope, and charity we will always abound in good works. I felt so much love for them, and I felt the Lord's love for them. In the end we shared some hugs, and a lot of members asked me if I was going to be leaving at the end of this transfer, which I don't know but believe will be happening. But this has been a great time in my mission. In 4 months so much has happened, and if I leave I will leave Elder Castaneda with so much work to do and with a lot of success to come in May. We have a joke about baptizing iguanas in this mission. The famous baptized iguana in Carolina is named Charlie. The other day I was driving with Elder Duclos and Elder Mendez and there was a dead iguana in the road. Elder Duclos shouted: "Charlie! NO!" it was really funny. I laughed really hard. I love you all, and I miss you! Remember the Lord is mindful of His children. Elder Cevering

Monday, April 8, 2013

Email April 8, 2013

Hello Family! How was that conference? I wanted to cheer during Elder Nelson's talk as he talked about the need for members to work. I especially loved as he talked about the important role of ward mission leaders: we don't have one here in Carolina so I'm hoping that talk hit home with the Bishop here. But really, the conference was great. We watched it in the Stake Center, and in between sessions we actually just hung out at the Stake Center. The mission is really emphasizing the need to not use a lot of miles on our cars. I was really surprised they didn't send us out to work though. It was very un-mission-like. It felt really weird to have that two hour break. We moved today from our apartment in Carolina to another just a block away. It's a nice little apartment. It's more up to date: the other one was old. It had been used for 40 years by missionaries. WOW. It was a good thing we left. And the new house is cool, I'll take a picture :) The other one was just an apartment on the side of a bunch of other apartments. That's why I never sent pictures. As far as the actual week goes it went by fast. We are working hard, but we're just really trying to get our investigators ready for baptism. We have four on date for this Saturday: Milagros and Edwin, Maria Teresa, and...LYM. Do you remember her? She is the daughter of a Pentecostal pastor. She came to conference and when we talked after she said, "I was praying this morning asking God what I need to do, then I came here and the apostles talked about the need to have faith and be baptized. So I feel like that's what God wants me to do." I asked her what her hesitations were and she said, "Obviously my dad, and I feel like I'm not progressing in the gospel. I don't know why." I told her, "It's because you've learned everything the Holy Ghost can teach you before you're baptized. You have received your witness of the truth, you have come to church many times, read the Book of Mormon. What more CAN you do?" She completely agreed to that, so I asked her when she wanted to be baptized. She asked, "When do you think?" And of course I said, "This Saturday." And I smiled :) <---Like that. And she said, "Okay, that's what I need to do." I was really excited: that was something I have been fasting and praying for recently because I had seen her lack of progress and our inability to meet with her. It was a really cool moment to talk with her and know that God loves His children. Milagros also got some great news this week: she went back to the hospital and they told her that they aren't going to even put her on Chemotherapy anymore. WHAT? I was stunned. A true miracle has occurred in her life, and she knows it. She's been so happy: here's this woman with Ovarial Cancer and she's been inviting us to eat, going between the hospital visits, etc. She went from being an emergency case pacient to a less-catastrophic patient. They're planning to operate on her sooner so that they can get out the cancer, but it's a miracle how things have changed so drastically from the beginning. All from a Priesthood blessing. We have a big emphasis in the mission right now about "Rescuing" the inactive and less-active members. We are only supposed to go contacting if it's close to a less-active's or inactive's house. Well, we went to a man's house but we couldn't find it (numbers and addresses here in Puerto Rico are crazy. You ask a Puerto Rican for directions and they say: "Go straight for about ten seconds, take your right hand turn and continue until you see the yellow fire hydrant that's on the left side, then turn left, and you'll drive past three houses. At the fourth house ask directions: that's where my cousin lives.")--and anyway, we went looking for this man, and we were contacting houses to ask help (and teach the gospel of course) but all of the people were ignoring us. But we went to one house and found a family of 6 people: 4 young men all Aaronic Priesthood age. We were ecstatic! They invited us back and accepted a pamphlet about Joseph Smith. When we asked if we could come back they nodded their heads excitedly. Oh man, it was a cool moment. We also began teaching another Pentecostal girl this week. She was super interested in the Book of Mormon because she had no idea what it was. She wasn't the kind of investigator that seems super happy by your message, but the Book of Mormon just caused her to have a lot of questions. Her name is Sandybet. We'll see what happens there. There are some girls named Nicol and Minely who had a baptismal date for the 20th. They are really cool. They call me and Elder Castaneda "Harry Potter" and "Jackie Chan." I wish I had more time to send you pictures--just so you know, I WANT to send you pictures. Sometimes I just honestly can't. If I could send you a picture, you'd see just how true it is: Elder Castaneda really looks like Jackie Chan. But anyway, Nicol and Minely have been visited by missionaries since last August. Since they only live with their mom it's been hard for the Elders to teach them. And since the sister missionaries live far away, they haven't been able to meet with them consistently. I felt the need to take them from the sisters and start teaching them, and ever since then they've been really progressing. We've visited them with members, and we set their baptismal dates, but since they didn't come to conference their baptismal date dropped. They have really great desires, but they need to come to church more. Their mom is really accepting of the message too. But the big thing is that they have to change the culture of their life: living the gospel is a true change, and a lot of people really don't realize it. Or they simply don't want to change. That's interesting isn't it? How people can simply not have the desire to change: they know something is good but won't change to be able to have it. Something that's been on my mind lately is that people are often converted to one of two things: the feelings they have when the missionaries are teaching them, or they just really love the church. Sometimes they don't gain their own testimonies of the gospel, but they love the feelings that it gives them. But it really all comes back to desires: we have to have the desire to change, and the desire to live the gospel. If we don't have that desire, the Holy Ghost really won't move us to work. That's what I loved about Jeffrey R. Holland's talk when he spoke about just having that inkling of a desire to believe. I think that an inkling of desire can do so much. The topic line comes from our great discussion between conference yesterday. We were talking about what a White Missionary Manual would have said for missionaries in the Old Testament. It was hilarious. But we're also missionaries, and I'm also a nerd when it comes to the scriptures. We were saying things like, "She doesn't live the law of chastity. President, should we stone her?" and then "No Elder, it says here to offer a bullock behind her house during the new moon..." HA. super great. Anyway, love you all a lot! Happy Birthday Grandpa! I love ya! And your house changes are really cool! Elder Cevering Mom,thank you for sending me the letters: I love reading what my friends are doing. When you sent me the pictures of Micah I almost started crying: I was so happy to see him as a missionary. And he sounds like he's loving his mission.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Email April 1, 2013

Hello Family! I don't have a lot of time right now to write because we're returning right now from our mission conference in Caguas. We went to the supposed temple grounds up in Aguas Buenas (good waters--an original name right?) and spent the night. It was cool. We slept on the hard tile floors with the geckos and lizards :) and I'm pretty sure there were some tarantulas around there somewhere. The conference was dedicated to discussing the resurrection and atonement of Christ and our need as a mission to become more purified through the atonement. It was cool. Both of our baptisms fell through: we were really disappointed. Maria Teresa--who is Pablo's wife--was sick and she couldn't be baptized because the baptismal water here is cold. And Edwin got really sick, so he couldn't come either. But we're already planning for the 13th. We can't do the baptisms this weekend because of conference. We're not supposed to do confirmations outside of sacrament meetings, so we have to wait to next week, which doesn't bother me. We have big plans for this month so I am excited :) We set about 10 baptismal dates between the 14th and the 20th, which is really exciting and has us really busy. I don't have a lot of time to expound on that, but let me tell you about the miracle we saw this past week. Milagros went back to the hospital this week to have five tests done. She was diagnosed two weeks ago with Ovarial Cancer. I read those previous results to her because they were in English. The papers from her previous tests said she had pelvic fluid flowing and the doctors were positive she had cancer there as well. So we gave her a blessing last Monday in preparation for her tests which were Wednesday. When we visited her Tuesday she told us that, immediately after we gave her the blessing, she felt she had angels hands on her head. She told us, "I AM going to be baptized, and when I am baptized I will bring my whole family with me." She even said, "The family of Juanita might be big, but my family is bigger. And I will be sure they follow in my footsteps." HA! Wow. I was blown away. But that's not all! She then went in for her five tests on Wednesday and FOUR of the five tests left negative for cancer. The test they did on her pelvis showed that there was no more flowing liquid (WHAT?) and that her cancer appeared less dangerous than before. She was so happy! They moved her from an emergency case to a less-catostrophic case, and they will begin her on Chemotherapy, but will operate on her in July, which was a proof that they aren't really worried about her. When we visited her Thursday she was talking to her friend about the blessing we gave her and inviting her to visit with us. She was testifying of the Spirit that we bring and of the help we can give her. It was really incredible! I know the power of the priesthood is real. In my Patriarchal Blessing it talks about that power. I have seen some incredible fulfillments of my Patriarchal Blessing since my mission began. I can't expound on them, but I will when I'm home. I would encourage everyone to get their Blessing if they haven't yet received it. I wish I had more time to tell of the things that have been happening. Just know that I am "suffering with joy" as President says. And I am so excited to watch conference this weekend. Missions are tough. But there really is happiness in the fruits of our labors. I love you all so much! Thanks for all your support! I miss you all! And guess what, I'm almost 20 years old. I'm getting old :) Elder Cevering

Email March 25. 2013

Hello Family! To answer Colby's question, NO. We don't have any "milestones" in this mission. Burning a tie is considered apostasy in Puerto Rico. Besides, I like my ties :) This was a pretty good week: we were able to set a lot of baptismal dates for April, and we secured two for this Saturday. I'm really excited about it. Maria Teresa finally made her decision to be baptized. Here's the story: the last time we invited her to be baptized was not last Wednesday, but the Wednesday before. It was me and Elder Castaneda and the Collazos. She told Elder Castaneda that she wasn't ready. Then Elder Collazo talked about how the day of salvation is today. Well, that very night the sister of Pablo entered the hospital. Apparently she drank a lot and then took morphine (spelling?), and some other medications. She was rushed to the hospital and was living off a respiration machine. So, Pablo invited us to give her a blessing. As we drove there I was thinking about whether or not I had the faith to heal this woman. It was tough because I had seen others be healed by the priesthood--I'd myself given blessings that resulted in overnight recoveries--and I was debating in my mind whether the Lord would really permit me and Elder Castaneda to perform this miracle. So with all of that in my mind we went into the hospital and into the basement where Pablo's sister was laying. Pablo went right to her head and gave her a kiss, then he invited us up to see her. Then Elder Castaneda did the annointing. Then I stepped up and put my hands on her head to give her the blessing and I didn't feel like I could bless her to be healed. I began the blessing but felt the inclination to bless her to follow the example of Pablo and be baptized. But I knew as I was blessing her that I coudn't heal her. So I ended the blessing and we left. And two days later she died. When we went back to visit Maria Teresa she said, "I've been thinking about what Elder Collazo said. Pablo's sister didn't know she was going to die. So I have to make my decision today to be baptized. So I will be baptized." We were all so excited when she said that! Haha. It was a really great moment. But that's not all. She went on to tell us about how she told Pablo's other sister that she was going to be baptized. Pablo's sister said, "But Maria, you were already baptized." And Maria said, "No, the priest just put a little bit of water on my head. That's not baptism." And that simple testimony caused Pablo's sister to invite us to teach her. She said, "I want to learn about this church." We also had a really great lesson with Omar and Rosa this week. Rosa has been saying that she won't get baptized until next year, the same time she wanted to get married. She wanted to save up her money to have a big wedding, get drunk, and then get baptized. Well, that obviously can't be the goal. So we talked with them about the Restoration. We watched the short Joseph Smith video of him reading in the Bible and then praying and receiving the First Vision. At the end we talked about the priesthood authority, and how Christ gave "keys" to Peter. It's my favorite example. I asked them, "What do you do with keys?" They explained, "You open things, you can drive cars, etc." And I asked, "And will you just give your house keys to anyone?" Obviously they said no. So we expounded on how the "keys to the heavens" that Christ gave to Peter had the same function of a house key. The keys to the heavens were the priesthood authority to open the heaven. They understood that really, really well. And it also helped them understand how the loss of priesthood keys during the apostasy closed the heavens. So then we invited them to be baptized, and Omar and the sons said yes, but Rosa looked at me like "I already said, I want to save my money to get married and have a big party next year..." But she thought about it and said, "Yes." I thought Elder Castaneda wasn't going to sleep for three days. Just imagine being this young missionary and coming into the mission field where you have all these investigators accepting baptismal dates. His greenie fire is raging. :) Elder Castaneda and I are working well together and seeing a lot of good things happen. The only downside is really that our ward is full of people who don't want to help us. It's funny to me how many members who don't have cars are willing to leave with us, they are simply "too busy". Well, I love you all! And I miss you. Elder Cevering