Elder Michael Cevering

Elder Michael Cevering
Puerto Rico, San Juan Mission

Monday, July 29, 2013

Email July 29, 2013

Hello Family! It was a pretty normal week here in Carolina: we've just been working to find old investigators. I was thinking the other day about how long missionaries have been in Carolina and I realized that now that I've been through the campo, there's not really a place where missionaries haven't been here. Then I realized I needed to focus on finding old investigators and work with the people who missionaries previously found. The thought was, "Why am I trying to start a whole new farm when the old one is ready to be harvested?" The Lord is so much wiser than His missionaries. Haha. So Elder Delcompare and I have a list of 43 old investigators to visit and from that we've found about 10 new people to teach. We've only contacted about 18 of them too. What's been happening is these old investigators already have that awkward barrier broken down between they and the missionaries. So it's easy to go back to their houses and talk to them. And even if they don't live there anymore, we just contact the new families and that's worked pretty well too. We have a guy who was really receptive to having us come back, though he didn't know anything about us. The other cool thing about talking to old investigators is they present doubts to you pretty quickly, and we've been able to see where they didn't understand the doctrine, which we are able to clarify and then set up a return appointment. For example, we met a really cool guy named Julio. He came out and said, "Well, I just didn't understand why you use a different Bible..." We then said, "We use the same Bible, but we also have the Book of Mormon..." and explained to him what the Book of Mormon was and he was blown away. He started telling us, "I've always thought the Lord must have had people in the Americas." Missionaries just hadn't explained to him the message. It was a really cool experience, and the fruits are really great of this way of working. It's really easy to plan too :) The thing about missionary work is it's very difficult. Before the mission, I just thought we would be working all day and it would be hot and we'd be sweating. And that's true: you do just work and sweat here in PR. But the stress of the mission is so much more than that. I was in the house last Thursday, and despite all the success we've been having, and despite all the fun we've been having as well, I was sitting down and I just thought, "Man, this is hard..." I got some stuff from James this week that really helped me out: a notebook he's been filling out for me. He wrote about being a disciple of Christ and shared some thoughts from his mission. It really strengthened me. Really, the mission makes you learn how little you are. You feel so weak sometimes. And you feel like you're alone, and you feel like you have too improve but you don't know where to begin. Part of that feeling comes from those moments when you think you're about to have success and then you don't. Rosa and Omar didn't do their blood tests this past week, which was so frustrating and sad. They've been working with us missionaries since January and they still won't take that step to do their blood tests. They place priority in other things. It really brought me down: and then I realized that perhaps I was thinking too much about myself. And then I just felt selfish, and then I wanted to be better, and I don't know how to just NOT be selfish sometimes. haha. Do you follow me on that? I guess I write that because I've felt a desire to express to you that I'm not just "gozando" as President Alvarado always told me. Gozando means "enjoying." He said that because he knew of the success we were having. And in a way, he was right: we are blessed to have so much success compared to missionaries who work, and work without the same results. But really, I'm not better than them. This has nothing to do with ME. The Lord has just blessed me. But I suffer just like other missionaries. I'm not Superman. And I don't want my emails to sound like I'm portraying myself that way. I get frustrated, sad, angry. I make mistakes in lessons. I have temptations daily to just do nothing. The words of the Savior to Peter are my inspiration, "Do you love me?...Feed my sheep." Peter wasn't perfect. But man, wouldn't I love to be like him? I'm grateful to be here in Puerto Rico where the work isn't so easy. There is a church next to our church called "La Iglesia de Adoracion y Restauracion Familiar." That means, The church of worship and family restoration. Want to know what they were listening to in their church yesterday? Bruno Mars: "I should have bought you flowers..." I don't want to get all proud and angry, but the majority of the churches here in Puerto Rico are disgracing the name of the Lord. When I think about it all, I am reminded of Paul's experience in Greece when he found the altar dedicated to the "Unknown God". Sometimes I just want to go out and get all preachy: but the Lord is teaching me that I have to love more. He wants me to be so much humbler. Okay, enough about me. This week Elder Delcompare are going to be working night and day to get more baptismal dates set. We're working for 12 baptisms on the 25th of August. Our problem has been that we've found these great people, but they're busy. We were able to talk with most all of them and set up appointments for the week. We're really excited. The other problem a lot of these investigators have is Sunday commitments. Rodney and Rebecca like to go biking on Sunday (well, at least Rodney.) And Leangie is always taking her daugther to do things on Sunday. Then others have their church. But they are all pretty darn solid. We were planning last night and we felt so much peace as we discussed and wrote down our ideas. I can honestly say that, though there were some moments last week that were hard, I have never felt more peace in my mission than I did last night as we finished our planning and left the chapel. The sky was clear, there were coquis croaking in the building (I love being on an island), and the streets were pretty quiet. I felt so calm. The Spirit was really strong. I Love you all! Thanks for your support and your prayers! In one week I'll be completing a year. If the next year goes by faster, we'll be saying hi in the airport pretty soon! But don't worry, I'm not trunky yet :) Elder Cevering

Email July 22, 2013

Hello family! I have some good news, good news, and some bad news. The good news is I am still in Carolina! Woo-hoo! The bad news is, Lin and Esteban broke up. She almost cried telling me about it at church yesterday. All that bread-bag-tie-ring talk ended with a heart break. I felt bad for her haha but I wasn't able to give too much consolation you know. I just tried to tell her she should date one of the other single adults in the church. The other good news: things went crazy this week here in our area: we have 8 baptismal dates for August. What?? Elder Cevering is baptizing again? It's true. All the work with the leaders is beginning to pay off because the home teaching program is getting going, the bishop is leaving with us, and there is a lot more organization now. We had a really great ward council yesterday where we decided to start an English class, a Book of Mormon class, and began planning an activity for less active members to come to. We're excited. The exciting news: Rosa and Omar are doing their blood tests tomorrow for their wedding. Here in puerto rico you have to do that if you want to get married. You can't be related, nor can you have any diseases or such if you want to be legally married. It takes about 10 days for results to come back, so we're hoping they will still get baptized the 4th of August. The other exciting news: Elder Delcompare and I went to the houses of old investigators this past week and had some great success. We went to a woman's house: Leangie. I went with Elder Delgado to visit her before, but we were never able to teach her. When we showed up at her door the other day she came running out to say hi. I knew when she came out that she was ready to accept the gospel. Why not before? Because she'd finally watched the movie we left for her months ago. She told us to come back Sunday (yesterday) and when we did she came out and within a minute she asked us for materials to read. We talked to her about the Book of Mormon--and her drunk neighbor who came over when he saw us with her, because he's very protective of her cause he has a crush on her--and she was blown away by the doctrine of prophets in the Americas. She read Moroni 10 last night, and when we talked to her this morning she said she wanted to read more so she just opened up the book when she woke and started reading in Alma. She told us all excitedly about Ammon and King Lamoni. It was super cool. She wants to be baptized and all. And, when we were visiting her before, she asked us to visit her sister Rebecca on the other end of our area because she had cancer. We taught her about the plan of salvation, but because of her cancer she had to go to Florida to be treated. We've gone back every once in awhile to see how she's doing, and her husband has always been really nice and informed us. But yesterday we finally got to talk with him about the gospel. We were talking about his bikes, then he said, "Now we've talked about bikes, I want to know what you teach." He went on to tell us that he sees us as "different" from other representatives of churches. We then taught him about the restoration and the apostasy. When he heard the doctrine of the apostasy he just said, "Ahh I understand..." It was so cool. He then accepted to be baptized on the 11th. He wants us to come back to teach he and his son and Rebecca (who comes back tomorrow) because he wants to do it as a family affair. It was a true miracle. The sisters in Pontezuela had a baptism yesterday. The man's name is Joe. He is the father of a young boy who came to church last week here in Carolina with a member. This little boy came with his brother and his grandma--who are family of Pablo who was baptized in February. Well, we had no idea of the connection between Joe and them. So when the sisters went to visit Pablo's sister, because she lives in the area of Pontezuela, they were so surprised to find Joe's son. They told him they were going to floor 18, apartment 15 to look for a family. The boy told them it must have been wrong and took them to floor 15, room 18. When they then told him they were looking for Myrka, the boy said, "Wait, that's my grandma!" And so they went up to the room, found out the connection, and they all decided they wanted to get baptized like Joe did. How crazy is that? Another awesome miracle. So, altogether our district has about 14 baptismal dates for August. We're planning to baptize weekly until the end of this transfer starting this Sunday with the baptisms of the girls Nicol and Minely who I was teaching previously with Elder Castaneda. We're stoked. And the zone leaders are really excited too. Well, that's all I've got for ya. I'm really realizing just what I am: I'm really nothing. I try to do things on my own sometimes, and the results aren't so great. The Lord is really humbling me. It's really hard sometimes. I've felt more than ever this past week like just giving up because I feel like I've had so much opposition, and I felt for a bit that I was beginning to fail. Then the Lord lifted my spirit by giving me these great experiences. He is the one who is at the head of this work. Not Elder Cevering. Anyway, I love you all. Elder Cevering

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Email July 15, 2013

Hello Family! It's another holiday here again, Martin Lugo day or something like that, probably some guy who fixed a sewer here so they are celebrating it, so I’m writing from the chapel. Haha These past few weeks have been good. We've had some cool things happen: I had a boricua burger. Boricua is the nickname for Puerto Ricans. Like Gringo for Americans like me. The boricua burger is really good: they put caramelized plantains (spelling?) on the burger and it's really good. I was really unsure I would like it, but it was great. I want more haha. Our activity yesterday was basically a flop. The member who told us he had 10 friends lined up to come to church didn't even come--and he's the first counselor in the bishopric. Lame. Elder Delcompare said, "He deceived me." Haha. But seriously. Only one member brought a family member to church who isn't a member. I was really disappointed because of all the work we'd put in to make it great: visiting the members, communicating with the leaders, organizing the lessons, etc. And then not one of the members--who told us they had someone coming--actually brought someone. They are lost in this idea of "All is well in Zion." If I'm not transferred this week, I will be hitting the pavement hard. But the good thing was there were 6 investigators there--our own investigators and of the other elders. The man Elder Castaneda and I found in the pueblo a few weeks ago was baptized yesterday. He bore a really great testimony. His name is Thomas. Our district is set up to have 8 baptisms over the next three Sundays. It's really exciting. This week I have plans to work with the elders' quorom president on the home teaching program. All of the companionships are assigned, but since he doesn't know where basically anyone lives I am going to take him to a lot of houses--particularly less-actives and part-member families. I know where more houses are than the leaders of the ward. I took the bishop one night to a part of the campo he said he didn't even know existed. haha. So I feel pretty valuable right now, and I'm hoping because of that they don't move me out of here. I love Carolina! I realized the other day I've spent a quarter of my mission here. So why not a year? haha. Last Saturday we went up to Cedro--the furthest point of the campo--to visit the bishop to make the final plans for the activity on Sunday. He was out on the little lawn mower mowing his lawn. It's so funny to me. Here we are up in this valley in the jungle, and there's people out with lawn mowers and trimmers cleaning up their yard. Classic Puerto Rico. Haha. Their problem is they don't bag the grass, so they have to sweep it all up. While I was helping the bishop with that--Elder Delcompare was just playing with his kids--it started raining. But what would have taken the bishop hours to do on his own we were able to take care of in about 30 minutes. It was great. While we were raking up the grass, I looked down at my hands and saw them covered in grass and I thought about the priesthood. I have really come to love the symbol of the laying on of hands. To administer to the sick we place our hands on their heads to bless them. The same applies to the sacrament: we use our hands to prepare it, break it, and pass it. The same applies in the temple when a man and woman are sealed by holding hands across the altar, and in baptism a man or woman is submerged by hands and arms. And with all those thoughts, I've been impressed by this simple thought of "What have your hands been doing lately?" I thought that while I was looking at my grass-covered hands. I thought about all that symbolism, and I thought about work and service, and about the priesthood and I was really touched. I learned something about having power in the priesthood in that moment. Anyway, I love you all a lot. I've thought a lot about you guys this past week. I'm not trunky, but it's exciting that I'm almost at my year mark. Time has really gone by so fast to me. And things are changing back home: good luck Jacob with your mission call. And with this whole getting a dog thing...wow. I'm surprised dad was willing to get a small one ;) I really hate puerto rican dogs. They're possessed to hate missionaries. Not a joke. Love you! Elder Cevering

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Email July 8, 2013

Hello! Unfortunately, another day went by and some things happened and we weren't able to write until now. They decided to just close down the libraries here in carolina for the month since the kids aren't in school anymore. And then we got stuck in traffic on the way to and from Bayamon, so we are way behind. But just so you know, things are going great. We had a great activity this week where we played soccer with some youth from the area. 23 of them. It was really awesome. They all really liked us and were interested in what we do. That's some work for missionaries to do in the near future. President Smartt is really cool. I love his Alabama accent. Love you all! Elder Cevering

Monday, July 1, 2013

Email July 1, 2013

Hello Family! Well, this week was pretty great! I was really excited to send you those pictures last week and, unfortunately, I don't have time to send more. Today is Canada day: that means all the Puerto Rican places with computers are closed. And we didn't know that until just twenty minutes ago so we're going to be hurrying to send off our emails from the chapel. But as you saw last week, we went to el Morro. It was super cool. It's a lot like the castles we visited in Ireland. You'll love seeing it when we come back ;) The coolest part was to be out on the sea shore. It's really so beautiful here. President Alvarado leaving has been a sad experience. I really loved him a lot. He just cried and cried when he gave his farewell talk. He was barely able to say he loved us as he walked out the door. Most of the missionaries were crying. But even though it was sad, I'm really excited to meet President Smartt. He sounds really great--we hear things from outsiders. Some missionaries have family or friends who know him. The work of salvation broadcast was very incredible. I was stoked when I heard the changes in internet policy. Not that Facebook is on my mind, and obviously there will be a lot of rules connected to its use, but it will be a great way to connect with members and their friends. I really see the inspiration behind it. I spend my mornings contacting and I feel like it has hardly any fruit. And in the campo it's hard to contact. The roads are thin, the houses spread out, and there are no spaces to park your car. Blah. So I'm excited. But we're actually going to be changing our area up a little bit, so we won't be in the campo so frequently. Our plan to have the members bring a friend to church is working out incredibly. We had dinner with the first counselor in the bishopric the other night. He told us he has 8 friends already invited and committed to coming to church. They are coming from different places of the island, which is really cool. Maybe just this single activity can have an impact on the whole island. We'll see. I already know of 10 non-members who will attend on the 14th. We're trying to have 5 baptisms that day. Stake policy here in the San Juan stake is that we do baptisms on Sunday, so that would be a really neat addition to the activity. Unfortunately, one of the core families of the ward apostatized this past week. There are a lot of details behind it that I can't talk about. They believe things about the leaders that are not true--to give you just a bit of information, I'll just tell you they believe that there is a sort of "voudou" involved, and that leaders are doing things on purpose to make this family angry. It's really lame. When I visited them they were really receptive to us and told us to continue visiting and asking them to help us with missionary work. But I can't take someone who is against church leaders to a lesson with an investigator. We're praying hard for them. We talked with them pretty strongly, and the stake president's going to visit. Hopefully the Lord will soften their hearts and show them that they're thinking irrationally. I love you all! Thank you so much! Elder Cevering