Elder Michael Cevering

Elder Michael Cevering
Puerto Rico, San Juan Mission

Monday, August 26, 2013

Email August 26, 2013

Hello Family! I am so excited to tell you that.......I AM GOING TO THE MOUNTAINS!!! I am super excited!!! I am going to a place called Ai Bonito: it's up in the mountains in the middle of the island where it's always misty and cloudy and cold. There's a just a small branch up there, but missionaries have told me you teach a lot up there and there's a lot of reactivation work to do. Apparently there's not a lot of organization within the branch, but that's fine. We can work with that :)...but you want to hear the more incredible story? Let me take you all back to June & July of 2012 when we went on a Mediteranean Cruise. Grandma and Grandpa were out on deck talking about me serving my mission in Puerto Rico when suddenly, the only Puerto Rican on board, overheard them and started talking to them. This woman--named Roma--then talked with me (Elder Cevering) and gave me names of her family in Puerto Rico. Then a year later Elder Cevering called those family members and found out they live in a little pueblo in the mountains called...Ai Bonito! What a miracle! I was blown away when I found that out. The Lord had put a Puerto Rican in our path clear over in Europe in order for me to receive names of her family and meet with them. I already got in contact with one of the sisters and we're going to be meeting up. I'll tell you just a little bit more about Ai Bonito then I'll tell you about my week. Apparently, Ai Bonito is the most European-influenced pueblo in Puerto Rico, very specifically influenced by the Irish. They call the pueblo the city of flowers or something like that. We'll find out what that means. And there are Irish people up there I guess. It supposedly looks a lot like Europe, but it's super campo, or jungle, and mountainous so we'll be on foot. I'm stoked about that: goodbye bikes for a transfer! One of my old zone leaders served up there, and he used to tell me that when he was up there he got cold a lot and they would get wet from the mist as they went about working. They taught a lot of people, but they have a hard time coming to church because they live far from the congregation. If I'm right, he told me the missionaries have a long drive to church Sunday mornings too. That'll be cool. I'm really excited! That was one of the areas I was telling everyone that I wanted to go to. When the ward members found out I was leaving they were really loving. They knew transfers were this week, and when I walked in to the church the very first thing the Bishop asked me--super anxiously--was "Are you leaving?" When I told him yes he just said, "AAH NO!" Haha. I love him a lot. They all took pictures with me, and we got a ton of invites for food and activities today, but we just don't have the time. We're going up to the bishop's house tonight, and then boom, I'm gone tomorrow morning for the mountains. Woo hoo! I'm super excited. And Elder Delcompare is staying here with Elder Helm. The two divisions in Carolina are combining, so they'll have a lot of work to do. It's sad to be leaving Carolina: I cried a little bit during sacrament meeting. But after being in the same area for 8 months, and after seeing people all around you move to different places, you're just naturally ready to leave. I love the area and I'll definitely be coming back here to visit one day. This was where I really learned to love Latino culture. For example, last Monday we were up in the campo at the Llanos family's house and they just invited us in to eat and we ended up talking for a couple hours. I love that Latinos will drop everything they're doing and invite you in to talk and enjoy. We laughed and laughed the whole night. It was a night that really changed my life: as we were driving down the freeway to go back to the house I was telling Elder Delcompare how much I'd love to live in a Latin culture. It'd be an incredible opportunity: come to Puerto Rico and help build the temple. One day it will be here! In truth, our week was pretty lame as far as missionary work goes. Leangie had a family emergency and had to leave the island, the elders' quorom president flaked on us twice, other investigators didn't show up for their appointments, etc. But there were some really cool things too. Tuesday night’s we have our English class, but Elder Delcompare and I always left early to go teach Leangie. However, this Tuesday Leangie wasn't there and hadn't called us to tell us she'd left the island, so we went back to the church really frustrated to help finish the class. I sat down with this non-member woman who's been coming each week to class. I started talking to her, and she began telling me about her desires to help people in Africa, and so on. Then out of nowhere, she said to me, "I have a problem." Then she continued, "And I need God's help to overcome this problem." She then went on to tell me that she's been sad and crying a lot for the past year because of something that happened. She told me she couldn't tell me what the problem was, and I understood. But I felt impressed to ask her about her family. She began telling me about her daughter and how she isn't married, that the only other family she has on the island is her father who lives on the south side of the island, and then told me that a year ago her mom was killed in an accident in the Dominican Republic and since then her family has never been the same. She said, "I pray all the time for help from God, but I just don't know what to do. I'm so sad..." I was blown away, realizing why it was the Lord didn't want us teaching Leangie that night. I talked to this woman and gave her a pamphlet about the plan of salvation, and she wants to learn from the missionaries. We also went back to teach our investigator Michael, who introduced us to a friend of his and asked us to teach him. Ha. It was sweet. They're both trying to stop smoking and live the law of chastity, and they're both young so they can strengthen the ward. They just need wives, dang it. Michael's girlfriend left him and went to the United States just a few months ago, and this other kid--his name's Jorge--has a girlfriend. So I guess the other Elders will get to talk to him about marriage. Neither of them came to church because they work on Sundays. Lame. Working on Sundays started a plague in Puerto Rico. As far as how I'm feeling, I feel alright. I changed my diet and that really honestly helped me. I didn't have headaches this past week like I'd had before. And I'm taking some health vitamins. We'll see how that works :) Man, I'm going to lose my tan up there in the mountains. So don't worry, I'm doing okay. My abdomen is alright: I don't really see what we can do about. It's not hurting me enough to keep me from working, and where I'm not going to be on bikes anymore it should help. I don't know what to do about it. I just want to wait it out I guess. If it gets bad enough I'll talk with the mission president's wife and we'll take care of it. But I think I'll be fine. The day I wrote to you about my health I was really not feeling good, in so many different ways. But I'm doing good! I'm just an excited missionary headed to the mountains! I'm going to be cold again! Haha. No more HEAT! Love you all! Elder Cevering p.s. Hank Smith was one of the directors at EFY when I went and I loved him. I'm sure Mikayla and the cousins really enjoyed him. And that's great about Arelys. Puerto Ricans really are incredible people, especially when they have accepted the gospel into their lives. I love them a lot.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Email August 12, 2013

Hello Family! So, let me start off this letter by getting out some thoughts. Ever since I had dengue I haven't felt the same. Between the abdomen injury--which isn't so bad, but still has been stitchy--and then dengue, and then the flu, I have been feeling really tired, and it got me really discouraged this past week. I've had some pretty bad migraines. But despite all that, I promise you I'm doing well. I'd be lying if I said I'm perfectly fine, but I'm living with the problems. My digestion has been pretty messed up, and so with all of this going on I decided to talk to president about it. I'm awaiting his response to see if they'll take me to the doctor sometime. I don't really know the solutions, but I'm confident everything is fine. I think I probably will just need to take a vitamin of some sort, make some even bigger changes to my diet, and try to come up with a basic exercise routine that won't cause my ab any pain. Important note: it's not the ab injury that's causing problems. I think it has more to do with my immune system. So we'll get things taken care of :) This past week I completed a year as a missionary. Wow. The mission is great, but it's tough. We went to Cold Stone to celebrate. We must be family since you all went there too. Haha. I had chocolate with brownies. You know me. Thank you for sending me the money! I got the package, and I ate the licorice in one day. I've come to love chocolate here in Puerto Rico more than I did before. There's no specific reason why. I just have. Realizing I had been a missionary for a whole year made me reflect on all I've done as a missionary and I was amazed by something: I've been in Carolina for a long time. Out of the 12 months I've been a missionary, 2 months was in the MTC, 2 months were in Arecibo and Corozal, and 8 months have been here in Carolina. I was humbled to have had the chance to be here, and then a desire to leave settled in. I want to see more of the island. I don't think I'll get sent to the islands because President Smartt has sister missionaries out on the other islands, so I'd like to go to the middle of the island: Orocovis, Barranquitas, or Ai Bonito, which are mountain areas where the church is founded on small branches with few members. I want to go there and escape the buzz of the metropolitan area, and just work, work, work, and learn more Puerto Rican Spanish and culture. Don't think I am just wanting out of Carolina, but I'm officially ready to leave. I'll stay here gladly for another transfer, but I won't be devastated now if the Lord moves me. We'll see what happens in two weeks when transfers come. Leangie came to church! It was so great! We went to primary with her since she didn't want to leave her daugther alone. It was fun to be back in there. Haha. It reminded me of my time as a primary teacher. But the little latino children are without a question more wild than the ones I taught, and I don't say that to be racist or rude. They're just a very excited people :) And the teachers are much more patient than I ever was. From primary she came to our gospel principles class. She participated and really understood the lesson. Then she was really attentive in sacrament meeting and told us she was touched and was sure she was going to come back. She's really set on her baptism for the 25th. She asked us the "Are you racist? Do you have many wives?" questions last week. Haha. I said, "I have one mom, and I plan to only have one wife." She laughed, but she was honestly curious to understand the doctrine. So we explained the church's past, keeping it all focused on the scriptures and testifying that Joseph Smith was a prophet. She understood perfectly. I really hope she'll talk to Rodney and Rebecca and tell them how great her experience was. We're struggling with them right now. They didn't show up to their appointment with us, and there could be many reasons for that. We'll just keep working with them :). This past week I made Elder Delcompare the designated driver so that he can learn the campo area. I realized that if I leave, no one will be able to find the investigators, and no one will know where all the less-actives live if Elder Delcompare doesn't learn the campo and continue the work we began with the leaders. We've been taking the elders' quorom president and the bishop to the houses of investigators and less-actives up in the campo, and we're seeing the fruits of it. A family from the furthest point of the campo has come to church now twice in a row. I'm really excited about it. So, the work is moving. I can't wait to tell you more about Carolina when I get home :) It's meant so much to me. I can't wait to come back here with you. The members have already told me they're going to take us to places, because I've told them I want to come back. We're going to have all the hook-ups. But, that's still a year away right? So you're going to have to wait to eat banana lasagna ;) Love ya! Elder Cevering

Monday, August 5, 2013

Email August 5, 2013

Hello Family! The most frustrating, and yet most surprising thing about missionary work are the random changes that happen every day. NONE of our investigators came to church yesterday, and we'd worked so hard to invite them and help them feel comfortable. We were so frustrated! We were having our weekly planning session last night and we--Elder Delcompare and I--just felt so down about all that had happened. We'd set up baptismal dates, taught some really solid lessons with members, and then no one came, which makes the dates fall through. It was pretty devastating. But the great things always come after: you just never know what the Lord's doing behind the scenes. We received a call just this morning from a man in the campo who wants a Book of Mormon and wants to come to church. I was stunned. And Elder Delcompare just put his head down and said, "This is just what we needed!" I am so grateful that this is the Lord's work. It always surprises me just how involved He really is, and how He knows everything that's going on. I'm trying to have more faith in His timing. I'll tell you what happened with our other investigators: things aren't hopeless, nor are they over, but it was disappointing that they didn't come. Rodney told us last week he doesn't want to give up his Sundays because that's his biking day. He asked, "Why is it Sunday? Why can't it be Saturday?" That's a pretty normal question from a Puerto Rican since all the churches here congregate basically every day. Even the Jehovah's Witnesses and the 7th day Adventists meet more than once, and they're the ones that are sticklers about the Sabbath day being Saturday. So, we talked to Rodney about faith being the will to act in accordance with things unseen, and we thought there was a chance he would come. But he didn't. We weren't incredible surprised about that one. We were more surprised that Leangie didn't come. We set up a calendar with her to organize everything between now and her baptism. She was really excited: she told us this week that she feels like she needs to have the relationship with God that she's never had. She loves the Book of Mormon, and she reads from it. So we were blown away when she didn't show up to church. We're visiting with her tonight to see what happened. The other day Elder Castaneda used my bike--he broke his about two weeks ago and we haven't gotten it back yet--and he did something to the tire. He is the destroyer of bikes. But we didn't know anything was wrong with it until Elder Delcompare and I were out biking. We had to drop by Walgreens real fast for Elder Delcompare to use the bathroom, and when we came outside my bike tire was flat. We were far from the car, and we hadn't been able to work all day due to a meeting and to doing some reports. I was standing, looking at my tire, when a truck pulled up, and a woman jumped out and went inside. I went and talked with the store police to see if I could leave my bike, and when I went back to lock my bike, the man in the truck asked if we wanted a ride. We accepted and through our bikes in the back. As we drove we talked about our work as missionaries, and they seemed pretty interested so we left them a Book of Mormon. They dropped us off at the car, we through our bikes on the bike rack, and then went back to work in the neighborhood. Not even five minutes later a car came driving by. The kid in the car threw his door open and said, "Hey, just now--and I mean just barely--I left from my friend's house, and he told me that if I wanted to get closer to Jehovah I just needed to stop the next two men Jehovah's witnesses I saw. Then I come driving down the street and here you are." Well, we aren't Jehovah's Witnesses. We told him that, and he said, "oh. Well, who are you?" "Mormons." He looked at his phone, and then said, "Well, Mormon or Jehovah's Witness, it doesn't matter. I just know that with God there are no such things as coincidence. Write down my number, I want you to teach me." So we're going to teach him tomorrow. His name is Michael. That was a miracle story: everything worked out just perfectly for us to be there in that street at that minute to talk to Michael. The Lord is really always behind the scenes. It's not always easy to realize though. Do you remember the girls I was teaching named Nicol and Minelys? Well, Nicol got baptized yesterday. It was great! The first counselor in the bishopric was released yesterday in the ward. There have been some interesting things happening here. But now the bishop has no counselor, neither does the elders' quorom president, and neither does the primary president. The Relief Society has the only full presidency. The thing that's happening in Carolina is a fulfillment of prophecy. Remember in the Doctrine and Covenants when the Lord says He will cleanse His church? That's what's happening here. The Domingueros (that's what we call Sunday Mormons here) are literally being cleaned out. Not by the leaders, but by their own actions. It's kind of scary to witness. There's not a lot I can say, but I am seeing the justice of the Lord here in Carolina. The Lord is cleaning the vessel. "Old bottles cannot hold new wine."--The Savior. Well, I love you all! This should be a good week. One year has gone by so fast: I'm probably going to hit up Cold Stone to celebrate :). Love ya! Elder Cevering