Elder Michael Cevering

Elder Michael Cevering
Puerto Rico, San Juan Mission

Monday, September 30, 2013

Email September 30, 2013

Hello Family! This week was not very exciting at all haha. Some sad things happened in the branch, as well as we dropped an investigator. I'll explain all about it. First off, Sister Smartt wants me to visit with the General Surgeon of a hospital in San Juan, and I'm going in tomorrow morning. I have this scar in my belly button that we want to get checked out. So that's going to be happening tomorrow. I guess we'll see what the surgeon thinks. The pain in my ab comes and goes--it's not connected to physical activity either. I can be sitting down and pain can come to the muscle. It was random too because I felt like I was improving, and then suddenly the pain came back again. What a life :) NONE of the investigators nor less-active members we work with came to church and to be honest I was frustrated by that. The thing is that they don't understand how important it is for them to come. Seriously. I'm so tired of hearing excuses from people. We visited a couple Saturday night: the husband is active and the wife inactive. While he was writing his testimony in the planchas de aibonito we talked with her and she started off, "I'm not going to church right now because I have too many trials." She then went on to explain that she has pain in her shoulder so that keeps her from going to church. Then she told us that like seven months ago she tripped down some stairs and has some knee pain so she doesn't like to walk down the front steps to go to church. She said she doesn't like to travel with her husband 30-60 minutes to visit other wards and branches where he's called to visit because it's "too much" and she doesn't want to make a member have to pick her up to come to church here. Blah, blah, blah. It's SAD what keeps people from activity in the church. I love what Elder Anderson said in conference last October: to stop going to church during a hard trial is like leaving the storm cellar during a tornado. And man, a lot of the people get out of this metaphorical storm cellar because of a stubbed toe. The world has to learn that salvation comes from so much more than pretty songs and prayers. Our sister investigator didn't come to church because her mom is feeding her lies about the church. They invited us for dinner last night: it was Manicotti, which was really good. Then afterward we sat down, and the mom started asking us questions about polygamy and so on. I just said to her, "Do you know what the Book of Mormon is?" She gave that typical, "Oh it's another book..." I explained what it is, and then she quickly changed the subject to talk about the Bible, and I just gave in for the night. I didn't want to get into any heated discussion with her and I knew my patience was wearing thin. I just sat back and listened to her sing about Joshua and the Israelites walking around Jericho. She's a good woman, but she's blinding her daughter, which is really sad. The daughter says she's praying to know what God wants her to do. In response to her prayers, she had a vision that she's trying to interpret: apparently in the vision she was preaching in a church about Jesus and nobody believed her so she fell on the floor and began to pray, when suddenly a pillar of light came through the ceiling and a golden tablet floated down to her with writings on it that she couldn't interpret. The tablet was encrusted with gems and on the bottom there was a signature from the Lord. Interesting. We're trying to help her understand that she's received many witnesses that the church is true, not speaking of that vision. She's had a lot of experiences that seem to us like arrows and lights saying "Hello! Go THIS way!" But I feel like she's just afraid to accept them by faith because of her mom. We also dropped an investigator this past week. He got really offended when the Collazos visited him. Missionaries have been visiting him for years, and he's gone to church and taken his kids to seminary, but he doesn't want to stop drinking. When we talked to him on Friday he told us "I drink and all, but every once in awhile I say a little prayer to God..." He tells us he believes the church is true: but he doesn't want to change his life, and his wife doesn't help him because she's inactive. It's a sad situation, but we feel like there's not much we can do right now. It's just not the time. I learned something new about the atonement this week that I'm trying to apply in my life. I was studying about repentance, and I was impressed by the word "forsake." I began thinking about what that means. We know that to forsake something means to stop doing it. But I found something just a little bit deeper about it: as I was pondering about that I thought about the words of the Savior in Matthew 9 that men don't put new wine in old bottles, but in new bottles, otherwise the bottles will break and the wine will be lost. He says the same of a ripped garment: you don't just patch it or the rip isn't fixed: you have to sew it back together or get a completely new garment. So as I thought about this, I realized that many times in my life I've had desires to stop doing things that weren't right, but just trying to stop doing them wasn't enough. I have found that in many circumstances I can stop doing the wrong things I'm doing. I can be more obedient in an instant if I just choose to do it. That's a beginning right? Choosing to be good is a beginning. But I always thought that the next step was just continuing to be good, when in reality it's more: we have to become new creatures or the new wine (the Spirit) won't be retained in us but will rather slide right through us, and the effect can be destructive spiritually. How do we become new creatures? It requires the decision to be good, to confess our sins to proper authority if necessary--meaning, follow the protocol designed by the Lord--and then strive to keep more than just the commandment you were breaking: we have to have a complete renewal of commitment to the Lord or repentance will be incomplete, and thus we can't be made new creatures. And why won't the Lord make us new creatures if we don't repent completely? I don't confess to know all the answers, but I think I found one: if we were forgiven by our own standards, we would come to think of ourselves as our own masters with our own guidelines. That would remove the need for repentance and would destroy the justice of God, creating a supposed "sinlessness." Maybe you have seen that in the world today: I have seen it all over Puerto Rico. People here say that God will accept all people that worship Him because everyone thinks and analyzes doctrine differently and thus they worship Him differently. Essentially, that means that men establish the laws of God and not God. And why would men want to establish the laws of God? To make themselves their own masters, and to do as they wish. But I guess what I learned about true repentance and true forsaking of sin, and the true power of the atonement--the power to change our very being--comes not just after we forsake sin, but after we make the commitment to live ALL the commandments faithfully. That doesn't mean we have to be perfect: it just means we have to truly have our mind set on following Christ. We will at times receive power to be better than we could ever be on our own, but the true power of the atonement is to have that change that permits us to retain new wine and to not just patch our rent garments but to sew up the tears and be new again. I don't know if that all makes sense, and maybe I'm behind a few steps, but that was something that really hit me hard this past week. Another thing I'm learning is how to do the rubiks cube. Ha ha. Another thing about the branch: a young inactive family that was brought about to activity is now breaking up. The dad came home from work, having receive a cut to his hours, and he decided he wanted to take the army exam. The wife told him she didn't want him to join the army, so he got mad and left the house. Now they're separated, and the husband says he doesn't want anything to do with the church. It's really sad. They are a core part of the branch. We're praying for them. The good thing is that the wife came to church yesterday with the kids and told us she's doing well. We missionaries were asked to talk in sacrament meeting yesterday: I talked about receiving revelation at church and reverence. Reverence is one of those things that the branch needs. You know those girls in school that are always gossiping together while the teacher's talking? There's a group of older women like that in this branch, and it's causing a lot of problems. The four of them sit on the back row in the chapel and just talk the whole time: what a waste of time. All four of us missionaries talked about something that was directed towards them haha. We'll see what happens. Well, I love you all! General Conference is going to be great! Elder Cevering

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