Elder Michael Cevering

Elder Michael Cevering
Puerto Rico, San Juan Mission

Monday, November 25, 2013

Photos from Elder Cevering (in Aibonito)

Email November 25, 2013

Hello Utah! Our week was pretty good here in Aibonito. It got colder this week: I think it drops as low as the 50's or low 60's here. I love it because everyone gives us hot chocolate. Puerto Ricans like to put cheese in their hot chocolate. It's kind of weird, but it doesn't taste bad. The first time I had it I didn't know it was in there, and it had a flavor I didn't recognize, but it was good. That trailer incident is pretty crazy! That really is a miracle that it didn't collide with the house. Aibonito is really pretty right now: it gets covered in fog. I'll try to send some pictures. On Thanksgiving we have one food appointment set up with some members. We're excited. Here in Puerto Rico they call it zangiving, and they eat turkey, this really good pudding made from coconut, rice and beans (I love rice and beans), that macaroni salad you really like, and this thing called arroz con dulce (which means sweet rice) which is just rice with cinnamon and raisins. It's going to be really good. In terms of numbers we had a really good week. We received four references, taught 10 lessons (which is BIG for Aibonito) to investigators, and 9 lessons with less-active members. We thought because of that we would have a really good attendance. But for the first time in over a month the attendance dropped below thirty. None of our investigators came, which wasn't devastating, but it's always sad when they don't arrive. They had some good reasons why they couldn't come though: one went down to San Juan for a birthday in his family, and Amarilis and Efrain were out partying late...maybe the last one's not a great excuse haha but they've been really good at coming every week so that didn't make me sad. Amarilis is really progressing. She does missionary work now. She brought her mom and her friend to the "Zangiving" party we had at the church on Friday. Her mom is super, super, super Pentecostal. It's really a miracle that we have such a good relationship with her because before she never let missionaries come close to the house: but she loves having us over. Last night we sat down with her and drank hot chocolate and we asked her to tell us how she came to know there was a God. It was a good experience. The Lord is really blessing Amarilis and Efrain. They're really poor and have no money, but the Lord is helping them with their wedding. People have been popping up out of nowhere giving them free things. A member offered to buy Amarilis her wedding cake, some family members are paying to rent an area for their reception/party, and they've been receiving some small things too from random people. Amarilis told us she knows the Lord wants them to be married because of all the miracles. We still don't know when the wedding will be, but they want it to be soon. We can't set up a baptismal date with Amarilis until there's a wedding date. It will be an incredible opportunity for her and for the branch to really grow stronger when all that happens. We watched "On the Lord's Errand" with them last night, and she cried while watching it. She really has a testimony of the church and of the Book of Mormon and of President Monson. Our plans with Jose and his family fell through this week: they were supposed to come to our branch activity but some of them were sick so they didn't come. We were really disappointed. We're going to try really hard to teach them this week. The branch activity was a great success: we had six investigators present, and the zone leaders had two more. We see a lot of potential in the branch. What I hear from branch members when I visit them is a lack of confidence that the Lord will really help them raise up this area. We're trying to help them see that He is already at work. They often don't see what we missionaries see: they don't see how the attendance has risen, they don't see the transformation of investigators like we do, and they don't always see the work that is being done daily to help the kingdom grow. To help them out, we're working on a few different projects: the Planchas (or plates) of Aibonito--where the members write their testimonies and experiences--is one of those projects. The next one we're working on is a bulletin board in the chapel that says "And thus we see the great call of diligence of men to labor in the vineyards of the Lord" Alma 28:14. We're going to put up pictures of the members in their baptisms and other things. We just need approval from the facilities people and it will be UP in the chapel. The branch president already gave us the go-ahead. The next goal we have is to have our branch counsel meeting. For the most part, the leaders are doing their work: they go out and do visits and such. But they aren't communicating. That is what causes problems in the branch. So we're working to have a branch counsel meeting on Sunday. I feel really scatter-brained right now haha. I'll tell you about a lesson we had this past week: a member asked us if we would be willing to help one of her friends who is struggling with anorexia (spelling?). So we went to the member's house and sat down with her friend we we talked. We gave her a small little notebook to write her feelings in and in the front we put a picture of Christ, and three questions for her to write about: When do I feel peaceful and happy? When have I felt a desire to love others? and When have I overcome a challenge? We talked with her about those things, and we talked about the love of the Lord. It was one of those lessons that reminds you just how much God loves His children. At the end of that lesson, this girl said the prayer, and I've only ever heard one other prayer like it in my life. She was TRULY grateful for what we'd talked to her about. Thinking about her words bring tears to my eyes. She said, "Thank you for sending me these missionaries. They are good people. Please protect them so they can continue helping others. Thank you for them." Man, it does your heart good as a missionary not to see the results of your work, but to know you have HELPED. For me personally, I'm glad I don't see all the results of my work, because I'd get proud. But I'm always touched when I can see that others are happy because the Lord called me to be there for them. Perhaps you can see in this email just a little bit about what the scripture from the title says: "And thus we SEE the GREAT CALL of DILIGENCE of men to LABOR in the vineyards of the Lord." This is what the Lord is teaching me about right now. He's teaching me to hear this great call of diligence. I'm grateful to all the people in my life who have heard that call and who are changing the world with the Lord. I know that my life has been changed and touched by such people: but of course, that change came from the Lord, not from men. I love you all a lot. I really am grateful for all that you have done for me and all you do for the Lord. I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving! Elder Cevering

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Photos of Elder Cevering with his District

Email November 18, 2013

Hello Family! Transfers were this week and Elder Contreras and I are both staying here in Aibonito. YES! We are super excited. We already have appointments for thanksgiving and such and it will be great because neither of us will have to spend Christmas getting to know a new ward or branch. Six more weeks in the mountains! The only problem about being in the mountains at this time is the cloudiness: I love how cold it is up here, but because of the clouds our solar panel doesn't heat our water. Yum: good old cold water in the morning. This past week was a really, really great week. Miracles are happening here in the branch. The Melchizedek priesthood holders are coming back to church. Another man who hasn't been to church for many, many years came to church on Sunday and really enjoyed himself. I'd never seen him happy before like he was there. The branch president is really excited about that: he and his counselors are discussing callings to extend to these returning men. It's all part of "real growth." I'm not sure if you've heard about that, but I'm sure every missionary in the world has. It's kind of the theme right now for missionary work. A miracle occurred in the life of Amarilis this week. She has been reading the Book of Mormon and one day just felt that it's all true. She read in 3 Nephi 11:29 about the spirit of contention casting out the Holy Ghost and so she prayed to the Lord for forgiveness for having "contended" with us about women not being able to perform priesthood ordinances. Then she went out and defended the church to two of her friends, invited another friend to the branch activity we had last Friday, and is reading the Book of Mormon to her mom. WOW. I was in shock when I heard all that. I felt the Lord's approval of all we'd done to teach her and felt how true it is that the Lord knows His children. We also had a really incredible experience with our investigator Junito. He's been having a hard time with alcohol. We went to his house last Monday with a member of the branch. When we entered the house, the member said, "This man used to be my hair stylist." We talked about the blessings of being part of the Savior's church, the member shared his experience with coming to know the church and living the commandments, and then I told him, "Our purpose as missionaries is to invite people to come unto Christ. Elder Contreras and I are the only two authorized people here in Aibonito to help you to do that in your life right now." I felt the Spirit really strong when I said that. I'd never said that before to a person. Then I said, "And we are the only two authorized people here in Aibonito who can invite you to come unto Christ through baptism. So, Junito, we invite you to come unto Christ by being baptized by someone holding the authority of God. Would you do that?" He looked at us seriously, and for the first time in all the time I've talked with him, I saw him truly smile. I'd never seen such joy fall on someone's face. He said, "Yes." After that lesson we got into the car and started driving away. We asked the member if he thought Junito's faith had increased. He said, "Yes. But something else. When he remembers me, he will remember that he and I used to wake up drinking together at the bars." That was touching: Elder Contreras had felt inspired to take that member with us to the lesson, and it turned out that he and Junito had once been drinking pals. Again, the Lord knows His children perfectly. We're also now teaching two young guys (cousins) that we play basketball with. Their names are Jose and Tato. They are family members of a family from Carolina, and that's how we met them--through the reference from my good old friends back in Carolina. Jose's dad died and when he heard about the atonement of Christ he started to cry. He grabbed the plan of salvation pamphlet immediately after Elder Contreras put it on the table, and started reading it. That same week, his sister had put on her facebook that she wanted to learn more about the resurrection and about life after death. So we're hoping to meet with the whole family this week. The ENTIRE family--meaning Tato's family, Jose's family, their aunts and uncles--are coming to our branch's thanksgiving party on Friday with the family from Carolina. We are excited because we're going to be showing some Mormon Messages and talking about the church, so it will be a really spiritual experience for them. We also have this tradition of going to a bakery every p-day here. I've gained 5 pounds. But I'm not fat haha. There's a girl that works at the bakery who's in love with Elder Contreras. We asked if we could share a message with she and her family and she said she'd let us know the next time we passed by (today). We're hoping she says yes: she told us that she is one of 14 children. The work is good in Aibonito, and I've got 6 more weeks here. Then Elder Contreras will probably leave because he'll have 6 months here at the end of the transfer and President Smartt doesn't want missionaries in the same area for longer than that. I'm hoping that will apply in this case so I can spend more time here out of the hot Caribbean sun. Love you all! Elder Cevering

Monday, November 11, 2013

Photos of a hike to San Cristobal Canyon

Email November 11, 2013

Hi Mom & Dad, We took a 5 hour hike today to San Cristobal Canyon with a less-active family so I don't have much time to write. Sorry. We had a good week. We had three investigators in church--including the ones the zone leaders brought. The attendance has stayed at more than 30 now for more than a month which is a really great improvement. Amarilis and Zuly both came to church. Elder Mena--one of the zone leaders--and I spoke in sacrament. We all felt the spirit really strong. A lot of the members cried and were really grateful and responded positive to our messages. We're hoping that it can change the ward. I spoke about trials and God's perfect love for us. I'm not worried about talking about missionary work with the ward because I know they need to understand other things before they will be willing to be involved. I'll continue writing in the next set of photos. Anyway, we also went down to Caguas on Saturday because the stake young mens' presidency asked us to go down to share our testimonies to the youth about our experiences in seminary. It was a good experience. I met a girl who just returned from her mission in New York and was a part of Cragun's zone. Her name would have been Hermana or Sister Pagan. You could ask Sister Liston to tell him I met her. Things are going well: we are happy and we have a really full week ahead of us. We have 3 or 4 service projects planned for members. We're also going down to Orocovis tomorrow to visit some members and investigators. It's going to be a really good week. We find out about transfers on Saturday. Mom, can you send me another one of those miniature pillows? Hermana Molina--the member whose house we live in--wants one for Hermano Molina because...of something. She washes our clothes and stuff and saw my little pillow and wanted one. I love you all! Elder Cevering

Monday, November 4, 2013

Email November 4, 2013

Hello Family! These weeks are really going by so fast: I can't believe this transfer is almost over. We've got some good plans for the next two weeks too, so it'll be over before we know it. Things are a little crazy here in Aibonito: One of our investigators has a crazy lover who came over to her house while we were there the other day. He broke her car window, threatened to beat her daughter, and then drove off. Then Saturday night we visited her and she was back together with her old boyfriend. Ay ay ay...We don't really know what to do with her anymore. We're planning to have a lesson with her to talk to her about the atonement. The struggle is that she is super flaky. Amarilis is progressing. We taught her last night about the priesthood. Before that, she told us she's reading the Book of Mormon and that she believes the church really is the kingdom of God. However, she just sticks to those things she was taught in the methodist church. She said, "I never heard them talk about the priesthood in my old church." We taught her about the apostasy (AGAIN) and explained that was why. We (for lack of a better way of explaining) gave her a smack down last night about the priesthood and about needing to pray to know if what we're teaching her is true. We have only taught her about the doctrines relating to the first lesson (the restoration) because she needs to gain a testimony of them. It's really frustrating that she simply won't pray. We asked her if she was afraid to find out if it was true, and she just said, "It's not easy to be taught one thing your whole life and then be taught another thing." She's right, and we understand that completely. It would be incredibly difficult! I have all the sympathy in the world for her. But the stress within me is caused by that reality that if she doesn't accept the truth, it will only bring her grief. We're praying for her to continue to have faith in the Lord. The great thing in the branch is that there is a consistent number of people now attending: 29-31 people each week. The biggest problem is the consistency, and that seems to be changing. However, there are some strong members--needed members--who are still inconsistent. I have it in my plans to visit one of them this week: he used to be the gospel principles teacher but had a fight with his wife and stopped coming to all three hours of church. I'm going to go with one of the zone leaders to visit him: I'm going on exchanges with them. For Halloween we had to be in the house at 6:00. We went down to Barranquitas to have a family home evening with the zone leaders and one of the young families in the branch, then we stayed the night down there, playing cards with the zone leaders. The bed was really stiff, but they have a sweet apartment. We are helping with the seminary class here. The seminary teacher is a really great guy: he has a lot of desire to be obedient and help the youth. But he has a really mixed up understanding of the scriptures. Oh man. Lots of work to do in the kingdom. From the smallest part to the biggest part. Love you all! Elder Cevering