Elder Michael Cevering

Elder Michael Cevering
Puerto Rico, San Juan Mission

Monday, December 30, 2013

Email December 30, 2013

***(CHRISTAS PHOTOS ARE BELOW)*** Hello Family, Well, this email is going to be rather short. First off, I had a great christmas! I loved talking with you! It's always bitter sweet. The big news: I am leaving Aibonito! I got transferred back down to the city. To Bayamon, where the office is. I'm not an office elder, but that will be my area. I'm really excited! My companion is from the dominican republic, and he's one of the elders I've been hoping to serve with. Here in PR you always want to serve with the dominican republic missionaries because they get along with all the puerto ricans and they also get along with all the dominicans on the island--and there are a lot of them. So I'm excited to go down there. I also have met members from that ward. For example, Esteban (lin's previous boyfriend) is from that ward. It's going to be great. I head out tomorrow. There were 38 people again in church, which was super great! 3 weeks in a row there have been 38 people in attendance in the branch. When Elder Contreras arrived in July, there were only 16 people consistently attending. Now there are more double that! So it's really great. The primary kids and the branch president's wife made me cry yesterday during church. They wrote notes to me since they knew I was leaving. They invited me in to the primary, and the branch president's wife told me that she and they were so grateful for all I'd done in the branch. She said I was an "angel" for them--she was crying, I was crying. It was really touching. The other fun thing we did this week will be coming in photos: I'll explain to you the theme for this email "Be Like Dan Jones" in the pictures. Love you all a lot! Elder Cevering

Christmas Pictures

Monday, December 23, 2013

Email December 23, 2013

Hello family! This letter is going to be really short because we'll be talking on Wednesday. It's going to be great! We had 38 people again in sacrament meeting! The branch is seriously growing stronger. Our goal for next week is 45. If the members would be more consistent about attendance that would be a simple goal. But it's great to see how they've grown to be much more consistent. I sang O Holy Night in sacrament meeting. Of course, it was in Spanish. People really loved it. It was the Sally Deford version, so you can look it up if you want. One of the new zone leaders is from my group: Elder Baldwin. He plays the piano, so that's how we were able to do the musical number. It's such a blessing to have someone who plays the piano. It makes a huge difference in the reverence of the meeting. We had an AWESOME branch council on Tuesday. It was the best I've had in my whole mission. The leaders are truly excited to go to work now, and we have the model set for the coming year of how the meetings will be held. That's all for the week. Tomorrow we'll be with President at the mission home to celebrate Christmas eve. For Christmas we'll be here in Aibonito: we have a food appointment with our elders quorom president and his family. It'll be good. Love you all! Elder Cevering

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas lights in Barranquitas & Caonillas Puerto Rico

Email December 16, 2013

Hello from Puerto Rico, I think this past week felt like one of the longest weeks of my mission. I can't really give a reason why, but it felt like two weeks combined into one. Great things continue to happen here in the Aibonito branch: there was a baptism Saturday night, 38 people came to church, and we have a baptismal date set up for January. We're excited. This email is going to be pretty short because we're going to be going to a member's house pretty soon but first I want to be able to send some pictures of the Christmas lights and such. The baptism Saturday night was of an 18 year old girl who the zone leaders have been teaching in Barranquittas. She is a really good basketball player: we play basketball with her and some other kids each Friday or Saturday and it's been fun. The zone leaders need to take advantage of teaching more of those kids. This girl really want to serve a mission. She said after her baptism that the missionaries were "the light to (her) life" and said she will be turning 19 in about 7 months, so she wants to do the same thing for others. It was a really spiritual meeting. We've been working hard to increase the attendance to 40 people. It's been consistently between 30 and 35. That was why we were so excited yesterday when 38 people came. The greater news too is that two families that usually come to church weren't there, which would have made the attedance 46. Good, good work. We have a branch council meeting tomorrow and we're going to talk with the leaders about some things, so we're excited. Our investigator Junito accepted a baptismal date for January 12th. We've been working hard with him, and he's never come to church. Last week we took him pancakes before church and he STILL didn't come. But he tells us he's really excited to be baptized and he loves having us over. We just need to get him to be converted to the gospel, not to us. Amarilis and Anna are doing well. Everything is falling into Amarilis's hands for the wedding: they have received a lot of donations from people for their wedding. Walgreens is going to give them all their pictures free. WOW. Super cool. We're going to have a really good week this week: our planning session was great last night. I'm excited. The title is from an experience I had with our elders quorom president. He's from Colorado. He never remembers my name, even though I'm at his house every Sunday for lunch with his family. While we were there yesterday he asked me where I was thinking about going to school after the mission and if I'd thought about coming back to Puerto Rico. We talked, and he said to me, "Let me give you some dating advice, Elder Sylvestre. When you see a girl that you really like, just take her by the elbow and look into her eyes like this..." So he grabbed my elbow and looked into my eyes. He just stared at me...and his wife pulled him away and said, "Whatever you do Elder Cevering, don't do that to a girl." It was really random and weird. I thought you'd enjoy hearing that story. Love you all! Elder Cevering

Monday, December 9, 2013

Email December 9, 2013

Hello family! This was a pretty good week. I'm really surprised at how fast all these weeks are going by. There's a part of me that just wants December to already be over and be able to say: "I did it! All of 2013 is now behind me. One ENTIRE year in the mission field under my belt. The most challenging, heart-wrenching, yet edifying year of my life is now behind me. Now I can move forward to 2014 and all that it has to bring." That's exactly what I'm going to say on January 1st. I'm going to open the door to the cold mist of Aibonito and shout: HELLO 2014, I'M ELDER CEVERING." And then somewhere in the distance a Puerto Rican will shout back: "AMEN!" And I'll be happy. I'm in a really good mood this morning. I slept really good last night! It's a perfect temperature outside: good old 70 degree weather. The sun is out, which means we'll have warm water tomorrow. And Elder Contreras got three emails from his girlfriend. It's a good, good day. The BIG news: a new member moved into the branch! I'm super excited. His name is Junior. He served a mission in Panama I believe and he's a Melchizedek Priesthood holder. I was shocked when I heard he was moving in. I remembered all the men that suddenly moved in to Carolina and remembered the major impact they had on the ward, and realized this man will be able to do the same thing here. It's all part of the Lord's pattern of building up His kingdom. I'm excited to be here. To be honest, not a lot happened this week. Our car battery died so we had to go down the mountain to get a new one. Elder Contreras was sick with the flu, so we weren't always out on the job. We went one day to the chapel because I wanted to download some Christmas music to my ipod. That was when disaster striked: all my music on my ipod was erased. So, naturally I wanted it back, so I just started buying music. That's why you'll see a big bill on my credit card mom. Do you want to go in half-and-half on the bill as part of Christmas? haha. I felt so stupid after I bought the music cause I realized: how many missionaries have all this music and could have just given it to me? I acted without thinking. But I'm really happy: I got some songs I'd really been wanting to listen to and it's made having a car much more enjoyable because now we have new music. We had a really great lesson last night with Amarilis and her mom Anna. Anna's been reading the Book of Mormon. In fact, she read the testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith that's in the beginning of the Book of Mormon, and when she finished she saw where the book says to read in the Pearl of Great Price to find the whole story, and she called Amarilis to ask, "Where's the Pearl of Great Price? I want to keep reading the story of Joseph Smith." We read the first two chapters of the Book of Mormon with her last night. "HALLELUJAH" she said after reading about the pillar of fire that appeared before Lehi. It was probably the most entertaining reading of the Book of Mormon I've ever been a part of. And the Spirit was there, so we were able help her understand the purpose of the Book of Mormon and the promises it contains. She says she believes the Book of Mormon is the word of God and called it "different" from other books that testify of Christ. She used the word "different" in a good way too. While we discussed the introduction of the Book of Mormon where it tells us that if the Book is true then the church is true, she asked us why it was so important that we all have the same "opinion" about the things of God. To answer, we pulled out a hymn book and asked her to hold it and then let go of it. When she did, it fell to the ground. We asked, "What happened?" She said, "It fell because of gravity." We asked her to pick up the book again and drop it, asking her if she thought it would fall to the floor again if she let it go. She said she believed it would fall, and it did. We repeated the process and the question, and everyone said we believed the book would fall to the floor when she let go of it the third time: and it did. That was when we talked about absolute truths with her. I told her, "Opinions about God can't save us. True doctrine saves us." to which she nodded and said, "Okay, I understand." So we'll see what comes of it. We invited her to continue praying and reading, and I think something great can come of it. We might go with her to her church this week. We'll see what happens. I'd really like to go but I also don't want to cause any contention. One of our Zone leaders was called to be the new assistant to the president. That was just a little bit sad because we all got along so well. But the elder that came to replace him is an elder from my group: Elder Baldwin. He plays the piano too, so now our branch has a piano player and it made a huge difference in the reverence and spirit of sacrament meeting. The members were so happy when they arrived and heard him playing Christmas songs in the chapel. We're going to plan a special musical number too where I'll sing and he'll play. I'm excited. Good things are happening! Well, I love you all a lot and hope your passing this Christmas happily and safely! Elder Cevering

Monday, December 2, 2013

Photos from Elder Cevering

Email December 2, 2013

Hello Utah! It was a cold week here in Aibonito: just a bunch of mist, rain, cold showers, and hot chocolate with cheese and bread for the missionaries. It's been getting darker earlier here, which is a bit depressing but I'm grateful to be up here in the cold and dark and not down on the coast suffering from the winter heat! I love Aibonito! And the good news: it's sunny today, so we'll have warm water again. It hasn't felt much like Christmas yet. But our Thanksgiving meal was really great! We spent all day Thursday in a meeting with Elder Cornish of the second quorom of the seventy. He brought six pages of instructions from the First Presidency for our mission: I've never taken more notes in any mission meeting. The Lord wants a lot from the members here in Puerto Rico, and He expects us to do a lot to help them. The instructions were the following: 1--Baptize and Reactivate, 2--Focus entirely on the less-active members and those they know--working with the ward counsel to make all visits, and 3--Missionaries are the mentors. It's not an entirely new concept: we've been working on all of those things for a long time here. But now we see how much the First Presidency (and thus, the Lord) wants us to take charge of some things. It's not a matter of stepping over lines of authority: it's about the First Presidency giving missionaries assignments to help the leaders exercise their priesthood authority. I felt really good about those instructions because I felt like that's been what I've been striving to do in my mission: work with members and strengthen them in order to baptize. It's kind of ironic, but I've said it over and over again in my emails and to other missionaries: if we can get into the houses of members and help them grow stronger--even if it requires us to spend a good amount of time in their houses--then we will see more baptisms. Why? Because that's what the scriptures teach us. And because if the wards/branches aren't strong--if they aren't functioning the way the Lord has designed--then people suffer and new converts will not be retained, and thus all baptizing will become a thing for numbers and pictures. Now, I'm far from the perfect missionary: but I'm trying to strengthen the areas where I'm serving, and the Lord is letting me see miracles and is helping me to change. Anyway, at the meeting with Elder Cornish I sang Savior, Redeemer of My Soul. I was going to sing Amazing Grace, but the only version we had sounded too Gospel. I thought you'd like to hear that mom :) We got back up to Aibonito around 5:30 where we had Thanksgiving dinner with the Cartajena family. The food was really good! The turkey we had last year was better (because the family cooked it in a brick oven) but there were other really good things. You know those tres leches from Cafe Rio? They have those here in Puerto Rico but usually they're small and expensive so I don't eat them. The Cartajenas gave us tres leches that was really good! Turkey, Tres Leches, Rice and beans, and this really good potato salad that they make here. I love Puerto Rico. Amarilis is really progressing! To clarify: Efrain is a member who's trying to turn his life around and get back into the church. They live with Amarilis's mom (Anna), who's super Pentecostal. But we had a miracle with her this past week. It's usually really hard to teach Amarilis if Anna's there, so when we arrived and saw her car was gone we were excited. We went down and talked about their wedding plans and such, then began with a prayer, and as we prayed I heard someone swinging their keys coming downstairs, and I thought, "DANG IT!" The good thing is, Anna loves us. She came and sat down with us and said, "Carry on!" So we started the lesson of the Restoration, which begins by talking about God being our loving Father. As we discussed the characteristics of God, Anna suddenly got really emotional. She said, "You know, it's interesting how God speaks to us. When I got home just now and walked into the kitchen to start making you both hot chocolate, I had a really strong feeling come over me that I'd never felt before. I want you to know that you are special, and that you have had a large impact on this home." She said it with tears on her cheeks. I felt the Spirit whisper in my mind, "You have to teach her NOW." So we talked to her about the Book of Mormon, and for the first time she listened without eyes of scrutiny. I was shocked. It was even more surprising when Amarilis started testifying of the power of the Book of Mormon. She talked about how similar the Bible and the Book of Mormon are: that they teach the same gospel and that they are both the words of God, just to different people. In the end, Anna said she is going to read it, so we're planning on having a lesson with her this week. I'm really excited about it! Amarilis and Efrain are getting married in February because their family reserved a reception area for them for the 15th of February. Blah. Elder Contreras and I are both sad because we don't think we'll be here for it. But we're grateful to have been instruments to helping them grow converted to the Lord's church. We had a lesson with our investigator Tato this week too. He lives in the coolest part of Aibonito: he has a view of the whole valley. When we were with him it was all covered in mist, but I didn't have my camera. That's something I have to improve on. But we were there with him talking for a good amount of time about the Book of Mormon. He told us he doesn't go to church because the church where he was attending always asked them for money to buy new things like windows and such. He was really against that. We talked to him briefly about the apostasy when he told us that, and then set up a return appointment for Saturday night. Haha. Then we go back Saturday night and he was there with his girlfriend. It was really awkward. Tato's twenty two years old and studies in Bayamon (an hour and a half drive from here) so he's a busy person. But he's not hard to get ahold of. He plays basketball with us almost every week and brings Jose and one of his friends. We haven't been able to teach Jose more, but we're trying. Mom, I got your package. Thank you so much for the hot chocolate! I'd been telling Elder Contreras that that was my favorite brand of hot chocolate in the days before. And the member who I gave the M&M to loved it. This week marks 16 months the mission. I remember imagining what I'd feel like at this point in my mission. 2/3 down. Well, that's all that happened this week! I love you all a lot! Elder Cevering