Elder Michael Cevering

Elder Michael Cevering
Puerto Rico, San Juan Mission

Monday, December 2, 2013

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

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