Elder Michael Cevering

Elder Michael Cevering
Puerto Rico, San Juan Mission

Monday, July 28, 2014


Hello! Well, it finally arrived! I remember when Colby wrote home for the last time: he said "I'll see you in 48 hours." I always wondered how it would feel to say the same thing, and now to live it fills me with so many different emotions. The other night Elder Kraft and I went and played basketball with some kids in the government complex next to our house, and when we got back to the house we laid out on the wall in our front yard and looked up at the stars. As I was looking up I shed a few tears thinking about how I'll soon be at home. What a whirlwind of emotions haha. I guess I'll finish here by sharing just some final thoughts: at the beginning of my mission when I tore my ab I wondered how easy it would have been to just go home and never serve a mission due to injury. I'm so grateful for the help of the Lord in being able to suffer through all pains and afflictions. Suffering doesn't make us saints, but it can be a tool for refinement if we faithfully endure. When my soul has hungered I have found that, like Enos, I have simply had to exert myself to God and seek His help to be strong and to be filled. I am more than convinced that He is aware of us and our prayers: I know with all certainty that He is a God of answers, and a loving Father. I know that He speaks to His children. The greatest blessing of my mission has been to know that He will use us and speak to us in order to grow and to be able to help others. I have learned to recognize His voice in my mission. He lives and all men can know that if they will humble themselves, set aside their personal beliefs of how He should be and how He should treat His children, and simply seek Him out. I love my God and Father, and I am so grateful for the power of the atonement of Christ. This is not the end of my mission: this is simply the beginning to an important journey full of opportunities to labor in the vineyards of the Lord. I've found that He puts me to the test of my words, but I've also found that He's merciful and His grace truly is sufficient. About Arelys's family: I might visit them tonight. The problem is that we don't have a car and they live way far out in our area and no member has been able to take us there. We'll see what happens. May God bless you all. I give you all my love and gratitude for your support and love. What an exciting time awaits us! With all my love, Elder Cevering

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Email July 21, 2014

Hello family! This week was a solid week with great things that happened! We had zone conference, I had my goodbye interview with President Boucher, and we did the Book of Mormon Excursion here in Vega Baja. I am really happy with how things are winding down. My interview with President was really great: he got straight into the goodbye haha. He said, "Elder are you excited to go home?" I wondered if it were a trick question but I was honest and said yes. He said, "Good. I think you should be excited to go home at the end of your mission. That's healthy." We talked about different plans and ideas that I have for what I'm going to do when I'm home and he shared with me that he thought I had my head on straight. We talked about my mission: he asked me to share the most important lesson I've learned, and when I told him that the most important lesson was that I'd learned that God requires a lot from His children he looked surprised. He said, "Thank you for sharing that new perspective with me." It was interesting. He's a really great man. I would have loved to have had him as my mission president for a longer time. And his wife is awesome: I sat and talked with her for about 45 minutes before I had my interview. She's actually Bishop Burton's daughter---crazy right? Friday night we did the Book of Mormon Excursion here. It was a HIT. I think the members here liked it more than the members in Bayamon. We had to make some changes to it since there are two sisters in our district (so one of them acted as Abish, and the other acted as a nephite woman who was present at Christ's descent in the land of Bountiful). It was really awesome. They want us to do it again soon. The members who didn't come are really jealous and are asking us to plan to do it next week. Ha. I thought to myself, "Do whatever you want, I'll be home!" The best thing about the week though was to see the people who came to church as a result of the Book of Mormon excursion. There's a woman here whose husband doesn't like her to go to church with their kids. He's a member but he doesn't live the majority of the commandments. However, they came as a whole family to the excursion, and then Sunday the woman showed up to church with her kids for the first time in a long time. She asked us to teach her son and daughter and to prepare them for baptism. It was awesome! I felt really touched and blessed. Really, my feelings have been of profound gratitude. I've had some sleepless nights as I've pondered about finishing my end. I've felt trunky this whole transfer and the transfers before for different circumstances, but now I'm stuck between the excitement of getting home and the sadness of leaving. I haven't broken down at all, but I've stayed up till 12:00 some nights and had tears come to my eyes as the thoughts continued coming to me that I'll be home soon. They're tears of gratitude and tears of sadness and tears of excitement all at the same time. I know those feelings will probably last for awhile so I guess I have to get accustomed to it haha. I love you all so much! As I look around the ward and as I ponder on the families I've met in my mission I see in my mind my friends and my family at home and I am reminded how blessed I am. My Father in heaven has been merciful and gracious to me in my life. One thing I'm continually learning is how He is always with us: we just have to learn to recognize His work. That'll be something incredible about being home: starting a new work with the Lord. I'm not perfect but I know that He's calling me. I know there are challenges, blessings, and joys awaiting me, and for that reason I can look at the end of my mission and say, "Alright, this isn't the end." I've been preparing myself for this time my whole mission and now that it's hear I'm just excited to see what's in store. Elder Cevering

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Email July 14, 2014

Hello family! This countdown is getting me pretty excited: I will be home to Utah in 16 days. I've been feeling so many different emotions. Over the past few days I've had moments where I've sat down and thought about going home and I'm really excited and happy. Then I have other moments where I'm pondering and the tears come to my eyes when leaving Puerto Rico pops in. It's been a humbling and gratifying experience. We went to a member's house last week to do some service, then we shared a message afterward. We talked about the character of Christ, specifically His willingness to suffer for righteousness. We'd shared the same message in another appointment during the week, and the member who accompanied us was also present at this second lesson. He shared that he'd been pondering all week about my words, and a feeling of humility entered into me. I didn't feel proud of myself that he'd been touched by my message: I felt grateful that the Lord would consider me utile in order to use me as His instrument. And that led me to feel so grateful for all He's let me do in my mission, which brought the tears to my eyes, and I remembered that my patriarchal blessing says: "As you finish your mission you will be so grateful for the special experiences you will have through the Spirit." I felt known and loved by God and felt love for the wonderful patriarch who was worthy to give me that blessing. I've also been put into three good-old Bible bashing situations this week. We didn't argue with any of them: we taught them pure doctrine as we believe it and were able to end on friendly terms with each of the people we talked with. One of them was a young kid who thought he'd have a fun time by inviting us over and bashing with us. I have to admit that though we didn't bash with him we did give him a good reason to be humble :) Another kid was here on a mission from Texas. He only spoke English, which was among the first lessons I've ever taught in English. He was a cool kid and was understanding of what we taught him. He was surprised by how similiar our doctrine really is to his-- I think he's a non-denominational missionary. It was really cool. The only big news I have from this week is from the night Elder Kraft and I went to Wendy's. We had ordered our food, then looked up at the newspapers back by the drinks, and we saw the front page: Lebron James in his Cleveland Cavaliers uniform with giant words that said: DEVUELTA A CASA, which means Returning Home. Lebron James is going back to the Cavaliers! We both freaked out since we're big NBA fans and asked the cashier for the newspaper. We sat their at the counter reading the front page. All the employees were laughing at us. It was funny. Haha. I'm stoked for this NBA season now--I'll be home to watch it :) The funny story of the week: we were driving with an investigator up to an appointment near the bishop's house, and as we passed we saw the bishop outside his house just chilling in his garments. Ha. Not the first time I've seen that. But then we stopped and the investigator started talking to the bishop. The bishop just stood there in his garments and talked to him. Oh Puerto Rico. Anyway, I love you all a lot! Time's going by fast :) Elder Cevering

Monday, July 7, 2014

Photos of the ocean, a lake, a hike, etc.

Email July 7, 2014

Hello family! I wish I could say I had a really exciting week but it was really slow...The highlight of the week was our ward activity: we went to a park and hiked to a sweet water lake. It was really cool. I'll be sending the pictures. Our investigators Lizmariz and Josue went on vacation with their family to the other side of the island. So we didn't get the chance to teach them, or almost anyone. It wasn't too discouraging: I'm really happy to live with the missionaries here because we can always make situations better. The other thing we did this week was meet President Boucher and his wife: they're super great people. They seem to be really solid and really devoted to this work. We had an hour of a spiritual discussion where we listened to President Boucher's vision for the mission. Apparently he heard--even before being called to be the mission president--that our mission is super disobedient so he wants to change that. I don't know how much I agree with that: I'd say the missionaries here have been doing the best with what they've had for years and now it's just reaching a point where they can't do anything anymore without help from the members. I'll be home in three weeks and I have so much to tell you about this mission :) I know the church can grow on this island. Sister Boucher is really nice. After we had our hour of talking about spiritual things we moved on to a social hour sort of thing. Sister Boucher talked with all of us: she wrote down things about us on a paper with a list of our pictures on it. It was cool. Well I love you! Elder Cevering

Monday, June 30, 2014

Pictures from Vega Baja

Email June 30, 2014

Helloooooooooo Family! I'm writing late today cause we went to the outlet mall in Barceloneta. It was great! We went to Ihop in the morning: I forgot what it was like to just eat good old pancakes. Then we went through all the stores. So when you see a $93 payment in Nike...just know your dearest son on this tropical island needed what he bought :) I love you :) Our week was pretty great. I feel like the time is passing at a normal rate: not fast but not slow either. There's not a whole lot happening here. We have some investigators but we're at step one still: FINDING. We have two investigators with baptismal dates: their names are Lizmariz and Josue. They're the grandchildren of an older couple that was baptized at the end of last year. They're cool kids: Lizmariz is 17??? and Josue is 11. Josue's really cool. He always pulls out his boxing gloves when we show up because he wants to fight with us. Ha. It's cool. He really likes the missionaries. He took us to their backyard--they live in the jungle--and he showed us all the animals they have. Their grandpa is a chicken fighter--a huge sport in Puerto Rico--and he also raises peacocks. It's cool. It was also cool to see all their trees full of iguanas. Haha. Good old tropical island. The other exciting things that happened this week were that we went to the beach. WOO! That was awesome! I will send you the pictures. And just so you know, it's NOT against the rules in our mission to go to the beach. We were at a member's house--she lives right on the beach--so we went outside and took pictures there. I hope the pictures make you jealous :) I also got a visit from a family in Carolina: it was their goodbye visit. That was sad but it was really great. The feeling of going home really set in when they said goodbye. They told me how grateful they are to me and how they wished I could have gone back to Carolina. It was touching. I'm grateful to my Father in heaven for all the wonderful people I've met here. President Boucher arrived last Saturday and upon his arrival he made some changes to the mission: he called me as the district leader for Vega Baja. I was happy to know that the Lord trusts me enough to keep me in that position. When I finish my mission I will have spent 16 months as a District Leader, which is something that I'm glad to have passed through. Things with Elder Kraft are great: we get along super well. This is the funnest house I've lived in over the past two years. I will miss them a lot! We get along super well and all think alike. It's great. Well that's all I have for the week. I love you all so much and am excited to see you in 30 days! Elder Cevering

Monday, June 23, 2014

Email June 23, 2014

Hello from Vega Baja! I am doing really well! I love this area and I love the missionaries I live with! I feel super blessed that the Lord sent me here to finish my mission. Don't misinterpret this, but I feel like I was sent to a vacation area haha. Our area is right by the beach and our house is sweet! We live in an actual house which has air conditioning and WARM WATER. It's the best. I've been loving waking up in a cold room and then taking a nice warm shower. And on top of that we live right next to some government apartments with a basketball court so we go there almost every day to play basketball with the kids. It's really great. It probably feels like a vacation area because of the luxuries. The ward here is really interesting. It's similar to Carolina but it's also very different. It shouldn't be a ward: there are only 60 people in attendance--that's among the higher attendance for the "wards" of Puerto Rico. I wouldn't say there are truly any wards in Puerto Rico but hey, the leaders are the ones who decide that. There are some really loving people here: we get a LOT of food. I am going to miss Puerto Rican food so much. We went to this house the other day so I could meet some members and--like every Puerto Rican family--they gave us food. We ate huge plates of rice, beans, and chicken, then lasagna. You'd think it's a random combination, but it's super great as a missionary: load up on rice and beans, then eat a big piece of lasagna. It's a carb boost. We don't have many investigators here, but the elders here have had some good success over the past year. I think they've had almost 10 baptisms over the last year and a half which is really high for Puerto Rico. Next week we're going fishing at the beach with a member: I'm really excited about that. The elders have been showing me pictures of some places here that are beautiful. I'm happy to be finishing my mission here. I've been in communication with the elders in Bayamon: they're really excited to work there and are happy with all we left in place for them. So I'm at peace with everything. I am super excited that Randee and Kyle are going to have a baby and that they're moving back to North Ogden! Tell them congratulations. And working at the temple open house will be awesome! Especially with the special needs. I will love that. One thing I am really excited about, and something I want to be sure to attend when I get home, is Education Week. I am STOKED for that. I love you all so much! Elder Cevering

Friday, June 20, 2014

Email June 16, 2014

Hello family! You're going to be super surprised: ALL FOUR of us missionaries are leaving Bayamon. They're going to be sending some ex-zone leaders here to train since President Zwyck combined 8 zones into just 4. I was able to enjoy our zone conference with President Zwyck. He is a spiritual giant: I learned a lot from him. So now you're asking, "If they're taking you out of Bayamon where are they going to send you?" This is the exciting news: I am going to Vega Baja. It's two wards over from where I am now, and--this is the part that will get you excited mom--it's the area where Arelys's family lives! Barceloneta is part of the Vega Baja ward. So if you want to get in contact with her and let her know I'm headed to the area where her family lives so that we can see if we can work with them then that would be awesome. I'm sure she'll get really excited about that. If she wants to get in contact with me to talk about her family she'll have to call the mission office. The other exciting news is that my new companion is Elder Kraft: he was in my district up in Aibonito. He and I get along really well: I consider him my best friend in the mission. He and I were joking just the other day that he'd get to kill me--missionary phrase for finish your mission. And now I'm headed to be with him. I'm stoked! He has been telling me that the ward in Vega Baja is super cool. I'm stoked. This will be a sweet transfer: the best for the last! I'm sad to leave Bayamon because some good things happened here and the work was finally beginning to work forward, but I am convinced and sure that every transfer I've had has been a manifestation of God's perfect knowledge and love of me. He has been very merciful to me in my mission, which I am incredibly grateful for. I've been really touched over the past week fews in sacrament meeting: I have learned a lot about the atonement in this last transfer and can say that "I feel my Savior's love." Tonight we're going to have a family night with some members of the ward. They were really sad to hear we are leaving. Luckily, though, I'm going with our ward mission leader to Vega Baja tomorrow so he and I will get to chat and discuss things which I'm excited about. He's a really good man, and he's offered me to be able to come back and stay at his house on vacation. I love these people a lot and will miss them! I love you all so much and hope that you have a great week! Elder Cevering

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Email June 2, 2014

Hello family! It's been really funny to see Sister Rosado get so excited about texting you. Haha. And I love reading what she writes to you. She's trying to learn English. She uses a translation APP. I am glad she sent you the pictures of the baptism: it was the most spiritual baptism service I've attended in my mission. 32 members of the ward came! That's incredible for Puerto Rico. After changing into their white clothes, Megdalia and Alondra decided to let the Book of Mormon to fall open to a random page to see what scriptures they could find. It fell open to 3 Nephi 5:13--"Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life." Megdalia was super touched by that. After the ordinances, Esteban--I don't remember if I've told you that he's in our ward, Lin's boyfriend who baptized her--gave a talk about the importance of member missionary work. As he talked about the experience with Lin, and full of the emotion from the baptism, tears came to my eyes. I was almost crying when I got up to lead the music. Haha. The bishop was SUPER happy with the baptisms. In fact, after Medalia's and Alondra's baptisms another man was baptized into our ward. His name is Ramon. His wife was baptized six years ago. I've NEVER seen any bishop or other leader be so excited about baptisms. He invited me and Elder Armstrong to speak in sacrament next Sunday. I'm excited. Now the ward is starting to get excited about inviting friends to listen to the gospel. They are seeing what Mormon spoke about in Helaman 3:27-30: "Thus we may see that the Lord is merciful unto all who will, in the sincerity of their hearts, call upon his holy name.Yea, thus we see that the gate of heaven is open unto all, even to those who will believe on the name of Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God. Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked—And land their souls, yea, their immortal souls, at the right hand of God in the kingdom of heaven, to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and with Jacob, and with all our holy fathers, to go no more out." If in these last two months I can be a part in helping this ward see as Mormon saw that there are people who are willing to lay hold upon the true word of God, then I will be the happiest missionary that ever lived :) This week we have a ward BBQ and we're getting a lot of support from the members for it. A lot of people have said they are going to bring friends, so the pressure is on us. Haha. We have a good idea. The BBQ will be outside on the basketball court, and there will be a movie or something playing on the projector. Then at a certain point we're going to invite everyone to go inside the chapel where we will have a Lehi's dream stage set up. The members and their friends will grab onto a rope and pass through different rooms where they'll learn about the Book of Mormon. The rope will end at a tree where they'll get their dessert: that's how you keep a Puerto Rican at a BBQ. I'm looking forward to see more miracles here. The island has already changed so much over these two years. Miracles are popping up in the missionary news network here, and it looks like the church in Puerto Rico is FINALLY rising from the ashes of its past. It just requires that people do their duties and make wise sacrifices. Team work is what's changing the church here. I love you all so much and think about you all every day. My feelings are very mixed, but I look forward to the future with a lot of faith. I have a lot of goals for when I get home, and I feel like the Lord is helping me be prepared to step on a plane again. Have a great week! Elder Cevering

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Email May 26, 2014

Hello family, This week was a solid week! I feel so much better about continuing forward to finish my mission as a result of all that's been happening, though my trunkiness seems to grow every day! Haha. I love home, how can you blame me for that? We had our interviews with president Zwick this week, which went really well. He's strict, but he's not a preacher. Our interviews were short -- we only had 10 minutes to talk and it was just about the basics, like worthiness and such--but I could feel president Zwick's love and that's the important part. He said three things this week that have changed my mission specifically. He had a meeting with us and with each stake in the island, and in the meeting he had with our stake he came down pretty hard on the members. Ha. He read to them directly from the red manual of instructions about all the things they need to do to help missionary work move forward. He read about the ward council and its responsibility in doing missionary work, and then said, "Does that make ANY reference to knocking doors? NO." Ha. I loved it so much. He then said to us missionaries, "Elders and Sisters, you can contact as much as you want and you won't have baptisms. You have to work with the members." Then he said to me, in my interview, that he specifically, as an Elder of the first quorom of the 70, is going to approve for Migdalia to be baptized in the ward of Bayamon. He asked me about her whole story, then said, "I think it would be right for her to be baptized in Bayamon. I will take care of the details so that she can stay there." Then he gave me goals for baptisms: he asked me to have one more baptism with Migdalia. So...we invited her daughter to be baptized this Saturday with her and she ACCEPTED! It was a miracle. I'm super happy about it. I was humbled when she said yes that she would like to be baptized. I realized again how this is the Lord's work and not Michael Cevering's. And that's the only reason I have faith in this work: because it's His. In terms of companionship, Elder Matamoros and I are getting along much more. A member called us to see if two of us could go to his house to help him power-wash his roof. As you can imagine, the flat, cement roofs of Puerto Rico get filthy. I offered to go do the work, and Elder Matamoros went to the lesson with Elder Armstrong. And it turned out to be a good day to wash a roof: the sun was super hot so I got burnt all down my arms. It hurt bad haha it was probably the worst burn I've gotten in my mission. But I was happy to do the work because I'm grateful for that member and all he's done for us. It was a good lesson for me to learn. So, this week we have the baptism of Migdalia and her daugther. The ward is really excited about that. Our work with the members is starting to show fruits: we're supposed to have a lesson tonight with the friend of some members, and the ward also gave 4 references to our ward mission leader yesterday, so things look like they're on their way up. Our bishop is still horrible--he didn't want to give us a ride home yesterday after church---but we continue working anyway. And the members are rallying to the call. I believe this ward can see miracles if they continue growing like they are :) I'm grateful to be here. I love you all a lot! Elder Cevering

Monday, May 19, 2014

Email May 19, 2014

Hello Family! This week was a pretty good one, though I have to tell you a story: last Monday we were playing soccer and while we were playing I hurt my knee. It's been hurting me a lot as I've been walking around. I talked with the nurse and she's going to come see me today. So to be honest, I didn't do much proselyting this past week. We did, however, have some good lessons. We taught Migdalia about repentance and the commandments. It was a really great lesson because her 17 year old daugther was present. She had questions about the law of chastity, saying that the world embraces being unchaste. Haha. I just looked at her and said, "Alondra, I'm going to talk to you, youth-to-youth. Forget that I'm a missionary for a moment and remember that I'm a normal person like you..." then I went on to talk to her about the importance the law of chastity has had in my life and of the things I've learned from living it. Making it personal really changed everything, and in the end she accepted our invitation to live the law of Chastity. She's also going to be baptized now :) The situation with Migdalia is really interesting. She's completely ready to be baptized! She lives in an area of Bayamon that pertains to the neighboring ward Toa Baja. I've told you about that before, but here's the thing: though the stake gave permission for her to be baptized in Bayamon, I actually talked with Elder Cornish last week (yes, THE Elder Cornish) and he told me that Migdalia needs to be baptized in Toa Baja. So we're making a transition plan with the ward and missionaries of Toa Baja. I'm happy for her and believe she'll be able to make the transition. Our ward mission leader, however, is not too excited about it. On Saturday we went with the first counselor in the ward to clean the chapel--the men of the priesthood don't sign up to do the cleaning, so every Saturday morning we get a call "Elders can you help?" So we have to go. And we went, then we went to his house and helped him cut his grass and such. I was having a lot of pain in both my knee and my ab, so I asked him for some pain medication. He pulled out the only thing he had and--it was my fault--I took three pills...just to find out they were Tylenol PMs. HAHAHA. I was asleep in twenty minutes, and I slept basically all day. Haha. How funny is that? I love you all so much! Elder Cevering

Monday, May 12, 2014

Email May 12, 2014 (Short & Sweet because we got to talk to him yesterday for Mother's Day)

Hello! Yesterday was super great. I was so happy to get to talk to you. I wish it could be a longer time, but it was fun. Things are going well here with Migdalia. She should be getting baptized this Saturday. We'll see! Love you! Elder Cevering

Monday, May 5, 2014

Email May 5, 2014

Hello family, THE BIG NEWS OF THE WEEK The sad thing that happened this week was the release of President Smartt. Sister Smartt was diagnosed with MS, and the first presidency released President so that they could be together in the United States together for her treatments. We didn't know about it, but apparently Sister Smartt has been in the United States doing tests for awhile, and it was just recently that she was diagnosed. It's really sad. She's a really great woman, and President Smartt is a great man. Right now Elder Zwick of the seventy is presiding over the mission. Our new mission president will arive in June, but we still don't know who it will be. It's a really crazy situation. In other terms this past week was actually pretty successful. We have a new investigator: her name is Louisa. She's a friend of a member in the ward. She and her husband are young and really poor and they have a 1-year old son. They live up in the mountains, so in order to come to church Louisa had to stay Saturday night at the member's house. Her husband couldn't attend because he works. I don't know him, but she's really cool and interested. We have a lesson with her this week and hopefully her husband is present. Migdalia continues to progress. She is basically a dry Mormon. She doesn't drink coffee, she doesn't smoke, doesn't drink, etc. That's surprising because most Puerto Ricans love coffee. In Aibonito the people drank a LOT of coffee, and it's because they have it in their backyards. And apparently the coffee that comes from the south side of the island is really good. Things between Elder Matamoros and I are actually improving a lot. I've been trying to joke around with him a lot. He's really weird and such but we're getting along better. We're trying to do a lot of different things with our time. You know me and you know how my interests in things go up and down: I have the tendency to be super interested in one thing, and then after a few weeks that interest changes. Well, that's how I've been feeling about the mission. I've been really struggling to maintain my interest to talk with people in the street. And in order to relieve that stress I've been trying to find members who we can serve so that we can utilize our time well. There's one member we've been able to help a lot, and he's actually grown more active and his relationship with his wife is improving a lot. Last Saturday we were at this member's house helping him build a cement column for his house. It was really fun. Haha. We've been making a LOT of cement with him, and without machines. I think in all, we've gone through 50 bags of cement at his house in the past two weeks. We've been filling his patio, we built the column, helped him seal his septic tanks. And so on. We also have been helping him in his banana farm. It's sweet. I've really enjoyed it. We started a group to play basketball on Saturdays. It's our attempt to unite the priesthood more, give the members a chance to invite friends to the church to get to know us, and also for us to bring our investigators. It's going to be really great. The members have given us support in it. We're also going to re-start the English class we were giving, which should bring us two investigators. There's a couple from Naranjito--in the mountains--that we were trying to teach before when they came to the class, but it didn't work out because they were so busy starting out the year. They are accountants. But now we should be able to teach them. Well that's all. I love you so much and I'm looking forward to talking to you on Sunday! Elder Cevering

Monday, April 28, 2014

Email April 28,214

Hello family! Today I am feeling really good. In all honesty, this past week was one of the hardest weeks of my mission. I am so glad this transfer is coming to an end, and I'm hoping for some good changes to take place. But in the end of everything, I am happy right now and I am excited to get into this new transfer :) Things between Elder Matamoros and I are not too great. He's really, really tough to deal with. He says that he doesn't need anyone to tell him anything about how to be a missionary. I always tell him, "Look, when I began my mission I felt like I knew a lot too. I'm telling you now, after 21 months in the mission, that I wish I had listened more to my trainers." He acts like I'm unintelligent. Blah. I'm going to be making a plan with the other elders to try to accomplish some things in the ward--which is struggling along. We had a ward council meeting where it was proposed that we make a ward mission plan. But just in case that never happens, we have to get the ward moving in some other way. We, the missionaries, are basically the life force of every ward and branch on this island. We got some good news from the stake yesterday. Our investigator Migdalia--the one who wants to be baptized on May 17th--came to Bayamon to church yesterday. And we were stressing a bit about that because she doesn't live in our ward boundaries. Well, we talked to the stake mission leader and he said that it was best that she continued coming to Bayamon for one simple reason: she's learning. She can continue going to Bayamon and then one day, when she is firmer in the church, someone can teach her about the boundaries and then they'll leave it up to her. Ha. The funny thing is that she lives in an area named Toa Alta, which is basically a war area between the Bayamon ward and the Toa Baja ward. There's a line that divides the Toa Alta area into the two different wards, but no one respects it, and no one enforces it. There are members from Bayamon that attend Toa Baja. Blah blah blah. So that had a big part in the whole decision of letting Migdalia continue coming to Bayamon. So that's great. We have ONE investigator! Hooray! I will never be able to express fully what my mission has meant for me and what it has made of me. I will forever be grateful to have been sent here to Puerto Rico for two years of my life. But the mission is tough, and it's only meant to prepare us for the rest of our lives. I had a very personal experience in the sacrament yesterday. I know that it's a true ordinance--that Jesus Christ really did initiate it in His earthly ministry. I know that Joseph Smith restored the priesthood authority necessary for that ordinance to have a complete effect on our souls. The atonement of Jesus Christ was such an incredible act of love and obedience. I will ever be grateful for His love. I love you all so much! Elder Cevering

Monday, April 21, 2014

Email April 21, 2014

Hello family, What a week! I feel like it went by really fast, though nothing exciting happened. To be honest, it was a tough week. We had a great lesson with an investigator--she asked us, "When can I be baptized?" and then we found out she doesn't belong to our ward...SUPER disappointing. GAH. I was SO happy when we set up the baptismal date and everything, and I was so happy to have someone SO promising, just to find out that she didn't live in our ward boundaries. It was really, really frustrating! The ward has been making some big advances over these past couple of weeks. The home teachers are finally getting out and doing their visits! It's really great. And the visiting teachers are going out too. It really makes a difference in the Spirit that we feel in the chapel. A few months ago I gave an idea to the zone leaders to have a stake missionary fireside. They gave the idea to the stake president and he approved it. It was called "Returning the Hearts to the Family." Well, they took the idea and worked it out with president Smartt, then told us to invite everyone. Then this past week we were told that we--the missionaries--couldn't go. I wasn't too frustrated by that. I talked with some members afterwards and they said it was a really good fireside, so I'm happy about that. Hopefully it will have some good fruits. There is literally nothing else for me to write about. I'm just trunky really. I've got to get myself more focused, but I'm seriously having a hard time staying focused on the work right now. All of the investigators I've found here in Bayamon have either fallen through or they attend other wards...I contacted a bar the other day that's near our house. I asked each of the men in the bar if they were interested in listening to our message. They all flat-out said no, until the last man. The last man said, "What are you going to teach?" I gave him a short resumen of what we teach then said, "Do you think I would take my time to come into a bar to talk to people if I didn't think it would bless your life?" He then told me he'd like us to pass by. When I saw his address I saw that he wasn't from our ward. BAAAAHHHH. I was SO disappointed. He seemed so cool. Preach My Gospel says that "No effort is wasted" and I believe that. Maybe this is just a practice in humility for me. But I'm tired of having to send golden investigators to other missionaries :). But pa'lante. Oh well. Life goes on. I haven't gotten your package yet. The whole mail process is really slow in the mission. President wants us to get mail directly to our houses, but our house doesn't have a physical address so I can't receive mail that way. Bleh. But I got grandma and grandpa's package. Tell them thank you. I love you all a lot. I love you all so much! Elder Cevering

Monday, April 14, 2014

Email April 14, 2014

Hello family! Well, don't think that you missed out on anything by not getting a full letter last week because nothing exciting happened. Better things happened this week. Well, the exciting news from this week is that Jorge was baptized! It was a really great experience. The ward had a different Spirit in it on Sunday. I wish I could tell you more exciting things were happening. I'm doing alright. I feel like time is going by fast, but I feel like what I'm doing isn't making a difference. Despite all the people we talk to, and despite all the promising people we teach, it just feels like no one is really serious. That's the tough part: we are getting preached to about finding the people that will receive us, but even when they receive us they don't receive the doctrine. I know that faith is incomplete without enduring to the end, but it's just tough. This has been the longest period in my mission where my numbers have been low. I don't focus entirely on numbers, but I do know they are important and represent our work. I know I'm working, so I'm not second-guessing or thinking badly of myself or my efforts. I'm frustrated with the people. President Smartt says there are a ton of people ready to accept the gospel. I believe that, but I want to find them. You know? Well, I won't be negative anymore because I don't want you to think that I'm not doing well or that I'm being too hard on myself. I'm learning a lot about my weaknesses and I'm grateful for that. The atonement has been very active in my life this past week. I know Jesus Christ lives and is my Savior. We all ought to strive to be more like Him and be obedient to His commandments: doing our duties more than blesses us, it blesses others. Something I've seen in Puerto Rico is that the proud, idle "saints" bring a HUGE burden on the dutiful. So be responsible and faithful. I love you so much! Elder Cevering

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Helping in a Banana Field

Pictures of a Ward Missionary Meeting and a Family Dinner

Email March 31,2014

Hey family! Well, my fourth and (hopefully) final child got here to Puerto Rico this week from Honduras. This is my third companion from Honduras. Stinking Hondurans. They're cool. His name is Elder Matamoros. Here in the caribean that means "kill rice and beans" if you're from the Dominican Republic. It's funny to see the Dominican people laugh when they read his name, even though I'm sure Elder Matamoros doesn't think it's funny. We started his mission off great. A member invited us to visit with one of her friends. It was one of the more incredible lessons of my mission. Her name is Migdalia. Her sister has been seeing their dead mom. So the member talked to her about works for the dead, and that's how we were able to have the lesson. As we talked to Migdalia about the different things her sister has seen she said that once her sister heard a voice say to her: "Don't worry about your mother, she's with me. My name is Carmela." Well, she didn't know who Carmela was, so she did some research and discovered that her great grandmother's name was Carmela. Well, we didn't get to talk to the sister, but we talked to Migdalia and we began talking to her about the atonement and our need for it. We talked about those who didn't ever receive the blessings of the atonement in this life, and read the famous scripture in Malachi that teaches us that Elijah will come to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and vice versa. When she read that scripture she re-read it again out loud, and we felt the Spirit come into the room and I could see that she'd been deeply touched. Then she suddenly started to cry and said that the scripture "impacted" her. So we taught a few other things, then left her with the invitation to go to church and she went! She even talked with her sister in the week about all we talked to her about and her sister is now interested in talking with the missionaries. It's a super cool experience. Before I get to what happened at church, I'll tell you another story of a new investigator. Elder Matamoros and I went out contacting, and I decided--according to prompts from President Smartt and from personal feelings towards being in the street--decided to be simpler in my contacts. I decided to stop trying to qualify people in the streets to listen to our message and simply started to look for people who could receive us after hearing a very short testimony in the street. So with that in mind, I went out with Elder Matamoros and we contacted a ton of people. After a couple hours we were walking up this street, and I saw a man standing up above us in his home, and I just walked past him, but felt that I should go back. So I shouted up to him, and he didn't want anything. But his wife heard my voice and came out and said, "Yes, please come up!" So we went up and talked with her, and she said, "My aunt was a Mormon." We talked with her about what she knew of the church and she knew a lot, though there were parts of our story that were broken in her memory. We pulled out the Book of Mormon and read the testimony of Joseph Smith with her to help her remember the story, and it really impacted her. She said to us, "I'd forgotten how important this book was. I was soon going to be baptized in an Evangelical church, but I'd forgotten all about this. I need to do some thinking. Where is your church? I want to go there." Sounds like a pretty great week for a new missionary right? Haha. But it's not done yet! We had our missionary training class with the members yesterday and it was a success. We had been talking and planning it for weeks, but on Saturday we just didn't feel like we were ready yet, so we said a prayer and asked God to guide us to know what we needed to do. The inspiration came quickly: we needed to do a very thorough demonstration of HOW one member can invite his or her friends to listen to the missionaries. So that was how the training started off: our ward mission leader acted as the member inviting his friend to listen to the missionaries. He showed exactly how it is that we are supposed to approach inviting situations: he got to know his "friend's" feelings and then talked with him and invited him to listen. Then they had a short "lesson" in the member's home and ended it there. We then analyzed with all the members the things that this member in the demonstration did to invite his friend. It was a good discussion. Then we showed a power point, and I shared some different thoughts about how to invite people to listen to missionaries. But the most important part was the 4 step process we showed to members that they should use to find people who will really want to listen to the gospel: 1-make a list of friends and family, 2-pray and fast for guidance and for them to receive the gospel, 3-talk with those people about the gospel (giving testimony of the Book of Mormon if possible), and 4-inviting them to talk to the missionaries in their home. It was solid! Members wrote down the points, so we're hoping they will now put them into practice. We ended the training by pulling out a flag we'd painted. I'll be sending a picture of it. We invited the members to write their names on it if they were willing to "hasten" their work with the Lord's work, as taught in D&C 88:73. It was solid. Our stake president was present for the presentation and he told us he loved it and thought it was the perfect form for teaching members. So we're excited and happy about it. Apart from that, things are getting really hot here. One of our fans broke in the house--we sleep with standing fans because we don't have air conditioning. So I've been putting my blanket in the freezer so that it gets frozen before I go to bed. If I don't do that, I can't fall asleep because I'm too hot. Haha. What an experience. Well, I love you all a lot! I pray for you and always hope things are going well. Elder Cevering

Monday, March 24, 2014

Email March 24, 2014

Hello family, Today is a really hot day! A member told us something today I'd never learned before: the wind from the Sahara Desert carries all the way to Puerto Rico, and that's what makes it so hot here sometimes. It gets smoggy and that's why: the sand from the Sahara. I'd seen it before in the clouds, but never like it is today. It's really cool actually. I have some really crazy news: I am staying in Bayamon and I'm going to be training a new missionary here! He's the ONLY elder that is coming in this transfer and in the next transfer. The rest are all sisters. So I feel really blessed to have this chance: I feel like it's evidence that the Lord and president Smartt have confidence in me. It'll be a great way to put my mission away because of my last three transfers two of them will be spent training this missionary. I feel the love of God, knowing that He chose ME at this time. I feel really humbled. I also feel like it's part of God's call to me to continue to work hard until the end, which I'm grateful for. Elder De Oleo is going to the other side of the island to a place called St. Isabel, which is on the beach :) It's really hot down there, so he's not too excited, but he'll do well there. It's really good that he's getting out of Bayamon cause he's been here for almost eight months and it was taking a toll on him. Our week was interesting. We went to Abraham and Anna's house on Monday and found out we couldn't meet with them at all this week because of the appointments Abraham had for his leg. Apparently he was in a lot of pain from the therapy they're giving him in order to prepare him to get his new cast. So there's nothing new there. Things are going well here: I'm excited to start training! We're also moving to a new house, and Elder Arana is leaving so things in our house are going to be so much better. A missionary from Honduras is going to be coming to be companions with Elder Armstrong, and he's really cool. He's only been in the mission for about 8 months, so our house is going to be full of newbies and me. Woo hoo. This week will be a good one! We're preparing for the ward training on Sunday, which is going to be awesome. I'll give you the details about it next week because we still don't have it all figured out. But it's going to be awesome and it's going to bring this ward to life. That makes me very excited about Café Rio coming. I have actually been craving Café Rio. The food here is not Mexican, though it is a lot of rice and beans. But that's why I'm so happy about it: rice and beans are close by now. I love you all so much! Elder Cevering

Monday, March 17, 2014

Email March 17, 2014

Hello family! First off, our investigators Abraham and Anna are doing really well. Abraham gets a new cast this week which means he is coming to church next Sunday. I'm really excited about that. They're a great family. I didn't teach them this week: the other elders did because we were on a trade-off. But the lesson supposedly went really well. We're going back tonight. Jorge is doing well: he's getting baptized on the 28th. On our trade-off we had a great lesson with him about the plan of salvation. We started off talking about our homes and discussed with Jorge his home as a child and his feelings towards his parents. We related the love he feels for his parents to the love we have for our Heavenly Father, and asked him, "If you loved them so much, why did you leave them?" He answered, "Well, if I hadn't left them I would never have grown so much." When we showed him how that was the same with the pre-earth life and coming to this life he was really stunned. He was really touched by the lesson. We are happy with the direction that the ward is moving. The home teaching program is now organized and in effect. That will have a HUGE impact on this ward as time goes by. And now we're planning for March 30th a ward-wide training by us missionaries. It's going to be really cool. The goal is to invite and commit the members to invite one person they know to be baptized in the month of May. We don't have all the details worked out, but our bishop has given us sacrament meeting and priesthood/relief society to talk to the ward. It'll be really great. It's the best thing this bishop has ever done for missionaries in this ward. There's a man in our ward who's really helping things to change. He's from Costa Rica, so he is a much harder worker, much more devoted person. He has gained a lot of knowledge in his life, as he has been a bishop, among other callings he's held. I'm really glad he's here in this ward. He's increasing the spirituality of the priesthood lessons, which is super important. This ward has the most priesthood I've seen in any area I've served, but they have been failing in doing their duties. I know that this man will help these men to move forward. I love you all and miss you all a lot. I'm not trunky, but I do miss home and am excited to get there. I'm learning how that's normal and fine: longing for home is part of our spirit being. I'm grateful to my Heavenly Father for all that He's doing to strengthen me here in Puerto Rico. I've been reflecting on the person I was in the months before my mission, and imagining the person I'll be when I get home again. I think I'll be so similar, and yet so different. Hopefully you'll all still love me ;) haha. I'm so GRATEFUL for my mission and all I've been blessed to experience. It will be hard to leave it behind, but it will be so great to be home again. I love you! Elder Cevering

Monday, March 10, 2014

Elders with the Ward Mission Leader in Bayamon

Email March 10, 2014

Hello again! I feel like the past week was long, but it was a pretty good week. We had a good number of lessons, and our investigators are progressing. We didn't maintain our numbers, but I'm happy with what we could accomplish. I try to look at the success we have with the people we are able to visit rather than look at our numbers. Abraham and Anna are doing really well. We went back to their house to teach them about the Restoration again, and it was really great. It started off slow: Abraham was on medication so he wasn't completely there haha and Anna seemed a little unfocused at first. But after having to step aside to take a phone call, the thought came to me to give them blessings. Abraham was in a lot of pain and Anna hadn't been sleeping because of the care she has to give him. They accepted the offer for the blessings, and the Spirit fell upon their house when we administered to them. Abraham became fully attentive to us, and Anna said she felt that during the blessing there was a current passing over her head from our hands, and she felt more at peace. We were then able to give the lesson without distraction, and they both were really excited to read the Book of Mormon. We have a new investigator named John. We taught him on Saturday about the Book of Mormon. He told us, "I stopped going to church a few years ago because I couldn't trust what the preachers were saying. Hasn't the Bible been changed over the years?" We told him he could trust in the Bible but also to trust in the Book of Mormon: that together they would help him know the pure doctrine of Christ. It was a really good lesson. He was going to go to church but had to take his nephew to Toa Baja--the city next door--so he couldn't attend. I talked with the elders up in Aibonito and they gave me some exciting news: there are going to be 7 baptisms there this month! Really exciting. The branch has really come alive in helping the missionaries in their efforts. The elder that I talked with reminded me of the day that we all knelt down together and prayed for the Lord to give us guidance concerning the branch. This elder says that "all the good that has come for this branch has come as a result of that prayer: because the Lord answered it." He's still up there in the mountains seeing the fruits of our labors, and I'm so happy that he can see them. This morning the Jehovah Witnesses came through the neighborhood. Elders Arana and De Oleo wanted to play a joke on them--you'd think that we'd have more compassion on people who preach in the streets knowing what they go through haha. They took my Jehovah Witness Bible--one I took from the house of one of my investigators--and went down in the streets and said, "We don't want this Bible, the Mormons gave us a different one and it's better." HAHA. It's super funny, but it's also super rude. The Jehovah Witnesses didn't take it back, so I still have their Bible. And apparently they want to come and visit us at our house: Elder Arana acted like he didn't have a religion and that he was talking to the Mormons. Bah. Here we go... We're working towards March 30th: that's the day we have to instruct the ward about missionary work. We are planning to do some practices with them about how to share the gospel. I'm really against getting up in sacrament meeting and preaching to the members to do missionary work. They know they have to do missionary work, and many of them have done it throughout their lives. But they haven't had much success at it because they don't know how to do it. So we're working with them on that and trying to prepare ourselves for the 30th. I don't know if I want to stay here in Bayamon for that day or get transferred out--transfers are the 25th. We'll see what happens. Anyway, I love you all a lot! Elder Cevering

Monday, March 3, 2014

Email March 2, 2014

Hello Family! I want you to know that this past week was the happiest, best week of my mission. I grew a lot personally and learned a lot about my relationship with my Father in heaven. After receiving the talks from brother Roylance I decided I was going to pray more than I ever had in my mission. President Smartt had talked to us in our zone conference that we needed to pray more in our work, so I felt that the talks joined with president's words were inspired. So I put them to the test and began to pray a lot more in the mornings, pray in the streets during the days, and pray more at nights. I began to beg the Lord that He would guide us and give us power in our teaching. I begged Him that we could have just one investigator present at church. So with a lot of faith in prayer, we went out to work, and we more than doubled our weekly numbers here in Bayamon. We jumped from 2 lessons a week to 9. We jumped from 2 new investigators to 7. And the investigators we found are really solid! We taught them short lessons about the Restoration and then read in the Book of Mormon with them. It was really incredible! We found a family: their names are Abraham, Anna, and Miguel and two other young men whose names I don't remember. They believe in God and Jesus Christ but have seen the corruption in the churches in Puerto Rico so they ended their Sunday attendance. They told us about the second biggest church in Puerto Rico--the pastor's name is Wanda Rolon. Entrance into her church is $5, the order for sitting is according to your social class--rich, middle-class, or poor--but all in attendance are required to give extra offerings during her preaching or they are asked to leave. And for those who want to give a lot of money, there's an ATM in the church where you can take out money. That's not too rare in Puerto Rico, but it's one of the biggest examples, and it's the example they used when they talked to us about their religious beliefs. It was a perfect place to start teaching about the Restoration. We showed them how the corruption in the religions of Puerto Rico is the fruit of the apostasy, and they understood it perfectly. The Spirit was present, and they invited us to go back. We're stoked. Elder De Oleo said, "This feels just like all the other times I've found a family in the streets and they've gone on to be baptized." I had the same sort of feelings. When Saturday night arrived, none of our investigators were going to be going to church. Abraham was recently shot in the leg--he was out smoking in a park one night when a shoot-out started and a bullet bounced off the concrete and hit him in the leg. So he wasn't able to go to church. Crazy right? But Saturday night I still was hoping that God would answer my prayer. So I went to bed, and I woke up to Elder Arana saying, "Hey, Jorge is going to church today!" I was so excited! We hadn't taught Jorge during the week, so I was super surprised when I found that out. He went to church with his son and he loved it! He's got a baptismal date for March 29th. The other missionaries are going to start teaching him this week--they've been having some hard times finding investigators, and one of them has never had a baptism, so we are going to let them teach him. But that's not all: a part-member family showed up randomly to church for the first time in a year. The wife is from Mexico and isn't a member but invited us to her house on Saturday to eat and to share a message. Really awesome! And also, some random members from the Dominican Republic showed up and brought one of their friends here from Bayamon to church. They gave us the reference. So I was humbled, and I knew that God had answered my prayers to have investigators at church. To cap off the week, Elder Cornish came to Puerto Rico and gave a training to all of the bishops, branch presidents, stake presidents, ward mission leaders, and high councilmen. All of the mission leaders were invited, so I got to go. It was a really great training! We'd received the training before in a zone conference last December, but it was really great for the church leaders to receive it because a lot of them don't like to listen to us missionaries--for example, our bishop in Bayamon haha. The best part of the training, however, was seeing the bishop from Carolina! When he saw me he came running to me to give me a hug. He told me that seeing me made it the best Sunday he'd had in a long time. I felt really loved, and I am happy about that. Great things are happening! The Lord is at work here, and we just have to continue being faithful so He can use us. I know this is His vineyard and His work and that He uses mortal instruments to bring about miracles. I love Him and love you all so much! Elder Cevering Mom, thank you SO MUCH for the package! It helped me out so much this week. I love you!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Email February 23, 2014

Hello I'm really tired right now so this email may not be too exciting haha. This week was a good one, we finally have an investigator who accepted to be baptized! His name is Jorge and is the best friend of our ward mission leader--member missionary work is so effective. We taught he and his son the Restoration and he accepted it immediately. He's not a really religious person, in fact, he's just recently started trying to find God in his life. But he's really humble and really prepared for the gospel. His only struggle is that he works every Sunday, so we're praying for him and looking forward to teaching him again. We have had a little bit of success in our own personal efforts to find investigators. A lot of people have invited us to come back to their houses, but now it's a question of teaching them. We did get to teach a family this past week, but when we invited them to be baptized they didn't accept. We're going to go back and teach the Restoration. Zone conference with pres. Smartt was this past Friday: it was the longest conference of my mission. I had to be there are 10 in the morning for a leadership meeting, and then after we were there for a full zone conference until almost 8:30 at night. Gaaah. It was long but it was really great too. We talked about the Fall of Adam and I learned a lot. It's incredible how you can always learn so many new things in the gospel. President Smartt is really smart--that's why they gave him that name haha. He invited all of the disobedient missionaries in our mission to go home in our zone conference. He's not here to mess around. He's pretty chill about most things, but he lives the mission manual. Our bishop gave a lesson about home teaching to the priesthood yesterday that was actually pretty good. He and his counselors have asked the ward to fast next week for missionary work to move forward. But their number one goal is to strengthen the priesthood and get them doing their home teaching visits. I am one hundred percent behind that. That will bring more baptisms to the ward and will strengthen the members spiritually. The weeks are all the same right now. I'm happy but I'm getting tired haha. I'm really grateful to be with Elder De Oleo, he's a really big motivation for me. He helps me to keep doing this work when I'm tired, which is really great because I don't feel like I'm alone in the work with him. He's probably my favorite companion. I love you all so much! Elder Cevering

Monday, February 17, 2014

Photos from Bayamon and Aibonito

Email February 17, 2014

Hello Utah! In all the honesty of my soul, I would say that apart from the weeks when I first tore my ab, this week was the hardest of my mission! But it was very beneficial for me and today I am a better person for it. To put it simple, it's been difficult because of the people I live with, the ward members, and the schedule. But things are improving. The walking situation isn't so bad anymore. I'm used to the walking and the sun now. The other elders are finally getting along better--I hope. And we'll see if the ward leaders make the effort to make changes. The tough part began Thursday: we'd been out working all week, having found no one new to teach, and we were asked to go to ward council. In ward council we started talking about the trainings that we want to do. Everyone in the council agreed with the idea. Our ward mission leader asked for a date to set the training for and the bishop said he needs to wait a couple more weeks for their next priesthood executive meeting--blah, blah, blah--to set the date. We were frustrated about that. That was Thursday night. Friday morning brought the next challenge. One of the elders here really dislikes his companion and just has a hard time dealing with other people. There was a lot of tension Friday morning, and it got me really angry. I had to go out of the house so I wouldn't say anything that I would regret. I chillled out for like twenty minutes and then got changed. After that, Elder De Oleo and I went out to work. The sun was really hot and I was frustrated and discouraged because of everything that had happened. Elder De Oleo wanted to use the bathroom in the church, so we went there and while he was in the bathroom I went into another room and felt an overwhelming desire to call President Smartt and tell him I was done, that I couldn't be the district leader here anymore and that I wanted to go home. So I prayed and asked Heavenly Father to bless me and to bless the other elders with whatever He could bless us with. Then I got up, and when Elder De Oleo left we started out on the streets again, and I felt strength in my legs that I'd never felt before: I felt what only Isaiah can describe: "But they that waith upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." Isaiah 40:31. I felt like my legs were not my legs. I don't know how to describe it. My legs were moving faster than the rest of me, and the strength that was in them was not my own. That scripture in Isaiah came to my mind, and I felt full of gratitude, and I went on to try to do the work. And in the next two hours we'd found four people who asked us to go back and teach them. I know that the Lord knows us and is aware of our trials. Things have gotten better since Friday, and I feel much better about myself as a person and much better about my mission as a result. I've been feeling a little trunky, but I know that the Lord will help me through that :). I love you so much, and I am so happy to be a part of your lives. Elder Cevering

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Pictures from Elder Cevering

At San Cristobal Canyon, with Victor Felix (a member who once was a pastor), with Elder Kraft, Elder Arana (in the glasses) and Michael's companion Elder De Oleo, with Lin, and one of the best snacks in Puerto Rico...cold cheese with tortillas! Yum!

Email February 10, 2014

Hello family! Well, unfortunately transfers came this past week and I wasn't sent out to a different island like I was hoping to. I heard something really funny: our zone leader asked president what his chances were to serve on an island, and president told him: 100% elder, you're already on one. HAHA. So I'm still in Bayamon with Elder De Oleo. Things are alright. The ward is in the beginning of a huge change: they just don't know how big it's going to be! We proposed an idea to our ward mission leader which we thought would help the members, he presented it to the bishop, and the bishop loved it and has decided to use it. They're going to start having trainings with the members, especially the priesthood holders, and they want our help to do it. I'm excited about that. Our bishop is an older man. He's a tough bishop and has almost always been against the missionaries here. But over the past year he's had a gradual change of heart and now we're invited to ward council and such. But the funny thing that happened this week was we were with him at the church on Tuesday and he began to tell us that he thinks President Smartt is crazy for taking our cars away. He said president Smartt is out of tune with the Spirit because he as bishop feels that we should have cars so that we can go up to Naranjito (the mountain area of Bayamon) in order to find people and start a branch. I said to him, "Bishop, we need to focus on strengthening the people who are already here in the ward of Bayamon before we start thinking about opening a branch." He got angry and had no response to me. The funny part: on Sunday he came up to us, after having his meeting with our ward mission leader and hearing all our ideas, and said to me--as if he were a genius haha--"We are going to strengthen the members here so that we can go out and strengthen others." And since he's an old man who doesn't remember anything, I said, "That's a great idea bishop." Haha. Life in Bayamon. We found a new investigator: his name is Eduardo. He lived in Florida and as a kid listened to the missionaries. His sister joined the church, but he didn't. He was super happy to talk with us because he really loves the missionary and invited us to go back to visit him this Wednesday. Our ward mission leader also has a family home evening set up for this week for us to teach some of his friends, so we'll see how that goes. I'm excited about that. We teach an English class every Tuesday and Saturday. Elder Arana--the Mexican who lives with us--teaches the class. He is really funny. He was giving definitions to words to the students and he said, "Dictionary significa arroz con gandules" or in English, "Dictionary means rice with pigeon peas." HAHA. I was laughing so hard. Love you all a lot! Elder Cevering

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A special message from Elder Cevering

Elder Cevering requested that I post this message on his Facebook page so I thought I would post it here as well. It is written below in English and then in Spanish. Hello! For those of you who don't remember me, my name is Michael Todd Cevering, I'm on a mission in Puerto Rico. That's a little island in the Caribean if you didn't know ;). So while you're freezing in the snow, I'm getting a sun tan. Beach time baby ;) I've arrived to the eighteen month mark in my mission: six months left till I'm back home in the cold with so many of you. That will be a good day, but it's not here yet, and I can't think much about it. But I have wanted to write to you all for quite some time now. As a missionary, you have the chance to talk with so many people: you are literally surrounded by people. However, you have experiences as a missionary that make you feel more alone than ever before. It's an absolutely bi-polar experience. Something that's been on my mind lately has been my previous life: my incredible family and friends who have taught me so much and helped me so much to grow. Also, I've thought so much about my mistakes. I want you to know that I love you all and I am sorry for my weaknesses. When I'm home, I hope to be able to resolve all my debts to so many of you. I have learned in reflection how it is that the love and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ are so perfect that He permits us to meet others who will leave an eternal mark on our souls. This truth illuminated my mind to a deeper level this week as I was studying the Book of Mormon and read of Alma and Amulek coming together after angelic visitations. My love for you all is deep. I pray for you and hope to always be there for you all. May we ever reach out to others who need our help, especially in this time of the Hastening of the Lord's work. The Hastening of the work will bring much opposition: may we always be found on the Lord's side, doing all we can to fulfill our duty. God is our Father. Jesus is our Christ. They are aware of us. I know that to be true. In the name of Jesus Christ, and with all my love, Elder Michael Todd Cevering ------------------------------------------------- Hola, Por aquellos que no me recuerden, mi nombre es Elder Cevering. Todavía estoy aquí en Puerto Rico: la isla del Encanto. El diamante del Caribe. Si pudiera, iría a la playa con ustedes. Lo dejaremos para después :) Llegue a mis diez y ocho meces en la misión, lo cual significa que pronto estaré en casa, congelándome en la nieve. Oren por mi :) Debido a que no podemos hablar cara a cara, quise escribir esta carta para que supieran de mi amor. He reflexionado en mi pasado y me he dado cuenta de cuanto les amo y cuanto me han ayudado. También, me he fijado en mis errores y quiero pedir perdón a cualquier que he ofendido. Quiero ser una mejor persona. En esta semana, he sido tocado por el Espíritu y he sentido la gran veracidad que Dios--en Su amor infinito y Su conocimiento tan perfecto--nos permite conocer a otras personas que dejan una marca eterna en nuestras almas. Este me impacto tanto cuando leía la historia del encuentro de Alma hijo y Amulek en Ammoniah. El impacto de su amistad fue eterno. Agradezco a mi Padre Celestial por haberme dado la misma oportunidad con muchos de ustedes, quienes dejaron una marca en mi alma que me influirá para siempre. Recordemos que tenemos la habilidad de ayudar a otras personas. Vivimos en el tiempo del Apresuramiento de la obra de nuestro Salvador Jesucristo. Que siempre nos encontremos a Su lado en esta obra, magnificando nuestros deberes, es mi oración. Yo se que Dios vive, que es nuestro Padre. Se que Jesús es nuestro Salvador. Ellos nos conocen perfectamente y están atentos a nuestras necesidades. En el nombre de Jesucristo, y con amor, Elder Michael Todd Cevering

Email February 3, 2014

Hello family! Well, this week was not actually so bad. We're still trying to find more people to teach and still at a stand still in the progress with our current investigators, but we are feeling confident. We have a really good plan that we feel will help us and the ward a lot. First, we are going to start doing visits with our ward mission leader to the houses of members in order to teach them and help them do missionary work. That's going to bring a lot of changes. But we're going to focus on specific families, not the whole ward. Yesterday the bishop didn't come to church. We were surprised when we saw the elders quorom president sitting at the front of the chapel between the two counselors and the counselors said he was presiding. We had a talk with them afterward and showed them that the elders quorom doesn't preside when a bishop isn't present: the first counselor presides. We taught them the doctrine and read in the manuals about authority, and the first counselor said, "We've been making this error for years." Lots of work to do with the members. I also had the chance to clear up some doubts in the priesthood class yesterday. What a life. I feel like something really important for us to do here is help people understand true doctrine. That will help them all to have more faith. We have some good teaching opportunities coming our way this week. We have a couple that we're going to visit up in the mountains (I LOVE THE MOUNTAINS) and a couple of people down here. We found a Cuban man the other day who told us he's looking to join a church though he doesn't believe that religion is a commandment of God. We're going to really help him understand the doctrine of the Bible. I'm excited about that. Love you all! Elder Cevering

Monday, January 27, 2014

Email January 27, 2014

Hello Family! This week was not a successful week for us: I was sick all week long. I woke up last Monday not feeling really well: headache, back pains, stomach pains and nausea, and those symptoms worsened during the day. I thought I had dengue again. I had to stay in all day Tuesday and part of Wednesday. Thursday we went on a trade-off with the zone leaders so I could do their baptismal interviews, and then Friday and Saturday I was inside all day again. It was really frustrating! The good thing is I still feel positive about the situation and I'm feeling much better. Whatever it was that I had is gone now, and I'm looking forward to this week. We're going to make some serious changes in the things that we do, and we're going to find some of the people we've talked with and we're going to be even more direct with them. We are going to now focus our efforts on specific families in the wards. All reactivation work is going to come through the ward leaders: not from us. If they want our help in reactivation, they can call us :). We're going to focus on helping the active members become active in this work. They all say that they help people and give service: we're going to help them become missionaries in those moments. That's the number one thing we're going to be focusing on. That was easier in Aibonito because there weren't a lot of members, and in Carolina because we had a car. In bayamon it's going to be a LOT more difficult because everyone lives spread out. The city is really big, and there's no public transportation. But I guess we're just going to have to improve even more our planning--which I think is a part of this whole not having cars thing. As far as investigators are concerned, there's nothing to report. Elder De Oleo went out and worked with the other missionaries this week in trade offs and had no success teaching anybody we've found. I love Elder De Oleo. He's super calm and relaxed. He's really great with people and he is a good friend. He always tries to serve: in the house and in the streets. I got to see some members from Carolina last night: they were here in bayamon so they came to see me. It was really great! It made me want to go back super bad! We'll see what the Lord wants. Love you all! Elder Cevering

Monday, January 20, 2014

Email January 20, 2014

Hello from Puerto Rico! I wish I could write to you and tell you we had an exciting week, but it wasn't. Haha. Some good and cool things happened this week but it wasn't necessarily this super great week. One of the big things we're struggling with and wanting to change is getting the ward more involved in missionary work in their personal lives. A giant difference between Aibonito and Bayamon is that the members here don't have the same urgency to do the work that the members in Aibonito had. The members in Aibonito were in danger of closing their branch. Meanwhile, the members here in Bayamon have more pride that they are a "strong ward." I've seen it before on the island: there are wards that have people who want to partake in the work with you, but a lot of wards are stuck in a state of "all is well in zion" because there are a lot of them so they don't try to reactivate or baptize. It's frustrating. Another thing is that there are a lot of members and missionaries who don't really understand what it means to be involved in the work of salvation. It's not just about the members leaving with the missionaries for lesson or members giving missionaries references. It's more about church leaders seeking the Lord's guidance, making plans, and then using all of our efforts to bring people back. That is the part that most people miss: they just think they will go visit people, or they think that the missionaries will find people, or whatever. It's more of a cooperative effort between members and missionaries, backed by the influence of the spirit of revelation. In terms of our investigators, there is nothing exciting happening. We're still on step one: Finding. Carlos is really great, but we haven't been able to teach him. He's not a really busy guy, but things have come up to keep us from being able to teach him. We are supposed to meet with him on Wednesday, and I hope it will go through. One of our investigators is not really progressing. The elders found her before I got here and set up a baptismal date with her. She has a desire to learn and even a will to be baptized, but she is the kind of person that is really laid back and doesn't put a ton of importance to things. She's about to lose her light because she doesn't work, and even though it stresses her out she doesn't seem to do much about it. She tries to make crafts and sell them, and it seems to work out for her, but it's funny. I don't know how much desire I have to teach her anymore, but then again, it's not my desire that matters. The Lord works miracles in the hearts of people. We had stake conference this week, and it was really awesome. The stake presidency talked about the work of salvation. They said, "We are inviting you to repent and become more involved in the work of salvation." Hopefully I'll have more exciting news for you next week. I love you all! P.S. If you go to LDS.org, there's an I'm a Mormon video of Lesly Toro on the first page. I know that couple. You should watch it. Elder Cevering

Monday, January 13, 2014

Earthquake in Puerto Rico

Some of you may have heard about the 6.4 earthquake which occurred in Puerto Rico at 1:00 AM this morning. Elder Cevering didn't mention anything in his email about it so he's obviously fine and was not affected by the eartquake. All news reports say the quake only caused minor damage - nothing major. We are grateful that the people in Puerto Rico were not injured and that their homes and communities were not seriously damaged. It is truly a blessing!

Email January 13, 2014

Hello Family! This was a good week: just a lot more walking. I have a few cool stories but not a lot to say. My companion and I get along really well, and all is well in the district. They are slowly growing to be more reverent. I love them a lot: it's the best house of missionaries I've lived in, but I am working with them on reverence. It's good. We found a man two weeks ago named Carlos. We were walking in the street and offered to help him in his garden. He asked us to pull some plants out with him and throw them in bags. So we did that, then left him with a Book of Mormon and our number. He called us last week and asked us to come back to help him move some rocks and explain the B.O.M. to him. Because of time on the day we went we weren't able to tell him much about the B.O.M. but we set up an appointment with him on Tuesday. We asked him if there was anything else he wanted help with on Tuesday and he said, "No, I just want you to explain this book to me so I can start reading it and learn from it." HA. It's super cool, we're super excited. Saturday night we went with a member to a lesson, but it fell through so we went with him to Home Depot to help him load some wood in his truck. We arrived there late, and weren't able to get everything bought until 9:38, and we are supposed to be home by 9:30. Another problem…it was raining that night, so the member didn't want to put the wood in his truck. We stood outside Home Depot for maybe five minutes and then I said, "Alright let's say a prayer so the rain will stop." We did just that: and as we prayed we could still feel the rain coming down. Elder De Oleo said he didn't think it was going to stop. But in the moment we said Amen, BOOM, there was no more rain. We threw the wood in the truck and headed home. On the way home the member looked up at the sky and said, "It's cloudy and dark enough that I can't see the moon or the stars. There's no reason it shouldn't be raining. God really does answer prayers." As we opened the door to enter the house, it started raining again :) God knows and loves His children. Apart from those two stories, a girl we've been working to reactivate in the church came yesterday. We were super happy about that. She's been inactive for a year due to an ugly divorce with an ex-missionary she passed through. But she's really great and she was really happy to be back. Oh, another story: listen to this. Elder De Oleo and I were walking the other day and without realizing, we walked into the middle of a swarm of bees. There were hundreds of them buzzing all around us. They circled all around us, but they didn't touch us. We laughed at the end and said, "We're going to make a movie of all the miracles we see here." So, things are going well. I'm content here in Bayamon. The ward has members that want to work. We get fed almost every day. But I'd rather go to lessons with members than have food. However, I realize that the members do their duties within their families and within the chapel, which is absolutely important. Something we are planning to do as missionaries to help the ward is talk about the atonement. I've been doing a test with members to find out how well they understand the atonement, and I was really surprised this past week when we had dinner with the second counselor in the stake presidency. This man has been a branch president, bishop, and is in his third stake presidency. That's quite showing for a Puerto Rican. But here's the thing: we talked with him about 2 Nephi 2:8--the merits, mercy, and grace of the Savior. He defined the merits of the Lord, the mercy of the Lord, but neither he nor his wife could define the word "grace." That was pretty disturbing to me, and it's sad. How can anyone really understand the atonement of Christ without understanding what grace is? With that question in mind, we're going to be talking with the members about grace. We've already found that many don't know what it means, and we've had the chance to teach it to them. Anyway, things are well. I love you all a lot and miss you! Elder Cevering