Elder Michael Cevering

Elder Michael Cevering
Puerto Rico, San Juan Mission

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

October 29, 2012 Email

Hello Family! Well, I have some bad news: this letter is going to be short! Sister Alvarado called me a little while ago and wants to take me to the doctor's office to have my body checked out: the pain has spread bad into my back and into other parts. Our mission nurse thinks it's torn, and signs seem to be pointing to that. This injury has basically put me out of commission for the past week! There was a night where I HAD to bike with Elder Garcia to another city because the other elders had our car, and the lesson we had planned was really important--you might ask, "Why didn't you call a member?" We did. No one could help us out. So, we biked the ten mile route, and I immediately dropped into bed when we got home: my body is not responding well to this injury! I'm sure you know this, but an abdominal injury impacts your upper and lower body, your back, and thus everything. So...I'm feeling a little down. I don't have a lot of pain unless I do a lot of walking or biking, but I feel a huge lack of support from my core: my back is taking most of the weight, which isn't really good...So I'm headed to the doctor! Because of all that my week was very uneventful! We had three lessons, one with a new investigator: Jorge Andujos! The couple we are teaching are both improving with the Word of Wisdom: he dropped from 2 packs of cigarettes a day to just one, which is great! We're really excited for him, and we can see how happy his wife is as well to see him improving. She is such a happy person! She's entirely dropped coffee: so they're both working really hard to be prepared for their baptism, which is now planned for November 24. Haha! We have to keep bumping it back because they haven't attended church--we tried to teach them about it this week, but each night we visited something came up that caused our lessons to fall short. Elder Garcia is really bothered by that: he almost had a Hondurian temper tantrum when they didn't show up to church. Jorge Andujos is pretty great! Elder Garcia and Elder Jensen found him over a month ago, but they were a little lazy and only now did we start teaching him. He had a golden question: "Where do we go after this life?" He's Catholic, but--and I didn't understand everything about this--he didn't feel like he received his answer from his priest...or something to that effect. I'm still learning to understand Puerto Rican: the Puerto Rico version of Spanish. Anyway, Jorge has throat cancer, and he's "preparing" himself to die, or so he told us. So we taught him about the plan of salvation and he loved it! His only question about it was infant baptism: he wanted to know why we teach that infants don't need to be baptized. We taught him the doctrine and he seemed to accept it, I'm not entirely sure though. He's a really funny guy, and I wish I could help him out more! He isn't capable of paying for all his treatments, so he hasn't received them yet. He and his wife are working really hard to have the means to pay for the medical bills they already have, so it's hard to meet with him. I wish I was capable of doing more for people! I feel that quite often here: especially when a member--who we know has hardly anything to give!--invites you to their house for dinner where they pull out a small box of ice cream and cake--their little kids cheering in excitement because they NEVER have ice cream--and you eat...while the wife feeds her kids and the husband only eats a little bit because he has to get ready to work a night shift in order to support his family. I've almost cried in front of families just because of how grateful I am to them, and I cry inside for a blessing to be on their house! These people are so good! The humble ones. Those who really know what it means to be simply a good person! We meet plenty of good people here: Catholic, Protestant, Mormon: all good people who bless the lives of others! It's incredible to see what people will give and do, even when they have hardly anything. Well, I'm out of time. I would have sent pictures, but I didn't have time for that. I'm sorry! I took some good ones too! To answer your questions: 1-I have no idea what's going to happen on Halloween. I believe we come in early for the night. 2-I did give Arelys' stepfather's address to some missionaries: their names are Elder Foggin and Mendez. I talked to them today at a meeting and they said they will be going soon. Now that I hear this from Arelys, I'll give them a call while I'm on my way to the doctor. 3-Christmas ideas: ties. I will continue to think about other things. I'd really like just a small pillow. Travel size. I don't have a pillow right now, and most apartments don't have pillows. I've been using some sheets wrapped up in my pillow case for the past 3 weeks to rest my head on. I can't believe how much snow you have! I miss the snow already. I'm getting used to the heat, but I really look forward to ending my mission right before Fall. I think I know what I'm going to do when I get home: work again. Gotta go. Love ya. Love Elder Cevering!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

October 22, 2012 Email

Hello Family! Well...week 2 down. What a week! It was a fast one, to be entirely honest, but just wait till you hear the things that have happened! First off, your favorite missionary (that's me) now has to do all contacting from a car: no more biking for a week :( I was doing some workouts last Friday and I did something to my abs. I was using one of those ab wheels (it's a little thing that Gold's Gym produces) and the rest is history...I wasn't able to stand or get up for about ten minutes after the injury, just because of the pain: we were in all day Friday because of me! HA. It was terrible. But on Saturday I went out with Elder Garcia: that was both a blessing and a mistake! We got to work hard for our investigators, but imagine the pain I was in yesterday (Sunday). It was really bad! We biked at least 20 miles and I was covered in sweat, and my body ached terrible. I fell asleep fast that night, but because of the injury I didn't sleep well. Then yesterday because of the pain we didn't go out to work, only to Sacrament. I called the mission nurse and she told me she doesn't want me biking or walking long distances (no biking at all!). She doesn't think I tore the muscle, but she is restricting me from all exercise EXCEPT for missionary work--which I can only do if I use a car! Haha! Oh man, this is going to be an interesting week. Alright, so in other news: we have 3 baptismal candidates right now. I really love them, they're great people! I think I told you about them already. The husband has a smoking problem, and the wife is addicted to coffee as well, so we taught them about the Word of Wisdom. He was smiling in pain when we talked about the use of tobacco being contrary to the Lord's commandments: he's a big man with a bit of a beard and mustache, glasses, and a lot of white hair! I would compare him to Santa Claus, but he's not fat like Mr. Navidad. He makes Christmas lights though (I'll send you a picture of one of the lights he made). He's been smoking since he was 16 and now I think he's in his 60's, so it's going to be tough for him to overcome that addiction. We've been praying for him, but he smoked two boxes last Saturday! She has actually been off coffee since we taught the Word of Wisdom! She really loves the gospel: she was the second of the two to accept it. She's one of the kindest, most understanding people, and she really helps him a lot. Right now is their busy season for work: a lot of people buy their Isaias's Christmas lights, so that consumes their life night and day. They do it by hand, so it's really time-consuming! Their son has a job--I have no idea where though! We are only able to drop by his house after 7:00 at night because of his work. But he has a bad leg from an accident years ago. He accepted the gospel immediately! He was sick yesterday though so he couldn't attend church. Their grandson is also one of our investigators, but he's a lot busier than his dad. He's probably 21 or 22, but the young adults here work a lot (if they can find a job). I don't know where he works either! Besides that, most of our week was lost because of my injury! And because our area is so big and because we only have bikes it's difficult to visit everyone we want to. Elder Garcia is going to ask President Alvarado for a car: we have one, but the other elders use it because their areas are farther than ours'. As for now we're planning a lot of exchanges: I'll go with Elder Jensen, and Elder Astle will go with Elder Garcia. It's the only solution! Elder Garcia is really great! He's learning English pretty well: he just doesn't discipline himself to use-it-in-order-to-learn-it. He and I get along really well, but we've had a few long discussions about missionary work because we disagree with each other. He has a lot of ideas of how to do missionary work (which are great!) but he forgets to use Preach My Gospel. A lot of the time he takes one principle from Preach My Gospel but doesn't apply the other ones, so he doesn't do all that is necessary. For example, this morning we were planning a lesson for a family: he asked me to lead the plan, so I said we should teach about the Plan of Salvation. He immediately shut that idea down, so I pried into why. He said: "We need to 'Teach People, not Lessons'" which is one of the fundamentals of Preach My Gospel. I said: "Yeah, that's what I want to do: we'll take the Plan of Salvation and apply it to him and his challenges." It took him 20 minutes--and a lot of reading in Preach My Gospel--to finally agree with what I was wanting to do. When he understood he still blamed me for the waste of time haha it was lame. He's not rude at all! But he's one of those missionaries who's a little bit eccentric! Yesterday he went on a cleaning rampage in the kitchen because he "couldn't feel the Spirit when he opened the fridge" because it wasn't that organized. Haha. He's so funny. Teaching him English is fun because I get to mess with him! The other day the four of us (Elder Jensen, Astle, Garcia, and I) were driving and we were teaching him "English". Elder Jensen pointed at his eyebrow and said "Buttcheek!" So time goes on and Elder Garcia says "What, what does buttcheeks mean? These things on my forehead?" Oh man, I thought we were going to die from laughter. Elder Jensen was driving but he was laughing so hard. Not much else has happened here in this great island of Puerto Rico! They have great chinese food :) haha but that's all else. I had some the other day! They give you fries with it...which is interesting. I really miss you all: I find a lot of comfort in thinking about "reunion": with family and friends in two years! Time will only make that reunion sweeter :) I miss you all! Love ya. Elder Cevering

Elder Cevering in Arecibo, Puerto Rico!

"San Francisco" Puerto Rico

At the top of "San Francisco Hill"

At the mouth of "San Francisco Hill" where they bike every day

Elder Cevering's First Companion in Puerto Rico - Elder Garcia

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Elder Cevering's Apartment in Arecibo

Elder Cevering's "Front Yard" View

Elder Cevering's "Backyard" View

October 15, 2012

Hello from Puerto Rico! Let me start by saying I love my mission president! President Alvarado is incredibly kind and incredibly straight forward. I believe he may be one of the most inspired mission presidents to ever have been called. That's my "spirit of testimony" coming out. He met us at the airport, took us to his home, and the next day we had interviews. I'll tell you all about it: He started by asking me questions about all of you and about myself. He took a picture with me on his cell phone and sent it to someone...I don't know who haha. But after all this he started talking to me about more serious things. He said: "The day you got your mission call I got two phone calls: one from my brother, and one from my adopted brother, both telling me that they'd gotten the news that you, Elder Cevering, were coming to MY mission." Then, with tears in his eyes, and in a very serious tone, he said, "You are the friend of my niece; my brother served with your uncle; and now you are serving with me. You are my family." And then again he paused and got even more serious and said, "I have been waiting for YOU to come since I heard your name." Then he told me about how he had me assigned to a different area before I arrived in Puerto Rico but the morning of assignments he received the impression to send me to Arecibo (I'll give you more details about Arecibo later), and he said: "I believe you are going to see miracles. The Lord is preparing you for something." I sincerely hope I can meet his expectations! Serving a mission is not easy: I never thought it would be! Please pray sincerely and definitively for me: don't just pray for my safety or my teaching ability. Please pray for me to have the strength and faith to do these things! So, Puerto Rico! I love it a lot! Mom, you'd really like it here! It's not as cultural as Hawaii, but it's very tropical, and the beaches are beautiful from what I can see. I don't think you'd like it as much as Hawaii, but it's cool. I am progressing in Spanish very fast. I've already been asked if I am from Puerto Rico, and I've had many people tell me I have a natural Spanish accent. My area is Arecibo: it's west of San Juan, close to the coast. It includes a lot of jungle area, or "campo" in Spanish. We live in the city, but we bike a lot in the jungles to teach people. I will attach some pictures. We live in a two story house on the top floor--I sent a picture. It is really nice, but we are currently living with 2 other companionships because one companionship does not have a house yet in their area. They serve in Barceloneta, which is right next to our area here in Arecibo. Elder Jensen is in his final transfer, and Elder Foggin has 3 months left. They are not trunky which makes it nice for me. Elder Foggin is from McGrath, Alberta, Canada. Does Colby know him? Before I got here there were only two elders in Arecibo (one companionship--Elder Garcia and Elder Jensen). President changed it to 2 companionships for us (Elder Garcia and I, and Elder Jensen and Elder Astle). Elder Astle came with me from Provo. Elder Foggin and Elder Medina (who flew from the Dominican MTC the same day we flew from Provo) are the ones who serve in Barceloneta. Elder Medina is from El Salvador. A lot of Spanish speaking goes on in our house! Which is good because that helps us learn. My companion is Elder Garcia: he's from Honduras and has been out for 21 months. He's been in Arecibo (the same area) for 14 months! Isn't that crazy? But he's been here long enough to see it develop from a Branch to a ward, so that's cool. I really hope that's not me though haha I want to serve on other parts of the island. He's only served in three areas. He doesn't speak English, so it's all Spanish for us. President Alvarado wants me to teach him English though, so I've been teaching him, which has actually helped me learn Spanish a lot. And since he knows the area so well he knows a lot of ways to talk to people, and a lot of them know him. He had about 5 investigators when I got here, but in the past week we improved that number to 20 investigators! This week is going to be a busy one! I really enjoy working with the members here. Member missionary work is very effective: people are grateful for the chance to befriend someone their age, someone who is more like them than 20 year olds haha. All the members call us Utah missionaries Factory Products because of the number of missionaries who are from Utah. The number of English speaking Elders has changed in the past two years though: there are now 75 percent Latin American missionaries and 25 percent American, which is a huge change! President says that number used to be the opposite: 75 American and 25 Latin American. I'll tell you about a couple of our investigators: we had a lesson with a couple in a small city called Hatillo. The husband makes Christmas lights for a living, and they are way cool! He and his wife have never really attended any church, but are firm believers in God. Elder Garcia had taught them before, so this week we invited them to be baptized and they accepted. Their baptismal date is November 3rd, and we're really excited about that! They're a really cool couple. He has a smoking problem, so we're going to talk about the Word of Wisdom this week. I hope that works out well! I do believe he won't have a problem with giving it up for his beliefs. But we're praying for him! We also are teaching a man named Jose. He was in a car accident years ago and due to inadequate medical services his leg is pretty messed up. But he came to church with us and loved it! It's pretty crazy how it worked out actually: when we go to church we are actually supposed to go contacting during Sunday School hour. So Elder Garcia and I went out contacting and ran into Jose driving around trying to find the church. We led him to the church and he had a great time. Haha when we were sustaining people in their callings he would raise his hand to sustain them too. He's really cool. There's a city here in our area called San Francisco: it's in the mountains, and it's really cool! We went contacting there yesterday and as we were passing a house this man darted to his fence and said "Estan precidando?" which means "Are you preaching?" And we said yes, so he invited us in, but Elder Garcia and I both felt like we shouldn't. We stayed out on the road and talked to him. He told us about how he was crucified with Christ on the cross and was recently reincarnated. He also said a lot of other things that had both of us a little bit scared of him haha but all is well! We left him with a pamphlet to read and don't plan to go back! It was one of many bone-chilling experiences I'm sure to have here on this wonderful island! There's a lot of witchcraft here: and I'm serious about that! A lot of paganism and we've found some weird things out in the jungles! I have not eaten much native food here. Puerto Rico is more Americanized than Hawaii in my opinion. There are fruit stands--and I love the pineapple here!--but there are more restaurants from America! Wendys. McDonalds. KRISPY KREME! And a lot of Chinese restaurants...which is weird to me haha but the Chinese food here IS really good. The culture here is more laid back than even in Hawaii: people work and go to church and sit out on their porches or watch TV when they are not doing anything else. They speak Spanish WAY different than other people. Their Spanish is really weird--I cannot explain a lot, but they speak fast and don’t pronounce a lot of things. But I understand them really well...I really am meant to be here. There are these frogs here called coquis: they make the coolest sound! For example: when we landed here in Puerto Rico I drove with the APs to Presidents house. In the little community he lives in, there were these really high pitched chirping sounds. I asked the APs if they were birds, and they said: They are frogs! It is really cool. They are loud enough to hear over the sounds of cars. I promise it is not annoying either. There are a lot near our house, so every night when I am studying or eating I go out on our porch and listen to the coquis. I have seen a million roosters: in fact, they wake us up at about 3 o clock every morning. There are also a lot of iguanas. Haha they are so funny to watch! They go running from the trees into the streets and stop, and then run back when cars come by. They are really big too! Not small like the millions of geckos here. So that is cool: there are a lot of different animals here, I just cannot think of all of them right now. I have not seen a monkey yet, but I really want to. Maybe if I get further inland I will see some. There are also a lot of wild dogs. This is funny: when we are out contacting we will see a group of dogs sleeping in the shade on the side of the road haha you would laugh if you saw it. It is sad to, because most of them have no food or shelter. We ride bikes a lot. My legs are going to be huge soon. When we bike to San Francisco that is about a 12-13 mile round trip—that’s not including the amount of time we spend walking and riding while we are in San Francisco. It may even be longer than 12-13 miles there and back, but I don’t know. All I know is every day my legs hurt pretty bad. But I haven’t been sleeping well. It’s been worse since getting here. Maybe it’s just all the stress, but it’s something I want to get cleared up. People here are really kind! They will talk to you, and even if they don’t want to hear more from you they will offer you water. I have been given water, capri suns, star-fruit, avocado, and packages of candy from people. It is great! haha they are way kind. Elder Garcia thinks they are mean--I told him he ought to try tracting in Utah to the non-members :) he was surprised to hear that I think the people here are kinder than people in the United States. The people here are really kind! They'll never turn down a short discussion! But most of them don't want you to return :) I think we are finally leaving. Love you all and miss you. Elder Cevering

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Elder Cevering with President & Sister Alvarado in Puerto Rico

Elder Cevering Arrives in Puerto Rico

Hi Everyone, We have not heard from Michael since he called us from the airport on Monday as he left for Puerto Rico. But yesterday we received an email from his mission president with photos, letting us know that Michael made it there safely. Michael’s mission president looks like a super nice and happy guy! I love him just by looking at his picture! He looks like the most friendly man! And Michael looks happy, but tired! They were up at 2:00 AM Monday morning and didn’t arrive in Puerto Rico until 7:00 PM. Since we may not hear from him at all this week I’ll tell you some things he told me over the phone. First of all, he was extremely happy to be out of the MTC! He was going stir crazy and he hated the food there. He said that after 8 weeks of studying Spanish, it was getting hard to focus anymore. He called us from Dallas because in SLC he would have only had about 10 minutes or less to talk to us, but in Dallas he had a 3 ½ layover and we got to talk for about 30 minutes. He said when the announcement was made during General Conference (regarding the mission age had been changed from 19 to 18 for boys, and from 21 to 19 for girls), there was a HUGE cheer from all of the missionaries there. He was really excited and told me to let him know of anyone he went to school with, friends, family, etc., who decide to leave earlier than 19, or 21. I would love it if you would keep me posted so I can let Michael know. He was really excited about the change. From SLC to Dallas he said he sat by a lady from Guatemala and she was a member of the church. It made us wonder if she was here for General Conference or something because what are the chances of sitting by someone from Guatemala who is also a member of the church. He has been living with the mission president – in the mission home, since he arrived on Monday. Today he is supposed to move to his apartment with his new companion. We don’t know where he was assigned to, or anything about his companion, so we are anxious to receive an email from him! Although he misses his family and friends, he’s ready to ‘go to work’, and he’s very happy. As soon as we receive an email from him we will pass it along. Thanks to everyone for your prayers and support (and letters!) for Michael! We all appreciate it! Melanie Cevering

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

October 2, 2012 Hello Family! Well, this is it! I am FINALLY leaving el CCM in less than a week. I cannot tell you how incredibly happy that makes me: and sadly, I really have almost nothing to tell you from the past week. It was ROUGH. And it was incredibly uneventful. I am excited to finally get to Puerto Rico--I leave next Monday the 8th, and I stay in the mission home until Thursday of next week. Cool right? Alright, so this past week our investigator Li revoked his baptismal commitment. We had our awesome lesson with him, and then our next lesson he just blew it all off. Elder Acor was pretty angry. I was frustrated, but I didn't get as mad haha but it was one of a few things that made the week tough! There's a sort of wall you reach at the MTC with the language that's impossible to pass without immersion in, and practical use of, the language, or so I believe. I feel like I've reached that wall, and now I'm just pushing against it. There are some things I still have to work on (you can never do too much memorizing :)). But I'm really just ready to get out and talk with real Spanish Speakers. There's no substitute for that. We got to watch the Brigham City temple dedication last week, and that was really cool! I thought President Packer's talk was powerful. Dad, will you tell me the significance of the historical artifacts being placed in the cornerstone? I'd never heard of that until this dedication. Besides that, the only thing I can think of to tell you is about my email title: There's an Elder in my district, Elder Larsen is his name, who does incredible impressions. His best one is of Batman :) haha I wish you could see it. But he also likes to do impressions of the first counselor of our branch, whose name is Brother Bradford. He's this bald guy with a double chin that dangles on his shirt and quivers when he talks. He says some pretty awesome things like this: "I'm sure if we could get all you missionaries into a room with some truth serum, we'd be able to get you all to confess you're just here cause you didn't want to see your mama cry!" Well, we all like to have a good laugh about that every once in a while, so we'll joke about truth serum: then Elder Larsen will do this double chin impersonation that's pretty great. That's a lot of background information for this story: but we were in class with Hermana Eyring, and Elder Larsen did this impression of him. We were all laughing and she smiled and asked "Elder, is he your branch president?" And Elder Larsen said, "No, he's more like the court jester." And we all laughed even harder at that. It was hilarious. I wish you could share in my enthusiasm over that. We stole a little basketball hoop from one of the Elders in our district. We've been playing PIG every night, and I've been doing some winning :) Elder Acor got SO much candy and food for his birthday last week, so we have had quite a time with that. But despite all the food and the sitting around, guess how much weight I've gained: none! I've lost 4 pounds since coming here. Would you consider that unhealthy? Haha. Oh well, it's better than gaining 12 pounds like some elders have already... Thank you for sending me salsa mom! And tell grandpa thank you for the LDS news and his and grandma's letters! A missionary's favorite thing is getting something in the mail. It's almost stressful to not get letters haha. Now that I'm a missionary I look back on the past year and feel terrible for not doing a better job at writing my friends. Alright, to answer some questions: the MTC has actually upset my stomach a lot, but it's been much better the past week. I blame the food though, because I was fine for my first three weeks here. I'm positive I'll be perfectly fine once I'm out of here and the food isn't so bad. I will be flying to Puerto Rico next Monday, the 8th! I'll be at the airport at around 4 in the morning, and my plane flies to Texas at 6. So I can call you between 4:30 and 5:30, or I can call you once I get to Dallas. I'll be in Dallas from 9:30 to 12:30. So whatever you want me to do I'll do. But you need to send me the phone card. I don't know what I would want in a package. Dad offered jerky, and that sounds great! I'd definitely go for some of that. Besides that, don't send me much because of how soon I'm leaving. I have a question about the family pictures we took: when do I get to see them? I want to see how they ALL turned out, including mine :) I love you all! The next time you hear from me will be from the airport :) I love the people of Puerto Rico, and look forward to becoming a Puertoriqueño soon. Elder Cevering