Tuesday, July 17, 2012

July 17, 2012

A chilly week here in Southern Brazil. Elder Thomazinho is my new companion. He is from Riberão Preto, in the state of São Paulo. He is 24 years old and is adjusting to life on the mission great. He has a strong desire to be obedient and learn more about the Gospel while helping others too. We are getting along great. He worked as a DJ before coming to the mission for a while. Also in a factory making dental parts. He was baptized with 10 years of age and was sealed in the temple with his family. After being inactive for 10 years he came back to church 8 months ago and is now serving the Lord full time. It is nice having a Brasilian around all the time to help with the language.
The lady in the picture is Tania. She was waiting for a bus a while back and we stopped to converse with her. We invited her to our English class. Come to find out she is already a member of the church. She was baptized 40 years ago. After marrying a Catholic man she decided to step away from the church. She came to our English class the last 3 weeks and on Saturday she said she would leaving for Germany to visit her son there and wouldn´t return for a couple months. (hence the present - which was a box of chocolates). Before she left on Saturday, she said the morning before finding us she was praying for a way to learn English again and we were the first people she saw after leaving her apartment. She also mentioned that when she returns from Germany, she always wants to return to activity in the church as she felt a strong spirit of love around us and in the chapel. She made sure to send a thank you to my parents for raising me and giving me the opportunities to bless her life. She was very sweet and a tender mercy from the Lord to get to know.
The other picture is of our new district. 
The castle in the photo is in the city of Flores da Cunha. This city is in our area, but is 30 minutes by bus. We don´t work there, but the bishop lives there. We went there for Pday last week for a couple hours. A man built this castle, along with a garage for 20 cars, a chapel behind, a huge garden, etc. It covers a city block. After, a different man built a house above his on the hill, and the people said house was more beautiful. After, the first man decided to build an apartment complex in front of the house of the other man, blocking the view. The next decision was for the second man to purchase an entire city block on top of the hill to build a castle even bigger which is now in construction... Pride...
I am very grateful for the convesion I have to the Gospel and the peace which comes from knowing the truths we have in the Church. Meeting so many people that could benefit from the message of the Restoration is an interesting thing. Most simply don´t want to slow down the pace of their life to change, even knowing the change would bring all the blessings and feeling they are searching for. I pray to be humble and recognize the whisperings of the Spirit tell me where to go to be an instrument for the Lord. Thanks to all for the continued love, support and prayers on my behalf.
With love and charity,
Elder Graziano

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

July 9, 2012

I am not being transfered...finally. I am getting a new companion, however and will be his first companion in the field. I am excited to get to know another Elder and hope to have the influence that the Lord wants me to have on him as he starts his service. I will find out tomorrow who he is.
Meeting the new President was incredible. I really love him and his wife already. As soon as they entered the chapel, while we were singing the song ``Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel´´, I received a very sweet confirmation from the Holy Ghost that they are really who the Lord wants to lead this mission. I had prayed for the ability to recognize the Lord´s hand in the change, and it was made manifest right off the bat. I was able to chat with Sister Wright for a little while as we waited to be interviewed by President Wright. They are full of love and expressed great desires to help us in any way. They have 12 living children, 13 in total. 11 children served missions. He served here in Southern Brasil 40 years ago and is able to speak pretty well already. She studied once a week for a few months and certainly the Lord has already blessed her with being able to understand and speak. She will pick up the language quickly I feel. They both like music, he graduated from Utah in music theory and she taught children for years about music. That being said, he was a plumber for his working life. But maybe they will incorporate a little more music into the mission. I am excited to see how the mission changes.
This last week had many faith building experiences, finding many people after praying for guidance from the Lord. He undoubtedly hears our prayers and guides us in our paths.
As I gave a few interviews this last week to some investigators of the other areas, I was touched by the fact that all said the hardest commandment to keep would be the law of chastity. I kept thinking to myself of the powerful attack Satan has put on the family and importance of purity in general. I look at all the commandments as opportunities for blessings, as protection, and find myself ever more grateful for the fact that we have a modern prophet to reveal the complete will of God for us in these days. I really enjoy teaching the plan of salvation to people, and I am touched by the reaction of them. In John 14:26 we read that the Holy Ghost will bring all things to rememberance. That seems to be exactly what happens when they listen to the details of where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going afterwards. Just about every person says the plan makes perfect sense and that it is nothing new for them to hear. In reality, it is not new, as we all committed to the plan long before our birth here. It is a neat explanation and testimony for me to release one more way in which the Holy Ghost functions.
With love and charity,
Elder Graziano
pictures- the district that I am in. Rock house that was built in 1879 by the Luchesse family here in Caxias. Head of Christ, a statue on a hill overlooking the city.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

July 3, 2012

This last week was a busy one. We had our our baptisms on Saturday and I made some no bake cookies from a recipe I gained from Elder Keesling. Elder Richardson and I finished off the leftovers after everyone else had taken off... We had a number of investigators there at the baptismal service and all commented on the special spirit that was felt as a result of that special ordinance.
Tomorrow is our day to meet the new mission president. We will have a conference with another zone at 11 and after he will conduct interviews with everyone.
Congratulations Brooke on the wedding coming up on Saturday. Hope it goes great!
I included a picture of a lady named Alice. I was on a division in a different area two a couple weeks ago and met her that day. The Elders there had just begun teaching her. After that day she continued to progress and was baptized on Saturday. When I went there last week to do the interview, she shared an experience she had. Prior to the first encounter we had, the night before, she shared that she had a vision of an angel in her kitchen and that angel said (translating to english) be calm, I am watching out / caring for you. She said it startled her. The next day we arrived to teach and she almost couldn´t believe what she saw because the ``angel´´ she saw was me... I didn´t know what to say to her in response other than I was very happy to get to know her and help her enter into the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. It provided a firm testimony of the infinite nature of God and the talents that he gives people. I don´t understand how those sorts of things happen, but obviously she has a gift of visions (as she related various other experiences as well during our conversation) and I was humbled to be used as an instrument in the Lord´s hands in that situation.
Today I spent time studying the importance of keeping the Sabbath Day holy. As with just about all missionaries I think, it is a constant battle with the adversary to help investigators arrive at church. I wanted to study more about the promises available and the importance of the day. We read in the Gospel of Mark that the sabbath was made for man and not man for the sabbath Mark 2:27. In Preach My Gospel we have a promise from modern day prophets that those who keep this day holy will have more peace and joy in this life p.74. We read a promise in Isaiah that those who sanctify the sabbath with have a reward with the prophet Jacob - signifying eternal life Isaiah 58:13-14. Another promise in Leviticus that we will be blessed physically by always having sustenance and having posterity, spiritually by the peace we will feel, and above all, walking with the Lord and being called his people. I gained a deeper appreciation for the fact that we do have one day set apart for us by a loving Father in Heaven who really wants us to rest from temporal cares and focus on the areas of life which are really the most meaningful. I know that Sunday is truly a special day and as we approach taking the sacrament with the right frame of mind, we will receive the spiritual cleansing and strength to continue perservering on the right path and ultimately make it back to Heavenly Father.
I have a question and request for some insight as far as how you, (and maybe other people who read this as well) manage to not be spread too thin. I think often about the number of people we are teaching, and sometimes think that in trying to help so many, nobody really benefits in the end. I believe this can be applied to raising children and juggling work and other parts of life. If you could respond with some insight I will apply it to the areas I serve in and try to remember that necessity of caring for each individual person that I come across during my service.
With love and charity,
Elder Graziano

June 26, 2012

This is the last week with President Pavan. He and his wife are leaving on Saturday and President Wright will arrive to take over. We are going to have a conference to get to know him and his wife on the 4th of July. I am excited to see what sort of inspirations and experiences he will bring to help the Lord with His work. President Pavan was neat to be around and I felt a powerful Spirit from him and his wife during the one conference I had with him.
We are scheduled to have 3 baptisms this Saturday of three girls - Daniele (14), Caroline (12), Aline (11). The parents are waiting on their birth certificate papers to marry and when that occurs, they will be baptized as well. This family lives directly above us. They moved into the house in March and Elder Richardson has been teaching them the whole time. There are seven children in total which is a huge family here. Basically unheard of from my experience so far. Most families seem to have 2-3 children. We are teaching two young men, Robert (18) and Mateus (14). We were looking for a previous contact and encountered them. After a visit on Friday the 15th they arrived at church the 17th and loved it. On the 24th, Robert. who serves in the army here, worked a 24 hour shift from Saturday to Sunday and left work at 10AM. He went home to change clothes and showed up to church for sacrament meeting and brought his older brother as well. We have very high hopes for them and have set dates for baptism as well with the two younger brothers. We have many other couples that we are teaching. I would really love to help them get baptized and begin working towards a sealing in the temple to be able to attend in a year before my mission ends. Certainly not all the people we meet accept the feelings they receive from our visits. One man named Roberto said he feels so light and peaceful when we teach and especially when we introduced the Book of Mormon and taught about the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but that right now he is too ``prideful to give the attention necessary to learn more´´. We have high hopes for him, as now he knows how to pray and has a Book of Mormon to help with the challenges he enfronts.
I enjoy the chance we have every day to study personally and receive revelation while learning more about the doctrine of Christ. I studied more about covenants this week which made my mind reflect more on the word responsibility. I forgot to bring my notes with me, but I really love feeling the Holy Ghost teach me during our personal study time. Rather than give it the name personal study time, I have switched to personal revelation time. I try to treat the minutes in a consecrated manner, worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost and I do feel the guidance from Him.
We started an English class here and it appears that the number of participants will increase quickly. It has been sometime since the missionaries had a class and we took a picture of our fancy sign. By the quality of the sign, we probably didn´t need to write ``de graça´´ - for free.
With love and charity
Elder Graziano

June 19, 2012

What a quick week. I was in two different areas on wednesday and thursday last week and was able to perceive the difference in areas with missionaries who seek after obedience and those who don´t. It seems the air and attitude of not only the apartment, but the streets is different as well. I enjoy the privilege of having our agency in choosing the outcome of every situation we face. On Sunday, we had 11 investigators at church. What a sight. I gave a talk and to look and see various couples in the seats and some young men and young woman all progressing was incredible. The ward did a great job of incorporating everyone and helping them feel comfortable and understand the procedure of the meetings. It was a huge blessing from the Lord. When I arrived, I heard a lot about the lack help the members generally give the missionaries, but now am able to say that there are many willing to sacrifice and help us move this great work forward.
I was studying the word worthiness/worthy the other day and developed a couple thoughts. I first came up with a definition that one who is worthy is one who is deserving of the opportunity to progress. The obedience and level at which we desire the will of the Father in this life will guide to a level of glory. If that level is worthy of celestial glory, we are entitled to the blessings associated. D&C 88:22. D&C 130:20-21.
I don´t know if I mentioned it but I am the district leader here in this new area. It is the biggest district in the mission with 6 sets of missionaries. This is why I have been able to do these divisions with other Elders. Also, I was able to do some baptismal inteviews this last week which was a neat experience. Our district has 55 people with dates for baptism marked, some this week and many more the following two weeks. I enjoy being able to converse with these individuals who have accepted the gospel into their lives.
Bummer about Elder Peirce. I think the northern part of Brasil has more difficulties with sicknesses and things. This last week wasn´t very cold here. It rained plenty and that doesn´t help clothes dry when you are not at home to pull them off of the line. My thoughts are short this week, I am having trouble thinking in English right now. But I will say that I am very happy to be in this area and even more happy that every day I get to testify of the reality of a Savior and the Restauration of His perfect church in these latter days. I love you all and thank you for the support and prayers.
With love and charity,
Elder Graziano
The pictures are of Elder Feitoza in suit from Fortaleza, Elder De Jesus from Belem, and a staircase in which after I filmed a Rocky segment at the top. I will try to figure out how to send the video. If I can´t you will have to wait for a little while to see.

June 12, 2012

First of all, I must give a huge thank you to Julie Del Santo who sent a big package with lots of snacks. Just when food was hitting the low point for the week, I received a gift from above. How incredible of her. I initially thought it was a pretty big box for not much stuff, because she only listed four items - nuts, socks, shampoo, trail mix. Upon opening, I don´t know how she was able to stuff everything into one box. It will last for a while... Thank you so much. I also received a letter from the Linton´s in Arkansas which was a great surprise.
Congratulations Vince on graduating. Best of wishes on the Eagle Board of Review.
This week, we found a few different families this week to teach. I really am praying to be able to help them get baptized so that here in a year before I leave Brasil I would be able to go to the temple and witness them being sealed by the Holy Priesthood for time and eternity. It is always a pleasure to find people who are open to learning and willing to pray about what we teach. Many people in this area have been turned off to missionaries I think because of the negative that happen with other churches. Many churches mandate extreme sacrifices of income (75%), homes, cars, etc. As a result, we see the ugly side of people from time to time.
The dedication of the temple in Manaus was really special. On Saturday night we received permission to attend the cultural celebration. We were able to stay about an hour before we have to catch our bus to get in the apartment on time. The dancing and singing were really neat. On Sunday the dedication was very spiritual. I enjoyed arriving early and being able to look at pictures of various temples and hear the beautiful hymns in the background. I felt as though it was like arriving to the temple early to ponder. Certainly I will look forward to the next chance I get to go to the temple here in Porto Alegre. I took my journal and wrote about some of the special feelings I was having. I am yet to miss a day without writing at least a couple of words in my journal. It has been harder to keep us this transfer with extra responsibilities but I will continue to make that effort.
This last week had some chilly days, but no snow. I will be giving a talk in church on Sunday again. One of the things I continue to marvel at is the fact that whenever I read the Book of Mormon in portuguese during the morning, I am able to speak and understand better throughout the day. I know this comes from the promises of the prophets, that reading the Book of Mormon in the other language will help us more than any other tool. The days when I don´t have time to read in the morning, due to traveling or what not, I can really perceive the difference.
One insight I gained this week while reading scriptures and studying was in regards to pride. We read in James 4:6 that ``God resisteth the proud´´. However, we know that God loves all His children and desires their well being in general. As I thought about how He resists the proud, I felt that it doesn´t mean He resists the proud in the sense He turns His back on them. He resists the proud because to force them to change or repent would be breaking the eternal laws of agency. We read in the Book of Mormon over and over the necessity of having a broken heart and contrite spirit. If our heart is not broken, there is no room to allow God in and change us. To have a hard heart would be similar to a rock, impenetrable. I hope the Lord knows of my desires to be moldable and usable as an instrument for Him. I find joy in seeking revelation as to how I can live a more consecrated mission and life in general. I enjoy the process of taking mental notes as to how life will be after the mission and what sort of goals and things I will implement to stick close to the ``tree of life´´.    
With love and charity,
Elder Graziano
photos are of the area and with sweater I am with Elder Richardson and without is Elder Frost, on a division last week in the city of Bento Gonçalves.

Monday, June 11, 2012

June 5 2012

I am now serving in the area of Moreira César, in the city of Caxias do Sul. This is the city that Br. Kent Williams opened up 50+ years ago. I am excited to learn about the people he wrote about in his letter to Elder Stevens and I. I have heard that the Bishop´s wife is one of the children of the original family baptized, but haven´t been able to confirm yet. I will hopefully find out this week. We will not have church this weekend due to the dedication of the temple in Manaus. The ward here has some very strong members. It is a completely different situation than that in Vera Cruz. However, there has only been one stake in this city since the Church arrived. Our area hasn´t had a baptism in quite some time, but there looks to be some changes to that coming soon.
My companion is Elder Richardson from Mesa, AZ. He has been on his mission since January. I don´t know how we are surviving other than the blessing of the Lord in regards to the gift of tongues. I marvel that in the span of the day of the transfer, upon arriving here, I have been able to understand just about everything that the people say now. My companion does not have strong language skills right now, so at times I feel like I talk way too much, but there is not much we can change about that right now. He has a tender heart and a genuine desire to help people. I hope to be used as an instrument in the Lord´s hands in many ways in this area. I will get the opportunity to do some work in other areas this transfer with divisions and helping other companionships. I am excited for the growth experiences which I feel coming my way.
One of the things I enjoyed reading in the scriptures again this week was in 2 Nephi 3:8. To be considered great in the eyes of the Lord, we simply need to do His work and nothing else. Of course this doesn´t mean we have to serve a full time mission to be great in His eyes. As we approach each day with an attitude of not only discovering His will for the day, but doing His will for that day, in whatever circumstance we find ourselves, we will find ourselves feeling great in His eyes. This feeling can´t be purchased or received through convincing ourselves we have done our part, but rather through the confirmations and peace only available from the Holy Ghost. What an advantage it is as members of the Church of Jesus Christ that we have the gift of the Holy Ghost as our constant companion to help us recognize if we are truly being viewed as great in the eyes of God in every minute.
Winter has come in the area. I hear that they have promised snow sometime this week in the area. We will see... Our house is like a freezer. The sun never touches it, so that creates extra incentive to get out and work. I wish my mind and fingers would work faster together to update you on more details. Please know of my dedication to the Savior, the work I have committed to do, and of my gratitude to know that the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His authority to perform all saving ordinances really happened and that today, there is again a prophet on the earth. My heart burns and eyes fill as I testify of these truths day after day and reflect on the love our Heavenly Father has for each one of us. 
With love and charity.
Elder Graziano