Thursday, December 29, 2011

December 26, 2011

Hello
This last week was really neat, although the teaching opportunities were a few less than normal. We had a great zone conference, focused on spiritual gifts. There were great thoughts shared about gifts of the restoration, the Atonement, and others. But the greatest gift of all of course came back to John 3:16, where we learn that God loves us so much that He freely gave mankind His Only Begotten Son. That day was very neat to be a part of and very spiritual. On Christmas Eve, we had a day to do service. We cut up some firewood for a family in the ward and also planted a tree for a lady we met last week. These were fun to have a part in. Then, during the evening, a family in the ward has a tradition to buy up poinsettas from some of the stores and drop them off at various families in the area with the missionaries. It was neat to take part in making a few families Christmas' a little bit more special.
The Carroll's, where I called home from, gave us a few Christmas presents and also a stocking full of various things. One of the presents was a little rocket. Similar to the one we had a few years back and flew off from the middle school. We started building them yesterday and will finish them up to hopefully shoot off during the New Year's Eve preparation day. I am grateful for the kindness and generosity of the many people that had a part in the day.
It was a big treat to be able to call home. That was a neat reboost to hear the voices of familiar loved ones. This week on Wednesday we have another conference for all missionaries who have been out for less than 3 months. Everytime we get together like that it is a great spiritual experience. But we lose out on the opportunities to find new people to teach. We played basketball this morning for a couple of hours. It felt great to exercise and sweat, because in the mornings the pushups and situps and things don't quite bring the same results.
This weeks email will be pretty short, as time in this day is going quick and we have to get a few more things done before getting back to work.
With love and charity
Elder Graziano

December 19, 2011

Hello
This week we had some really great contacts with a number of people, including a few different friends of members in the area. There are so many people that could use the feeling of warmth and love that comes with attending church. We were scheduled to have a few more people come to church yesterday, but who ended up running into a road block one way or another. One thing I am gaining such an appreciation for is the strength we can draw from by going to church. The strength of the Spirit in the building from other members is very noticeable and this ward has so many strong members that love the Lord and everyone around them. Some of the life stories we hear are very sad, but also very mendable with the warmth of simply going to church. I pray specifically that those people will find the courage to come just once, because that is all it would take.
From my personalility that has developed over the past few years, I rarely find myself in a mad state of mind. Especially here on a mission when the work is so full of joy. However, I found one thing that gets me close. It breaks my heart to hear people that haven't been to church in decades or people who don't know much about the church refer to members who have turned them away from the Gospel. My mind is drawn to the joy which comes from introducing someone to the fullness of the truth. Compare that same joy to the guilt which would come from being the reason someone fell away from the arms of the Savior. I certainly do not want to have to answer for unkind words or actions that would be the reason for someone to miss out on the blessings that are available to us.
My heart aches for the Solomon family. What a sad experience to go through. I remember a line from the book True to the Faith - To take the sorrow out of death, you have to take the love out of life. Obviously love cannot be taken out of life, and sorrow cannot be taken out of death, because of the universal laws about opposition in all things. But having the sure knowledge of the potential to live in a family unit for eternity can cause those feelings of sorrow to diminish quicker than anything else in the world. That knowledge is a great motivation to try and do all we can to be worthy of that gift from God.
Also a bummer to read that Campo's streak ended. What a great run though. It was fun to get the weekly updates even though I am far away.
I still haven't heard anything about my visa. But I know there is more for me to learn and do here in Tennessee. I absolutely love Brother and Sister Carroll. He is the ward mission leader and does so much not only for us, but for anyone he comes in contact with. We will be at his house for Christmas afternoon and will call home from there. I will most likely wait until the late afternoon and we will have an hour to talk.
Today will be a first for me. I plan on entering a barbershop and paying someone for a haircut. I am not quite sure how to tell them what I want, but hopefully it goes well. A couple of the attachments on the hair trimmers we have in the apartment are broken and they happen to be the ones I need. Tomorrow we have a zone conference - a special one for Christmas. I was reminded this week of a quote from President Hinckley - Get on your knees and pray, get on your feet and work. As we are counseled to always have a prayer in our hearts, this provides insight on how to do so. We can pray and ask for help and guidance and what we might need. Then we get up and go to work trying to help God help us answer those prayers. Kind of like the saying that He can't drive a parked car. That is something I keep in mind as I go throughout my studies and work everyday.
Well thanks for the letters and I got some neat Christmas cards this last week. I won't have time to respond by letter to everyone, but thanks to the Severson's, Peirce's, Jex's, and Steven's. The thought goes very far.
With much love and charity
Elder Graziano

December 12, 2011

Hello-
WOW what a great email to read that Campo football won again. That is so exciting. That is too bad that Vince's back is hurting and bothering him but to hear he kept playing is no surprise. We all learned that bit of "self-sufficiency" (also known as stubborness) from our wonderful Grandma Barnes I think. But how gratfeul we all are for that trait of dedication and will.
This week was full of good. Elder Clark and I continue to work hard and focus on making sure we are living worthy to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. The members really seem to be feeling it and a few of them have started to mention the names of some of their friends to us. One of the members said she had been waiting for a set of "hard working Elders" to introduce a particular friend to. She just said that yesterday, so we will see when that meeting can happen. But obedience and consecration to the work are being noticed. The main girl we are teaching, Sierra, says she has received an answer the Book of Mormon is true and loves coming to church and feeling the consistent love and warmth of our ward family. Something she identifies as being unique from the other churches she has been exposed to. On Thursday, all of our plans got canceled, except for a dinner appointment, luckily. Sierra sent us a message right after all the cancelations saying she had a friend she wanted us to meet. After our studies finished in the morning, we went to her apartment and met her friend named Autumn. She had some initial questions about various things, and then Elder Clark and I began to teach the message about the Restoration of Christ's Church. At the end of the lesson, Autumn said she felt overwhelmed at the feeling that she had. I then had the opportunity to invite her to be baptized. It was all due to the undoubted presence of the Holy Ghost which had confirmed to her the truth of the message. She said yes! Come to find out from Sierra, Autumn said she hadn't planned on believing anything or feeling anything while she talked to us. It was a powerful testimony builder for me. We will now have to see how she reacts to the witness she received and we will pray her parents are receptive to it as well. They are very active in their faith at an Assembly of God congregation.
We also had the opportunity last night to meet with a man named Robert Jenkins. He was exposed to scouting with an LDS troop as a teenager and has fond memories of the warmth and love of the ward that he was involved with. He lives with a woman and their two children and has been feeling lately that church is what their family is missing. He also commented that because of his familiarity with the overall love and concern that church members seem to have as a whole, he thought it no coincidence that we knocked on his door at the time we did. In reality, we knocked on his apartment door while looking for a family on our ward roster who apparently moved away some time ago.
Elder Clark and I can really feel blessings of the Lord being poured upon us. Another thing we have squared away, thanks to the idea from Dad, was to get a little blurb in the newspaper. On Thursday this week, there will be a small article advertising our service to help with any last Christmas decorating and also to help take down and haul away Christmas trees. This exposure will not only keep us busy, we're sure, but hopefully produce a few more good contacts for us to start teaching. We have had some crazy times on our bikes. The shoulders on most of the roads here are as thick as the wide paint strip on the side of a lane. And the people seem to have many places they need to get to in a hurry. I have been riding on the side with two cars in parallel to my left a few times more than I would like to admit.
I got a great package from the Bishop Sorenson and his family this week and their kindness is amazing. Please make sure they know of my love for them and gratitude for the their thoughts on my behalf.
I didn't hear back about my camera battery charger, which I really would like to know soon so I can either buy a new one or get it mailed out to me. I would like to take some pictures and send them home. Please let me know.
Everyday is a great day to wake up and dawn the nametag with the name of our Savior. As I read about laying up treasures in heaven this week, the thoughts about what some of those treasures hit me. Obviously nothing physical with go with us. But the knowledge, Priesthood, attributes, and family we have developed in this life are all the treasures that our loving Heavenly Father would want us to develop so we will have treasures after this life. I look forward to developing the kind of treasures that will eternally significant and not come and go with a strong breeze of bad times during the course of my life. I love you all. Thanks so much for the unending prayers and thoughts.
With love and charity,
Elder Graziano

Thursday, December 8, 2011

December 5, 2011

Hello--
I just read the great news about Campo football! How exciting. Congratulations Vince and everyone involved. That is so awesome to get to play in the Oakland Coliseum. I will be waiting with anticipation to hear the results next Monday. Awesome about getting co-MVP for the defense. You are great Vince! Keep working hard and always keep your eyes and head up.
We had a good week here in Tennessee. We made some good contacts with various individuals and will be returning this week to hopefully begin the teaching process. Last night we watched the Christmas devotional from the First Presidency. The comments were great and brought the true focus of Christmas into my heart. The video they showed from lds.org was also very powerful and I wish I could spend more time on the computer to watch those types of things. But seeing that depiction of the Savior's birth was very powerful. Sierra was able to watch that with us at the Carrolls house after they invited her at church. She has been doing really good lately and we are scheduled to have dinner with her and her mom next Sunday which will be great because her mom has not been too excited about her learning from us. Hopefully this will help. Jill, the other one we had consistently been teaching, is struggling with the pressures from her parents, and could certainly use your prayers. We have been trying to help the bishop out lately by going to the addresses of people who haven't been seen in a while and seeing if they are around. This has produced some of the good contacts I mentioned earlier. We have also continued our service efforts and can still feel the power of doing so.
I had the thought this morning of how my understanding of time is changing a bit. At times, when we are not busy and having to really think about what the best thing to do next would be, the minutes go by slow. But, when he have plans to teach, or visit people, or even better, serve others, the time goes quickly. This will certainly help the rest of life. Many times we comment on how ugly this life is, or how sad it can be. True. But when we forget ourselves in the service of others, we forget about that aspect of time to a large degree. And if we were able to perfect this, we would not be weighed down so much by the sadness of having time in front of us, but rather look forward to the Spirit we can invite to the lives of others by serving them and sharing the Spirit of Christ with them.
I got a great package from the Harries almost two weeks ago now and have a letter written to them, but the box got thrown away without having copied their address down. Could you please send that to me either in a letter or email so I can finally send that letter next week?
Last Monday we played a bunch of dodgeball and a little basketball with the other missionaries in our zone. It was fun. We had a big lunch together too. It's too bad we can't do that more often, but the areas we serve in are far enough apart to make it a bit of a pain to gather like that.
My mind was drawn to a verse in Philippians earlier this week that Bishop Sorenson shared with me about a year ago. Philippians 4:11. I can feel the attribute developing in me to find joy and contentment in whatever state I am in. This is most useful to me when I cannot control the situation, but am still able to find happiness in an undesirable setting. When we get a door slammed, or told where we are going for eternity (not heaven), I am still able to smile and trust in the Lord. Alma 38:5 has helped as well: "as much as ye shall put your trust in God even so much ye shall be delivered out of your trials, and your troubles, and your afflictions, and ye shall be lifted up at the last day". I do try to put in as much trust as possible, seeing as we have that great promise.
As far as getting to Brasil - I do not have any idea how long that will take. It could be another week or it could be a few more months. I approach everyday with a fire to accomplish as much as possible for the good and feel this is the right way to approach the situation. I do not want to miss any learning opportunities during this fine time I have to serve in Tennessee.
Thank you so much for the prayers and love that I can feel daily. The support I feel is a huge bonus to how I approach the days as well.
With love and charity,
Elder Graziano

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

November 21, 2011

Good rainy monday-

It rained here most of the day yesterday and is supposed to continue through Wednesday. Perfect for the week when we don't have the car. However, I am excited to walk a more so in turn I can eat more at dinners and such. I could feel myself getting soft sitting down all week.
Happy Thanksgiving a few days early. Tomorrow our ward is having an annual Pie Night. I am sure there will be plenty of sweets available kind of like my memories of Grandma Barnes' house during Thanksgiving time when there would be at least a half dozen different kinds of pie available. On Thursday morning we get to play in the ward's Turkey Bowl - that should be a lot of fun. Everybody keeps thinking I really want to play quarterback but I would be just as happy blocking or receiver. My mindset now is certainly different than a couple years ago in full competition mode. We are going to the house of Br. and Sis. Carroll in our ward for Thanksgiving meal. He is the Ward Mission Leader and is really great. The members of our ward are so nice to missionaries and are also really happy to have a set of missionaries solely dedicated to their ward. It has been a while since that has happened so there seems to be a fresh energy and excitement developing.
We had another investigator at church on Sunday, Sierra. She was supposed to get picked up by one of the girls her age, but at 5 minutes til start time, we found out that girl got in a roll over accident the night before. So we drove with Br. Carroll and picked her up. It was a bummer to have to be late on her first time at church, but she met a bunch of the other young men and women her age and ended up enjoying herself. The youth of this ward are also really strong and very helpful at welcoming in new faces. That is something I got to experience first hand in Arkansas - the universal feeling of love throughout the church. It is so comforting that no matter where we go in the world, we will also have the Lord's church to enter and feel the same Spirit when doing so.
This week, especially Friday and Saturday, were two of the days that a lot of missionaries talk about I guess when no plans really seem to work right. We had a lot of set plans and also people we wanted to visit, but for one reason or another, they canceled or people simply weren't home. I have been praying that God will help my Spirits during times like these, and in fact came across a great thought that I clearly felt was an answer to those prayers. "Plant with love in the vineyard of the Lord. Perhaps you will never see the tree grow and produce fruit, but the Lord will. Many missionaries will never be aware of all the results of their labors. But if you spend your lives doing all the good you can, without wondering and worrying about the consequences, you will find the true joy of the Gospel." Like I said, that fit right into the situation, and gave me some extra strength to go about my work without worrying about the immediate outcome. One of the things I have been doing, and I may have mentioned this in a past email, is to write down 3 things every night that I am grateful for in my journal. This was a challenge we received in the MTC. Regardless of how a day goes, I know that God is still watching over me and blessing my life.
Speaking of which, I am so grateful for the nice birthday cards and packages that came. Grandma Bunny sent some incredible homemade goodies. There was some chocolate coated caramels and some toffee brittle and both were outstanding. The only bad thing was the timing of them arriving during a week where we had the car... Jennifer Whitaker sent a great package too with a couple ties and some other things... Incredibly awesome and appreciated. Also, the thoughts she includes in her letters have answered my prayers many a time. I am so grateful to have her support.
One of things that is fun to do have been service. This past week we raked leaves a couple different times, helped organize Christmas lights for an older couple, played basketball at a retirement home, and helped some strangers who were moving and we were walking on their street. The retirement home basketball was fun and funny. They would try and shoot a nerf basketball into a 5 gallon bucket. One of the ladies kept saying "Give me a real basketball and see what I can do" when she would miss. She also got so mad at others on her "team" when they would miss. That feeling of serving others is so great and I am grateful for the chances we have to do it.
One of the scriptures that really touched me this week was John 16:33. It was a great reminder to me that Jesus already overcame the world. If we but remember this always, and be of good cheer, we will not let the everyday frustrations and difficulties of life get to us. Granted there are times that are meant to push our limits and in these times we can really experience growth. However, the blessing of the Atonement is so infinite, and as we humble ourselves to reap the benefits of that great sacrifice, we can truly can overcome some of those feelings of the world too.
I almost forgot, I completed my electronic visa on Thursday. This was the last step I was waiting for. Now I just wait until the real visa come through and I will going to Brasil. That was real exciting. Elder Stephens also got to do his electronic visa on the same day. Elder Werner, my MTC companion received his visa and he is leaving today for Brasil. I got to see them on Friday. One of the General Authorities came to talk to the mission and it was great.
Well thank you all for the love and support and prayers. I am so happy and blessed and pray to be the instrument the Lord needs out of me.
With love and charity,
Elder GrazianoL

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

November 14, 2011

Hello!
So far so great here in Nashville. It has been a busy, yet fulfilling time here. We got here on Wednesday afternoon and I was hungry so I paid for some food at a Popeye's chicken in the airport. But they were slow and right after we saw the mission president waving us towards the exit, so I had to leave without the food. I was thrilled to be able to donate $5 to their franchise... We went to the mission home after that though and had meatball sandwiches and were interviewed and it turned out great. Then I got assigned to be companions with Elder Clark. He is from the Seattle, WA area (Maple Valley) and has been out about 4 months. We have been assigned to labor in the Mt. Juliet area. This area has not had a designated set of missionaries for a while, but President McKee felt it would be good for us to start up again. Elder Clark is new to this area as well, and the old missionaries only had a couple of names to give us to start working with. That being said, we have spent much time trying to talk to members and develop relationships with them and we have also done a numbers of hours worth of tracting. Bike riding has been entertaining as well. Except the engineers here forgot to put sidewalks or even shoulders on many of the roads, so we had to ride in grass ditches and make dashes across the road to cross bridges and stuff. Too bad there are no videos available for you. It is amazing to see how many people in this area are church goers. Their faith in Christ is strong. Many are friendly, but pretty set in their established family traditions of religion.
Last night, we taught a 17 yr old girl named Sierra about the Restoration. It was my first time teaching this message and the Spirit was was strong. I am excited to hear how her prayers went when we visit her again this week. There is another girl that was taught by the old Elders, Jill, who is 16 that has a desire to be baptized already. She attends seminary and is doing "personal progress" with the young women at church. Right now we are planning on attending a talent show that she is in with her parents, so hopefully that will help. Both of these girls have parents that aren't supportive right now, but I have been praying for the Holy Ghost to touch their heart about the truth of the message as well.
When we left the mission office, we went straight to our apartment and had enough time to use the bathroom before a member came and picked us up to make some visits. No one answered, so he took us to his house and fed us because our stomachs were growling again. At the apartment, I slept on the floor the first night, since the old missionaries never bothered getting an apartment in their area. They are leaving next week, and have since given us the beds and they use the couches now. It has been fun getting to know two more missionaries who have been out for a while and gaining knowledge from them. Apparently word traveled quicker than me that I was a football player and other things... The first thing the missionaries and president asked about at the airport was about football. Same with my companion and the Elders in our apartment. I also am seeing how this is an easy way to break the ice with some of the members and other people in the area. Now I just have to learn how to bring it up in an easy way, because so many people down here love football and when they find out I had the opportunity to play in college, etc. they light up a bit.
I haven't received any mail since I have been here, so I don't have much to respond too. I feel the best way to do it is to simply have you send things to the address I sent last time, and then the mission home forwards it out when received. My companion gave his last apartment address to people and now has to wait for his mail to get there, then either to the mission office or wait for the Elders for forward it.
One of the things I marvel at is the Spirit of joy which I feel as we walk or ride places. Mainly we have walked, and sometimes about 45 minutes to get to the area we want. There is a car assigned to this area, but we have to share it with two other Elders. We will switch every week. I feel better about this coming week because we will obviously be able to cover more ground in less time with the car. The weather has been just about perfect the last few days. The trees have already lost most of their leaves, but the landscape is still beautiful. There are many small farms around. One lady we talked to last Thursday invited us to come fishin in her pond some time on a preparation day.
Apparently there is a member of the Quorom of the Seventy coming to our mission this week on Friday, so we will have to miss most of our labor that day. I'm sure it will be great to have the opportunity to be taught by him. I love the time we have alotted for personal and companion study. I feel I am learning great insights daily. I usually have an hour a day to study Portuguese while my companion simply does more personal study. I try to do all my personal prayers in Portuguese and this seems to help. Also, at times I will watch church films with portuguese audio and try to make sure I understand everything.
This email seems so much longer than the previous ones. We have an hour to write here in the field. We start off by writing our mission president. I think the four of us in our apartment are going to play some basketball this afternoon and do some grocery shopping and cleaning. The cupboards are a little bare and we have slim pickings for breakfast. Dry cereal is only so gratifying.
Well I love you all and look forward to hearing from your whenever that is. Know that I think and pray for you every single day and I am loving life down here. Thank you for your continued prayers, love and support.
With love and charity,
Elder Graziano

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Pictures from the MTC

Friends from the Reno Single's Ward: Elder Graziano, Elder Calinog, and Sister Forman


Cousins: Elder Higbee, Sister Harries, and Elder Graziano


Elder Graziano and his cousin, Sister Harries who is going to Vina Del Mar, Chile


Elder Calinog (Reno, NV), Sister Viland (Reno, NV), Elder Graziano


Elder Harmon (Mountain View, WY) and Elder Graziano


Elder Graziano and Elder Wadsworth (Oakley, ID)


Elder Graziano and Elder Butler (Florida)


Elder Graziano and Elder Collins (Arizona)


Back Row: Nuttall, Broach, Graziano, Werner, Bradshaw, La Banc
Middle Row: Sampson, Empey, Nielson, Wadsworth, Holteclaw
Front Row: Harmon and Sillitoe


Elder Graziano and Elder Black (Palo Alto, CA)


Elder Stephens and Elder Graziano
They are from the same stake in CA


Elder Nielson (Parma, ID) and Elder Graziano
"Awesome Elder! Very humble yet confident in the Lord"


Sister Taylor (Durango, CO), Sister Hansen (Joseph City, AZ), Sister Welling (Bountiful, UT), Elder Werner (Hershey, PA), Elder Graziano


Elder Smith (Provo, UT), Elder Graziano, and Elder Mahoni (New Zealand)


Sister Houston (Coordinating Sister, from Roosevelt UT), Elder Werner, and Elder Graziano


New Tennessee Address!

105 Westpark Drive Suite 190
Brentwood, TN 37027-5010

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

11/7/11

Good morning family-
Before I do anything else, I must say how appreciative I was to receive the big package from the Moraga Ward!. There were so many thoughtful and kind notes written in there. Along with the food... I don't think I will be able to eat it all before I have to leave, so I will make some lucky Elders happy as well. I know I haven't lived and spent considerable time there in the ward over the past 6 years, but it is so comforting to know that I am not forgotten. Likewise, the many that have had such a grand impact on me are not forgotten either... Please tell the ward thank you for this fine action.
So on Thursday we found out where we are going temporarily. Mom, I get to talk how you love the most again! I am heading to Nashville, Tennessee! I am way excited. I leave Wednesday morning. I will be able to call from the airport and will most likely do this from Denver. Our first flight leaves Salt Lake at 7:00, so I could call then if you and Dad want. But we get to Denver at 8:30 and have a bit of time before the next one I have 1.5 hr layover. Tell me in a DearElder if you can today what would be preferred. Just a short message is fine. But it has to be today so I can get it either tonight or tomorrow. We have to be ready to go to the airport at 4 in the morning.
My address in Tennessee will be
105 Westpark Drive Suite 190
Brentwood, TN 37027-5010
I am incredibly excited to go to Tennessee. Elder Werner received the same reassignment, so we will probably enjoy more of our company. Our companionship has still been doing great. One more Elder received a Visa from my district this last week, making 9 who did get them while at the MTC. The other Elder got reassigned to Milwaukee, WI. The parents of one of the Sister's that moved into our zone are from Sao Paulo, so it has been fun talking with a native speaker who has a different accent than most American when they speak portuguese.
I got another nice email from Pres Criddle and Sally Healy. Dad, thank you for the impact you have had on so many lives for the good. Maybe some more stories from your mission would be nice to hear from time to time, especially with Vince. She shared a small one about you, and I am grateful she did.
Grandma wrote about Sister Harries's companion who is from Bolivia. I think about her often and the impact she had on me. Won't be forgotten. I hope the Campo football team still has the round number in the loss column. What a remarkable year it sounds like. Also, my heart goes out to Brett. Hopefully that shoulder heals up quick so he can get a bit more out of this season.
One of the great blessings of this time as a missionary is certainly the encouragement we get to keep journals. Yesterday, during one of the talks, we were encouraged to write down at least 3 things every day of what we were thankful for. What a simple yet meaningful idea. I get this saying from Dan Martin: "If you plant corn, you get corn". Obviously if it is our goal to focus on the positive side of life, we will not only find it, but even more importantly, we will exude the light that naturally comes from doing so. I will certainly implement this in going forward in my journal writing, as I have too much gratitude for the blessings from the Lord not to. We had such a great testimony meeting here yesterday. They emphasize to us the fact that we should not get us and tell stories, but stick to the truths we know. The missionaries from our zone took this to heart and we not only heard from more missionaries than usual, but the Spirit was that much stronger. The love of our Savior Jesus Christ was very palpable.
Another occurrence this week was during a classtime. Our district is down to only 3 Elders, from originally 12. So sometimes the teachers allow us to mix it up a bit and do different things. Our teacher left the room on Saturday morning and told us to pray for a half hour with a notebook by our side. What a treat this was. Not so much the time factor, but the reverence and the Spirit in the room allowed for strong feelings and thoughts to enter the mind and heart - clearly communication from Heavenly Father. It was a good practice, and something I also hope to implement with some consistency.
Well it was another great week, with much learning and growth. I hope one and all knows how much I love you. This work and joy which accompanies it beats the other opportunities which were at my feet in years past. I am grateful for the testimony which the Lord has allowed to blossom within me and look forward to carrying the sword of the Spirit to Tennessee.
With love and charity,
Elder Graziano

Monday, October 31, 2011

October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween-
We had another good week here of growth and progression in the language. We will get our reassignments this week, on Thursday from what usually happens. There are only a few missions in America that use Portugues so if I don't go to one of those, I think I will have a little time every day to review the language, but more than likely, I will have to work a little harder when I do get my visa to get it all back. It is hard to believe that we only have one more week here as a district and then we are off. We get so busy throughout the week that it feels like I just emailed home two days ago. I continue to develop more and more relationships with Elders whose testimonies and faith are so strong, especially for being teenagers!
Elder Werner and I continue to get along great. We have definitely benefited from the combination of our two personalities. Also, as we practice teaching, we have begun to flow very smoothly through the lessons, which is a great feeling. Hopefully this can happen quickly with my next companion since we will be leaving next week. He has got a very humble and strong testimony and I enjoy hearing him bear it. We were told that we might have the opportunity to teach this week in front a bigger crowd of incoming missionaries, so pray for us that we can have the Spirit if they end up wanting us to do it.
I enjoyed a quote I heard from Pres Utchdorf this week. He said "The more we are filled with the Spirit of God, the more we extend ourselves to others". I am learning just how powerful, selfless, and Christ-like it is when we choose to give our service to others. I hope to be able to develop this trait not only over the next couple years, but over my life.
Apparently some of the Sister missionaries in my zone caught wind of me playing the piano in priesthood last week and asked me to play a song for them in sacrament. So I practiced everyday during meal time and prayed hard. Yesterday it all came together and they sang Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing to me thumping on the piano. No one said they heard any messups which was pretty nice of them. Evidently my stubborness paid off and I was able to remember how to play it with people singing behind me.
That is awesome that Campo football is doing so well - 8-0 last I heard. Vince- CONGRATS on the big touchdown against Miramonte and getting play of the week.
I got a letter from Buck with contained pictures of Adam Johnson's baby boy. That was way awesome. Congratulations Adam and Molly. Also, I got a letter from MaryJo. It is always a treat to hear from the Graziano's in Oregon. Especially Grandma Bunny. Her letters are so simple and sweet. And I love feeling the passion that she writes with.
I love the work, and love being able to learn so constantly. I am pleased with the relationship I am developing with the scriptures. I hope this will continue to grow, however, and my study habits will continue with me forever. Sorry if this email wasn't quite as long or detail as others, there were some distractions and it really does feel like I just emailed two days ago. Love you all!
With love and charity-
Elder Graziano

October 24, 2011

Hello family-
My companion and I have had another good week here. We continue to progress in the language as well as our teaching ability. It is such a blessing being able to feel the Spirit so often. We heard from Elder Richard G. Scott last Tuesday. One of the main points that I took with me was to pray as if time did not matter. At times I have felt tired and was worried about having to get up early again the next morning, but after he spoke about this subject. I have recomitted myself to making sure God knows how grateful I am every day for all of my blessings.
It is hard to imagine that it has already been one week since my last email. It feels as though it was just a few hours ago I pressed "send" last week. It is also interesting to think that in two weeks my time here in Utah will be up. 3 more Elders in our district received Visa's last week. They leave tomorrow. There will only be 5 of us left after they leave. We started with 12. It feels a lot different in class and doing things together with Elders continually getting "picked off" to go down to Brasil. I still haven't done my electronic visa, so I am sure I will have the opportunity to visit another part of the US before I end up making it to South America. This makes me even more excited to develop more relationships and learn from different Elders and mission president. I may find out this week what my reassignment will be, or next week, not sure yet. One of the Sisters I met that was supposed to go to Brasil just got reassigned to Billings, MT... I was jealous. Also, a counselor in our Branch Presidency served in the same mission as Uncle Steve - the Navajo Reservation - although about ten years prior. His last name is Gale. I asked him to pull some strings for me too. However, whatever happens, the work of the Lord is GREAT.
Neat to hear that Campo and Miramonte would be playing each other as undefeated teams. Hopefully that turned out great for the Cougars. I played bocce ball the other day with an Elder Black from Palo Alto. He is going to Porto Alegre North as well. He hopes to play football when he returns at either BYU or Stanford. He has a good frame for a tight end and if he puts on 20 lbs he would be great. Too bad here at the MTC they won't let us get any football games started, even flag, because there are some very athletic Elders. I feel so privileged to know so many young 19 and 20 year olds whose faith is so fortified already. This gives me more fire and motivation to dedicate myself deeper to my service.
I also enjoyed reading Elder Harries email home. It is so awesome thinking how happy Grandpa Barnes is. Sister Harries and I comment often on how we can feel his love and support around all the time.
Here is something that you may or may not believe. I played the piano in our priesthood meeting. Before I left I practiced a few songs on Jennifer's keyboard in Reno and memorized two of them. All of the Elders that could play left, so I was the last resort. They somehow played themselves without a hitch - prayer works... Anyway, if I have to play again, we are going to get real good at singing We Thank Thee, O God, For A Prophet and Let The Holy Spirit Guide.
Grandma - Thank you so much for the caramel popcorn. It is so good. As much as I've tried to share with others, I still have more to get through. Thanks so much for thinking of me.
Mom - That was a neat story about the snake at the tennis courts. Thanks for thinking of me through your letters this past week. I am doing great and really don't need anything more. I feel spoiled enough as it is from your prayers and love and letters from not only you, but everyone else too.
Dad - Thanks for Dan's address. If I could ask another favor: to call him back and get the address of his parents. His # again is 918-899-4084.
Aunt Diane - Thank you for telling Sister Harries to lend me a few Halloween cookies. They were nice and crumbled by the time I got them so I didn't have to waste any of the Lord's time chewing! They were very tasty though. It has been an enormous blessing in my life and a boost to my faith to get to know her better while she has been here at the MTC. I am excited for her to get to experience the Peru MTC as well.
Aunt Kathy - Thank you for thinking of me and filling me in a bit Brett. That is a big bummer. Having seen so many talented athletes, I also saw many of them never truly get to show their full potential due to injuries. You know this too I am sure due to your extended activity in and around sports. I will make sure to remember him in my prayers. How is Kyle doing in San Diego? I am sure his legs are stronger than mine now if he is working the pedals hard everyday up and down those hills.
I love all and am ever mindful of the immense love and support and prayers that are offered on my behalf. Until next week,
With love and charity,
Elder Graziano

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

October 17, 2011

Good Monday-
First off, Mom, I know I have forgotten to respond to your questions about the food and beds and such and I just remembered - finally. The cafeteria food is fine, nothing like home cooked meals, but I have never been picky and am grateful for the options there are. On Wednesdays and Sundays they bring in BYU Creamery ice cream, but I usually only eat it once a week if you can believe it. Last night at our MTC Fireside, Sister Harries and I sat next to eachother and the first speaker was the wife of one of the District Presidents here. She began giving a course on table etiquette... The whole time Sister Harries and I kept looking at each other and noting how we would probably be invited to leave the table at their house. Not really, but it was certainly different than the family dinners we have when all the food is gone so quickly. My companion and the Elders in my district also said that this was personal revelation as a result of me always being the first one done and waiting on others to finish. Gives me something new to think about. The beds are fine, I have gotten used to skipping around from one place to the next over the past six years, and I sleep hard every night. If I don't, I tell myself I didn't work hard enough the day before and make sure the next night is better. We did get two new Elders in our dorm room because they are remodeling a lot of the MTC. So now there are six in one room with the same amount of closet space and desk space. Things are cramped, but working well since we are rarely in our rooms anyway.
I heard there was an article in the Deseret News about me. That is interesting, and hopefully it can have a similar effect as did the one in the Moraga paper - be used for missionary work somewhere along the line. I told my district about the call I got from the 49ers and having an agent and other things, yet I had received answers to prayers that this was the decision to make. I received some nice compliments about how that was going to change their missions with respect to how they view putting their nametag on every morning and the dedication they would put into the work. I didn't know that would result, but it was humbling to acknowledge that God has given me all these experiences to not only bless me, but all His other children I am privileged to come in contact with. Apparenly I didn't say to keep it quiet, because shortly there after, many Elders around the MTC starting asking me about that. I just love talking about myself...
We had another fine week here at the MTC. The language continues to come, but we have been getting more and more into "subjunctive" verb forms which are a little tougher. The proper conjugation is coming, but will certainly need practice. The weather has continued to be very nice here, except they shut off all the AC to the buildings I think and it is certainly not cold enough for that. We are getting prepped for the hot days of Brasil I tell myself. Two more Elders in my district got their Visas last week, but no more on mine. I still haven't filled out my electronic portion of it, so nothing will happend too quickly. I will be excited to serve no matter where though.
Last Tuesday we heard from Sister Julie Beck. She gave a wonderful talk mainly focused on love. One thought I remember right now was in reference to those people we come in contact with that are a bit harder to love than others. An idea to develop love is to pray to Heavenly Father and find out how He and Jesus Christ love that person, and the Holy Ghost will then be able to work with us on how we too can develop charity towards him/her.
I got some neat notes from a group of young women in the Moraga Ward. What a smile those sort of notes bring to me. It is wonderful to think back on the teachers I had that influenced my life for the good. I especially remember the great influence Bob Garff, Bishop Sorenson, Wes Hilton, Jeff Logan, Carter Hemming, Jim Pierce, Dave Pahnke and others had. I am privileged to have grown up in an area with such incredible Priesthood holders.
I am sad to read that Grandma's thumb is still giving her problems. I am also excited for Shanel as she gets to leave next week and have the experience of the Peru MTC. The story about Uncle Michael running into one of the Elders I knew was wonderful. His name was Elder Empey and he was a very knowledgeable and spiritual Elder. As we read scriptures together with the whole group, he was always one to point out hidden treasures that only a certain type of intelligence was able to remember.
I have to ask again as I did not receive anything this last week, but I still don't have Dan Martin's address or his parents. His phone number is 918-899-4084. So if Dad or Mom or Jennifer Whitaker could call him that would be great. I have some letters written for them, but nowhere to send to. That is awesome to know that Vince's football team keeps winning.
One little thought that I came across while I was studying this week. The Law Tithing and the Word of Wisdom - two "physical" laws - have two of the strongest spiritual blessings attached. In Malachi we read the the devourer will by rebuked on our behalf as we pay our tithing and through obedience to the Word of Wisdom, the destroying angel will pass us by (Doctrine and Covenants 89). It was reconfirmed to me that these commandments are all about faith, especially tithing.
You all are cherished,
Elder Graziano

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

October 10, 2011

Hello everyone-
Another fast week. I still feel so blessed to be able to be here and learn in the presence of such a great spirit of learning and teaching. Grant Barnes sent an email reflecting on how awesome it is to wear the nametag. I agree 100%. That is one thing that I put on as soon as I'm out of the shower and it doesn't come off until after my prayer at night. I love being able to rub my fingers over the indentation of the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. I heard the saying this week that we should be the type of messengers that match the glorious message. Elder Ballard said that to Br Marion, a member of our Branch Presidency. What a statement to remember now of course, but also throughout life.
I need to be sure and say thank you to all who continue to consistently support me through letters and packages. It is such a wonderful blessing to hear from loved ones and there was not a day this week that I didn't get something. I don't expect that kind of thing every week, but I do want to say thank you for these physical reminders of how much I am thought of. The other thing that is helpful beyond words is all the prayers for not only me, but all the missionaries who are serving. Please keep them coming, as they are working! Last wednesday marked our fourth week here and our teacher said we should not speak english anymore in class. It is amazing to realize how much the Lord has blessed us with being able to learn this language. Even after that, all the Elders in our district try to speak portuguese as much as possible throughout the days. I even had the experience of having to think a little harder to speak english one night when I had to talk to some other missionaries in our zone in english.
That was a neat article that Alex Espinoza wrote in the Sun. The Jex's also sent me a copy of it, which was awfully thoughtful of them. Thanks mom also for the copy of it and also the nice thoughts about how many people it had touched. I know I never did appreciate the reporters as much as I could have (maybe at all in some cases) but this article was definitely unique and the work I am doing now made it all the more meaningful. It is neat meeting other Elders with athletic skill here. They shut the soccer field down during the poor weather, so I played a lot of basketball this week. There are a couple of Elders that played there first year of college and can dunk and all. But since I like a challenge, I always take them on and end up frustrating them pretty good. That's about all I'm good for though is hustle on defense. When I shoot how my natural strength tells me too, I also push it far, so my shooting % is not great. But I still like hustling for rebounds and throwing good passes.
Another Elder in our district got his visa this week, he leaves tomorrow morning. All of us that are going to Porto Alegre in my district have not even done our electronic visas which is the first step in moving closer to getting the visa. I have learned there are a handful of portuguese missions in the US, including Florida, Alabama, Massachusetts, Alberqurque and Portland from what I here. There are way too many Elders waiting on visas than those missions need, so many Elders get reassigned to english missions while waiting.
We received a little cold weather this last week which was nice. No snow stuck on the ground at the MTC, but the mountains around us were shining brilliantly with the pure white powder on them. Certainly reminded me of Reno and the wonderful mountains to the west, although here, they are just to the east of us.
Sorry that I don't get to write more handwritten letters to more people, but Pdays go fast here and I will continue to try to make the most of my time. We got to take a picture of the three of us here in the MTC from Reno. Elder Calinog, Sister Viland, and myself. Too bad Sister Forman aleady left. It has been wonderful to continually see familiar faces. The opportunities to continue serving other missionaries come frequently and I can feel the Lord's hand guiding me in what to say and do.
A neat thought I had this week was that Christ's kind of love is charity towards us. He not only loves us, He cherishes us.
With love and charity,
Elder Graziano

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Nick recognized in the Deseret News

Mormons in Sports: Former college QB suits up for mission field

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT
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Typically, Mormon football players serve their two-year LDS missions before starting their college careers, or they go after one year.

Nick Graziano of Moraga, Calif., played his entire college career first and is now learning Portuguese at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. The former college quarterback is going to preach the gospel in the Brazil Porto Alegre mission.

An article in the San Jose Mercury News and Oakland Tribune, by Alex Espinoza, chronicles Graziano’s roller-coaster football career that led to his decision to serve the Lord.

As a sophomore at Campolindo High School, Graziano, started out playing running back and linebacker, but moved to quarterback when the junior varsity QB was promoted to the varsity squad. Graziano was so good that coaches kept him in the pocket. Graziano threw for 5,991 yards and 71 touchdowns in two seasons and was an all-state selection as a senior. He was showered with all kinds of recognition, honors and accolades.

Each summer during high school, according to the Mercury News, Graziano and his teammates attended football camps at the University of Nevada-Reno and coach Chris Ault eventually offered Granziano a scholarship.

Things went well at first. Graziano, 6-foot-1, 220-pounds, made his debut in the fall of 2006 and played in eight games. He became the starter for Wolfpack in 2007, but only played in five games before suffering a season-ending foot injury against Fresno State. He was replaced by talented freshman Colin Kaepernick, which marked the end of his career at Nevada. (Kaepernick became a 4-year starter and is now in his rookie season as the backup quarterback with the San Francisco 49ers.)

Following the 2008 season, Graziano was ready to transfer. He and some roommates began looking for potential schools on the Internet. “One of them looked at me and said, ‘Hey Graz, why don’t you go be a Wonder Boy?’ ” he told Espinoza. Less than a week later, “Graz” was bound for Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, Ark.

Within days, the California kid had fallen in love with the southern lifestyle and drawl. Graziano went on to lead the Wonder Boys to their first playoff victory in years and was named a Division II all-American. He threw for more than 4,300 yards and 38 touchdowns in 12 games and was named a top-three finalist for the Harlon Hill trophy, Division II’s equivalent of the Heisman. He finished third.

“I guess it was where I was meant to go,” said Graziano, an Eagle Scout. “I can see how it was meant to be, just from the experiences I had.”

His days in the Ozarks over, Graziano returned to Nevada to earn his degree in civil engineering and worked out for NFL teams. Despite interest from San Francisco and Dallas, Graziano decided it was time to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Before he left, Espinoza compared Graziano’s situation to Kaepernick’s. Graziano said he has no regrets.

“I guess he’s serving football and I’m serving God,” Graziano told the Mercury News. “He’s doing what he wants to do and I’m doing what I want to do.”

Monday, October 3, 2011

October 3, 2011

Hello all-

This week was rewarding with General Conference creating a great atmosphere around here. Then on Sunday night, we were able to hear from Chad Lewis, who served his mission in Taiwan, played for BYU and then went on to play with the Philadelphia Eagles and helped them reach the Super Bowl a few years back. The weekend was full of good messages. Br. Lewis spoke about how important it is to let our light shine to the world, and how the light of Christ can affect the lives of others. One of the conference talks that I liked the best was by Tad R. Callister on the Book of Mormon. The way he composed his talk and delivered it reminded me of how strongly I liked his book The Infinite Atonement - thanks dad for referring that one to me.

Last Monday, after prepartion day was over, my companion and I had to teach a lesson which we hadn't prepared for. Even though we are more or less practicing our teaching abilities here at the MTC, it still is a great opportunity to learn and to feel the Spirit if you prepare correctly. Last week, we didn't prepare and I felt just terrible as we walked into the lesson with a minimal amount of time having been dedicated to reviewing our notes and thinking about the words we were going to say in Portuguese. I was upset at myself for letting that happen, but was glad it happened here at the MTC rather than out in the field. It certainly made me commit to never doing that again - in reference to not preparing for something in which I know I will need the help of the Lord in.

As part of my responsibilities here, I get to welcome new districts into our zone when we get one. This week I was looking over the list and noticed that Leslie Viland heading to New York City North is coming into our zone. For those that don't know, she was a member of the singles ward in Reno. It is always a treat seeing familiar faces here and this will be no different. Speaking of familiar faces, it has been so awesome seeing Sister Harries. I have felt so blessed to have been able to sit next to her during firesides and parts of conference. She impresses me so much with her Spirit and attitude. We shared similar thoughts about not having gotten to know one another very well growing up, but have shared some of our experiences over the last couple years and it has been a blessing to me to see her here.

I scored another goal during the last week. This time I actually had to swing my leg forward and not stand idle where the ball basically bounced off my foot. Still, I like playing defense more. Most of the missionaries don't think I am going to stop when I am running at them trying to get the ball so it usually works out in my favor. That is awesome that the Campo Cougars are 4-0, hopefully 5-0 by now. Mom, thanks for letting me know that Alex Espinoza wrote that article. It sounds like he did a great job with it. That is neat that he was able to make me sound like an alright person.

Last week a bunch of Elders from the East Coast received their visas and took off for Brasil, but no one else from our district. I am really not worried about that, and I don't think there is much worry from the Elders in our district either. I am excited to begin service anywhere because it is all for the same God, whether in Brasil or in America.

I found out one of the members of our branch presidency here, Br. Marion, owns a factory where they produce Stetson and Resistol cowboy hats near Dallas, TX. I saw him wearing his boots and wranglers one day and it made me think of how much I don't like my sneakers and jeans that I wear for service. I told him when I get off my mission I would be looking him up for a deal. Apparently he used to train horses and sell them to Hollywood for movies.

Jennifer Whitaker said she started up a blog of some sort tracking all the letters and some of the pictures. I think the website is eldernickgraziano.blogspot.com. That was awful nice, and I'm sure will be an effective way to get more communication out. How is Elder Higbee and Elder Harries doing? I think of them often.

Time is running out quickly,

Much love and thanks for all your love, support, and prayers.

Elder Graziano