Elder Graziano and his companion, Elder Werner
Monday, September 26, 2011
Hello Family and Friends-
Another great week here with lots of learning. I also scored my first goal of my soccer career since I think I was 7 years old - the year before I started football. It wasn't too talented, the ball rolled through a couple of legs and my foot was in the right place and before I knew it, I was getting high fives. I kept my shirt on though... Basketball has also been fun, but I like being out in the air better. I keep feeling better with the language. It seems as though they try to hammer us pretty hard with the language especially at the beginning. Then, from what I have been hearing and starting to experience, they start to incorporate more gospel study in the mission language. But I think it is very effective as they are trying to emphasize our teaching abilities hear in the MTC. This obviously begins with being able to communicate with someone, but when this doesn't work, we all have learned how to bear testimony to help us use the true treacher - the Holy Ghost.
Last Tuesday, Elder Russel M. Nelson from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles came and spoke to us about the October 2011 issue of the Ensign magazine. It was awesome. That edition was printed with missionaries specifically in mind, and they gave each and every missionary here a copy of it. It is a great source of not only information about the Book of Mormon, but would be a great missionary tool to send to a friend's doormat or something.
It was so awesome seeing Sister Harries show up. I was very bummed I wasn't able to see Diann and Michael because while she was getting dropped off, I was out on the field playing soccer. I was hoping there would be a way for me to see them but it didn't work out. Elder Higbee, Sister Harries and I got a picture together last night, which was way cool. I am very happy for Elder Higbee to be leaving this week and start putting in the work out in his field of labor. I am grateful at the learning which takes place here, and the amazing Spirit which is brought by having thousands of missionaries in the same place. The main reason we don't get to see more of eachother is because they are Spanish speakers and me, being Portuguese and not really supposed to be here at the Provo MTC, we are in different zones and have different schedules and buildings to do our work in.
I got a letter from the Moraga Ward Primary with a bunch of signatures from the kids and notes from the adults. That meant a lot. One of my most joyous memories I have about primary is the songs we sang about becoming missionaries in the future. I am grateful that I never crossed this opportunity off my list, and couldn't imagine doing anything else to make God happier. I also liked the part about challenging the kids to do missionary work now. Jennifer Whitaker gave me a copy of a talk she gave in Reno just a couple weeks ago now, and a part of it included a thought along the lines of: One way in which we can truly draw ourselves closer to the Lord and Heavenly Father now is by serving and helping our fellowman (Matthew 25:40 Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.)
Time is running short, but I feel so blessed to be doing this work. Thank you all for the prayers and support. I look forward to everyday and finding joy in this journey.
Love, Elder Graziano
The last week has gone by very quickly. Portuguese has been getting better and better. The new teaching methods seem to be very effective in allowing missionaries to learn their language much quicker. Like I said last week, we had to teach someone our third day here and have had to every day since except for our Pday and Sunday. Those times really force us to pray hard, study up effectively on which part of the Gospel we want to teach, and most of all, rely on the Spirit to help us teach. I am excited to see Shanel when she comes on Wednesday and look forward to getting a picture with her and Elder Higbee before he takes off next week. I have been making good friends with many of the Elders I run into. I especially like our teachers. They are so passionate about their work and love us missionaries. They are all returned missionaries themselves, who have a great feel for the language, and were also excellent missionaries according to their mission presidents (basically those are their job qualifications). I ran into Celeste Yeung (now Sister Yeung) the other day - the sister of Nathan and Enoch. She said he is going to have a baby soon with his wife. She is heading to Taiwan. One of the Elders in my district received his visa this past week and is flying to the Sao Paulo MTC next week to finish his MTC experience. His paperwork went through the New York consolate, but I keep hearing that San Francisco is as good as any. Being Pday, we had the opportunity to go to the temple this morning. My companion participated in some of the sealings. A Sister missionary from Cambodia had brought in the names of her grandparents. The sealer was very in tune with the Holy Ghost and said some wonderful things about what was going on. One of his points that he emphasized was the fact that the temple work performed is in no way for the dead, just souls that are living in another place. As he talked about this and as other symolism was pointed out, the Holy Ghost touched me so deeply and undeniably about the reality of eternal marriages and reinforced how much I look forward to being married in that fashion some day. Very awesome stuff. How has Elder Harries been doing in North Carolina? Last Tuesday we had the opportunity to hear from Elder M. Russell Ballard. Hearing from an Apostle with so many hundreds of missionaries present was powerful. That is by and large a highlight of the MTC - the tuesday night devotionals and the sunday night firesides. We heard on Sunday from a district president here at the MTC. He served as a mission president in Brasil and showed some pictures of their car floating down the road because of rain. Apparently when it rains in Brasil, the water in the streets will rise to three or four feet because of the volume of water. I am excited to get down there and begin the next portion of this mission. I keep learning great principles about patience, loving others, and inviting others to be obedient to the will of God. As I listened to an address from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, he highlighted the fact that salvation isn't easy because the price paid by our Savior wasn't easy. One other great point was that we need to work hard enough and be dedicated enough to make the statement from Moses 1:39 a personal statement: "For behold, this is MY work and MY glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man". I am very grateful for the education I am receiving about what life really is like as a servant of the Lord. This past week I played soccer a few times in trying to be prepared for going to Brasil. There are some Elders here from Brasil, Africa, Korea, Mexico, and others that are very talented. All I can do is hustle and try to play defense for now. The closest I have come to scoring is about 30 feet over the goal. It might be a while before that changes. It has rained here a few times - about the equivalent of a year's worth in Nevada. Well, I look forward to informing you next week, but for now I love you all and am so grateful and humbled to have the privilege of wearing a name badge with our Savior's name on it. It is work, but very rewarding.
So far so great! I am enjoying everything so far. The first thing I noticed that I liked the best was the fact that there are so many Elders and Sisters here with the same objective - to carry the Spirit of Christ. I have never felt the Holy Ghost as often and as much as I do in these halls and rooms. I will write as fast as possible with the countdown well on its way towards 0:00. My companion, Elder Werner, is from Hershey, Pennsylvania. There are 12 Elders in my district, no Sisters. We are all getting along great. 9 of them are 19 years old, there is one 20 year old, and one 24 year old. The 24 year old, Elder Broach, is from Alaska and was baptized just 3 years ago. 5 of us in the district are going to Porto Alegre North and the other 7 are going to Fortaleza, all in Brazil. There are many other Elders in the Missionary Training Center who are waiting on visas as well. I am not sure what would happen if my visa comes while I am here, but it seems like most of the Brazil bound missionaries are here for a full 9 weeks. I met Elder Stevens, but he is in a different district so we do not get to see each other much. There are firesides each Sunday and Tuesday and yesterday's was in commemoration of the 9/11 attacks. Our mission president here, President Gordon D. Brown, led it, but we mainly watched a couple videos, including the edition of Music and the Spoken Word from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Tom Brokaw was the host, and despite the actions being led out in anger, it was made all the more clear to me that we do have a loving Heavenly Father above us, watching us use our agency for either the good or bad. The portuguese language has been fun and challenging. I feel as though the words uttered from President Criddle as I got set apart are truly being made manifest, that I have been given a "measure of the gift of tongues". On Friday, they sat us down with our first investigator and we carried out a conversation as best we could. I feel fairly comfortable praying, bearing my testimony, and some brief introductions. I'm sure this week will have similar growth. As I have been able to get around other Elders with different experiences from their lives, the thing I can single out for today that I am most grateful for is the ability to make decisions. I have been blessed with many opportunities (football, school, etc.) which have allowed this strength to develop in me and I find myself trying to share those experiences with the Elders in my district during interviews and when I see some of them struggling to decide what to do during the personal study time we are given. Today, Monday, will be our preparation-day while I am here at the MTC. We just got back from the Provo temple. It has beautiful grounds, and I have a few pictures that at some point I will figure out how I can send them. Which brings up me saying thank you for the replacement camera whoever spear headed that. I do not know how the first one broke, but when I got out of the car to get dropped off by Caleb and Brooke, we tried taking a picture and the screen was cracked. It was neat seeing them for a few minutes before we got rushed into the business of checking in, orientation, and the rest of the first day activites. I have seen a couple of missionaries from Reno- Elder Calinog and Sister Forman. That was neat to see familiar faces and have them share about some of their experience up to this point. Elder Higbee and I have seen each other a few times since we reported, but since we speak different languages and he different residences, we don't see each other very much. I have received a couple of letters through DearElder.com which has been awesome. It is neat to get a letter during the middle of the week. Also, any hand written letters can be addressed to
Elder Nicholas Raymond Graziano
MTC Mailbox # 163
2005 N 900 E
Provo, UT 84604-1793
MTC Mailbox # 163
2005 N 900 E
Provo, UT 84604-1793
Thank you everybody for your friendship and support and prayers. We missionaries can absolutely feel the support of so many prayers that are offered daily on our behalf. I look forward to updating again next week and maybe by then I will know how I can get some pictures to you. Love you all,