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

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


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