Saturday, March 31, 2012

March 27, 2012

I forgot to tell a little more about my first Sunday in Brasil. We arrived at church and were informed that the President of the Elder´s Quorum and the teacher did not show up... 30 seconds before we starting teaching the class. With some participation from the class, it turned out well. I am grateful that the members are patient with my language weaknesses and listen intently to make sure they understand what I am trying to communicate. However, after having communicated in a class, the Branch President then asked me to speak in sacrament. (We have Priesthood meeting first, Sunday School, then Sacrament). So I was able to stand up at the pulpit and bear testimony for a few minutes. He said it was a good thing he asked because the assigned speaker didn´t show up to church. Two days ago, Elder Bryant and I were able to teach the Young Men and Young Women about a few chapters in the Book of Mormon. We tried our best to have some participation and role plays and I didn´t see anyone sleeping by the end of it. The frustrating thing now about the language is that I feel decently comfortable expressing my feelings and even speak at a speed which I think is close to normal of some of the people, ( I don´t think I will ever talk as fast as some of the women) but I still can´t quite make out all the words that are being spoken to me. I presume this will last for a short while longer, because I continue to see improvement. I am trying to memorize a certain number of words a day/week and look forward to the day when I can really stand on my own in conversations. Thanks Dad for all the years of teaching me patience, I finally might start getting it a little. After having to wait at home for an extra couple weeks and then dealing with this, I might move forward with this attribute.
We lost almost two days last week of work due to Elder Bryant having a meeting in Porto Alegre (he is our district leader) and having to hold a baptismal interview in a city an hour away on bus. I worked with one of the Elders there. I enjoy doing splits to learn more about the love and appreciation I have for my companion. Elder Bryant continues to impress me with his dedication. He has been sick on and off this week, but really tries his best to push through the body fatigue and fulfill his assignment to the Lord. Please pray for his health to improve.
This week I had my first and second opportunity to give a priesthood blessing to a man in need. At first, I was very worried about the language, but had such a sense of calm in one instance during the blessing to not worry about it, just let the Spirit communicate. I was grateful for the experience, and know the faith of the individuals involved plays a huge role in these ordinances.
How exciting about Jennifer getting her papers turned in! I will be looking forward to the update when she receives her assignment. I am getting more and more excited every day for General Conference. What a privilege it is to invite people we meet to here the words of a modern day prophet and apostles of our Savior, Jesus Christ. I will be writing certain questions and praying for inspiration prior to watching because I know this is one way to confirm the reality that these men are really prepared, called, and ordained to speak for the Redeemer. One thing that has been on my mind is the Priesthood and how we as members and holders of the Priesthood can really live up to the covenant we made to accept that responsibility of service. How is Bishop Delange doing? And Bishop Sorenson? It was such a privilege to work so closely with him the Stevensons, Br. Logan and the others that helped me stay focused on my calling in Moraga. I have a great void for my companion, Sister Barnes. I hope she is doing well. She is in Georgia right now I believe. She is incredible and I need to repent for being stubborn and stern with her at times. I love you Grandma!
My heart goes out to Sister Harries. Wherever (or whatever) thou art, act well thy part. A great story from President McKay. And a lesson I tried to learn while being in Moraga for more time than what I thought was ideal. I will write her today. And I will send it to Georgia, hopefully that will work.
I love you all and am feeling strong and healthy. My legs are appreciative every night to get in the air.
With love and charity,
Elder Graziano
The cathedral is the 2nd highest in South America I have been told, there is one taller in Argentina. In the baptism of Jesus Christ, notice the three separate beings of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost... Interesting.
President and Sister Pavan.
Elder Bryant.
A few pictures of our apartment.

March 20, 2012

The first week and a half have been full of work. I will first relate my experience of arriving in Brasil - finally. I enjoyed my time with the Harries family. They were great to be around for a couple hours. We left Atlanta on time but 2 hours into the flight, off the coast of Florida, the pilot said they were having problems with the brake system and would have to turn around to land in Atlanta. After doing so, we had to circle for an extra hour to use up fuel and lighten our weight. This detour added an extra 5 hours to the flight plans. Finally we took off from Atlanta about 3:20 in the morning. We landed in Sao Paulo about 1 in the afternoon, and my original flight to Porto Alegre was supposed to leave about 11:15. So I had my first experience with trying to communicate with someone who knows no English to coordinate a new flight for Porto Alegre. I had an hour to do that and get my luggage checked in and get on the plane - I guess I shouldn´t have talked so much about having a fun experience during my travels because I got it. So I landed in Porto Alegre about 5:30 Sunday night and left the apartment at 7. I bore my first testimony in this language about 8 that night and then one more time before the night was through. I was certainly blessed to be able to talk with the Brasilians there in Moraga so as to prepared a little better than normal. The hardest part about the language right now is understanding the natives. I can understand my companion pretty well - Elder Bryant, from Washington - but between the different accent and the vocabulary that the natives use, I certainly don´t understand everything that is said by the natives. I can generally follow the conversations and I do notice improvement each day, so hopefully in a few weeks I will be able to have memorized more words and be able to have a better understanding of what everyone is saying. Elder Bryant has been out for a little over a year and is a humble missionary. He has a strong desire to improve each day and learn from those around him. I enjoy working with him.
I had my first experience with a cockroach on Friday morning in our apartment. While showering I looked down to notice a decent sized cockroach crawl out of the drain and walk into my sandal. I ended the situation quickly after that, however. There are a few bugs around the apartment, lizards too. The garden pad that Dr. Zwahlen suggested to get is great. The floors are wood and tile. I feel as though the extra three weeks of time at home were good not only for the work that we were able to do there, but also for the strength my leg gained during that time. The first full day in my area, Wednesday, we walked in between 6-7 hours at good paces. All that time walking, you may be able to perceive that the work in our area (Santa Cruz do Sul) is not going very fast right now. . This may be a common theme for my mission, we shall see. We have made some improvements in the first week in terms of getting some members more involved and have met some people that seem to have some more interest. Elder Bryant has been here 3 months and says he can see a difference in the last week with how our contacts have gone. It is hot here - one of the hottest missions in Brasil from what the natives say because of the humidity. The food is good and I like having lunch as the biggest meal, although I do feel like I will come back a few pounds lighter because sometimes we don´t even eat dinner after the big lunches.
It is strange writing and thinking in English so much right now. I have made the goal to not speak English unless I am asking Elder Bryant how to say a certain word. I feel the language will come quickly, so please offer some more prayers that it can. That being said, I am learning about the importance of testimony and what really needs to be said to reach the heart of other people. I am so grateful for the experiences in my life that have helped me gain the testimony I have. We learn that a testimony is a gift from the scriptures and that we should desire the best gifts. What a gift to desire - a firm resolution of an invisible truth that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored through a modern day prophet with the call to carry the authority of God and testify of the reality of our Savior Jesus Christ. The first principle of the gospel - faith - teaches us this same concept, that there needs to be a desire and belief that a change will influence us for the better. What better way than to have a man called of God to communicate His will for His church to help guide us spiritually and physically. The quote from Joseph Smith was brought up this week when he said I teach true principles and the members of the Church govern themselves. I am grateful for my desire to choose God´s will instead of my own and am grateful that the two seem to be aligning more each day.
Thank you for the prayers and support and all the love that you have for me. The address to send letters or packages to is:
Elder Nicholas Graziano
Brasil Porto Alegre North Mission
Caixa Postal 13008
Porto Alegre- RS/Brasil
Love you all so much,
With love and charity,
Elder Graziano