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,