Monday, June 11, 2012

June 5 2012

I am now serving in the area of Moreira C├ęsar, in the city of Caxias do Sul. This is the city that Br. Kent Williams opened up 50+ years ago. I am excited to learn about the people he wrote about in his letter to Elder Stevens and I. I have heard that the Bishop´s wife is one of the children of the original family baptized, but haven´t been able to confirm yet. I will hopefully find out this week. We will not have church this weekend due to the dedication of the temple in Manaus. The ward here has some very strong members. It is a completely different situation than that in Vera Cruz. However, there has only been one stake in this city since the Church arrived. Our area hasn´t had a baptism in quite some time, but there looks to be some changes to that coming soon.
My companion is Elder Richardson from Mesa, AZ. He has been on his mission since January. I don´t know how we are surviving other than the blessing of the Lord in regards to the gift of tongues. I marvel that in the span of the day of the transfer, upon arriving here, I have been able to understand just about everything that the people say now. My companion does not have strong language skills right now, so at times I feel like I talk way too much, but there is not much we can change about that right now. He has a tender heart and a genuine desire to help people. I hope to be used as an instrument in the Lord´s hands in many ways in this area. I will get the opportunity to do some work in other areas this transfer with divisions and helping other companionships. I am excited for the growth experiences which I feel coming my way.
One of the things I enjoyed reading in the scriptures again this week was in 2 Nephi 3:8. To be considered great in the eyes of the Lord, we simply need to do His work and nothing else. Of course this doesn´t mean we have to serve a full time mission to be great in His eyes. As we approach each day with an attitude of not only discovering His will for the day, but doing His will for that day, in whatever circumstance we find ourselves, we will find ourselves feeling great in His eyes. This feeling can´t be purchased or received through convincing ourselves we have done our part, but rather through the confirmations and peace only available from the Holy Ghost. What an advantage it is as members of the Church of Jesus Christ that we have the gift of the Holy Ghost as our constant companion to help us recognize if we are truly being viewed as great in the eyes of God in every minute.
Winter has come in the area. I hear that they have promised snow sometime this week in the area. We will see... Our house is like a freezer. The sun never touches it, so that creates extra incentive to get out and work. I wish my mind and fingers would work faster together to update you on more details. Please know of my dedication to the Savior, the work I have committed to do, and of my gratitude to know that the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His authority to perform all saving ordinances really happened and that today, there is again a prophet on the earth. My heart burns and eyes fill as I testify of these truths day after day and reflect on the love our Heavenly Father has for each one of us. 
With love and charity.
Elder Graziano
May 28 2012

This weekend was special with the baptism of Wesley and Nicholas. They both asked me to perform the ordinance, and it was very neat to be able to be a participant of the Priesthood in action. Then on Sunday, we confirmed them members of the Church and gave the gift of the Holy Ghost. Doing these ordinances in Portuguese is special and shows the universality of God´s authority. We had a neat gathering at the chapel, but it was a little bit less attended because the baptism had to happen in a different city (santa cruz) because we don´t have a baptismal font yet in Vera Cruz. I took pictures of the Branch President and wife (me in suit) and with the Elder´s Quorum President (on couch). The picture at the baptism with the lady is Aline and Nicholas and the other is Wesley. I also took pictures of the foundation of a house of a family we ate lunch at the other day. The last transfer, they were an answer to prayers as Elder Bryant had basically no food in the apartment. They called us and asked where we were at about 8:30 at night. They dropped two big home made loaves of bread and we ate a whole loaf in about 10 minutes. I was doing a division in Santa Cruz so it was nice to see them again.
Today, seeing as I am writing on Monday, means transfer day. And I am being transfered...again. I don´t know where yet. All I know is that I have to go to the bus station with all the rest of the missionaries being transfered and meet my new companion and find out the new area. I am bummed that I am not able to stay in Vera Cruz longer. I wanted to stay there for a number of months due to all the potential of the investigators, the incredible members that are there and other factors. I feel I know why the Lord has made this change, because I need to grow more, and quicker. I am very grateful for the growth that occurred in this area and hope to be an instrument for Him in the area to come as well. 
Elder Keesling and I had some great lessons this last week. More than anything, we have discussed not running faster than being capable. Physically, I am able to do anything I feel according to the mission standards. But I do feel that at times we have too many people to teach and in spreading too thin, we miss crucial opportunities to help facilitate the growth these people really need. There seems to be many parallels with relating this principle to life after the mission - with a family. Making sure the foundation is always strengthening before getting too top heavy with other commitments outside of the commitment to a spouse. My perspective of mission service continues to adapt to the absolute need of relating this time to life afterwards. I am grateful for the fact that the quest for finding joy in the journey is being won. I am able to reflect every day, in between rejections, people poking their head out the door and shutting it as though the plague were coming, tripping because of the cobblestone roads, brushing our teeth with the dust from the roads... and in the middle of the reflection, feel purely at peace with the surroundings and my relationship with our Savior. I continue to strive to focus everyday on improving. I feel so privileged to have been extended the opportunity to serve a mission. In all honesty, at times I feel selfish being one of the relatively few in the world with this unique opportunity to benefit from all the growth, relationships, experiences, ups and downs, and everything else that comes with a missionary nametag. All in all, I am more grateful for the knowledge I have of the Restoration and the plan of salvation everyday and look forward to exerting myself to be able to use the talents I have been given to be an instrument in the hands of the Lord.
This week I reflected multiple times on the scripture Doctrine and Covenants 18:10 - ``the worth of souls is great in the sight of God´´. Everytime a person appears confused at the message we present I try to sit back and put the Savior´s eyes in place of mine. Without fail, this brings tears to my eyes as I feel a glimpse of what our Heavenly Father is seeing in these people. It makes me yearn all the more to offer the happiness available and comfort knowing God has revealed His complete in these latter days through a prophet. I love you all and would be very ungrateful to not say thank you for all the prayers and thoughts on my behalf. Let me know what I can do better to help you all understand how much I am loving this experience.
With love and charity,
Elder Graziano