Thursday, December 24, 2015

Video Of My Favorite Christmas Gift 2015


video
 Here is a short video clip from our call with Taylor.  It is worth watching.

video


The very short video above, is one of the most special parts of our call.  As we were saying goodbye.  Elder Cantino (Taylor's companion) interrupted us and asked if he could quickly say something about Taylor.  The video is short, but is very touching as it is clear that the Lord has worked miracles in this companionship.  It is clear that they trust and respect each other and have found a true friendship as they have served the Lord together.

Graves Family Christmas 2015 - (Taylor via Skype from Paraguay - Part of the Posadas Argentina mission)

Amber, Shauna, Taylor and Elder Cantino acting out, "Hear no evil.  See no evil.  Speak no evil."


Mom, Dad and Taylor get to talk.

What a wonderful Christmas (Eve) morning gift!!!  We are so grateful for Taylor, his example and for the love that we feel together as a family (even across the 6,000+ miles that separate us this Christmas)!

Monday, December 21, 2015

My Gift To My Dad & I - Christmas In The Scorching Sun - Challenge Of A Dear Friend "Make This December The Most Amazing Of This 24 Month Mission!" - Enjoying Each Moment Of Each Day Working To Fulfill Specific Goals - Stake Priesthood Leadership Mission Training By The Elders


  video

Today is my dad's birthday! I am very happy for him, and truly grateful for the sacrifices he makes for so many people (especially for me). I don't know how many of you realize how much my dad writes to me, but I honestly feel as if he has been here with me every step of the way. I get to read a letter from him, almost daily. I would be very surprised if there was any father in this whole world who showed more support than my dad.

I had handmade scripture covers made for my scriptures.

This is Taylor's Dad.  I will translate as much as I can read from his beautifully handcrafted scripture covers.

Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again; But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.  John 4:13-14
 Lord, Save me

The Church of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints
 
 I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of life; which waters are a representation of the love of God...
1Nephi 11:25 


The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints


The Holy Bible
Doctrine And Covenants, The Book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great Price 


For behold the field is white already to harvest; and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul

Though I am not 100% sure, I think the picture below must be the picture that Taylor provided to the leather craftsman/artist for this part of his scripture cover. 

 

 As the Lord liveth, and as I live, I will not go down unto my father in the wilderness until I have accomplished the thing which the Lord hath commanded me.  1 Nephi 3:15

Note: In translating the scripture above, I noticed that for the purpose of Taylor's scripture covers, he personalized this scripture changing the words slightly.  Everywhere that Taylor's scripture covers say "I" the actual verse in the Book of Mormon says "we".  1 Nephi 3:15 quotes Nephi's words (which he spoke on behalf of himself and his brothers).  

Though I am not 100% sure, I think the picture below must be the picture that Taylor provided to the leather craftsman/artist for this part of his scripture cover.

I

If you have not yet noticed, Taylor is an avid runner and a fantastic athlete.  Because we both love to run, we compare life and running, his mission and running, everything and running.  It is part of who he is.  It is something that we share.

Be Faithful until the end, and behold I will be with you.


This is Taylor's Dad still: It is obvious that the person that made these leather scripture covers for Taylor is very talented.  I found the pictures that Taylor must have given to him to have the covers made.  Taylor and I have spoken about this particular race (2014 Utah Valley Marathon) time and time again over the course of the past 18 months.  Serving a mission is much like running a marathon in that it is a major commitment, requiring great discipline and sacrifice  of those involved.  We ran the marathon above together and though we are 6,000 miles apart physically while he serves the Lord, we are running this "marathon" together.  I am so grateful for his example, commitment, discipline, sacrifice and love of the Lord.  It may only be in thoughts, prayer and through written letters, but I will be with you until you return home Taylor.

 I have fought the good fight.  

I have finished the race.  I have kept the faith  2 Timothy 4:7




Here is the picture of our family that Taylor must have provided the leather craftsman/artist.  The picture was taken only a few weeks before he left for Argentina/Paraguay.

As some of you reading this probably already know, Taylor's missionary service in Argentina Posadas Mission is particularly special to me.  I too served as a full-time missionary in Argentina from January of 1992 to February of 1994.  We have a lot in common and share a very special bond.
 

 

My (Taylor's Dad) scripture covers - also handmade during my service as a full-time missionary in Argentina.

Back to Taylor's letter home:

Even though, these scripture covers are for me, I feel like these pictures of the covers are kind of like a little gift that I can give to my Dad on his birthday. I know that probably doesn't make sense, but as I carry these scriptures, my Dad, will kind of be with me. Anyway... I am not explaining myself very well... this design I made, thinking of my Dad.  The pictures of the covers are my gift to him for his birthday.  My favorite is the one that says "Estoy contigo." It means "I am with you."  I really feel like he has been running along my side this whole mission "marathon."


Presidente de Mision & Hermana Lapierre (I mean Santa  :-)  ) & the Elders

This week I only want to share two quick experiences. As Christmas is coming around the corner, instead of little balls of white fluff falling from the sky, we have piercing rays of scorching sun that penetrates all sunscreen this world has to offer! It is wonderful! The only problem is you can't very well make sun angels (instead of snow angels) nor sun men... This Christmas season we decided that we had a big decision. It was, be sad that we are not home... or not be sad, because we are doing the most amazing thing! I realized this was a very clear decision, thanks to a letter from a very dear friend of mine. I made the decision, with my companion, that this December was going to be the most amazing month of our missions. We put a goal to give away 14 Books of Mormon, challenge 14 people to baptism, find 1 part member family, and talk with 70 people in the street (also taking out there address and fixing a return appointment) every week this December (as well as January). Lets just say, we haven't achieved every goal, but our success in finding new investigators has been incredible! We are also seeing that we truly are enjoying each moment of the day. I have learned this month how important it is to set goals, and how they truly help us strive towards SOMETHING.



A week ago I got a call from the stake presidency here in Paraguay, and he told me that he wanted me and my companion, along with two other elders to prepare a presentation of our vision of the mission, in an effort to show the stake what it is that they can do to better support the mission work. At first, it was quite intimidating. We got to the meeting (all the Bishoprics and Elder's Quorum presidents of the whole stake were there) and I was nervous because I knew that we would have to talk for 15 minutes or so in front of a lot of very important people. I prayed and prayed and prayed that the Spirit would guide us in our words and that we would speak in unity. We got up and talked for a good 20 minutes and made all the suggestions that we needed to.  I can honestly say that I have never felt so inspired by the Spirit in words. Every word we said, flowed so well into what the next missionary would say (there were four of us) and all the bishops and branch presidents greatly accepted our advice. Afterwards, what surprised me, is that they continued talking with us. They asked for our opinions, asked us questions, and basically we guided a 3 hour conference, being four, 19 and 20 year old young men, in front of 50 or 60 men who have been part of this church much longer than we have.  Each of them had genuine desires to hear what we had to suggest to better the mission work here. It is amazing how the Lord can use such weak people, as myself, to be his tool. I LOVED that opportunity.


Many more things have happened this week, but I am short on time. I love each of you, and really hope you enjoy this Christmas.


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Write to Elder Graves in 1 of 3 ways  :

1. E-mail tgraves@myldsmail.net

--------------------------------------------------------------------------
2. Send letters through the Church Pouch Mail Only postcards or one-page correspondences (no envelopes).

Fold the letter in thirds, secure the long side with tape about one inch in from each end. Do not seal the ends. Stamp and address the blank side as you would an envelope. Use the following mailing address:
Elder Taylor Graves
Argentina Posadas Mission
POB 30150
Salt Lake City, UT
84130-0150

--------------------------------------------------------------------------
3. Physical Mailing Address:
 
Elder Taylor Graves
Córdoba 1243
Posadas, Misiones 3300
Casilla 12
Argentina

Monday, December 14, 2015

Zone Watched Saratov Approach & Gains Understanding Of The Pain Our Heavenly Parents Felt When The Savior Was Crucified - Fabiana Baptized! - Aira Baptized! - Angelica's Prayers Answered TWICE (Very Literally) By The Arrival Of The Missionaries


 This is Taylor's Dad.  This is another very short, but funny/cute video that was taken when Taylor and his zone thought they were posing for a picture, but...the camera was recording :-) 

video
 

We just finished watching the Saratov Approach as a zone with permission from President Lapierre.  I cried many times.  I remember the first time that I watched this movie in theaters with 5 of my best guy friends, I cried.  This time I was crying the whole time.  I realized the pain those parents must have gone through but as I contemplated the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, I realized how hard it must have been for our Heavenly Parents to allow their first born son to die to allow us to live.  They must have felt so much pain.  In Mosiah 15 and also in John 17 (I think) it explains how God himself suffered for our sins.  There are many ways you can understand this, but I feel that more than anything, these scriptures show that perhaps the greatest pain suffered was suffered by our Heavenly Parents, allowing their Son to suffer, while the whole time they could save Him and He could save Himself.  I love my Savior and my Father in Heaven.



I was able to help 2 people (as well as 3 others from other companionships in this ward) come unto Christ and better understand the sacrifice of their Savior.  Fabiana was able to be baptized by Elder Cancino.  She was very content and the whole family was there to support her.  Carolina and Sonia were there and are all very happy to help their cousin on their way towards Jesus.  What a blessing it was to see her go under the waters of baptism and even better seeing her receive the Holy Ghost the following day.  One of the baptisms of the sister missionaries here in Ciudad del Este chose me to baptize her.  Her name is Aira Celeste Gimenez and it has been really amazing to see her and her family grow in their testimonio.

Truly my heart is full right now because of this movie we watched.  I am ready to go out and preach the gospel to all of the people here.  I am trying to set the right goals to help me have the best last months in my mission.  I feel somewhat saddened knowing that this experience as a missionary will have to end and I can only hope that I can take advantage of EVERY moment that I have left.

 I love this gospel!

This is Taylor's Dad.  Taylor had a unique opportunity to write a midweek letter that I did not have time to post until now.  Here it is:

Taylor's Dec 9, 2015 letter:

Well, I get an opportunity to write now luckily, and with the fact that I already wrote a hand written part in my blog entry, I just wanted to add a quick story to the entry. We were in Posadas Argentina in a meeting with all the leaders of the mission including a 70 named Elder Salaz. He truly inspired, us and has really helped me get enthusiastic about spreading this gospel.



We have to spend the night in Argentina, and that means that the mission either has to find us a hotel to stay in, or we find a pension of others to stay in. In our case, we ALWAYS stay in the pension of other elders. The Monday before the Leaders Conference we work in the area where we are planning on sleeping. I was so lucky, that I was assigned (I pleaded and begged the office elders) to spend the night in my old area in Garupa! We got there at night at about 8 o'clock and we had about an hour to work. The other elders were sick, so I decided I was going to just make one visit. Angelica Balbuena. She is the one that I had the opportunity to baptize on my last day in Garupa. The only problem was that she lives about an hour away walking, so... we walked REALLY FAST... We got to her house at about 8:50 (we have to be in our pension at 10:00 at the latest in this mission) and I had one of the most special experiences in seeing her! She saw me from about 50 feet away, and thought that we were the other elders visiting, but thought it was strange that they hadn't let her know that they were going to come. She told us to come to the door, and as I got closer, she screamed, put her arms out wide like eagle wings and started running at me ready to give me a huge bear hug. Well... we know that's not allowed in the mission... but there was nothing I could do. Although, in reality because it is a rule to not hug, I should have felt very uncomfortable, but what I felt was very happy, in seeing how happy she was.
She is doing great and going strong in the church. She actually told me that she had had some doubts about the church (although she kept going to sacrament meeting.) If you all remember, she is the one, about 5 months ago who had been praying that someone would come to her door to show her the way, and then we showed up to her house. A very similar thing happened as we arrived this Monday. She said that as doubts attacked her, and as she felt insecure in her testimony, that she prayed that God would re confirm her testimony. Later that day, I showed up and she says that yet again God has answered her prayers.

I know God lives and knows each of us. His hope for us is that we get to know Him. 

I love you all.

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Write to Elder Graves in 1 of 3 ways  :

1. E-mail tgraves@myldsmail.net

--------------------------------------------------------------------------
2. Send letters through the Church Pouch Mail Only postcards or one-page correspondences (no envelopes).

Fold the letter in thirds, secure the long side with tape about one inch in from each end. Do not seal the ends. Stamp and address the blank side as you would an envelope. Use the following mailing address:
Elder Taylor Graves
Argentina Posadas Mission
POB 30150
Salt Lake City, UT
84130-0150

--------------------------------------------------------------------------
3. Physical Mailing Address:
 
Elder Taylor Graves
Córdoba 1243
Posadas, Misiones 3300
Casilla 12
Argentina

Monday, December 7, 2015

Paraguay to Argentina (and back) - Elder Cancino Gives Up Bus Seat and Stands On All NIght Bus Trip To Argentina - 5 To Be Baptized In Ward This Week!



Sometimes in the mission, we travel a lot! Today we got here to Argentina Posadas for a meeting. Elder  Cancino and I, with a few missionaries from Ciudad del Este had to travel during the night starting at 11:30 pm until 6:00 a.m. I was able to sit down and enjoy a few 3 hours of some very bumpy sleep. My companion, after about 10 minutes of sitting, noticed a woman get on and there weren’t anymore places to sit. He decided to offer her his place next to me. I told him, “Elder! You won’t have any other opportunity to sleep! Are you sure you want to do this?” He, being very Christlike, ignored my suggestion and stood up for 6 hours, sacrificing all his sleep and allowed that woman to sleep. I am very grateful for a companion who sets such a good example for me. I really have learned to love him and hope I can show the pure love of Christ and sacrifice as he did today.



After the long travel, we felt that we should do exercises to help us stay awake as we tried to wait for a taxi to come get us and let’s just say it was not easy :-)



So...we have 3 companionships here in our ward. Us combined, we have 5 baptisms this coming Saturday! We are so happy! The best part is that Fabiana (the cousin of Sonia and Carolina Martinez) will be baptized! We are so happy for her and even though she is very young she understands very well the basic principles of the gospel. We also were able to start teaching her mother recently and she has shown a considerable amount of interest in the church. Well, the work keeps going strong! We have been working very hard and are loving every moment of it. The sun has finally come out after about 10 days of rain! So we are pretty happy :-) Even though we know it means a very hot Christmas is coming!

I hope you all have a great week :-)



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----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Write to Elder Graves in 1 of 3 ways  :

1. E-mail tgraves@myldsmail.net

--------------------------------------------------------------------------
2. Send letters through the Church Pouch Mail Only postcards or one-page correspondences (no envelopes).

Fold the letter in thirds, secure the long side with tape about one inch in from each end. Do not seal the ends. Stamp and address the blank side as you would an envelope. Use the following mailing address:
Elder Taylor Graves
Argentina Posadas Mission
POB 30150
Salt Lake City, UT
84130-0150

--------------------------------------------------------------------------
3. Physical Mailing Address:
 
Elder Taylor Graves
Córdoba 1243
Posadas, Misiones 3300
Casilla 12
Argentina

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

No Rest For The Weary...Just Keep On Keeping ON! - Miracles Leading to Alexis' Testimony/Conversion/Baptism


Sometimes, when you go on a run, you feel like taking a break. You think in your head "I'll just walk for 30 seconds", but then when those 30 seconds end, you realize that your legs have turned to concrete, and they don't want to go back to running! I think this is an important running lesson that has very much helped me in the mission. Not ever wanting to "take a break" from the rules, from working hard, from loving, from diving into the scriptures daily. I love the feeling of achieving, and that is what I plan to do with the rest of my mission :)




Tanner Vario (Jensen) was baptized about 20 months ago. 24 months ago, we started having discussions with the missionaries (that was probably the biggest miracle in itself) (and I know each of you have heard the story 1000 times, but bear with me) he knelt down to pray, for the first time, by my side, and asked God if He was real, and if it Joseph Smith was a prophet. He felt His presence. I felt His presence. I felt desires for all to know what Tanner and I felt that day. I left on a mission to Argentina and Paraguay. I was transferred to a big city in Paraguay after a year of service in Argentina. Tanner, after miraculous progress, and changes in his life, was called to serve in a high technology, Spanish speaking mission in the United States. With my companion, I found a young man, Alexis, of 19 years, and he felt the need to change his life. I felt, for some reason, without knowing any of his circumstances, inspired to share Tanner´s story. Alexis cried, realizing that there was hope, as he had passed through a conversion experience similar to Tanner's. Alexis said, "I need to talk to Tanner". Tanner then taught him through the miracle of technology (from Ohio), and through the gift of tongues (in Spanish), and let him feel the true hope that he has. We taught him many lessons on Skype together, my best friend and I, thousands of miles apart, being companions. I was able to baptize him, being ever so grateful for the hand of the Lord of these countless little miracles that I just described, the whole time. 

If my whole experience with Tanner, a span of 4 years, was all to help Alexis make this change in his life, it would have all been worth it.

Quote from a letter home from Elder Tanner Vario regarding his own conversion and his experience teaching Alexis:

It's been incredible to see his life change for the better as he grows closer to Christ, makes promises with Him, and be baptized....we all have our own challenges and situations were put in for life, and one of the many reasons that I'm so grateful for the challenges I've been given, is so that I can overcome them, and then help others overcome them too.
Back to Taylor's letter:
I love this gospel and know that I have been divinely called to serve specific people. I love my family, and also know that they were assigned to me, because I could most effectively progress spiritually with them. I am so blessed.


These are my birthday pants! Thanks Grandma! :) 


 My companion and I celebrated Thanksgiving with a microwavable Turkey Dinner!
 
 
This really is a cow tongue... unfortunately I didn't get to try it :(


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----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Write to Elder Graves in 1 of 3 ways  :

1. E-mail tgraves@myldsmail.net

--------------------------------------------------------------------------
2. Send letters through the Church Pouch Mail Only postcards or one-page correspondences (no envelopes).

Fold the letter in thirds, secure the long side with tape about one inch in from each end. Do not seal the ends. Stamp and address the blank side as you would an envelope. Use the following mailing address:
Elder Taylor Graves
Argentina Posadas Mission
POB 30150
Salt Lake City, UT
84130-0150

--------------------------------------------------------------------------
3. Physical Mailing Address:
 
Elder Taylor Graves
Córdoba 1243
Posadas, Misiones 3300
Casilla 12
Argentina