Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Eating Cow Heart & Yucca Plant - Miracle Yields Record Attendance In Church - Benita's Baptism - Antero Awaiting Test Results -

As I know he has been in your prayers, he has certainly been in ours. Antero unfortunately has not been given his results yet, but they have assured him that he will know them tomorrow. Again, I will update you on his status in this coming week.  Thank you for your many prayers on his behalf.


Benita was baptized this past Saturday! We were so very happy to see her testimony grow. She had been listening to the Elders for some time now, and decided that the time had arrived to enter into the waters of baptism. She fully understands that baptism is not something to play with. When we are baptized, we are not instantly perfected. The remission of our sins comes through the Holy Ghost as we keep the commandments. Benita is the sister of the most faithful member of our group. They both live in Agua Blanca and have to travel in horrible conditions to make it to church each week about 20 kilometros. They are both so faithful.

(Photo is not available)

Agua Blanca has already taken a very special place in my heart... (this pun honestly was not intended). The food is so unusual, but also very tasty. This week we ate Mandioca (known as yucca plant in some places) and an entire cow heart! 

When I arrived here in this area, I quickly realized that there was not going to be much progress in Agua Blanca, as investigators could not make it to church due to distance and mud trails. My companion and I prayed and searched guidance. We looked into building a church house in AB, as well as renting a small place, when a small miracle occurred. A member offered to permanently pay for a transport system so that Agua Blanca can always make it to church. We are so grateful for this tender mercy from the Lord. Due to this, as well as lots of hard work from members with us in the mission work, we had a record attendance of church this week of 42 individuals, (normally we have 15-20 people in church) 14 of them being investigators. The Lord is blessing this area, much of which has to do with the prayers that each of you offer for me and my companion. Thank you.


This place has the worlds BEST empenadas!

 
When we had a mission conference in Ciudad del Este, Sonia and the family came to visit me! E. Cancino let her know that I was coming! 

 
Us this morning riding our bikes for a P-day activity...as if we don't bike enough in this area... :)

Love you all

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Write to Elder Graves in 1 of 3 ways  :

1. E-mail tgraves@myldsmail.net

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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

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

Monday, January 18, 2016

Videos Of Taylor In The Paraguayan Wilderness - The Sun Came Out! - Teaching & Blessing Antero While He Battles Cancer

When we leave the pension to go work, we have formed a habit of saying a prayer, my companion saying "let´s go dude!" and then I give him a hug, and say "con todo de lo que tenemos!" or "with everything we have!" You could definitely say that these past couple of weeks have been exhausting, but we have enjoyed every moment of it.


The sun came out! Holy cow! It has been so long since I have seen the sun, and maybe now you can all tell that I am a little bit more burnt, because my skin wasn't used to seeing the sun! Now luckily the rain stopped and we are enjoying true summer time! I love the heat, and feel bad for those of you who have to deal with that fluffy white powder that falls from the sky. The heat is much better ;)

This week I will not be writing very much, but I decided to video part of an adventure with our Group Leader, making our way to a family that he came to know and wanted us to teach them. It was quite the journey and I hope you can all get an idea what it is like out here on days when we go to "Agua Blanca". The other days we are in the down town city! It is quite the difference.  Videos of our travels in the Paraguayan wilderness follow:

video


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video

The day I got here we found a man who had recently moved into a member's house (her brother) who was very sick, and he knew that we had the power of God, so he asked us that we might give him a blessing. We of course did. If you could have seen him when we came to give him the blessing, you might have been scared. He was clearly a very skinny man, as you could very well see his cheek bones in his face, but his stomach had swollen to that of a 350 pound man. It was actually a rather disturbing sight, and made me wonder what could possibly be happening in that poor man's body. We gave him the blessing, and we asked him if we could leave him with a short message. He accepted, and we felt the need to challenge him to repent of his sins and be baptized. Without almost any teachings, he immediately accepted. He said that he was so happy that God had finally shown him the true path.

Two or three days later we got news that he was going to have to travel to another city to be operated on, and just yesterday we got news that he has cancer in many parts of his frail body. He is likely not going to live much longer. 

When he was told what his problem was, it was told to us that he said that his main preocupación (concern) was that he needed to be baptized so that he could be ready to meet God. This brings tears to my eyes just thinking about this man. 

My companion and I have dedicated a part of every prayer that we make to this man's well being (His name is Antero Panello) and would like to ask each of you that you might pray for him as well. We will hear tomorrow if he will be coming home or not this week and will let you know this following week.

What is great about this gospel is that we each have a chance, a second chance, and a third...etc. No matter what we have gone through, through Christ we can be healed.

I love you - each and every one!

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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, January 11, 2016

Riding Through The Mud To Teach In Agua Blanca - Dad's Kryptonite (Peanut M&M's) - Adolfo & Yaqueline's Baptism Scheduled - Teaching In Spanish & Portuguese - Church Is Very Small In New Area, But Work Progresses With A Strong Spirit & 6 Investigators In Church Sunday



This first picture is of us today on P-Day exploring an American Mall. I think I found my Dad's Kryptonite (sorry only my family will understand).  I found my Kryptonite as I used some Christmas money to buy myself a HUGE jar of peanut butter. :) I am so happy!


In Katuete, we basically have two areas. One is Katuete. The other one is called Agua Blanca, or White Water. There are members (as well as 3 investigators that should be baptized in February)  who live there. They normally come to church in Katuete, but when there is rain (and there has been rain every day for almost 70 straight days and I am not exaggerating) it is literally impossible to make it to church. The trail that they take to make it to church becomes a "slow" quick sand and only the strongest 4x4 trucks can make it with out getting stuck. So we have the awesome opportunity to go out there 2 times a week to preach to them.  I will tell you one thing however, visiting those good people is not without sacrifice! We ride our bikes (I always dreamed of being a missionary on a bike!!) 25 miles in total on the days we go out there. It is quite tiring, because we have to do it during the heat of the day. When we get there, we are always welcomed with lots of water and food by the members there. They are incredible.
This is what happens when it rains while we are out on our bikes in Agua Blanca (white water). Lets just say, in reality... the agua isn't all that blanca.

This is us with Adolfo and Yaqueline. They are Brazilians living here in Paraguay, and luckily speak Spanish well enough (although my companion and I can almost fluently understand Portuguese now) and are learning so much about the gospel. This was a Family Home Evening that we had that was a huge success, that helped inspire them to be baptized on the 30th of January

As I mentioned before, this group is small, and when there is rain, it is smaller. We arrived to church about 15 minutes early and no one was there still this Sunday. At 8:30 (when church should start) one car pulled up. It was Adolfo and Yaqueline. In the first hour of church, they were the only ones there (besides my companion and I). My companion taught the first hour of church. Then, 4 more investigators showed up for the second hour! Shortly after, we had our first members of the church show up. I taught the second hour of class (because the teacher never came) and then gave a spur of the moment talk in sacrament meeting. Although this might sound like it should have been a very stressful experience, it was probably the most peaceful and most wonderful Sabbath Day I have experienced in my life. After pondering a lot, I figured out why. I stopped thinking about myself, and constantly thought about how others were feeling during the meeting, hoping that they could have a spiritual experience, and in doing so, had incredible spiritual experiences myself as well.

I love this gospel. I say that every day at the end of my journal entry, and it's true.
 
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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, January 4, 2016

Saying Goodbye - Tiny Group In New Area Of ~20 People - Success In The Area Is About Attitude

Saying goodbye to Ciudad del Este was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.


I talked with Sonia, Carolina, Fabiana, and Fernando (the family we baptized one at a time) about how her family changed my life. I still remember the experience when she was asking God to show her if this was the true church when she got up on a bus going to a far away city, and she saw me sitting with other missionaries sleeping and she knew that this was an an answer from God. We said goodbye everyone with tears in their eyes, knowing we might not see each other again, but knowing that we will stay firm in the gospel until the end.



Saying goodbye to Julian Gamarra was particularly difficult. They had no idea that I was going to leave, and we came to their house without aviso... how do you say that in English? (This is Taylor's Dad, aviso = warning)... before and we told them about the news.


Tears instantly came to his eyes as did they come to mine, and as we took our last picture together, I put my hand on  his shoulder, and he grasped my hand holding back the tears. He is still in the process of his divorce, but over and over again has told me that he has already made a covenant with God to continue on this path.


Alexis. Him having a similar age as me, made him even more close to me, and it was really hard to have to say goodbye. I am so proud of him, and wish I could have had more time to stay to help him on the path towards his mission. He will be a great missionary.
I told my companion today that the greatest joy that we experience on the mission really is the pain of having to say goodbye. It truly means you served  and loved that person.

I got to my new area and was shocked! It is a very beautiful place, but the church is brand new here! There is a tiny group of 20 people who gather on Sundays to sing and partake of the sacrament. We are working to make this group become a branch. There had been some negative comments about the area, and I had the choice to work according to what people told me, or I could help my companion love this area and learn that it is not about the area, it is about the attitude of the missionary.


My companion is a new missionary with 5 months on the mission, and is serving about 5 hours in car from home. He is very excited about everything, but told me that he felt a bit saddened because he felt like he had wasted the first part of his mission because they spent a lot of time passing time in houses of members. He started the week explaining to me how he truly hoped that the next transfer would come quick and that he would be sent to another place. I told him that we were going to do everything to find new investigators and then see what his opinion was.

We worked SO HARD this week! We had a goal to have 12 new investigators, and because of the holidays, and transfers, we were not very close to our goal, but on Saturday and Sunday, we worked with everything we had and in those two days we gained 18 new investigators, and we have appointments with each of them coming up this week.

My companion now says that he prays that he stays in this area for at least one more transfer.
It is all about the attitude, and I am glad that I have so many good examples that helped me learn that important lesson.

There are a looooot more things that I want to write about, (especially about how my companion and I spent P-day transforming the dirtiest pension in the mission to the most spotless pension in the mission in only about 5 hours of cleaning!) But I don't have more time. I love you all, and should be sending pictures soon :)


Me and iron man



 My companion and I eating some fish for new years!


New years with some of the zone running and playing volley ball


Yeah, we had to hitchhike... don't worry its legal here.


Noelia from Ciudad del Este was taking the lessons from the day I got to Ciudad del Este. I think I gave her the baptism challenge 50 times. She said she didn't feel prepared every time. Finally, on my very last lesson in Ciudad del Este she accepted. She holds in her hand her baptism goal. Its a Picture of the baptism of Jesus, with "January 23" written on it. I was so happy to help her for so long to help her get to this point.




The family on the left is the Martinez family. They gave us the reference of this amazing family Maria Rosalino. They struggled to progress as well but also put a baptismal goal of 23 of January the day I left.


Just for fun this is downtown Ciudad del Este where normally there are millions of people in every corner, but we got there and it looked like a zombie movie. Of course it was Christmas day, so I guess it makes sense, but still we were shocked that there literally was not one soul in sight!



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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

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Taylor Is Leaving Ciudad Del Este & Is Headed To Katuete - Christmas Celebrations in Paraguay! - Companions Growing Together Becoming Soldiers In The Lord's Army

I am writing today very happy to have been able to celebrate the day of our Savior's birth among lots of other missionaries. It is such a special treat to be among friends who give everything they have for the Lord, just like I am doing. We played soccer (a non-contact version, in our mission we can't play soccer), played lots of volleyball, went on a nice long run, and later found out that the sun had cooked us. :)  President Lapierre decided to give us a free day all of Christmas day, to do fun P-day activities, and it was amazing to take that day to just breath a little bit. We spent the end of the day ice-skating on a very tiny ice skating rink (it made me happy because it made me think a lot of the lake we have behind my house that is always frozen during Christmas time.) After ice-skating we all went to TGI Fridays! I seriously thought I was in the United States again! It was crazy! I loved every moment, and I will be sending pictures later on, I don't think I will be able today. 

Obviously, the best part of Christmas was talking to my family. It was such a special experience. My dad already commented on our family's Skype call, but I just wanted to add a little bit. My companion and I started being a companionship about 4 months ago, and it was actually pretty difficult to start. We had very different teaching styles, and it honestly took quite some time to smooth over our styles of missionary work, but thanks to his amazing humility he helped me and I helped him become what we now are.
For example, I told him at the beginning of our time together that I had made myself a goal that I am going to read and deeply study the scriptures EVERY DAY for my whole life, no matter what. He told me that this was a very crazy and extreme goal. I didn't make any comments. I only prayed and hoped that maybe he could see my example, and want to give it a try.  Without ever telling him what to put that goal, while he was talking with his family on Christmas, he told them that he would never miss a day of reading the scriptures in his whole life because it is now a part of who he is. I am so grateful for my companion Elder Cancino.
At the beginning of our companionship, I felt that, since he was very new in the mission, I had a lot to teach him. I also felt that teaching, is very complicated! I managed teaching him some basic principles of missionary work, but I realized that one thing was missing that I really had no idea how to teach other than by example. It was how to feel love towards investigators, and people in general, and show them that love that you have for them.  I actually had started to wonder if I could ever help him FEEL, if I am properly explaining myself. But then on Christmas Eve, talking to my family, he expressed such a real love towards me, that I never knew he could ever express towards someone. He started bawling as he said that I was a strong, obedient and loving missionary, and worked purely because of the love towards my family. When he finished his words, he was shocked, and the only thing I could utter was, "I have never seen him cry."
I know missions can change people. He started as an amazing missionary, and has become a real soldier in this army of God, and I have had the privilege to watch it.



I will now be leaving Ciudad del Este, and will talk more about my goodbyes next week, but I honestly am very sad to leave this place that I now call home. After a year of working in this position as a leader, I will now have the great opportunity to go to an area where regular missionaries work, and I will get to dedicate all my energies to the people, and will not be as concerned about the daily activities of other missionaries in the zone.  My area is literally the farthest area from Posadas in the whole mission and is called Katuete and I am super excited to go, but sad to leave this family i now have here in CDE.


 Thank you for your support, and pictures might be on there way... haha.

Love you all.



This is Taylor's Dad - Taylor wasn't able to send any pictures this week, so...I have a picture that was sent to me from a friend in Argentina (from a few months ago - not with his current companion or in his current area and has nothing to do with anything from his letter home this week, but...it is fun to include at least one picture with the blog, so...here is a random photo).

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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