Sunday, August 25, 2013

Last Week at the MTC

This is Christie - Tessa's visa has still not come through so she has been temporarily reassigned to ... the TENNESSEE KNOXVILLE MISSION.  She will be leaving Tuesday, August 27th!

Tessa's district impatiently waiting reassignments

Here is her letter from this week!

Oi, familia!

Besides my reassignment, here are some other interesting things that happened this week...

More impatiently waiting ...

- other reassignments: four other people in my district going to TN, a bunch going to Colorado Springs and Denver, one going to Idaho, and one going to Virginia and one got her visa! hooray sister Guynn!

All of the TN reassignments

- Sunday was a good day - my favorite part was watching the MTC devotional President Holland gave the missionaries for Thanksgiving last year. He brought his whole family and they all participated in the devotional, and it was a really nice meeting. He had his granddaughter who received her call to Italy give a talk and it was really cool to listen to her speak.

- Monday: Sister Spencer's foot was still hurting her, so we got to go off campus to see a podiatrist!  I never thought that I'd be so excited to go to the doctor's in my life, but we've been inside MTC campus for the past month, and I was pretty excited to be able to get off campus. I love the MTC, but I'm very excited to leave to the mission field!

- Tuesday: Funny story: We had devotional, and at this point Sister Spencer was on crutches. So we got to take the shuttle. They were not expecting as many injured missionaries, I guess, so they told me that on the way back, I would have to walk, and sister Spencer could take the shuttle. No problem, right? wrong. For those of you who are unfamiliar with missionary rules, one of the most important standards is that you are literally always with your companion. You have to get consent from leaders to go on an exchange with a missionary who isn't your companion, and you are never ever to be alone. So, seeing as how there were 2500 missionaries at this devotional, we couldn't find our district leader, or anyone from our district. So after the devotional, Sister Spencer went off and took the shuttle, and I hoped that I would be able to find someone from my district or zone to be on an exchange with. Luckily I found some sisters from my zone, and they walked be to the shuttle station to pick up Sister Spencer. And guess what...she wasn't there! You can probably imagine my panic when I saw that my now crippled and alone companion had been lost. I had the the sisters walk me back to the classroom, where we were having a devotional debrief as a district, and guess who was sitting in on the meeting: my branch President, President Brough! I think that I certainly have a knack for poor timing! I walk into the room, and the sisters I was with leave before President Brough could see them, and the class was already all there and discussing the devotional. I had to interrupt them and in a very frazzled manner explain why I was late and companionless. It was awesome. So I got another sister to walk with me to the bus station, and finally her shuttle pulls up and we're able to all walk back together. It turns out, that she got on the shuttle for all of the senior couples, and they were being dropped off at their houses, so Sister Spencer got a nice little tour of Provo :)

All friends from Tessa's freshman ward

- Wednesday: we finally procured (scavenged and "acquired") cushioned rolley desks on Tuesday! The desks we had previously could be likened to seats made of the world's hardest concrete. So the rolley desks were a very exciting step up. We were hosts for the new missionaries today, so we greeted the families on the curb and brought the missionaries to get all of their books and dropped them off at their residence and then their classroom. While we were out of the classroom for that space of time, all of our rolley desks were stolen and replaced with the terrible chairs! All of the missionaries in our district were devastated! I suppose we'll survive, but I don't know. We'll see ;)

Tessa and Sister Spencer in the "rolley desks"

- Thursday: The highlight of my week. We had "In-field orientation all day". It was so awesome and got me so excited for going into the mission field next week! We focused mainly on our purpose as missionaries, which is to invite others to come unto Christ, and receive the restored gospel through Faith in Jesus Christ and His atonement, Repentance, Baptism, receiving the gift of the holy ghost, and enduring to the end. We talked about what this means, and other things like that, but the thing we talked about that struck me the most, was our discussion about the missionaries responsibility to be worthy to teach the gospel. We talked about how if we are not living the gospel and if we are not worthy of teaching it, then our investigators will not be able to receive our message. That certainly put a lot of pressure on me! I know that the Lord has prepared people for me to teach. They are ready to hear our message, and they are ready to follow Jesus Christ. It is dependent on the missionary to find these people, and to find these people we need to be enough in harmony with God that he can direct our paths to these people.

I'm so excited to start working in the mission field next week, and I hope that I will be able to find those people who are "only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it". (D&C 123)

I love you all so much, and hope that everything is going well!


Sister Pennington

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Week 5 at the MTC

Hi everyone!

Thank you again so much for all of the loving notes I got this week! It is so great to hear from all of you!

So this e-mail is going to be super disorganized...I don't really know where to start!

This is my 5th week in the MTC, which means that next week is my last week before going off into the mission field. Seeing as how my visa coming is a very unlikely event, I am expecting to be temporarily reassigned somewhere in the states next Thursday or Friday until my visa comes. Any guesses as to where I'll be going?

Tessa at the Provo Temple

On Friday, we got to do TRC! It was so awesome! We met with a member from Brazil, and we talked with her about prayer and it was really great. She was so sweet! They were short volunteers for the Spanish TRC, so sister Acavedo jumped all over that, and she asked if I could do a split with her to volunteer as Spanish speakers for missionaries to teach. My brain was so messed up from switching from Portuguese to Spanish. We met with the coordinator of the Spanish TRC, and I understood everything she said, but I couldn't not respond in Portuguese. She asked me if I spoke Spanish, and I said, "Sim, Eu hablo espanol."  It's blatant spanguese. It was bad. I couldn't for the life of me speak Spanish. Luckily, for me, the Spanish speaking missionaries got lost somewhere, and they had a crazy surplus of volunteers. There was a senior couple that was volunteering who were from Brazil, but also spoke Spanish, so Sister Acavedo and I taught them in Portuguese. They were the absolute cutest couple, and we didn't really end up teaching them, but mostly they just told us stories. They were adorable. It was really cool, because they were talking for a solid 40 minutes about the history of the church in Brazil, and I could understand almost everything they said. It was awesome!

I've been wicked sick all week, with the black plague, I'm pretty sure. Sore throat, headache, fever, cough, stuffy nose and all that good stuff. I went to the doctor to get a strep test just to make sure, and it's not strep. This doctor was very sweet, but it seemed like he might have had a somewhat recalcitrant attitude, because he suggested that I get plenty of extra rest. Missionaries sleep for 8 hours a day and that's it. #exactobedience. Anyways, I am mostly better now which is good.

Tessa and her companion Sister Spencer on P (preparation) Day

So this disease started Sunday morning, of course, because that was the day that I was going to sing in sacrament meeting. When I woke up, I felt like I swallowed a million knives and then tried to wash it down with fire. Perhaps that's a bit of a hyperbole, but I would like to express that my throat hurt wicked bad to the point where I could barely talk. Anyways, so I was sitting in Sacrament meeting, minutes before my performance with Sister Guynn and I was convinced that I wouldn't be able to do it. I prayed really hard that I would be able to do it, and I went up to sing not really knowing if I was going to severely embarrass myself or not. It was an absolute miracle. I sang just a well as I did when we practiced earlier and it actually went really well. Everyone in our zone seemed to really enjoy it. It was such a miracle!

Anyways, I was feeling better enough Sunday night to do choir, so I went and I'm so glad I did! We prepared Jesus Once of Humble Birth for the devotional on Tuesday. Our choir director, Brother Eggart, really wanted to do a particular arrangement of that song, and the MTC didn't have enough copies. So he called the publisher of the music, and he donated a bunch of copied with the condition that the missionaries would be able to keep the music. So now I have a really cool arrangement of that hymn (which I love by the way). But wait, there's more! Brother Eggart alluded to the fact that there might be a general authority there on Tuesday by saying that the devotional was going to be broadcast to all of the MTCs around the world, which they rarely do. For the next two days there were so many rumors floating around of who would come to the devotional and it was pretty funny. Guess who came? ELDER RICHARD G. SCOTT! It was so crazy! I've never heard an apostle speak before, and there is really nothing like it! When he walked into the Marriott center (where we hold the devotionals) everyone stood and was absolutely silent. He began his talk by saying how elated he was to see so many sister missionaries. He noted that his late wife was a return missionary, and she blessed his life and the life of those around her so much by the mission she served. Side note about Elder Scott: His wife died over 18 years ago, and he refuses to get remarried because he knows that she is absolutely the love of his life, and he knows that he'll be able to see her again. It is so sweet. Anyway, he gave his address about prayer, and it was a very simple talk, but it was absolutely phenomenal. He talked about how we must not only pray, but act on our impressions, and promptings and press forward in faith. He paused near the end of his talk and said that we may have noticed that he was particularly emotional this evening. He explained that the reason why he felt so emotional was because he knew that his wife was there with us. He said that he could tell that she was there, and he expressed his gratitude to God for showing him tender mercies like this and allowing him to feel close to his wife, even though she was on the other side of the veil. Throughout his talk, quietly with the apostolic grace that only 15 people in this world possess. It was absolutely incredible. He left us with a blessing, which was so cool. He directed his blessing to missionaries learning a foreign language that they would have the gift of tongues. It was such a special experience. After his talk, he sat down and waited for the broadcast to end. He stood up and waved at all of us. He walked off the stage and waved as he walked. He paused just before he exited the room and yelled "Be good!" It was the sweetest thing ever and all the missionaries laughed. It was an incredible day! I took notes on my music, so I have a really cool record of the meeting that I know I will treasure for the rest of my life.

I love all of you so much, and think about you every day!


Sister Pennington

One of the Elder's in Tessa's district took this of the Provo Temple.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Week 4 at the MTC!

Hi everyone!

I love all of you so much! I just wanted to start off my letter by making sure you all know that! Also, thank you for all of the packages and letters that I've received this week! I know I say this every week, but it truly makes my day!

Exciting news: one of the Elders in my district got his visa, and is already at the Brazilian MTC. There is still hope for me!

Anyways, I learned about a holiday here at the MTC that missionaries celebrate on the DL. It's called "peve" (or P-day eve). Curious as to what this holiday entails, I asked some of the elders in my district what they did to observe this holiday. They were very secretive of their plans, so I assumed it was some crazy and exciting and rule breaking adventure, but later I found out that during the half hour personal time from 9:30 to 10 before bed, they get a bunch of food, pray over it and then eat it. #missionarylife #wetotallycelebratedthatlastnight #doritosandreeces

 Sister Pennington's district in front of the Provo Temple during their temple walk

Sister Pennington and her companion Sister Spencer during their temple walk

So I mentioned last week that I was preparing a musical number with Sister Guyn. We are singing Jesus Savior Pilot Me to the tune of For the Beauty of the Earth. It's really pretty, and we're singing it in sacrament meeting on Sunday. I'm singing soprano and Sister Guyn is singing alto. We were originally planning on singing it acapella, but after we practiced, we thought it sounded kind of boring without the piano. We asked one of the elders in our district (Elder Kettlewell) to accompany us. I didn't realize how much Elder Kettlewell loved the piano and how good he was at it. If he could do anything in the world for eternity, it would be to play the piano. He came into our first practice with an original memorized/ improvised arrangement of the hymn. I wish you could hear it! It is so good! He is so jazzed to be a part of the show! Anyways, we sound really good!

Speaking of music, this Sunday's devotional was Jenny Oaks Baker. She's the daughter of the General Authority Dallin H. Oaks and a very respected violinist. She studied music at Julliard (I don't know how to spell it) and she was amazing! For her devotional, she would talk for a bit, then she would play a few songs, then talk then play. It was such a treat! She had her four kids play I am a child of God and they were all amazing! (keep in mind that they were all under the age of 12!) It was such a nice break!

Sister Spencer and I gave a few really good lessons this week. We gave a really good lesson to one of our investigators (Irmao Gessel acting as one of his investigators Maria) that was really organized, really well thought out, and our Portuguese was so good! After the lesson, Irmao Gessel came up to us and told us that our lesson was really good and our Portuguese was almost perfect, but that it was too much. From his experience teaching Maria, he said that they would have to focus an entire lesson on one principle of the gospel because she couldn't understand more at one time. It was a really important thing to learn, and something I hadn't thought a lot about. We very prayerfully considered the lesson before we gave it, and designed it especially for Maria, but it was too much for her at that time. It was a good to learn that in lessons with our investigators we really have to be receptive to what they're thinking and feeling as we're giving our lesson. In our missionary teaching manual "Preach My Gospel", it says repeatedly to "teach people, not lessons", and I think that I'm starting to understand what that means.

We started teaching at the Teaching Resource Center (TRC) which is really cool. We teach lessons to random everyday people that we've never met before, who may or may not even be members of our church. We don't prepare a lesson, and the only things we can bring with us are our scriptures. So we have to teach this lesson to people we don't know with no preparation. In Portuguese. Tudo Bem (it's all good). It was so awesome last week! We taught two 20 minute lessons. The first was a little rough, but the second lesson was awesome! TRC is a really great opportunity to really be able to practice teaching by the spirit because we certainly don't have the talent or ability to pull it off on our own.

One of our teachers talked about doing um jejum de ingles (an English Fast- which means saying no words in English for an entire day). Sister Spencer and I tried it yesterday. It was super cool. We didn't do an exact jejum de ingles, but we spoke Portuguese most of the day, even when we were doing important planning for our lessons. It was so cool to see how much Portuguese we actually know, and how the Lord will meet us halfway when we have faith and try our very best. I know that this is true not only with learning a language, but with whatever righteous endeavor we pursue.

Also, I finished the Book of Mormon today. We were challenged to read it during our MTC stay, and I finished it in 3 weeks! That's the fastest I've ever read the Book of Mormon. (531 is a lot of pages of scripture!) I never cease to amaze at the absolute truth and beauty found in the pages of that book. I think this was my 5th time reading the book cover to cover, and the more I read it and study it, the more I am able to understand how important it is to our message as missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It is the cornerstone of our religion, and it is the foundation of our faith. I want you all to know how much I love the Book of Mormon, and how strong my testimony is of its validity. I challenge all of you to read it. Don't read it casually, or lightly, but really read it and ponder it. I testify to all of you that if you do this, you will receive your own witness of its divinity. The Book of Mormon is a testament of Jesus Christ, so any testimony that I have of the Book of Mormon, only points me to the Savior. I know that Jesus Christ is the son of God and came to this earth as part of a plan to return to our Father in Heaven. I know that Jesus Christ knows who I am, and he knows the trials I face. I know that if I just ask Him for help, He will give it.

With all the love in my heart,

Sister Pennington

With Sister Reeve from her Freshman ward

Friday, August 2, 2013

Week 3 at the MTC!

Here is Tessa's newest letter!

Hi everyone!

Thank you to everyone who sent me letters and dear elders this week! I was so lucky to have something every night! It absolutely makes my day to hear from you! You're the best!
Portuguese is going well! It's amazing how much I've learned in the mere 3 weeks I've been here! This week, Sister Spencer and I started teaching two new "investigators" named Maria and Neomar. Our lesson with Maria went so well! I didn't use any notes, and I was able to effectively communicate everything I want to say. Our lesson with Neomar didn't go as well, but we learned from it, and the next lesson we had with him went really well. I already have been able to memorize the missionary's purpose, the first vision, and James 1:5 in Portuguese. I know that I'm definitely receiving some help from above with that, because I would not normally be able to remember all of that and retain it in that short amount of time! I have two teachers, Irmao (brother) Vanwaggoner and Irmao Gessel. They are both so different, and yet so fantastic! Irmao Vanwaggoner is the absolute sweetest person I've ever met! He is so motiviting, complimentary and reassuring! And I might or might not be one of his favorites :) Irmao Gessel reminds me a little bit of Eric, so for that I love him to pieces! He's extremely intelligent, really funny and very fashion conscious. One of the elders in my district asked him if he got his pants from H&M and he laughed and made very clear that they were from Nordstrom's. He has a very nice leather man bag like Eric. It's pretty adorable. He's awesome, and was clearly a very driven and successful missionary. I love both of the teachers so much, and am learning so much from them!

That being said, a lot of our 16 hour day is self-directed study. Sister Spencer and I have been struggling a little bit with how to use the personal and companionship study time effectively. We would use the time to prepare for our lessons, and practice them, but after we were done with that, we wouldn't be quite sure what to do. Irmao Gessel challenged us to speak half the day only in Portuguese, which is challenging seeing as all of the vocab we were learning was about the gospel. If someone wasn't describing the first vision, or explaining how the word of wisdom can bless us, none of us would talk to eachother for the first half of the day. So Sister Spencer and I set a goal this week to learn 20 new vocabulary words a day of regular non-gospel realted words. Our favorite word of the week is bocheca, which means cheek. Since we've made that goal, we've been able to have more effective study time and be able to have a regular conversation better.

Sister Pennington and Sister Spencer on P (Preparation) Day

Sister Guyn, one of the other sisters in my district, and I doing a vocal duet for either sacrament meeting or relief society. When I say relief society, I hope you know that this relief soceity is the biggest in the world with every single sister at the MTC... We have to audition for the spot to sing at the meeting. I kind of hope we don't get it...I don't sing in front of that many people. Anyways, we're going to take two hymns with the same meters and mix and match the lyrics with the music. We haven't decided which hymns we're going to do; we're going to do that later today. It is kind of fun to sing, though, because it breaks up the day and allows us to do something different.

A couple of funny stories for you...

Because there are approximatly 10 million missionaries here going to Brazil, all of the Portuguese stuff at the bookstore is always sold out. So when they get a new shipment of Portuguese stuff, news spreads on MTC campus like a wildfire and people LITERALLY run to the bookstore. Yesterday, we heard from one of Sister Spencer's friends that there was a new shipment, and we elbowed our way to the front of the line at the bookstore. So now I have hymn books and a pocket sized copies of preach my gospel in Portuguese. It was a very exciting accomplishment.

So, for some reason, the elders in my district think that I'm "wicked smaht". I didn't help my case the other day, however, because one of the elders was asking me how to say a word and he kept saying it wrong. The word is podem which means they can. It is supposed to be pronounced PO-deng with an emphasis on the first syllable because (like in Spanish) the emphasis always goes on the second to last syllable unless there's an accent. (also note that m at the end of a word always makes a ng sound). Anyways, he kept saying po-DENG, and I was trying to help him say it the right way. I made a comment that I felt like Hermionie saying, "it's leviooosa, not leviosaaah". And I've since been nicknamed sister Hermionie.

Everyone is Sister Pennington's district pointing to where they are from.

Also, apparently it's a thing for sisters to hide goodies in their rooms before they leave. I didn't notice this, until one day I noticed that there was a weird yellow looking object in our vent at the top of the wall. We climbed up there, took the vent cover off, and it was peeps. There was an entire loot in there. There were stuffed animals, candy, really nasty looking powder dounuts, and a bunch of other random stuff. It was pretty exciting.

Sister Guyn and Sister Spencer finding the treasure!

Because we're always in such close quarters with eachother for so long, diseases spread very easily. One of the elders got strep throat. He felt better after a day or two, which was good. However, he got one of the other elders sick, and this elder also got the stomach flu. So he was sick with a temperature of 104 for 3 days, and he's finally just getting better. The elders said that their room looks like a hospital room with all of the antibiotics and other medicine. He's finally getting better, and luckily nobody else is sick. I guess that's not so much of a funny story as it is just an illistration of 


And now for a spiritual story...

On Sundays, after devotional we get to watch a movie, and they have a couple of different choices. Last week sister spencer and I went to a documentary about historical sites in Navoo, and we didn't find it too interesting so we left and worked on our lesson. This week, however, we went to a recording of David A. Bednar's MTC devotional from a few years ago called "The Character of Christ". I don't know if any of you can find it online to watch/ read it because it was the most amazing talk I've ever listened to [Click here to read the full devotional - added by Christie]. Sister Guyn described it as a mind ninja exercise. I'll try to hit some of the key points in case you can't find it. The basic thesis of this talk was that Christ turns out when the natural man (who he compared to the cookie monster) would turn in. He gave a few examples from the New Testament that were very powerful. He pointed to the place in Matthew 4 where Jesus was being tempted by the devil. After he withstands the tempations of the devil, it says that angels came and ministered unto him. That scripture is translated wrong. If you look at the Joseph Smith translation of that verse, it says that Jesus sent angels to minister unto John, who was in prision at the time. After going through the temptation, Jesus doesn't think of himself or the reward he should get, but rather he turns out and thinks of others. He also pointed to the story of Jesus healing the soldier's ear. I've always thought that that was a great story, but Elder Bednar noted that this occured after Christ's atonement in the Garden where he suffered for the sins of the entire world; the agony of which caused him to bleed from every pore. His own apostle had just betrayed him to the Roman soldiers. And yet, Christ takes the time to heal the completely superficial wound of this Roman soldier, who was about to send him to his crucifixion. At the time of his pain, he turns outward. He mentioned a couple of other examples, and also urged us to study the scriptures to find more. He talked about how developing this character of Christ is how we become fully converted. He notes that we are not converted to this church, but to Jesus Christ. He said that if we become fully converted unto Christ, by emulating the character of Christ, we will never fall away from this gospel. It was a really amazing talk and I hope you can find it.

Anyways, I love you all so much and miss you tons! I think about you every day!

Sister Pennington