Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Hi everyone! (January 27)

This week has been crazy pants! (as it always is!)

Firstly, I came to a realization this week that kind of made my life! LA FOLLETTE IS PAWNEE!!!!! I realized that this week as we were in the library/ town hall and it looked exactly like the city council room in parks and rec, and it really just made me happy. #smalltownamerica

(Pawnee) Jacksboro town hall with Sister Pennington in the Mayors chair

I also forgot to mention last week that the librarians here are amazing humans! They absolutely love the missionaries, and the reason we were able to e-mail last week even though it was MLK day, was that Gayla, one of the librarians, came in and opened the library just for us to e-mail! She's going to receive LOTS of blessings for being so good to the missionaries!

Anyways, I don't think I've ever written about Blanche, and I don't know why because she's literally my favorite human in the world, but she's an adorable 99 year old lady we go see every week. She's not a member, and the missionaries found her a few years ago before she was in a nursing home, and they were teaching her. She accepted the gospel, but was never baptized because she's really old and was physically never able to do so. She gave permission to the missionaries here before us, that she would like her temple work done after she passes away so she can be sealed to her husband who has been dead for several years. Anyways, we go at least once a week, if not more, and just sing to her, and talk with her. Her mind is extremely sharp, especially for a 99 year old, so she's a lot of fun to talk to. She always has us read Psalms 23 with her, and she is so spiritual, and learn so much from her each time we go see her. Anyways, every time we go over, she just goes on about how we're her angels, and we make her day, and that we're an answer to her prayers each time we go see her. She is so sincere, and so kind, and I really love her all the way to my back! We were there yesterday, and I told her that I was leaving in a few weeks for Brazil, and SHE LITERALLY CRIED!!!!!! I MADE A SWEET 99 YEAR OLD LADY CRY!!! I almost lost it! I just love her so much, and I wish y'all could meet her! She's the greatest human in the history of forever!

We had an awesome lesson with Alley this week that confirmed to me the power of the Book of Mormon. She started to read it from the beginning, and she absolutely LOVED IT! She couldn't put it down! Her faith is growing stronger and stronger each time we meet with her, and it's so cool to be a part of it!

Also, we have a new investigator who has a baptismal date for march! She's so sweet! She asked US if she could be baptized this Sunday! She's so prepared. And, she came to church! She is so sincere in wanting to turn her life around, and she is so excited to be baptized, and have Christ a bigger part of her life! It's awesome!

On Saturday, it was a "blizzard" (not really, but for Tennessee standards it was a lot of snow. And it was legit cold So of  course that was the day that we spent 12 hours moving a branch member! It was cold and slippery, but it was actually pretty fun, because it was just an excuse to spend the whole day with the Smith family, so that's always fun. I felt really bad, though, because I might or might not have locked President Smith's keys in his truck...so his son Fleet had to drive 2 hours to come all the ways down from the hollow to bring the spare set of keys. It was actually good though, because it gave us an opportunity to teach a lesson, and the member we were moving was less-active, so it was a really good opportunity. Maybe Heavenly Father locked the keys in the car... ;)

side note, in the first e-mail I send from La Follette, I talked about the Smith "holler"...Well, its actually a "hollow", but they pronounce it "holler" because we're in the middle of backwoods Tennessee :)

Love y'all so much and will talk to y'all next Monday for my last p-day in the states!

Sister Pennington

Next week on "The district: La Follette Branch"
- The sister missionaries adventure out at 6 in the morning to count homeless people in Jacksboro for a county-wide census
- Alley takes the sister missionaries on a road trip to a stake devotional by Elder L. Tom Perry and other general authorities!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Oi familia! (January 20)

Hello everyone!

So this has been a kind of crazy pants week. Let me just tell y'all about Tuesday alone.

So we've been working with these less-actives since I've been here, and they've been meeting with missionaries for years. It's a mother and her adult son living together. They're great, but they don't progress. They haven't made any changes in their lives to come in close harmony with the gospel. They love having us over, but it's so hard to teach lessons, and so hard to help them live the gospel. We decided last week to have a very bold, focused, but loving lesson with them. The lesson went pretty well, and it was more focused and more direct than any other lesson had been in the past. This past Tuesday, we went over, and the mom was there and she explained to us that we had offended her son by our last lesson, and that he didn't want us to come over. He is very controlling of his mother, and he said he didn't want her meeting with us as well. I think she would have liked to continue meeting with us, but her son made the decision and she didn't want to stand up to him. She even gave us a referral before we left, but said that we couldn't come back. Anyways, so we left the appointment feeling really crappy, and all of our plans for the rest of the day had fallen through. It was not a good time. We decided to go tracting because that was the only thing we could do. We decided to park at a member's home and walk. We knocked on the member's door just to let them know that we were going to be in their driveway for a little bit while we were working. Sister Riggs told us to come in, and I think she could sense we were a little bit down, and she  made us peach smoothies and made us cookies. It was such a tender mercy! This woman is amazing! She takes such good care of the missionaries! Before we left, she gave us a referral! We don't get referrals very often, and so it was such a tender mercy that we already received 2! Anyways, over the course of that day, we were able to hand out 5 copies of the Book of Mormon, and find 1 new investigator! It was so awesome! It was such a testimony to me, that the Lord is not only aware of us when we're engaged in His work, but that he is laboring along side us.

This past Friday was my 6 month mark! It's crazy how time flies on your mission! If I've learned anything over the course of my mission so far, it's to have faith and patience in the Lord's timing. Waiting for a visa has, frankly, been very difficult. I feel like I should be here, but I also know that I should be there as well. With having to get my FBI clearance this past week, I've felt particularly discouraged with the idea that I'll ever get to Brazil. Through much prayer, and many tender mercies, and comforting from the Holy Ghost, I finally felt really at peace with the idea of staying in this mission. My experience here in Tennessee has changed my life, and I've been so thankful for it! I love being a part of the Great Tennessee Knoxville Mission!

So just as I came to this peace, you can imagine my surprise when I GOT MY VISA!!!!! I'm leaving for Brazil on February 10th! Heavenly Father's absolute favorite thing in the world is messing with me!!!! I can't even explain all of the feelings I'm having! I have 3 weeks left in America!!!!

Just remember, everyone, that God is great!
Sister Pennington

[Note from Christie:  Once we have a better idea of exactly where she'll be and her address we'll update that!  Super excited!]

Hello again! (January 13)

Hi, all!

It's been a pretty great week...except for the fact that it's ALWAYS FRIGID!!!! It was s frigid, that one of the pipes in the church burst and flooded the chapel, the gym, and the YW room and the water went all the way out to the door! They had to take all of the pews out, and the wood paneling separating the overflow from the chapel and replace it and repair the damage on the ceiling. It was a process. All of the missionaries from our district spent Friday morning putting the pews back into the chapel. It took a sec, but it was good.

But it's warmed up a lot in the past few days, though, so that's good. Today's the first day in 2 months that I haven't worn my boots :)

It was branch conference this week, and there were a few member from Oak Ridge who came up. It was good to see them, but it made me so homesick for Oak Ridge! I loved that area! Good thing the people in La Follette are so amazing! They're already stealing pieces of my heart too!

Side note: I have to go get fingerprinted today to get an FBI background check for my visa. It'll make my visa take a little longer, but that just means that I get to spend a little more time in the Great Tennessee Knoxville Mission!
In the back-woods of Tennessee 

Anyways...some really cool stuff happened this week.

So we had exchanges with the STL (sister training leader), so Sister Ison went to Chilhowee (Knoxville) for the day, and Sister Weight came here. She's the sister that was in my district, and got hit by the car. She's doing a lot better by the way. She gets her cast off next week. Anyways, she came up here with me and Sister Roundy, and it was great. We had planned the exchange for Wednesday, but we had freezing rain/ snow and this is Tennessee, so nobody wanted to drive us to exchange. (I don't blame them!) So we switched the exchange to Thursday. No big deal right? Wrong. Thursday is our weekly planning day, so we cut out 4 hours of the day to talk about the needs of our investigators and members in the area. On exchanges, unless the training leaders specifically come to do weekly planning with you, you're supposed to fill your schedule with as many teaching opportunities as possible. We didn't really have very good plans for Thursday, because we had planned on doing weekly planning at that time. Anyways, the point is that we didn't end up seeing anyone that we had planned on seeing. BUT, the Lord is in this work! We were contacting people we didn't know from the Branch roster, and we didn't find the person we were looking for, but there was a guy sitting on the porch of his neighboring apartment. We decided to go over and talk with him, and he was so awesome! He was saying that he and his wife were looking for a church to raise their family in, and he said that he felt like we were there to talk with him for a reason. He's so awesome! We're going back to visit him and his family next week. Later that day, we were contacting more people we didn't know, and we couldn't find the address we were looking for (the houses are not numbered in such a way that we can really ever find what we're looking for - it cannot be found except by those who already know where it is!) so we decided we were close, and we'd just knock on a door and ask them if they knew where 137 was. We knocked on this woman's door and asked her if she knew where the address was, and she said she didn't. She didn't seem very friendly, or willing to let us in, so we asked her if there was anyone she knew of who could use a prayer, or a message about Jesus Christ. She paused for a second and said she could use one. She invited us in, and sat down with us and we said a prayer with her. After we said the prayer, she was so appreciative and so kind. She said that she normally wouldn't have let us in, but she felt like we had been sent there for a reason. She said that she had every reason in the world to not let us in, but that she did anyways. It was amazing to see the Lord softening her heart right before our eyes! From the time that she opened the door to the time we left, her heart was softened and she invited us back. She recognized us as representatives of Jesus Christ, and she even tried to give us what little money she had. She was so determined to give us what she had. Luckily we got out of it by telling her that the next time we come over, we'll all just share some cookies. She is so golden! I'm so excited to go back and teach her! How blessed are we that our God is a God of miracles! I have such a strong testimony that this is the Lord's work, and that He is helping us to find the people in this area who are ready to hear the gospel, and that He is actively softening their hearts. I love being a missionary!

Love y'all!
Sister Pennington

Monday, January 6, 2014

It's snowing in Tennessee? (January 6)

Hey, everyone!

It's wicked cold here...Like teens and it's snowing! I really do like the snow and cold weather, but not when I have to go outside all day in a skirt...good thing I have leggings now :) Last Thursday we went tracting in the snow. It was wicked cold, and my toes still haven't defrosted....

A little late, but Sister Pennington on Christmas

So I just LOVED working with Sister Walser! She was so crazy pants! And I only got to be her companion for 6 days! If I've learned anything on my mission, it's that we need to be flexible enough to go along with the Lord's plans and timing :)

Sister Pennington and Sister Walser and Sister Roundy with fake mustaches on Christmas

On the upside though, we got Sister Ison, and she's a powerhouse missionary! She is an amazing teacher, and she is so bold! I've already learned so much from her, and I'm excited to continue to improve my teaching skills! Funny story, Sister Walser went where Sister Ison just came from (Wattoga) and so we literally just switched companions. It's pretty great :)

Anyways, but the most exciting part of our week was the ALLEY WAS BAPTIZED!!!!!! It was the coolest experience! It was awesome! She was really nervous leading up to it, but she was just running on an intense amount of faith! She said that she had made a deal with God that she was going to continue forward toward baptism, and that if it wasn't right He would tell her so. It was so powerful to see her countenance change as she came up out of the water. She was so happy! Her nervousness was gone, and she knew that what she did was right. She was already a bright and shiny human being, but giving her the added gift of the Holy ghost, as I said, really just completely changed her countenance. She shone with the light of the gospel, and the confidence that only comes through righteously following the example of our Savior and living the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was such an awesome experience.

Sister Pennington and her companions with Alley

Another picture with Alley :)

It was a really great week, there are more things I could write about, but everything else kind of pales in comparison to Saturday night. There's an LDS song called, "I am His daughter" and Kima Smith sang it at the baptism. It was really beautiful and very fitting to the occasion. It was such a blessing to be a part of one of God's daughters being spiritually born again as a true disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. I have a firm testimony that this gospel I teach is true. I know that the Church that I represent is the true Church of Jesus Christ, and that through following the gospel of Jesus Christ, we can become clean, receive God's power through His spirit and return to live with our Father in Heaven and with our families for eternity. I bear witness of this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Sister Pennington