Monday, February 24, 2014

Another week in Brazil! (February 24)

Hello everyone!

Hope y'all have had a good week!

It's been hot and hard work here! In this mission we keep track of the number of contacts we do each week, meaning the number of people we talk to and invite to church or to listen to our message. We did 112 this week in addition to 13 lessons! We talk to a lot of people! A lot more than in Tennessee for sure! It's really easy to talk to people here, and they're all very willing to listen to our message. It's a lot different than tn! The people here are very European. Our area includes 2 big universities, so we have a lot of young college students who are very polite and willing to listen, but really have no interest in religion. We've been trying to work with member to find people to teach, because of those 112 contacts, none were really interested. So, we've been inviting members to think of friends or neighbors they could invite to a family home evening or something to introduce them to the church a d to see if they're interested.

Members are so important in missionary work! We can't doing anything them! Something I feel to be very important is k owing the names of each member of the ward where you serve. I knew the names of everyone in poplar creek and La Follette, and at least one fact about them. I'm trying to learn the names of everyone here, but it's so hard because they all have really hat Portuguese names and I can't remember any of them! There Re ward members that I know I've already asked 3 times what their names are, and it just won't stay in my brain! By the end of this transfer, I'll learn everyone's name. I might have to take pictures of them on my camera and write their names underneath their pictures, but I will learn their names!

I was under the impression that I would loose weight here in Brazil because we walk so much, but that is certainly not the case! The food here is awesome! We had lunch with a lot of members this week, and all of them were such awesome cooks! It's a lot of rice and beans and meat. It's real good! I think the members must think that we're starving or something...they always say, "pega mais, sister!" get more sister! It gets a little ridiculous after the 2nd or 3rd helping. Their desserts are awesome! Mom, you would love it because they use condensed milk with everything! And their condensed milk is a lot thicker and sweeter then ours - basically caramelized sugar!

Anyways, thinks are going well. I'm writing y'all from the tablet of the stake president here from his mansion. It's a little ridiculous, but I'll be sure to send pictures next week!

Love y'all loads and hope that you have a great week!

Sister Pennington

Barao Geraldo - Semana 1 (February 18)

Oi, familia!

After 9 months of waiting for a last, here I am in Brazil! I don't even really know where to start...

So the plane ride actually wasn't too bad, and I slept most of the ride from Atlanta to Brazil. There were so many missionaries on that plane! There were at least 20 of us, probably more! My estimating skills are lacking! There was a creepy old Brazilian man on the plane though, who said that he wanted to marry me...I pretended I didn't understand what he was saying and kept the conversation to a minimum...

We got to San Paulo, and then drove with 4 other missionaries to the mission home in Campinas. When I thought of Brazil, I thought developing country status...It might be in some places but Campinas is so wealthy! It is an absolutely beautiful city! The mission home is a gorgeous mansion in a beautiful neighborhood! Anyways, we had lunch, and then went to the mission office to meet our new companions. My companion is Sister Howell from Gilbert Arizona! She's been out for 14 months, and she's an awesome missionary and speaks nearly flawless Portuguese! I'm so excited to serve with her! So my first day in the mission here, was actually the hardest day I've had on my mission thus far! I was surprised how much I missed my mission in Tennessee! I was also feeling a little bit overwhelmed, because I felt like a greenie all over again, and I hit my 7 month mark yesterday. I was struggling hard core the first day, and the assistant to the president noticed, and gave me some good advice. He told me that I shouldn't compare missions, and I've slowly been getting better at that this week. I adored my experience in Tennessee, and I know I'm going to adore my experience here! Quick side note about the missionaries here...30% are Brazilian, 30% are American, and 40% are Hispanic. There are only about 25 sisters in this mission. It's way different than the TKM!

I'm in the Barao Geraldo ward, which is 15 minutes from mission headquarters. It's a great ward and a great area. My first day, I don't know how far we walked, but we walked for 7 hours straight! I got 5 super impressive blisters on the bottom of my feet! I got home to take a shower and the end of the day, and I was so tired that I left my watch on...luckily it still works! I woke up the next morning and my feet were so sore and oozing (sorry for the graphic image, but that's what they were like!) and I wasn't sure if I would be able to walk another 7 hour day. I said a prayer that morning that I would be able to do the work in this area I was called to, and I was miraculously able to do the work! It was such a testimony builder to me, and reminded me a lot of Ether 12:27 :)

I also realized that I can't speak Portuguese! I'm trying so hard to understand and to learn how to speak in a way that people understand, but it's really quite hard! When we're actually teaching lessons, it's a little bit easier, because I actually know the vocabulary of the gospel in Portuguese, but it's the small talk that gets me. But it's all good! Everyone says that in the next month or so, I'll feel pretty comfortable with the language. I sure hope so!

This whole week has been a very humbling experience for me, (which is good...Sister Pennington needs a good humbling every once in a while!) and I was reminded of a Mormon message I watched in the MTC. I can't remember the title, so bear with me as I try to describe it so that maybe you can find it and watch it. I believe it came from a talk by Elder Cook, and he was telling a story about a gardener who had a little current bush. The bush was growing and getting bigger, and just when it really started to get big the gardener cut the current bush. The bush exclaimed, "why did you do this to me? I was growing so well!" And the gardener explains that he was cutting it down to shape it into what he wanted it to become. [Here is a link to the message]

I definitely can relate to the little current bush! I was starting to feel really comfortable with the mission in Tennessee - with the people, the other missionaries and the work there in general. I was then cut down and sent somewhere completely new, where I felt completely uncomfortable and inexperienced. The Lord saw it fit to cut me down, to help me grow to become the little missionary He wants me to be.

I'm so grateful for the opportunity I have to serve here, and pray that I might be able to serve here in the way that Heavenly Father wants me to.

I love all of you so much, and hope that you have a great week!


Sister Pennington

*Note from Christie- sending packages to Brazil is a bit more complicated than sending things stateside.  The mission put out this information on how to successfully send packages to ensure they make it to Tessa.  Check it out before you send a package.  Thanks for all your support!*

Hey y'all! (February 3)

This is probably the last week where it'll be okay to say that...better use it!

Anyways, I'm going to keep this week's e-mail pretty short because I'm running a tad low on time, but I'll hit the main points...

- As mentioned last week, we really did count the homeless this week on Tuesday. One of our members, Sister Riggs (who's a fantastic human by the way) came with us. It was wicked early and FREEZING!!! But, it was actually very educational, and it was very eye-opening. We found a lot of dwellings homeless people lived in, but we only talked with one actual person. He was sleeping under a bridge, and we went and brought him some water and breakfast bars. It was really sad to see someone so destitute. We offered him the help of the homeless coalition of La Follette, but he didn't say anything in response. It was really sad. After the homeless count, Sister Riggs took us home with her, and she made us a hot breakfast. Grits with cheese #southerncooking

- We got to see Elder Perry this week! He also brought with him Elder Rasband, Elder Zwick and Elder Kapiscze (I'm not sure if that's how you spell it) of the 70. It was a leadership training for stake and ward leaders for how to use ward council more effectively. His main theme of the whole meeting was "hastening the work" (D&C 88:73) and that 92 year old man has more energy than I do! He was so energetic, and so enthusiastic and hilarious! It was awesome, and it got everyone pumped up about doing missionary work. It was really cool to have Alley with us. She said her favorite part was when the congregation sang together. She said it was really powerful to hear that large number of members singing! It was really cool!

- My very favorite experience we had this week was on Wednesday, and all of our plans and our backup plans fell through. Plans cancelled that we didn't expect to cancel, and so we LITERALLY had no plans for the entire day. We had time, so we took our hour, and I came across a talk that I really liked and printed out, called, "cast not away therefore your confidence" by Elder Holland. It was really powerful, and I usually don't print talks out, but I felt like I needed to print that one out. We had a thought later in the evening to try to contact a less active, who is nearly impossible to get a hold of, and she "happened" to be home, and we were able to meet with her. The night before, she had had a really spiritual experience while she way praying, and she felt excited and ready to get back into church and to build her testimony. She said that she had wanted to call us, but she assumed we were too busy to go and see her. We had an awesome lesson with her, and the talk that I had printed out that morning was exactly what she needed to hear. It was such a big testimony builder to me, of the truth that The Good Shepherd will leave the 90 and 9 to go after the 1. I know that Heavenly Father loves each of us individually, and I've always had such a strong testimony of that, but it was a very powerful manifestation of that truth when I got to be the Lord's hands in moving heaven and earth for one of his children.

- This Sunday was fast and testimony meeting, and one of our members, brother barber, joined the church 11 years ago, and has never shared his testimony over the pulpit because he's deaf. He decided he wanted to share his testimony, so he practiced and prepared for over a month. He even wore his best tie today to look his best. He stood up and said, "I believe in Jesus. Amen". And it was the most powerful testimony I've heard in a long time. He is such an amazing example to me of faith. It was really awesome.

I love this gospel, and I love being a missionary. It is the most important and rewarding thing I have ever done, and will probably will be for my entire life. I'm so grateful to have been able to serve here, and look forward to being able to serve in Campinas!

I'll e-mail y'all from Brazil!

Sister Pennington