After 9 months of waiting for a visa...at 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!
*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!*