Elder Tenney's email on December 23rd was very brief and about our instructions on how to call him on Christmas Day. And that call was way too short at only 45 minutes, but to hear his voice was the best Christmas present ever! He was at the home of an 18-year-old member who allowed Elder Tenney the use of his phone for our Christmas call - THANK YOU to Welton in Manaus! We called from Brian's office so we could all be on speakerphone and when Elder Tenney answered we weren't sure it was him. When we asked again if it was him, we knew for sure when he said "It's me, you fool!" (Inside joke). He is the same, funny guy - when I heard, "Hi, mom", I knew it was my boy. Speakerphone didn't work too well on his end, so we all talked to him individually.
Here's what we gleaned from our phone call:
His companion, Elder Gannon, is going home on Dec. 30th. Brazil is not getting missionaries very regularly right now as visas are not clearing in a timely manner, and Elder Tenney may get transferred into another area as they are consolidating due to lack of new missionaries coming in as others are going home.
He has some glass in his apartment windows, but we get the idea that most of them are open to mosquitoes as night time is when he gets a lot of mosquito bites. Especially if their fans are not working and stirring the air around. He says it rains there every 11 hours. And he has not used his raincoat yet, and rarely uses his umbrella...he and his companion usually just try to take shelter. I imagine the humidity keeps you from wanting to add a layer of clothing such as a wet raincoat.
He and his companion live across the street from a bakery and go there every morning to get the equivalent of a very large loaf of bread for the cost of about $1 US. That's breakfast. They eat some strange hamburger, cheese, hotdog concoction for one other meal. And members are supposed to feed them one meal each day. I wasn't sure if that is happening or not, but he seemed like he was okay with food. He did say if we wanted to send him anything, American Candy was what he would like - no chocolate as it melts.
We were very happy and grateful to hear that he had received his box we sent on November 24. The district leader went and picked it up and took it to him either on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day as it had been in Manaus for some time, just not delivered yet to Elder Tenney. We are so glad he had his Christmas and other items he needed. He had been eating Swedish fish all day he said:)
They are teaching or making contacts all the time. The biggest problems are drinking and people don't wear very many clothes there. (He says he and Elder Gannon just keep on walking when I asked him how they handle that).
He doesn't get to the post office very often, and is not able to write letters except on P-Days. He doesn't receive his mail often either, but when he does, he gets a big batch - THANKS to all who have written to him! He mostly emails us and has been using his letter-writing time for friends. If you have anything you'd like to share with us, please do! We asked him to please try to write us a letter every week or so. We do get a weekly email on his Wednesday P-days, but his email time is limited.
He said he has only been really sick once and that was at his zone conference the day his Grandpa Tenney passed away on Nov. 30th. We are thankful he is enjoying good health.
He tried out some Portuguese on us, and as we didn't understand a word, feel he must be fluent;)
He has taken hundreds of pictures and has burned us a dvd that he will be sending as soon as he is able to get to the post office.
In the end, it wasn't so much what Elder Tenney had to say, but that we got to hear his voice and sense that he is loving his mission, is happy and healthy, and that we love and miss him and vice versa, but that feeling is still there that he has been set apart to do the Lord's work and he is in the right place.
Merry Christmas and Happy '10! ;)