Local pastor Ken Penner, recently published the book “Community in the Face of Tragedy — Eleanor’s House” and spoke with Houston Today about his journey.
Penner, who first moved to the Bulkley Valley 43 years ago to work for the Department of Highways, soon felt called to missionary work.
“I first went and did some private work like surveying and designing roads but then I got into doing missionary work. Just basically talking to people and helping people who are in a rough spot,” he said.
And the book is about a time when he and members of the community helped a woman who was in a rough spot. In 2010, Eleanor lost her home near Houston and all her possessions, after her house burned down. Without any government aid or an insurance, she suddenly was left with nothing until her neighbours banded together to help her out.
“She had nowhere to live after this but it was amazing how the community came together. So, the reason why I wrote it was to talk about the amazing things that happened, how the community came together; it was all actually miraculous,” he said.
Penner had planned to print just a few copies and distribute those among those who lived through the incident and those who had helped out Eleanor however, when the book landed on the publisher’s desk, the publishers encouraged Penner to do it the right way to help the story reach more people.
“I thought I will write it, get 250 copies and give out to some people and that will be it. But then when I sent it to the publishers, they insisted that the story needs to be told, and that it was something unique,” he said. The book, which is just 97 pages long and has 17 chapters, would be a good short read for people especially in today’s times when people don’t have the patience to read too much according to Penner.
The book is available on Amazon as well as in some book stores and Penner hopes to get more copies out in stores soon.
“What I’d like for people to get out of this book is that to know there is hope; whatever situation they are in, they need to know that there is hope and really that hope does come from God. And also, it is a historical document; it is a true story so everything I have written in there is all facts,” he said.
Penner has been writing for several years for magazines and columns for newspapers. He also writes a weekly column called “Hope for Today” and writing for him was a personal challenge.
Penner reminisced about his school days when he talked about writing. In school, during his time, the teachers were trying to save paper and the students were asked to write very small to save space. Penner remembers not being able to see inside those small lines to write properly.
“One of the teachers held up my book and said that everyone else can write but look, Ken can’t. He probably thought it would motivate me to write better but it actually didn’t and I thought I am not a good writer. And then I wrote a poem in middle school when the teacher said that it wasn’t acceptable and I again thought that I wasn’t a good writer. But I always loved to write and it came naturally to me. But all those incidents with the teachers saying ‘no’, held me back and it wasn’t until I was 55 that I realized that I really could write,” he said.
Penner now has three more books that he is working on.
“I think God gave me a gift; I like language, I like writing and I have so many stories to tell,” said Penner.