NCF Mourns Loss of Missionary Nurse and Prayer Warrior

Lily PinneoLily (Penny) Pinneo, 1917 – 2012

Penny Pinneo, missionary nurse with SIM and long-time friend of Nurses Christian Fellowship, died August 17, 2012. Penny spent nearly forty years serving the Lord as a nurse in Nigeria. She was one of the first to contract Lassa Fever and her story made her famous in a book about virulent viruses.

Penny was a petite, diminutive woman once described as “SIM’s most valuable missionary per pound of flesh.” We thank the Lord for Penny Pinneo’s remarkable life that left an imprint on so many!

Penny’s Own Story

“The Lord led me to Jos, Nigeria in 1946 to work in a brand new hospital SIM built for the care of our missionaries on a beautiful plateau. So I “went out with joy and was led forth with peace,” just as Isaiah 55:12 says.

At first I was the only staff person, making bedside tables out of orange crates and going to town on my bicycle. Then a doctor, a nurse and patients came. We boiled syringes on an alcohol Sterno stove before electricity was installed. Some hospital equipment had been bought from the U.S. Army supplies after World War II.

I set up procedures as I was taught at Johns Hopkins and I learned other good ways as other nurses joined the staff. It was fun teaching Nigerian aides about nursing care and helping them adapt it to their culture. It was a joy to welcome new babies into the world and tell them that they could uncurl, now that they had been born. There were sad times, too, when severe illness and death came. Going through crises with patients and families brought bonding that has lasted through the years.

Within 38 years, Evangel Hospital grew to a staff of 220, including 14 missionary and Nigerian doctors and a bed capacity of 170. Teaching at our school for medical technicians was stimulating as was leading Bible studies for staff and students. As the hospital grew we began to specialize; I was trained in midwifery and anesthesia on furloughs.

The Lassa Fever Petri Dish

After I had nursed two patients who had died of an unusual illness, I became ill. This illness proved to be caused by a new virulent virus found in our blood. It was a new disease called Lassa Fever. Imagine being hostess to a hot virus! The Nigerian strain is called by my name. It is like a severe flu, attacking all major organs. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me”. His presence was a reality to me. I was flown to the States and slowly recovered. I developed antibodies in time to save the life of Dr. Jordi Casals, who was working on the Lassa Virus research. This viral disease has a 50% mortality rate, similar to the Ebola and Hanta viruses.

A year later a second outbreak occurred at our Nigerian Hospital with 20 cases and 14 deaths. Other outbreaks have occurred in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria.

I have had the unique experience of harboring the virus, sharing my serum with antibodies, saving lives, nursing Lassa Fever patients and working with virologists studying the epidemiology of the outbreaks. I shared my faith with the world through the book, “Fever”, a best-seller by John Fuller (published in 1975).

Queenie and the Kids at Mango Tree

An extracurricular activity in Nigeria was joyous. Three hundred fifty children gathered at our open-air “Mango Tree” Sunday School each Sunday morning. On the roof of my car, called “Queenie”, we carried the rolled-up sitting mats for the kids. “Queenie” looked like she was going to Sunday School with curlers in her hair. Through this ministry, a generation of children has come to know the Lord Jesus. Many of these contacts have become pastors and leaders in medical work, child evangelism, Christian radio and Bible translation. This Sunday School has become a church with 700 children now attending.

Yes, our joy is full as John 5:11 says: “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” We have seen the Lord bring forth much fruit.”

A Life Well-Lived

Born in 1917 as Lily Lyman Pinneo, “Penny” was raised in a Christian home. Her mother was a missionary in India before marriage and her father was a doctor with fascinating medical instruments filling his office. After Penny finished John Hopkins Hospital School for Nurses, she applied to SIM for overseas service where she served for nearly forty years.

Penny retired in 1985 from Nigeria and settled in Rochester, NY with her sister Rose where she was actively involved in her church. Together the sisters continued to participate in NCF/USA and NCF International, and after 10 years they left the snowy winters of New York for sunny Florida.

Penny’s coworkers describe her as dependable and bendable – she flowed with life and coped with whatever came her way, doing more than her share. She described an incident when she faced death — and it wasn’t from Lassa fever. During her first SIMAIR flight in 1947 she was a flight nurse when the plane needed to make an emergency landing on a football field near a Catholic School. “Fright turned into trust when I gave us to the Lord’s keeping in prayer. The peace that came in the midst of hopelessness was an experience that I am glad I didn’t miss.”

Penny was a fun-loving practical joker and always ready for a party. She was generous with her time, her talents, and her finances. She spent her life making other people comfortable and happy. Truly hers was a life well-lived for God.

11 Responses to “NCF Mourns Loss of Missionary Nurse and Prayer Warrior”

  1. Alexander Ray Jambalang Says:

    I feel privileged to be one of the kids that was taught by ‘Miss Pinneo’ as we fondly call her then. Every Sunday after the Sunday school under the mango tree in General Marthin Luther Agwais late fathers official quarters in A-Division barracks, we will all fight to be among those that will be selected to follow her back to her Jankwano house to un-pack the rolled-up mats and seats that were used during the Sunday school from her white Toyota panel van just so we can have a glass of orange juice or allowed to pluck some oranges/mango from her garden. As a qualified vet today, I never knew I had a rare privilege of meeting one of MEDICAL HISTORY LEGENDS. Last week (January 6th, 2017), together with my colleagues and some Canadian counterparts, we went to KOGOM village in Jos South LGA to set traps to catch rats, the vectors of LASSA FEVER, and when the name LILY-PINNEO strain of the antibody was mentioned, I was filled with joy, knowing, touching, and visiting the person where the serum was gotten from. RIP “Miss Pinneo”.

  2. Choji Felix Says:

    I was one of her disciples at the mango tree Sunday school domiciled at the police barracks in Jos, Plateau State.
    she did impacted our lives greatly with the word.
    Adieu lilly.

  3. Top Blog Posts for 2012 « NCF Nurses Blog Says:

    […] NCF Mourns Loss of Missionary Nurse and Prayer Warrior Remembering the remarkable life of Lily (Penny) Pinneo, […]

  4. Connie Jarlsberg Says:

    What an amazing life and what a legacy she left for all missionary nurses following in her wake.

  5. Jane Braband Says:

    I feel very privileged to have know her from the Rochester Nurses Christian Fellowship. She loved Africa. Jane Braband

  6. skippermc Says:

    She was a joy! I’m sure the Lord is enjoying her right on.

  7. Sonlight Ministeries Says:

    May the Gates of Glory open for this beautiful saint!!!

  8. lorraineg1234 Says:

    I adore her passion at work. God Bless!
    thefamily

  9. Cindy Carter Says:

    What an amazing life and legacy for Christian nurses everywhere. Praise God for her testimony!

  10. Jane Morai Says:

    She is a true inspiration. May she rest in peace.

  11. Joyce Darnell Leuthart Says:

    God Bless her, A life well lived.

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