Monday, July 8, 2013

That's Not What They Taught Me at the MTC!!

The South is not what you'd expect. At all. First off, everyone who told me I'd be learning a different language? They were spot on. What on earth is a screet? Why does everyone say "fixin'"? Don't even get me started on buggies. Put the Southern jargon on top of thick, Southern accents? Just don't go there. I can't understand a word said here. Second, I'm finally a minority here. Everyone stares at me funny because I'm a teeny white girl with blues eyes and blonde hair. There is no way that I am still in the United States of America. I'm in the Confederate States of America, where the War of Northern Aggression and Hurricane Katrina shaped and changed their lives. 

When I first got here, I was in awe. Grass grows on everything - houses, trees, cars. You name it - I was taken aback when we were going to an appointment and my companion parked on the grass like it was no big deal. Apparently, no one cares about the grass here. And whatever you do, DO NOT WALK BAREFOOT ON THE GRASS. I made that mistake and chiggas, fire ants, and skeeters destroyed my feet. Fantastic. 

Walking around, you can still see the effects of Hurricane Katrina on the area. Homes are boarded up, roofs are still caved in, abandoned warehouses, stairs that lead to nowhere, and the leftover foundation from destroyed homes can be found at every street corner. It's fascinating really, yet at the same time, it gives the coast a foreboding feeling. 

Where I'm living, the homes are majestic old plantation homes - huge yards, black shutters, and white siding. They're really gorgeous. Yet, I don't tract in the same area where I live.I tract in the overgrown neighborhoods. Almost every street has shanties and homes made out of tin and cardboard. It's common to find people living in RVs where their home used to stand before Katrina. Mississippi is a beautiful area, yet everyone here has taken on a refugee attitude and are so poor and desolate. 

The vast majority of people are either Catholic or Baptist. They are always so kind when we come to their door - they never want to hear what we have to say, but they will take us in for a bit and give us a tall glass of water. Southern Hospitality is a real thing here and it's considered rude if you don't address others by "Sir" or "Ma'am". 

On my second day, Independence Day actually, we had a lunch appointment where I was thrown right into the Southern culture. The members feeding us tried to forced FISH BRAINS down our throats. I feigned sickness and the head of the household kept telling me, "Sista Durunt. Yuh betta eat. A wind cumin by will knock yuh down and break yuh bones. Yuh too skinny." That went on for a good twenty minutes before my companion saved me. Then, he started talking about good Southern food and cooking. Chilluns (Never eat those. Ever. Ever. Ever. It's pig intestines.), fish brains, octopus, roadkill delight (possum)... It went on and on and on. I wanted to throw up just hearing about it. WELCOME TO THE SOUTH SISTER DURRANT. I'm not in America anymore.

After the holidays ended, a downpour of rain started that still hasn't ended. Yet, Sister Jones and I still had work to do. We bravely got onto our bikes and biked four miles out to a home where we had an appointment that fell through. Afterward, we went door to door tracting - attempting to find at least one person that would listen to us. Door after door got slammed in our faces until we met a wonderful man, Thomas. 

He brought his kids out onto the front porch and while they sat in the rocking chairs, Sister Jones and I taught them about the Restoration of the Gospel. The children's eyes lit up with excitement as we told them about Joseph Smith. They asked the cutest questions and loved it when we said that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph and restored the true church on the earth today. 

We made plans to return and then left. But his kids didn't want to let that happen. So they too climbed onto their bikes and started following us. Sister Jones and I got a good laugh out of that until they started running up to doors, knocking on them, and asking whomever answered, "Do you want to hear about Jesus??!" It was one of the most adorable things, but it was really drawing away from the Spirit and annoying people. Finally, we pretended that we had to head home and they should too. 

Towards the end of that day, we heard this awful, foreboding, screeching sound. We had no idea what it was!! We knew that we had to finish what we were doing, so we continued on with our work. When we finished and were heading home, there was a train completely stopped on the train tracks (which we needed to cross to get home). So, we bravely walked our bikes alongside the trains, with the dense Mississippi forest on the other side. The whole time, I kept thinking, "This is how a horror movie would start out." After about a mile in, we noticed that the flammable train cars were leaking fluid and hissing. We knew that something wasn't right and we ran. We booked it. Exhausted and tired, we made it out and were able to find where the train ended and get home safely. 

I have one last story that exemplifies Mississippi and the ward we're serving in at its finest. On Sunday, we were sitting in Sunday School, discussing our resurrection when Jesus comes again to the earth. A lady in the ward piped up, saying, "I heard that when you're resurrected, you become the age of an average tree." 
Someone else said, "Yes! I heard that too! I think that age is about 105." 
"Nooo. It's 82!!" 
"You're both idiots. The average age of a tree is 98." 
Thus began the great debate about the average age of trees. Instead of talking about the resurrection. People began standing up and screaming at each other, a fair amount of swear words was tossed around. All of us missionaries (there are six of us serving in the ward - two of whom I was in the MTC with) were completely dumb-founded and couldn't seem to diffuse the scuttle. 
Finally, the Relief Society president stood up and said, "I DON'T CARE ABOUT THE AVERAGE AGE OF TREES. YOU'RE ALL IDIOTS. All I care about is getting into Heaven! I don't need to know no average age of a tree to get in there. So shut your traps." 
That shut them up alright.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Mississippi.

I love you all. I love this gospel, and I love my Lord. I know with all my heart that this is the true church and that Jesus Christ did walk upon this Earth two thousand years ago. Someday, the truth will be heard throughout the world and I couldn't be more happy than to be apart of it.

All my love,

Sister Sarah Michéle Durrant

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