Funny story. Someone asked where I wanted to get transferred to and I said, "I've always wanted to die on the coast, so I hope I get sent there," and they said something about going to Biloxi or Waveland, both areas I've heard other sisters tell me about. My district leader asked where I wanted to go, I said my money's on Texas or the coast, he's like, Yeah I could see you going to like.... Waveland. Boom. After I got the call, I texted my DL to inform him that he's a visionary man.
Everyone told me serving on the coast was going to be way different. They were 100% right. The people here are a lot more diverse. There's more laidback folks, more young folks, and more New Orleans accents (which are crazy, it's like Northeastern/Eastcoastern almost). We met an older lady who was Buddhist who let us come in off her porch when the rain started randomly comin down in buckets, and asked us questions . People build their houses on stilts here, which protect from floods, but not from hurricanes. When they talk about recent history, it's all either "before the storm" or "after the storm," referring to Katrina. This town got hit pretty bad. There's a bunch of lots that are just stilts. No houses on 'em. Swept away. Whoosh! Oh and know what else? There's an ocean breeze. ALL THE TIME. It's not a cool breeze, but it's a breeze. Makes the 100 degree weather that much more bearable.
Ya'll ever heard of the sister missionary mall? It's like a store in Utah. Except guess what. The real sister missionary mall is the three large bags of clothes I found in my apartment that past sister missionaries left behind. I now have three new outfits and didn't pay a cent. What's better, there's a sewing machine a member left at our apartment, so I can alter them all to my size. Best thing. Also, a young couple in the ward live in the apartment adjacent to us, so they're now our adopted mom and dad. Sometimes we go over when we come in for the night and they give us cookies. We were told that our apartments were connected by the attic, but a quick experiment last night involving a cooler, a chair, an ottoman and a Sister Rocha stacked on top of each other revealed that our attics are not, in fact, connected. We would have used a ladder if we had one.
We sang "We'll Bring the World His Truth" with the young women in sacrament meeting yesterday. A missionary was giving his farewell talk. It was really awesome, because we four sisters missionaries in the bunch were all singing "we will be the Lord's missionaries" and then it hits us - we ARE the Lord's missionaries. We're bringing the world His truth. Right here, right now. Also, I have an awesome district. There's Sister Borja from Paraguay, Elder Ah Ching the Samoan greenie (from Utah), and me! To mix it up. Give it some color. Some cultural diversity. And then Elder Eidson, a hoot, Sister Tebbs, adorable, and Sister Rocha, my cool companion. There was an instant spirit of love and unity I felt in our first district meeting, that was a huge relief. Super grateful for that. It's great to not feel alone.
We did a lot of teaching this week. We were super blessed. There are more open people here, some of them "compelled to be humble" but not all of them. Some are just of normal circumstance and with normal understanding, which is great. I love when they understand what we teach. One was one night when we were walking through some apartments we stopped a young guy who sat down in the gazebo with us and let us share the Restoration. His friend came over, pale dude with long black hair that I'd initially mistaken for a chick, and listened in. They both said they wanted to come to church with us, but didn't show so maybe they just listened to us because we're young and attractive. Hate when that happens. Regardless, it was a good lesson. Even better was yesterday, we stopped at a house of a woman we found and she told us she'd invited us back because our timing had to be by divine intervention. She's searching. Booyah. She received the first lesson very well, despite all the interruptions by her two sons. One of them, cutest boy I've ever seen in my life, kept coming up behind Sister Rocha and I, playing with our hair, whispering in her ear, touching my arm - at one point, he came up to me holding out his hand. "What's that?" I ask. "My hand." "What does it want?" "Can you hold it?" Sister R and his mother both think he's got the hots for me. As we were leaving, he told us not to leave without him, he had to go pack his bags because he's coming with us. My heart has been stolen by a four year old.
Also, a bunch of little girls who flocked over to us in the ghetto one day started combing my hair with their fingers and telling me it was tangled. I think I could solve this problem if I do like them and get my hair did in braids or cornrows. It would never be tangled again. These same girls asked to have my water bottle and started cat-fighting over a picture of Jesus we gave them. I love children.
Love has been my big theme lately. During the diligence phase, it was "be industrious." Now in my charity phase, it's "love like mad." Heavenly Father has helped me re-ignite my zeal by sending me to this fresh new area, and sent plenty of people to love in the five days I've been here. It's the best.
Love is what gives my purpose a purpose. What gives my words validity. It gives me a reason to truck on while the sun is high and hot, and a reason to smile when the day is over. Because the things we do for love are never lost on us. This is a "labor of love," as Paul calls it. If I didn't love them, I wouldn't be causing these awkward experiences at their front doors. I wouldn't be interrupting their long winded stories to call them to repentance. What's funny is, it's not a natural love. It's a gift that is given, but you do have to work for it. I have no reason to have such unreasonable regard for these strangers, save that I know our Savior DOES have that for them, and for me, for all of us, and as His representative, I cannot do His work if I don't pray for a heart full of charity. Because all things must fail. But charity doesn't.