This archived article was written by: Maria Ure
Service isn’t anything new to Elder Smith who is serving a full-time mission in the Price area for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Elder Smith has come all the way from Mississippi, which as we all know was hit with all the hurricanes last fall, especially Katrina and Rita. Living in Sherbertport, Mississippi, he felt the impact of the Hurricane Katrina. Though the city itself didn’t receive any damage by the actual water and winds, the town was flooded with a stream of people trying to escape and evacuate some areas farther south that were hit harder. Every hotel and extra space for rent or sale was taken overnight. Things were initially slightly chaotic and “everybody thought the end of the world was coming,” he said.
Rita, the storm that hit about a week after Katrina, did damage, and a lot closer to home for Smith, whose house had shingles ripped off, and flooding for two days. When the sun finally came out everything just baked, the humidity was awful so his family slept in the living room with a box fan. Although the electricity went out for about a week and a half, the Smiths were able to function with the use of a generator. Though for his nine year old brother things seemed a little more dramatic and scary. Humor and “brotherly love” play a role in helping his little brother cope as he tells him to ” stop being a wuss,” as well as time and reassurance that things will work out, which he and his family provided.
The Smith’s were able to utilize some of their property and helped by storing two major ships and several cruisers for the Coast Guard. Elder Smith’s uncle, Teryl Holcom, is the head commander of weapons and arranged for the transportation and storage of the equipment.
A couple of weeks after the hurricane hit, as Smith was preparing to come to Utah, 150 members of his stake found tractors and backhoes, donned the famous “Stormin’ Mormon” shirts and got straight to work. Traveling the 30 minute drive into Picayune, Smith cleared six yards and lawns of some of the debris that was holding them hostage in their homes. When asked if he enjoyed his time there, he replied, “Run a chainsaw for four days, are you kidding me?”
One thing that really struck him was all the people coming in and offering them money to come and clean their yards. People thought they were kidding when the only thing these “Stormin’ Mormons” asked for was a drink of water.
One of the lessons Smith learned from his experiences is to always, “Be prepared.” He says that most of the people that died were those that didn’t do simple preparatory tasks like putting an axe in the attic so that they could chop their way out.
Coming to Utah shortly after the hurricanes hit, ships and cruisers still sitting on his family’s property and being patrolled by members of the Coast Guard, Smith began another trip. Though this one is more than 30 minutes away (24 hours by vehicle), and will be longer than four days (two years), service will be the main objective once again.