This blog chronicles Matthew Staib's progress as he serves an LDS mission over the course of twenty-four months.

You can also read his personal blog at different, defined.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving in Mississippi, and Orange Mound

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! How was it for y'all? For mine, we went down to Mississippi and had it with the Byrd family. The Byrds are part of a giant family, the Allens, that populate a ton of our area in northern Mississippi. It seems like there are 50 people down there from the same family tree. We have a big genealogy list in our room that links them all. It's very hard to keep track of everyone and their relations.

We had dinner with Bonnie Byrd and her children, and parents, I believe. Caleb is her grandson, and he's an investigator. Bonnie is a member, and many extensions of the Allen family are inactive or less-active members. There's lots of work to do in Mississippi.

Our Thanksgiving - or as they say here in the south, THANKSgiving, with the enunciation on the "Thanks" - was pretty crowded. There were maybe 15-20 people there. The food was different from home. Really good overall, just different. We had ham, creamed corn, black-eyed peas, mashed potatoes with chopped deer gizzard and heart gravy, and cherry Koolaid. The desserts were freakin' boss. Someone made this big mixture of thick pudding with crushed Oreos mixed in. And then, the most amazing cake I've ever tasted. It was a strawberry cake. But the frosting had strawberries blended into it, and strawberry juice had been cooked into the cake. Pure magic.

Oh yes, I keep forgetting the week extends back until Tuesday. I was put on exchanges from Tuesday afternoon to Wednesday morning. I was sent to ORANGE MOUND, a really tough place. Walking down the street in a small drizzle, more than half the houses on the streets were boarded up and abandoned. The windows had been shot up.

It was quiet, but I didn't really feel scared. We taught a couple of people, tracted into a few. It was a very productive day. I taught a room full of at least 7 women, ranging from teenagers to an elderly lady, and a couple of men.

It was extremely intimidating, but it ended well. I slept over that night, and went back to Collierville the next morning. I made it back safe from the town where many news reports of shootings take place. Many, many crimes take place there.

Blake is still going through with his baptism well. He's got his fiancee and her family behind him. He's a great guy.

Elder Fry and I are seeing who we can. I've found it's near impossible to tract in rich areas. People say they already have their own faith, and they're happy with it. The work this past week has been slow because everyone is moving around and working. At least that's what we hope. A lot of our potential investigators are hard to get to. We really want to teach them. I'm not sure if our bike week this week will make things better, either. We'll see what happens.

Anyway, hope you guys enjoy your holiday season! It's supposed to snow tomorrow morning here! If that happens, society will shut down. No one can mentally handle frozen rain here in Tennessee.

-Elder Staib

Pictures from Past Week

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Great Week In Collierville, Tennessee

I'm sorry for the lack of written letters...The snail mail system is incredibly slow. I think it'll be ok to send things directly to my apartment. I'll be here for a while. The first area greenies stay in lasts 12 weeks instead of 6.


Hello, everybody. Missionary life is picking up, and the last week is more or less a big blur. I've got a good story to kick off with though.

On Wednesday, we taught a guy named Blake. Blake met a Mormon girl that lives in Collierville named Molly 8 months ago. They're getting married in June. Blake's been taught the lessons and he lives with Molly's parents. He knows everything, he just hadn't received the witness he needed to be baptized yet. We were teaching him this week, answering his questions from reading the Book of Mormon. We talked a bit about why he didn't want to be baptized just yet. Elder Fry eventually asked, "How often do you pray every week?" The number wasn't much. So I went forward and asked, "Would it be ok to kneel right now and pray to know if the church is true?" He replied with, "It wouldn't hurt." We knelt, and he started praying out loud. There was no doubt the Holy Ghost was in that room. He asked his question, and he paused. He paused for at least 2 minutes. The Holy Ghost was at work on his heart. He finally spoke again, and ended the prayer after a few more words. We sat back down, and I asked, "How do you feel?" "I feel that It's true. I feel like I should be baptized." I didn't hesitate, and asked him to be baptized. My first baptism will be held on December 10. We'll figure out the technicalities of who will baptize him and stuff. But I'm very excited.

This past week was our first bike week. My legs are destroyed, but I feel myself getting a bit stronger. We haven't been able to go around and see as many people as we've liked to, though. Our area is very constricted on bikes. We do what we can, though.

The bikes have slowed our progress, so I guess there's not too much to report. Blake's baptism is definitely the highlight of this past week. He's been on the edge of baptism for forever, and it's finally happening. Molly and her parents are very happy that it's happening.

I hope ya'll are enjoying the snow over in Utah. It's raining hard over here. The weather can't decide if it's September or November yet. Sometimes, it's warmer in the mornings and gets colder in the evenings. It's very weird. The humidity is refreshing, though. Who needs chapstick? Not me.

Monday, November 14, 2011

My Second Week in Collierville

Dear Everyone -

This week has been a long and pretty slow week. We keep trying to see people for first or second appointments, and they always seem to be gone. There's lots of drama going on... And I'm in the middle of all of it. The white handbook it says I can't counsel people. Drama drama...
I gotta maintain a love for the people, and just keep inviting them back.

Positives, positives... Oh! Ok, so I don't know if I have introduced them yet, but there are 2 people here that are extremely important in my experiences here in Collierville. There's Holly. She's in her mid-30s. She joined the church in early spring, and she was a middle school English teacher until last school year. Now she's sitting around. BUT she loves to see us missionaries. Her personality reminds me of everyone in my D&D group shoved into one (Yeah, shout out to you guys! Hope the campaign is still going well without your air pirate!), so I get along with her very well. It's never a dull moment with her.

The other person is Zach. He was baptized on October 12, and we've been keeping close with him for a long time. When I say we, I mean the missionaries. I've only been here 2 weeks, so what do I know? Zach is all sorts of amazing. He's 18. Even though double-step isn't my thing, the passion he has for listening to his music in his stereo-laden car is contagious. He has a strong testimony and has life experiences to back it up. Good kid, lots of fun to be around, and I'll have to get a picture with these people at some point within the next week.

So, back to my positive story.

Zach was out with me, Elder Fry and Brother Pennington (you'll hear about him a lot, too. He's the Second Ward's mission leader, and he takes us down to Mississippi every Thursday. He's also the most fun person to be around). We went out to give someone a blessing, and came back to Baskin Robins for shakes. After that, we were cruising down the street when Zach said. "I've never been to Goodwill, would it be ok to stop there?" Goodwill is the non-Mormon equivilant of Deseret Industries.

Anyway, we popped in there, and Zach found a pair of spankin' new Polo shoes. As we were walking through the aisles, an employee commented from the side, "So what does 'Elder' mean?" Meet Vernita. She is very Biblically knowledgable. We taught her a couple things in the few minutes we had about some specific doctrines within the church about families and such, and she believed every word. Her husband was in the hospital all of September and has been sitting in bed ever since. She's a little out of our area, but we're hoping we can have the opportunity to teach her. She's a golden person. We left Goodwill, and commended Zach on having the impression to go there in the first place.

The thing about Zach is, whenever he comes out with us, we always have an amazing experience. He had a friend that died recently after fighting cancer for 7 years. His testimony and story has touched every person he's talked about it with. The people we were teaching definitely needed the message at the time, too. He's been a great asset and blessing in our teaching.

Unfortunately, little teaching has been going on in the first place. We're usually visiting less-active or inactive people. And even then, they're really stubborn and don't think they can come back to church after what they've done. There are also some people from part-member families that know everything; they just refuse to be baptized until they feel they're "ready". If you're a returned missionary, you just rolled your eyes at that whole paragraph. It's very frustrating.

This is only Week 2. I just gotta keep working at it. My Southern is getting better (or worse...however you look at it), but it mostly shines around other Southerners. One of those adapting things I do or whatever. Thanks for all the emails, and thanks for thinking of me. Elder Staib is still out here, working how he can, when he can.

Pictures from My First Area - Collierville

Monday, November 7, 2011

First Week in the Mission Field

Dearest residents in Utah. I have safely landed in Little Rock, Arkansas. God's country.

Well, ok, first off. Salt Lake City Airport at 6 am on Tuesday morning was cold and wet. It was raining pretty bad. I understand that Utah has gotten a lot of snow this past week, and it makes my insides tear up. I'm very jealous. The plane ride wasn't too bad. My whole district sat next to each other... except for me. I was shoved a couple rows back next to some members. But hey, I got to sleep. Landed in Georgia. We were all nervous over approaching people.

We all packed into a tiny 13-row plane for Arkansas. It's the smallest plane I've ever flown in. Flying into Arkansas was a terror for each of us. Farmland. Everywhere. No cities or even small towns or suburbs. It was only until about 5 minutes from Little Rock that civilizations started popping up. We were all relieved.

The mission president and his wife were there to greet us, along with Elder Kelly and Elder Badger. They were the assistants to the president or whatever. I don't understand mission hierarchies yet. Anyway, first night in the mission home was great. The food was AMAZING and the mission president, President Petersen, is a great guy. We all woke up at 5 the next morning (it seemed like 4 because we were now in Central time) for a morning walk. That was the initiation part, I think. Then we packed up and went to the church building to get our comps. Oh yeah, side note. Church buildings here are huge. Not only that, but it was weird realizing these were church buildings for faiths like Baptists, Methodists and other Christians. They were enormous!

President Petersen started listing off names. It was a big list, but my name was nowhere in there. Then he explained, "Those were the names that are staying on this side of the river." There were a total of 3 groups: those staying on this side of the river, those going across the river, and those waiting for their compaions to come from the other side of the river. He called off my name for those that were going across the river. I was going to Memphis.

Six other Elders and I packed into a minivan and drove 2 1/2 hours to get to Memphis, Tennessee. Two other missionaries from my district came with me. Leaving the other 4 people behind was hard, but we knew we'd see each other again. After crossing the Mississippi River, we got to a church building and went through the same orientation. I got assigned to my first companion, Elder Fry. Everyone had been telling me up until this point that my first companion would be a stud, and that's exactly how he's been showing himself so far. Anyway, we were assigned to an area he had been in for the past 3 months, a town I couldn't pronounce at first called Collierville. Imagine a Collie. Now imagine a Collie that was more Collie-like, or "Collier", and slap "-ville" on there. There ya go. We packed my stuff up, said goodbyes to my remaining MTC district, and went into Collierville.

Elder Fry is from Eagle, Idaho. He's a funny guy that likes to have fun, and marvels at my Biblical abilities or something like that (because we all know I don't really have any at all). If I was to define his work so far in one phrase, it's that he loves the people. Elder Fry is friends with everyone here, and people are warming up to me better than I expected.

Anyway, first day. We dropped off my stuff and left immediately to teach a girl named Keisha in Collierville. Collierville is the Alpine of Tennessee. Lots of huge houses and incredibly nice people. Anyway, we taught Keisha the first discussion. It was really cool and fun to teach her. She has 2 little kids, and the oldest is a 3-year-old girl named Cameron. She has the most personality I've ever seen. My favorite line she said would have to be (imagine a tiny African American toddler saying this with as much sass as possible), "I'ma do what I wan' cuz my momma says so." It was the best thing ever.

I've been meeting new people left and right and had too many experiences to shove into one post, so I won't bore you with too many details. I will say, though, that the very next day, Elder Fry and I got together with one of the ward mission leaders, Bro. Pennington, and went to go talk to some folks 30 mintues down south. That's right. My area covers MISSISSIPPI. I've been to 3 states so far on my mission in a matter of 3 days. The families down there are really fun and are about as southern as southern can get. I've been acquiring the southern drawl by will. I've decided I want to learn how to speak it so that 1) I can understand others that speak it and 2) I can give my homecoming talk with a southern accent. Family, expect a southern boy when I get back.

So far the strangest thing I've had to eat is pickled okra. Everyone's warning me to stay away from chitlins. They take raw pig intestines, fling it around like a rodeo rope to get the feces out, and then fry it. Bam. Chitlins. One guy, Daryl, took us out to have a Reuben sandwich. I wasn't too big of a fan. Too much 'slaw. Ok, my mom asked me a couple questions, so I'll go ahead and answer them.

I mostly use a car. I've been biking once, and next week is an all-bike week. We cover the biggest area this side of the river, so having a car is essential. We have a Ford something-or-other really nice car.

We cover two wards: Collierville First and Collierville Second. We're the only missionaries in these wards. Before, our area didn't even go to the First Ward, but once I got here that changed. Now we go to both. Just Elder Fry and me.

Hmmm....I honestly don't know what else to describe. The members are amazing, and they feed us well. Oh yeah! I got to ride on top of a cotton picker the other day! Pretty fun. They kinda forced me to jump on it. Sis. Byrd (her husband is the cotton farmer) is excited for missionaries to try new things. She's a member. Her son Caleb is not. Caleb likes to shoot and hunt. He's a funny kid, only a couple years younger than me.

I'll be out here for at least 12 weeks. That's how the training program works. So I'm in Collierville at least 3 months. Hopefully, I get to stay here for a lot longer than that. I feel at home here. Like I said, it's like another Alpine. The people are good. The issue out here isn't so much baptisms as much as getting people to come to church. It's disappointing. But we'll see how it goes. Anyway, I might get my first baptism commitment this week. We'll see what happens. I wanna thank ya'll for your support! If you wanna send snail mail, I'd send it through the mission home adress if I were you, because that location will never change. I'll put up my current address, though, if you're confident enough to use it.

441 Sweet Apple Cove #8
Collierville, TN 38017

Well, gotta go enjoy my P-Day! Bye!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pictures: Arriving in Little Rock; Meeting My Companion in Tennessee

President Petersen, Elder Staib and Sister Petersen
New Missionaries with President and Sister Petersen
Elder Staib and Elder Fry


Pictures from the MTC: October 12-31


Leaving the MTC

Elder Staib left the MTC this morning at 4:00 a.m. to fly to Little Rock, Arkansas and enter the mission field. He called home from the airport in Salt Lake City at 6:15 to say hello and talk to the family for a few minutes before boarding his flight. He sounds great!

Thank you to friends and family members who have supported him with mail and packages during his time in the MTC.

You can still send him mail via Dear Elder, but please have it sent to his mission by selecting "Arkansas Little Rock" from the menu on the Dear Elder site. Additionally, you can send him regular mail at the following address:

Elder Matthew Staib
Arkansas Little Rock Mission
905 Kierre Drive
North Little Rock, Arkansas 72116-3709

Please remember that he has limited time on the computer each Preparation Day and may not be able to read all of the emails sent to him. Email correspondence from family only, per missionary guidelines.
--Brother Staib