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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, December 31, 2012

Snow!

Well, time for another weekly update.

First off, WE HAD A WHITE CHRISTMAS. We were so happy! It didn't snow until about 7 pm on Christmas Day, but it came, and we got about 4 inches of snow by the morning. Snowmen, snowballs and sore limbs happened. It truly was a winter wonderland for us Western gentlefolk.

Christmas was great, too. Christmas Eve and Christmas combined for two days packed with laughed and enjoyment. We got together Christmas Eve morning at the church (since it was P-Day). The 6 of us -- being the 6 Jonesboro missionaries -- played games, exchanged small gifts and sported a rousing game of chocolate milk pong. I made it to the top as the pong champion. It was great. Christmas Eve dinner was incredibly delicious. We had it with the Louis family, Bro. Louis being a former bishop in Jonesboro. The dinner consisted of many dishes I would have expected my own mom to make, so I was very happy.

Christmas morning we spent with the Rougeau family. We had a large breakfast with them and joined them in opening gifts. I received a GPS, Swedish Fish, a miniature Preach My Gospel and a spankin'-awesome tie. Oh, and in the evening, Elder Carter presented me with INCREDIBLY SOFT PAJAMA PANTS. They're marvelous.

Ok. Onto other things. We had an awesome referral sent to our phone this past week. His name is Emuobor Ighodaye. Yeah, we just sat there looking at the phone wondering if there was a glitch in the system. But it turns out that's his name. He's from Nigeria! He was taught by missionaries before, and even brought over the Book of Mormon he was given back home. He wants to be a more active Christian and wants to take this path to come closer to God. He's very fun-loving. He loves a good laugh.

We're still waiting for our other progressing investigators to return home or get better from sicknesses. I've been feeling a bit under the weather lately myself, but it's nothing that'll keep me down. It's going to be a good month, though. We're foreseeing at least 2 baptisms, possibly 3. Good things are happening in Jonesboro, and as missionaries we are glad that the holiday season is finally coming to a close. People will get back into their routines, and life will be less hectic. And the work goes on.

I hope everyone had a good Christmas! Keep safe in the cold and in the ice. Pray that our baptisms are good to go, and that more people will be interested in hearing the gospel. Love y'all!

-Elder Staib





Monday, December 17, 2012

Happy Holidays!

Hey there, e'erbody!

Christmas. That thing. It's a-comin'. The weather's been really cloudy as of late, and I quite enjoy it. If it can't be white on the ground, at least it's white in the air. Plus, it'll be a white Christmas in another regard: Troy is getting baptized on Sunday! Yeah, we changed it to the next day since he was gonna able with some family on Saturday. He's the most prepared person I've ever seen. Every time we ask him if he knows something's true I feel just dumb even thinking to ask the question. he replies in the most direct manner.

"Yeah, I know it's all true. Joseph Smith was really called of God, and I'm working hard to make it to the Celestial Kingdom."

He's read through Gospel Principles TWICE. Pretty sure that teaches more than Preach My Gospel. No Word of Wisdom issues. Studies the Bible and Book of Mormon every day. He's even sending us a referral he met in the park. Magical missionary fairy? I think yes. HE'S SO RAD WE LOVE TROY.

We've got several awesome member referrals on the way as well. MAN, JONESBORO HAS BEEN GREAT, and it will continue to be great! I'm staying here for another 7 weeks, along with EVERYONE ELSE in my district. We're all ecstatic. This is a testimony to me that if we trudge through the lows, we'll eventually reach the highs. This is a mission high for me.

Ironically, this week I've been hit by some horrible anti-Mormon propaganda, and lots of it. Do I care? NOPE. I'm doing my thing because I know it's right. God told me so. It's as simple as that, and I'm sticking to it. I laughed at the information I received, really. Nothing in the world can defer me from feeling that my mission has brought me and other closer to God, and that the temple is the House of God on the Earth today.

Looking back on it, I've been blessed to go to the temple on my mission so frequently. Elder Carter hasn't been to the temple since the MTC. Temples are spiritual safe havens from the world. Because of my many trips to the temple, I know without a doubt that they are sacred places that were constructed by the inspiration from the Almighty. If anyone tries to say otherwise, they have either never been in a temple themselves or they blocked out the Holy Ghost as they entered. I know that I will always have a spiritual home in the temple. So that's your cue. Go to the temple as often as you can, people. Even if you don't have a specific reason, go to feel the Spirit of the Lord.

Well, lots of P-Day things to do to prepare for the upcoming transfer and the holiday season. I sent a ton of Christmas cards out, so I hope y'all enjoy those! Even though I'm enjoying the area now, I know the mission has its positives and negatives, and they come from every direction. Thank you for your prayers, and continue to pray that the work in Jonesboro will continue to progress as wonderfully as it has these past few weeks.

Merry Christmas!

-Elder Staib

Monday, December 10, 2012

New Investigators!

Ok, gotta type REALLY FAST.

This was an excellent week. Last Sunday we got a referral from Salt Lake, and we followed up on it on Tuesday. Michael is an ASU student who's home for the holidays in Marked Tree, about 30 minutes south of us. He's interested in the church because of a girl he met 3 years ago who lives in Colorado. She's been helping answer his questions about the church and he has decided to investigate. He's a really nice guy, grew up Baptist, and is open to new religious ideas.

On Friday we set a baptismal date with Troy, the older man with a limp. His date is set for December 22. He knows Joesph Smith is a prophet, believes in the plan of salvation, and reads the Bible and the Book of Mormon every day. If that's not golden I dunno what is. Looks like a white Christmas here in Jonesboro!

On Saturday we had a ward Christmas party. The theme was to come dressed as if you were to go to Bethlehem. I used my pillowcase as a hat and tied a tie around it to keep it up. Elder Carter did likewise with some bed sheets. I toted around a stuffed camel and we were the life of the party. The camel's name is Li'l Abraham. Story behind that one later. Li'l Abe will accompany me for the rest of the mission.

Sunday was a good service. Didn't really have any investigators come, but they'll be there next week.

After church Elder Carter and I went to see a man who says he has researched Mormonism for 3 years. When I say research, I mean books and books and hours and hours of comparing and contrasting and looking into deep histories and all sorts of ridiculousness. We sat with him for two and a half hours while he went through page after page of "imperfections" with our religion. Elder Carter and I stood our ground, unshaken and firm. It was an intense meeting. Respect for each other on both sides grew, but it just goes to show that too much "knowledge" can overshadow faith and the Spirit.

We have a new investigator that recently moved from WEST MEMPHIS, so I'm excited to teach her and her family. Life is dandy and awesome.

I gotta get going, but I love y'all, and I'm grateful for your prayers and all that you do to encourage me to keep on keepin' on. Have a Happy Holidays!

-Elder Staib

Monday, December 3, 2012

Of Holidays & Inspiration

Happy Holidays!

Hello everyone. We've run headlong into December, and it's time again to break out the scented candles and strings of Christmas lights. Well, we've got the candles part, anyway.

I'm not expecting this update to be too long. Elder Carter and I have been getting some new investigators and invitations to return to homes for blessings and such, but whenever we call or go to the home, no one answers. It's been a very frustrating week of being avoided.

On Tuesday, we had a Zone conference of sorts down in Searcy (pronounced SUR-sea), which is about a 2-hour drive. On the way to the meeting, Sis. Petersen called and asked Elder Carter to go to the meeting grumpy and all sorts of ill-mannered, which was totally opposite of how he usually is. At the meeting, several people walked up to him in a cheerful mood to say hello to their good friend, but Elder Carter blew them off. It was hard for me not to laugh at first, but as it kept going, I felt like this was really affecting our experience at the conference. Everyone around us was hurt by Elder Carter's unusually uncaring demeanor, and they came to me about it.  I just had to tell them it had been a long week.

Thankfully, about an hour into the conference, Sis. Petersen relinquished him of his sulking duties and he apologized to a lot of people. I suppose Sis. Petersen made her point, but it was just incredible how one person's attitude can affect the people around them, especially their companion. I was starting to get angry myself. Life is so much better when you're a positive thinker, that's all I'll say.

Ok, spiritual thought, and then I'll wrap up. It's incredible how God wants to enlighten you. Yes, he wants to. In this case, he wanted me to learn how to teach a doctrine that I hadn't completely understood before, that is, how Christ can be the Father and the Son. This is a very good thing to know about in the South since most churches think Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are the same person. I will preface this story, though, by saying I was not actively seeking an answer to my conundrum this particular morning.

As I opened my scriptures to study, I wondered what I wanted to study about. It dawned on me that through my reading of the Book of Mormon, I had skipped Abinadi's story. Something pushed me to decide otherwise, though, and I kept on with where I left off in 3 Nephi. As I was reading 3 Nephi, it said something about how the prophecies of Samuel the Lamanite and Abinadi had been fulfilled. I began to wonder what prophecy Abinadi had made that fulfilled what I was reading about, so I eventually turned over to the book of Mosiah and began to read.

Noah, son of Zeniff, became wicked, everyone became wicked, Abinadi stands prophesying that the city would be in bondage -- good deal. I then read what Abinadi said in front of Noah and his priests about their wickedness.

Suddenly, as I read a verse, I was hit by a ton of Spirit bricks.

I read over the verse again. And again. The Spirit bore witness to me and helped me understand the answer to this difficult question I had in the back of my mind, and it was answered in Mosiah 15: 2-3. The line that stuck out to me was this: "The Father, because he was conceived by the power of God;"
 As I understood what the scripture was saying, I wrote underneath the scripture the following notes: "Chuck Staib ---> Matt Staib" I am a part of my father in blood and in title. So also is Christ a part of His Father in flesh as well as in title. It not only answered my question on how to explain the doctrine, but it gave me a strong sense of duty and responsibility I have to carry two names on my nametag: "Jesus Christ" and "Staib".

My family has been a grand influence on each other as well as the whole world. I have a duty to uphold a name as wonderful as my own. I am proud to be a member of my family. That's what I came away with.

Well, that was longer than I thought1 I hope ya'll have a wonderful holiday! Be safe if it snows, and I'll talk to you guys next week. Love ya'll!

-Elder Staib


Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving in Jonesboro, Arkansas

Happy Late Thanksgiving!

I hope your Thanksgiving was as fun as mine. We had a blast with the Rawlins family, and thankfully, that was the only Thanksgiving dinner we had. 30 people attended with more than enough food for everyone, so I was totally stuffed by the time pie was passed around. Before the feast, we played games in the basement. The game table kinda bowed upwards, so Bro. Rawlin's called it a "home-field advantage". Pfft. It was fun.

The food was really good. I went for the nontraditional ham, since ham is better than turkey ANY day. Elder Carter and I got locked into a fun conversation with a couple of cool cats that had as geeky of a sense of humor as the rest of us missionaries did. We bonded real fast. Later that evening we got to befriend the Rawlin's sons that were still home, Calvin and Spencer. It was a great evening, and we went away full. Afterwards, Elder Carter and I didn't have much success getting any teaching done, despite President's encouragement to do so. But we tried.

Sunday was incredible. There are a few less-active members we're working to get back to church, and it seemed like at every turn, we saw those members in the building, attending sacrament meeting. Elder Carter and I were so happy to see the fruits of our efforts. The Sisters had an especially wonderful Sunday. They baptized a young family that had only met the missionaries a couple days before I was transferred here to Jonesboro. They took hold of the Gospel as soon as it was offered to them. They'll make a great addition to the ward.

So let me talk about who came to church: First we had one of the members, an employee for Dillard's, that we've been working with to get back to church. HE FINALLY CAME AND WE WERE SO HAPPY. He's a younger guy that has a sarcastic sense of humor. You can imagine how well we get along. Next is a young man who was taught by the sister missionaries and baptized back in... oh, September, or maybe over the summer. He's working hard to be a better person, and it's incredible how far he's come. He reminds me a lot of Mike Lilly back at home, so it's nice to be on that familiar territory.

This last guy really made my jaw drop, kinda because I never thought I'd see him again. Time travel back to West Memphis. A family, the Runnels, lived out in Forrest City. We were asked to teach their daughter's boyfriend. I might have mentioned him before on the blog (I HOPE I have!), but his name was Jacob. I never found out his last name. We only taught him a couple times before he was moving up to college along with his girlfriend (and now fiancee), Janie.

It totally slipped my mind that the college they were moving to was Arkansas State University in JONESBORO. I saw him down the hall at church yesterday and flipped. I forgot he was up here. He was baptized back in October by the Jonesboro Elders... Ah well. As long as he was baptized. It was cool seeing him again, and now he's a recent convert we get to work with. Awesome.

One gentleman that came to church was an older African-American with a limp. He's very spiritual and loves learning about the Word. He goes to a park in town every weekday and prays for the people that walk through. Apparently, he's been to our church a few times, but this was my first time meeting him. The Spanish Elders say he's been taught by missionaries in Memphis already. Towards the end of the services, he told us that he wanted to be baptized into our church. he told us the Spirit told him the other night to join our church. We just need to ask him a few questions and make sure he's willing to obey the commandments, but we're happy nonetheless!

We've also got a referral from the Spanish Elders for a young family that's eager to meet us. We've had a lot of service opportunities as well, especially with the fallen leaves and the preparations for winter. For the moment, I think we need to work to improve our relationship with ward members. I don't see much interaction happening happening outside of the church building, so we've gotta form a bridge somewhere.

Elder Carter and I are awesome together. Now that I've established my teaching skills, he gives me some stage time to say what I want to say. The Spanish Elders live five minutes down the road. The ward is run by incredible men that get work done. Our ward mission leader is very Southern and knows how to break the ice, and he is also masterful at explaining the gospel in very plain and easy-to-understand terms.

There is a Baptist church, I believe, just across the street from the chapel. They've got a cool Nativity set up that I'll have to get a picture of. Jonesboro High School is on that road, and then the Arkansas State University campus is only a couple miles away. We live in some nice golf course apartments and might break out the clubs one of these P-days. It's free if we bring our own clubs.

Anyway, I love you guys, and hope you're all doing well. I'm so excited for the holiday season! Elder Carter is a Christmas FREAK, so we're going to make this the most jolly Christmas ever. Pray that we'll get some solid investigators to teach, though. We're making a push to find more this week.

-Elder Staib


Monday, November 19, 2012

Jonesboro, Arkansas

Well, I've moved into my new area, and it's nothing short of overwhelming.

I am now serving in Jonesboro, Arkansas, which is one hour north of West Memphis. It has a population of 70,000, as opposed to West Memphis's 11,000. I'm in a new District, and even in a new Zone. We have a ward here in Jonesboro, which I'm still freaking out about it because it's quite a change from being in a branch for 7 months. I have a ton of new members to meet, and I have to change my approach to the work drastically from what it's been in terms of member involvement. 

The cool thing is there are 3 sets of missionaries working in this area: us, Spanish Elders, and English Sisters. The Sisters that are here are Sisters Gladden and Russel. Both both came out of the MTC with me, if you remember. :3 This is going to be a weird transfer. Normally, a transfer lasts 6 weeks, but that would make the next transfer day fall on Christmas. This transfer is only going to last 5 weeks long, and then the next will go for 7 weeks. We'll see how much of the mission shifts.

Let's see, more mission news. Here is a map of the mission's areas as of June 2012, so you can see the areas I have served in:


Collierville 1st and 2nd both combine to make the Collierville area. This map, though, is probably going to change in the next couple of months. Our mission president recently received his "compliment", which is a fancy word that means numbers for missionaries that will be here in the mission. The compliment is for February. If you're standing while you're reading this, you might want to sit down.

We currently have 110 missionaries in our mission, and about 30 of them are Sisters.

Our compliment for February is 102 Elders and 112 Sisters.

President Petersen is freaking out. He has to find out how to facilitate over 100 new missionaries by February. The Sisters are going to outnumber the Elders. This probably isn't just for our mission; I'm thinking this will be a worldwide trend. In my mission lifetime, I will see the change envelop our mission and change the way missionary work is done. The Second Coming is fast approaching.

My new companion is Elder Carter. He's from Pocatello, Idaho. He's been on his mission for nearly 18 months now. He's a great teacher, but has a very goofy nature as well. He reminds me of Elder Warren in many ways as we're the apartment. He's been in the area only 3 months, but the people love him. 

Like I said, it's been overwhelming to try and meet everyone at once, but I'll get the hang of it soon enough. The ward mission leader and the first counselor of the bishopric are related to some folks in West Memphis, so it's nice to have that connection there.

This afternoon, we're going to go see Sis. Maples. She's a tie-maker. A famous story goes on around here about her. She has made a tie for our stake president, who wore it to the most recent ward conference, and she also made a tie for President Monson. Mailed it to him herself. In reply, President Monson wrote a thank you card and sent a picture of him wearing the tie. We're going to her home this afternoon with the Spanish Elders to get ties ourselves. We're ecstatic.

This area has many positive influences that drive me to be a better missionary. Being in an area with two other sets of missionaries is certainly a strength. I can't wait to see what God has in store for me here!

-Elder Staib


Pictures


Farewell, Elder Bigelow



MTC District reunion!...Almost!



My new companion, Elder Carter



A member working at Dillard's got bored and created this 
mannequin in homage to Goro from Mortal Kombat.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Leaving West Memphis

Well, I'm leaving West Memphis on Wednesday. AND I'M TAKING ELDER BIGELOW WITH ME.

West Memphis is being whitewashed, which I'm fine about. I'll probably be a far-away trainer or something, letting the new missionaries know what the deal is with people or which friends to make. Elder Warren had to do that for the Walnut Grove Elders all the time.

This past week has been a good one, visiting with people and other fun activities. We've found a few new potential investigators, so the new missionaries will have a field to play on.

I've gotten a lot of great feedback from my exciting nature stories from last week from both people back home and people in West Memphis (yes, I share my blog with others here). I'll break those stories out more often, since they ooze so much with my melodic typing fingers, but it ain't very missionary-oriented, other than it's done in the mission life. In short, nature stories are good. I love 'em. But I'll try to mix those in as this mission train's a-goin'.

Bad news is, the train is on a different track at the moment, as happens when a missionary leaves an area. I'm packing, Elder Bigelow is packing, we're saying goodbyes, getting information to send out Christmas cards later, and teaching in-between. Yes, sneak-peek, there WILL be Christmas cards in the near future.

Elder McMurtrey and me at the temple

I got to go to the temple this morning. I sat next to Elder McMurtrey, with whom I came out from the MTC. He said that it was the first time we had seen each other for a whole year.

It took me a few seconds for that to set in. It had been an entire year since I had seen him. It blew me away that it had been so short of a time. One of the first things I said to him was that he gained a bit of weight. Only in this mission... Remember, he trained my cousin-in-law, Elder Boyer.

I showed Elder McMurtrey a picture of my brother-in-law, Trent. Elder McMurtrey agreed; they look a ton alike. Mostly the big noses. :3

I don't have many particular experiences or stories to share at the moment since my mind is jumbled from worrying about so much at once, but I hope I'll have a lot more to say next week.

Enjoy the pictures! I love all y'all. (y'all - singular, all y'all - plural) Enjoy the snow, because I surely would! ***

-Elder Staib

Pictures



Missionaries from our Zone. Elders Sabins, Faleao, Staib, Boyer, 
Bigelow, Kowalk, Owen, and Salisbury.

Temple Baptisms with the Youth!

Scarecrow made by the young men for the Thanksgiving party. 
Pilgrim spirit? Sure!

Elder McMurtrey and me at the temple. 
First time we had seen each other since we left the MTC.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Reflections

Let's do some therapeutic reflecting today. Anyone that knows me knows I'm a naturalist, or can at least look at nature and think, "Hey, that's pretty neat." I had some pretty neat experiences this week.

As I was studying one morning, a fly that had been buzzing around our apartment for the last like... gosh, three long days, got caught behind the blinds of the window that was RIGHT BEHIND ME. I do not suggest listening to a fly throw itself against a window, then blinds, then window, then blinds for more than 20 minutes. Your brain might ooze.

As I was finishing up reading a chapter in Alma, I resolved that I would soon get the vacuum and send the insect into a black pit of dust and filth, where it belonged. Suddenly, the fly's wings made a constant buzz. It sounded frantic, but motionless. It seemed like it was stuck on or in something. I pulled up the blinds to find my greatest ally.
The Jumping Spider.

Ahhh, I love these little things. This particular comrade had managed to pounce on and stick his fangs into the nuisance that plagued me. The fly slowly got more quiet and less mobile.

The jumping spider looked at me, as if to say, "Just doing my job. Ain't nothing to see. Move along."

Elder Bigelow came over and wanted to kill it, but I told him to stand down and let the bug do his work. The fly was no more, and the jumping spider has since left his little nook in the window. Thank you, jumping spider.

Ok. More nature. This Friday, our branch had a hayride. I had never been on a hayride before, so I'll explain how it works: A bunch of people get in a big trailer full of hay for chairs and a big John Deere tractor pulls you around through the country to look at the stars in the sky.

The evening began with a nice hot dog roast as we waited for people to arrive. One of our recent converts brought a friend, and he asked lots of good questions about how the church runs. He enjoyed himself. It was fun to be with everyone, but as we loaded into the trailer and began out to the farmlands, I didn't talk or text or do much of anything. The only place my head was directed was up.

I've only seen the Milky Way a few times in my life, and this was one of them. It was also different to be in the country, where the horizon is not blocked by mountains or large trees. I was looking at a full sky. Nothing was hid from me. I got lost in it; sometimes it felt like there was a canopy of glitter above me, and other times I felt like I was stretching out forever, seeing the spiral galaxy that we revolve in. It was a good evening that I spent alone in my thoughts.

One of the young women said I should have been more social, at which I replied, "Yeah, but I saw 6 shooting stars." She then wished she was doing what I did.

So I've got some news.

On November 14, I'm leaving West Memphis. President told me himself, so I'm pretty sure that means I'm leaving. This will be my last full week here. Yesterday was Stake Conference. Next week will be Fast and Testimony meeting for the branch, so I'm glad I'll be able to take that moment to thank the branch for all they've done for me.

There was a Seventy that came to our stake conference. I don't know his name... he has a lot of gray hair and his first name is Heath. That's all I know. I'll look it up later. But we heard from him, the Stake President (Pres. Zorbell), President and Sister Petersen (my mission president and his wife, if you haven't known that by now), a newly called Relief Society president and a couple other folks. It was a good meeting. I've been in a branch for too long, though. I forgot how noisy young families are. I forgot how noisy 40 young families are. I did my best to concentrate.

One thing President Petersen said, though, was awesome. (Speaking to the members) "These aren't my missionaries. These are YOUR missionaries."

Nothing gets done in a branch or a ward without utilizing us as teaching tools to spread the gospel. I mean, people usually hate being used, but... That's why we came out in the first place! To be used by God! What better use can we have than to share the gospel? So, I ask, if you do not know your ward missionaries, get to know them. They need you. I need the members to help me to grow on my mission, and they have certainly helped me.

Help the missionaries in your area grow. Help the missionaries about to leave on missions grow. Or if you see a young man that's sitting on the fence, let him know you want to prepare him to go. If I may say, The Missionaries are nothing without the Members, and the Members are nothing without the Missionaries. I know my Dad has seen the effects of missionaries in a ward since he's been ward mission leader a few times.

Anyway, I'll work hard this last week. Thankfully, we get the car tomorrow. The weather is chilling down. They're saying it'll be a cold and wet winter here. It had better be.

-Elder Staib

Pictures



Monday, October 29, 2012

Mike Rowe, a Birthday and a Baptism

Let's see how much of this week I can fit in here. I'm thinkin' this will be a doozy.

On Tuesday, Elder Bigelow and I were roped into working as a clean-up crew for an abandoned apartment. We're talkin' Mike Rowe business here. I should have taken pictures to show how bad this place was... The apartment is owned by a sister in the branch, Sis. Mosley, who recently suffered from a stroke. The family that lived in the apartment was kicked out a month and a half ago for not paying rent. Elder Bigelow and I teamed up with Sis. Mosley's grandson to clean the place. We opened the door.

The apartment is made up of the main room, a hallway leading back to the kitchen, the kitchen, and then a small dining area. In the main room sat two couches, and laying on the black leather couch sat a cat that was just as surprised to see us as we were to see it. The scamp leaped off the couch and ran to the back of the apartment. It'll reappear later.

The apartment was left in a state of disarray that is near inhumane. There were baby clothes, toys and books sprawled all over the floor, along with DVDs, Happy Meal toys, wigs, brushes, blankets, fabrics, coins, random plastic objects -- everything a mother and 3 young children would need to be mildly amused all day. The smell was a haze that fogged my lungs, and the air was thick with festering bacteria. The shovels, rake and pitchforks we brought were very useful in filling the ten garbage bags we brought with us.

Every piece of clothing we picked up yielded a small crowd of cockroaches that dispersed from their homewreckers. Some roaches even lounged around on the walls, watching us move around the apartment. The kitchen was no better. More clothes, a box of corn starch with mouse dropping all around it, more ants and cockroaches and toys all awaited us. The cat reappeared from behind the kitchen counters and darted out the front door. The whole ordeal took 2 and a half hours. We had to go outside and renew the air in our bodies from time to time. Nevertheless, we removed a bluk of them mess, and I even picked up an old copy of Pokemon Stadium that might be salvagable. What an adventure. :3

Yesterday was my 21st birthday. I felt as if I was a true member of the West Memphis branch at church yesterday, given my assignments and invitations to help out. Let's see... For starters, we had a meeting with the branch presidency to update them on our missionary work and get them involved. Afterwards, I helped the branch mission leader draw out a map to his property for a hayride the branch is holding this Friday. As I made the final touches on the map, the chorister came in and summoned me as the branch's piano player.

Of course, I don't play piano, but I'm one of the only people in the building that knows how to operate the LDS electronic piano that stands as backup in the event our actual piano player is missing. I got sacrament meeting started off with a grin on everyone's face as I struggled to get the thing started up and had about 3 false starts before the music finally played. Elder Bigelow gave a talk for the latter part of sacrament meeting on fasting. Sacrament meeting ended, and after making copies of the map I had drawn an hour ago, we were swept off to teach Gospel Principles, just like every Sunday. The lesson was on the Postmortal Spirit World. Following Gospel Principles was Priesthood, and I'm glad that I was able to take a breather for that hour.

A half hour after church, Joe Orey's baptism was scheduled to begin. In Mormon time, that means 50 minutes after church ended. The first talk was given, and then we all filed around the baptistry to see the baptism take place. Poor little Joe... He stood in that baptistry, shaking like a leaf. Elder Bigelow and I tried so hard throughout the day to get the water warm, but nothing was working, so Joe stood in some colder-than-pool-temperature water. He was baptized, and the moment he came out of the water he darted for the stairs.

We waited for Bro. Orey and Joe to return from getting changed, after which I had been asked to share a talk on the Holy Ghost. It was short, sweet, and to the point, which was a relief to most people there, I think, because all the other talks given in the church building that day had been just the opposite. After my talk, Joe was given the gift of the Holy Ghost. Joe asked me if I could stand in for it. That was a great experience. The Oreys have become a dear family to me, and it'll be fun to see all the kids grow up. They plan to move to Idaho as soon as they have the means to, so they'll never be too far away to visit when I get back home. I told Sis. Orey a week ago that Elder Kowalk and I would have to get a van and take a roadtrip to see them. She laughed and got excited.

<streeeeetch> Oh man, lots of words are in this thing... It's been a good week. I had 5 different cakes for my birthday: a baby shower cake, a butter pecan cake with brown sugar cream cheese icing, a spice cake, a chocolate cake with Sis. Orey's chocolate trifle on the side (that stuff is LEGENDARY), and a chocolate muffin my parents mailed to me a few days ago. Thank goodness it's bike week.

Well, that's about it. We had once investigator to church that is very studious about other religions, and he stayed for all 3 hours of church AND the baptism, despite back problems and other ailments that get worse over long periods of sitting. What a trooper!

We're still working with part-member families, trying to use the gospel as a way to create unity and family blessings, but it seems that these families have run into a point in their lives that are hard to focus on anything other than getting by day after day. We're doing our best to strengthen and support them.

Thank you, everyone, for birthday wishes, and other wishes on a successful mission. The next transfer period is on November 14, and I'm thinking these will be my final weeks in West Memphis.

-Elder Staib

Pictures

Happy Birthday. To me.

Me, Joe and Bro. Orey

Joe's baptismal program. Joe made the assignments for the speakers and the songs.  
I think I make a decent mummy


Monday, October 22, 2012

"Sweatin' Up a Storm"

MAN. This week. Talk about sweatin' up a storm. 
 
On Monday this past week, I was asked by the branch president to give a talk in church. After preparing the night before and the morning of my talk, I managed to sweat and stagger for 20 minutes as I spoke on missionary work and the gospel we are to share with the world, as well as how to find out its truthfulness. I kept the notes from my talk to remember the moment. I'll just say that it didn't feel like it was me giving the talk. The Spirit was there, and I think I'd compare the boldness of my speech to Paul towards the end of Acts. 
 
There was a Stake high councilman who spoke after me, but he only had about 15 minutes to speak. I didn't realize so much time had passed. I was just pouring my heart out over that pulpit. I noticed that was the first time I've ever held on to the sides of a pulpit. Weird fact, but true. Maybe that's the transition to becoming a good speaker: grabbin' that pulpit.
 
Later that evening, we were to have a cottage meeting at a member's home. Cottage meetings are like firesides, but they're open for everyone to come, both members and investigators alike. Not too many investigators showed up, but I would still say the event was a success. 
 
Elder Bigelow and I prepared a spiritual thought on temples, using clips from the films "Between Heaven and Earth" and "Mountain of the Lord". If I can just say really quick, "Mountain of the Lord" is my favorite church history movie ever. Hands down. I can't believe I hadn't seen it before my mission. Anyway, we used a combination of movie clips and the Socratic method, i.e., asking questions and having discussions, to give everyone a chance to share their temple experiences with everyone else. It was wonderful.
 
I'm really excited for this upcoming weekend. I'm having a combined birthday party with a recent convert in the eveining, and earlier that day is the branch's turnk-or-treat party. We've got candy to help out. It'll be a great day. The only downside I can see is that I'll be 21. Bluh... that's so weird... I still feel (and look) 18.
 
The missionary work itself has been sluggish. There aren't any excuses I can give for it. I desperately need to revitalize my hopes, really. But that'll all come with time. For now, I need to serve and love the people here in West Memphis, and let the Spirit guide me to those that need the gospel.
 
I love you guys. Thanks for all you've done for me. My mission has changed me. There's no doubt about it. You'll see.
 
-Elder Staib

Pictures

ELDER KELLY YES. He went home in December last year, and he came back to visit! He was AP when he left and drove me to the mission home when I got off the plane. Talk about a blast from the past.

Arkansas Razorback birthday cup for me

Monday, October 15, 2012

One Year on October 12

Expect this to be a short entry this week, folks.

We've endured bike week. Elder Bigelow and I are safe. It's been a week of going around, letting Elder Bigelow share with everyone how he got hit by a car a year ago and how he's now back in the area.

Not much has changed in anyone's progress since last week.

I guess there are a couple things I can touch on. I'll be telling stories, but they're not exactly happy ones.

Last Saturday (conference Saturday), Elder Bigelow and I attended a funeral in between sessions of conference. The funeral was for an investigator's "life partner", who passed away in a nursing home after fighting the side effects of a stroke for 3 years. Elder Bigelow, the investigator and I were the only Caucasian people at the funeral, so I felt a bit out of place.

The people were friendly, though, even though we had the name of another church pinned to our chests. It was held at a Baptist church with a Baptist preacher and I'm guessing an entirely Baptist congregation. That was the most intriguing point in my mission, being part of a world where prayers are shouted, you say "Amen" in the middle of every sentence, and songs of mourning are sung at a steady 3 beats per minute.

This past Saturday, we witnessed another funeral, but this one was different. Brother Mason, who was called to be second counselor in the branch presidency only a month ago, passed away from blood clots in his lungs. It was a terrible blow to the branch, losing one of the most powerful priesthood holders we had. It was a very solemn ceremony, where tears were shed from many members of the branch as well as friends and relatives.

It was somewhat amusing when the speaker, who was LDS, reiterated the Plan of Salvation to us, and described where Bro. Mason is now, when a woman a couple rows behind me whispered loudly to another woman, "I've never heard THAT before." As I explained to a member of the branch later, that is the doctrine Bro. Mason believed in (and we're all taught), so it is perfectly acceptable to share at his funeral.

During the fast and testimony meeting yesterday, many people went up to express love for Bro. Mason, and others got up to testify of how the Atonement heals heartache. I got up and thanked West Memphis for letting me stay 6 months of my mission out of the 12 I had already served.

I love this branch very much. They've been through so much loss these past few months, and the branch president is in a state of discouragement and heartache from it all. The Houstons had moved to Maine, Bro. Mason passed away, other members have been hospitalized and gone through car wrecks... You can imagine why I'm not exactly in the best of spirits at the moment. I still love the gospel, and I love the influence of the Atonement in my life. I really have to put it to practice over this next week, though.

-Elder Staib

Pictures

We spent last Monday at Bro. Floyd's house, a very good friend of the missionaries in Memphis. We played two games at his house: an old-fashioned top game where you knock down pins...

...and Risk. I came in second place, miraculously.

This is a cotton gin. Ginning cotton.

The trees haven't changed too much yet, but the leaves are already falling pretty bad. Everything's just...dead.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Ask the Missionaries


Dear... EVERYONE.
 
Exchanges happened. I'm now with Elder Aaron Bigelow from Blackfoot Idaho. My suspicions from last week were correct, so yes, he is the missionary I described who got hit by a car and was out of the mission for 10 months (instead of the 9 I mentioned).
 
So let's get this elephant out of the room. Conference. Missionaries may now come out at younger ages. That's awesome, and I can't wait for this new wave to come through. I can see both pros and cons to the situation, but more pros. Great conference, though. You can imagine what one of my favorites was: "ASK THE MISSIONARIES!"
 
As I write, I look back on the past couple of weeks, and notice a miracle has taken place. Elder Mortensen and I were going through the branch roster two weekends ago. There was a name I didn't recognize. We went to visit this man, he opened the door, we introduced ourselves and asked if we could come by and visiti him and get to know him some time. He told us that he had only sat through Sacrament meetings, but that he was still coming pretty often. I felt pretty bad about not knowing him, but nonetheless, he allowed us to come back and see him the next week.
 
So fast forward to this last Thursday. We met with him, got to know his situation and his career. He had lived a very good gospel-oreinted life until a divorce and some bad decisions. He really opened up to us, desperately seeking a spiritual light in his life to guide him back to church. That's honestly the first time I had seen something like that. 

This man who had once had the gospel in his life cast it aside for a time -- that's pretty common. But this sudden realization that something that was once there is missing, and wanting it back, that was a tender moment for me. There's no doubt in my mind this man is sincere about his decision to make his life better and receive the full blessings of the gospel. He's been wandering back to the path alone for too long, so God had us step in to finally take his hands and show him the way.
 
Another wonderful part of this relationship is that the man has found many friends outside of the church that he shares the gospel with. We left him with a Book of Mormon last night that he can place at work. He loves this church, knows it's true, and isn't afraid to let others know. We're excited fror him.
 
Well, this week I hit ONE YEAR since I became a missionary. I could write pages and pages of what I've learned and how I've changed and all those good things here, but I will save them for my journal.

All I want you to know is that I am not the same I was before. I'm spiritually stronger. More spiritually intelligent. More spiritually-aware. In all, my spirit, which only lived inside my body before, now commands my body, and I have a desire to strengthen it and keep it lively always. That is the biggest change I've seen in myself this past year. Not only that but I know how I can receive knowledge from God. Many hidden and obscure truths have come to light as I've climbed over trials and tribulations, and my understanding of the Atonement has increased in depth and love.
 
My favorite one-liner from conference came from Elder Holland: "The crowning characterisitc of Love is Loyalty." That's something we can all apply, not only to God, but to the people around us; including ourselves. I'm reminded of the scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants that says that your joy will be full if you bring one soul to Christ. I find joy in bringing my own soul to Him. As for more souls, which will only bring more joy -- I'm working to find and teach them.
 
I'll end with a quote I got from Elder Levi Stannard. He said something to the affect of, "Share what you know, and eventually others will know that you know it!" His play on words and other things was more fantastic, but you get the idea. I know this gospel, this church, this priesthood and the Book of Mormon are true, otherwise I wouldn't have the incredible friends and family I have today. I love ya guys. Thanks for all the letters, packages, prayers and pumpkin bread. :3
 
-Elder Staib

Pictures

At the Memphis, Tennessee Temple with Elder Kowalk and His New Companion

Elder Boyer. Yes! He's in my District.

A Family in the Branch Has New Kittens

Monday, October 1, 2012

Staying In West Memphis

First of all, I'm staying another transfer. I'll be in West Memphis for another 6 weeks, which makes my entire potential stay here a whopping 7.5 months. I'm glad I get to stay here for things like General Conference, my birthday, Halloween and a couple other events. I share the same birthday as a young boy in the branch, who is turning 8 this year. Elder Kowalk and I taught him the missionary lessons, on request of his parents, so that'll be a fun birthday bash!

I have mixed feelings about staying. On one hand, things might finally turn around, people will settle and see the ways the gospel can bless their lives, and I get to get to have more laughs with the people I've come to know and love here. On the other hand, not much has changed in the branch ever since I got here, and it feels like I'll be staying in the more difficult areas for most of my mission.

Nevertheless, I don't know why God keeps me here, but I know He does it for His wise purposes.

In terms of who my new companion might be, I have it from a pretty good source that it will be a missionary that already served here... until he got hit by an old lady while riding his bike, and he got smashed up so bad that he had to stay home to recuperate for 9 months. At least, that's the rumor, so we'll see how that goes. He got injured about mid-October of last year, right before I got into the field. He returned 2 months ago.

Today was a good day spent at the temple, the first time that Elder Mortensen attended the Memphis temple since he got into the mission. I got to see Elder Gerber and Elder Smith before they left and wish them well. They've been awesome missionaries.

The Fall's gotten off to a good start. I ate chili (prepared by a member) and pumpkin bread (prepared by my mother~) for lunch the other day. It was the perfect start. NOW all I need is an argyle sweater vest, and I'll be set! Quickly talking about wardrobes, I went through my tie collection the other day, and counted 50 ties in my possession. Tie-collecting is a very big thing over here, and it's fun to have so many outlandish patterns, designs and images that can be found nowhere else.

Well, I'll let you guys know next week who my new companion is. OH. I do know one thing: Elder Boyer (my brother-in-law's cousin) is going to be in my district. YES.

-Elder Staib

Pictures


Sis. Justice and Carl, good friends from Wynne.


A tie I got from a friend. Uncle Chris, eat your heart out.

You should be able to see my name!

Monday, September 24, 2012

JT and Blake Are Doing Well

Well, well. Elder Staib here with another wonderful weekly update.

Even though this has been another droll week and I think people are avoiding us, that doesn't mean it was unsuccessful. We had a baptismal date fall through that we had with an older lady because one of her nephews or sons or something thought we were Jehovah's Witnesses and kicked us out. Things have been, however, been progressing smoothly for other individuals that I won't name for certain reasons.
 
Ah, specifics would be so handy right now... So what can I say instead? I will say, it is interesting how the Lord humbles people to appreciate what they have and the Spirit others carry by suddenly changing a small part of the person's usual environment. 
 
Of course, those same laws apply to me as well, and I've had similar experiences bring me closer to God's love and truth. I've felt a lot of love from the members of the branch and close friends lately, so much so that even though I would like to leave West Memphis as a change of pace, I will miss the friends I've made here. But work is work, and sometimes you have to work around friendships to get things done. I understand that if I leave, it will be for my benefit, and those friends will still be there for me.

Bro. Jones, the Young Men's President, is out of town for the next couple of weeks, so he's given Elder Mortenesen and I the responsibility of watching over the young men on Wednesdays and Sundays. I'm grateful for this chance since I haven't been interacting with J.T. a lot lately, and wanted the chance to do so. HE DID get to go to the temple for the first time this past week, though! That was awesome. He absolutely loved it. We went along to provide priesthood backup. 
 
On Sunday we taught the young men (all 3 of them, which is more than usual), and I got to hear J.T talk about how he wanted to convert to the gospel for himself, not just because his girlfriend was a member. Hearing him say that himself made me so happy. 
 
I also asked the Collierville sisters how Blake was doing a couple weeks ago. They kinda laughed and said that he was solid, without a doubt. I'll need to give him a call soon. With the baptisms I have under my belt, I'm so glad that both of these young men have remained faithful to the church and have good families beside them!

This week, we get to help the local library set up for a book sale (it's a community service thing), and maybe they'll let us set up our own stand to hand out BoMs. Elder Mortensen and I have also attempted and plan to attempt to extend our outreach more and do some more street contacting, since I'm uber shy and I'm not much of a fan of meeting strangers. 
 
As we were biking the other day, an older couple called us over and started asking about what other books of scripture we read from besides the Book of Mormon and the Bible. it turns out the man has several brothers that are leaders or have been leaders in the church, so they know a lot about the church already. We offered to come by their home, but they declined. However, we gave them our number and an offer to help them with whatever we can, which they seemed very eager about. It was a tender mercy to see their eager faces and answer to their curiosities.

I want to improve myself as a missionary. I feel that a change in area will bring that about, but I know that's the lazy answer. I've felt myself grow so much already, but I'm not where I'm supposed to be as a missionary. The mission has provided several opportunities for us to make the changes we need to have the Spirit more fully in our lives. I need to make the choice to act on my faith to follow through with these methods. That's all it takes...

I love you guys! Thanks for all the support I receive every week! Stay safe, and enjoy the autumn weather and sights!

-Elder Staib

Monday, September 17, 2012

Jacob

Hey there everyone.
 
Today got off to a wet start. We've finally gotten a nice rain, which was desperately needed. 
 
We'll be on bike week this upcoming week. Another week of nothing truly dynamite. I'm honestly not sure what to expound on or talk about at the moment. Doors haven't been opening, and some people we normally contact often have been difficult to get a hold of. Sometimes I think to myself that this name tag is more of a repellent than a magnet. I know I represent Christ, and he was rejected a bunch, but gee whiz... Yup, missionary work is hard. I'll say it again.
 
The good pick-up is having a good district. I love the missionaries I have around me. They're great guys, and work really well. I'm in the same district as the missionaries serving smack-dab in the middle of Memphis, as well as the suburbs around it. We get to hear all sorts of fun stories. Memphis has the second-highest crime rate in the country behind Detroit, after all. 
 
We get to go across the bridge and play basketball with the Memphis missionaries about every Monday. On top of having a good district, I've got a good zone. I'm glad I can still see Elder Kowalk every now and then since he's still in my zone. He's going to be a trainer next transfer! This'll be his second time. As for me, I don't know if I'll be staying in West Memphis next transfer. Not that I'm doubtful, I just have no clue what this next transfer will be like.
 
I'm still growing spiritually! I'm turning into Jacob, with a faith unshaken. I know the church is true, but the problem is letting others know it's true, and having them know it themselves! 
 
Well, that's about all I've had on my mind for today. I'll catch ya'll next week!
 
-Elder Staib

Monday, September 10, 2012

Learning

Another week, more learning.

The recent convert's mother that Elder Kowalk and I were teaching a couple months ago, and eventually Elder Smith was teaching as well, is getting her family together as often as she
can for scripture study. Now THAT'S a miracle, and we're so happy for her. She knows it's true. We know she knows it. We're so happy she's brought this choice into her life to study these words for herself, and make her family the center of it. We read with her the other day, and she loved what we read (Mosiah 4, it's a good one for talking about how to have a good home). As we left, she asked us for more scriptures for her to read later. She's not just nibbling at this. She's feasting. We're excited. So yeah, there's my dynamite experience for the week.

It's really hard to find something else new to talk about nowadays because no one seems to be progressing. Not that we aren't spending time with them, but no one is closer to baptism or anything like that. I guess today I can focus on what I've learned in my studies.

There's a quote from a general authority towards the back of Preach my Gospel that encourages missionaries to read fom the Book of Mormon and New Testament in the morning. I finished the Book of Mormon, and go back to study particular chapters every so often, but my project that
I've been tackling lately is reading and completing the New Testament. This is my first time I've read through it from front to back. I can't believe how much easier it's made my mission to help teach the people that eat, drink and live New Testament scripture around here. I shoulda realized this before, but it's been a blessing to understand all the passages of the New Testament so plainly with the Holy Ghost as my guide.

I recently finished 2 Corinthians. The first 4 Gospels are a breeze to get through, and Acts totally backs up the structure and procedures of the church, but the Pauline letters are a struggle. Paul has the most difficult writing voice ever. No wonder there are so many different religions. I can't wait until I get to Peter and James and all them. That's not to say I don't get anything out of Paul's writings, though. I once backed up all sorts of doctrine strictly from 1 Corinthians, because that was fresh in my mind. Luckily, my companion backed THOSE up with Book of Mormon scriptures, so that was cool. It reminds me of Moroni's words,

9 For behold, this is written for the intent that ye may believe that;
and if ye believe that ye will believe this also; and if ye believe
this ye will know concerning your fathers, and also the marvelous
works which were wrought by the power of God among them.

I think we proved it all true in that lesson, and we'll continue to do it. I'll go back to talking about Acts. I don't know how more simple in the Gospel you can get to understanding certain ordinances and gifts of the Spirit after reading Acts. Laying on of hands is referenced at least 5 times; to give the gift of the Holy Ghost, to heal others, and to set people apart to serve in different areas. Apostles went around and had authority to set straight the doctrines that people were already messing up.

I also don't understand how people can accept closed-canon scripture (i.e. The Bible is the Bible, and that's all the scripture we'll get). Studying the New Testament has totally built my faith in continuous revelation. Satan is a real guy, making folks read silly things from the Bible. I don't get it.

I guess the events of this past week can be summarized with a scripture from Jacob (my favorite book in the Book of Mormon :D ).

5 And he had hope to shake me from the faith, notwithstanding the many
revelations and the many things which I had seen concerning these
things; for I truly had seen angels, and they had ministered unto me.
And also, I had heard the voice of the Lord speaking unto me in very
word, from time to time; wherefore, I could not be shaken.

People have been trying to shake me of my faith. This has only made me study more about the particular doctrine they're unsure about. Satan tries to get me down, but I flip it around and take the opportunity to solidify that belief.

And I mean "flip around". I've drawn out a diagram of the Plan of Salvation and written scriptures next to every single step in the plan. My studies can get intense.

Of course, I'm still a missionary, and I need to help others come to Christ, make covenants and go to the temple. As I look for the soul that is ready to make commitments and changes, I'll strengthen my
knowledge, both in the simple and complex aspects of the Gospel, so that I can be prepared for whatever comes my way. West Memphis has been a very difficult area for me, both as a missionary and as Matthew Staib. But I can't let a town I'm a stranger to bring me down. I have to be the light set on a hill, a Christ-like example.

Well, my sister got married on Thursday, so that's all sorts of weird, but congrats to her! Alex Newey is leaving on his mission soon, so good luck to ya! I haven't heard from Stephen or Micah for a bit, so
get on that! Tyler Haws is back home, so GO COUGARS! I hear we're 2-0 so far for football. GOOD. :3

Well, I love you all. Thank you for your prayers and letters. We're spending our P-Day with 3 other companionships, I think, so we'll have a good day ahead of us, as well. I'm still pushing along! ONLY A MONTH AWAY FROM A YEAR. Freaky. I was thinking today, 'Man, Jordan Bingham hit a year a couple months ago...' Blows my mind! I haven't heard from him for a bit, either. I'll send him a letter.

Anyway, good luck with schooling, whoever is in school, and have a good week!

ONE MORE THOUGHT IT'S FINALLY COOLING DOWN I'M SO HAPPY.

-Elder Staib

Monday, September 3, 2012

We Survived Hurricane Isaac


Hey there peoples.
 
This past week, Hurricane Isaac swept through Louisiana and crawled up into Arkansas. It was a tropical depression by the time it got to West Memphis. 

We didn't get hit too bad. There were some thunderstorms that blew in and lasted an hour or two, forcing us to return to our apartment a bit early. We were on bike week this week, so we didn't have much of a choice. The coolest sight came from the storms last night. A low row of sweeping clouds were rolling along, while mountains of cumulonimbus clouds loomed directly above us. Silent lightning jumped between the gaps in the mountainous clouds, making incredible glows and arches of light. The majesty of God's creations at its finest. We're safe from the storms. Apparently, an area of the mission in northern Mississippi got hit with a tornado, but it didn't get too close to the missionaries there.
 
Strangely, we didn't have church yesterday. At all. When the counselors got to the church building, they found that the electricity and air conditioning were out, probably from the lightning storm the previous night. They called as many branch members as they could and cancelled church. First time that's ever happened to me. We just went home and studied for a few hours.
 
We're teaching a good part-member family -- well, a couple good part-member families -- and we're so happy for them since their new job schedule lets them come to church every week. We also helped another part-member family move this past week. Their new home compared to their old apartment is such a change. My jaw dropped when I entered it the first time. They're quadrupling their living space, which is awesome. They need it. Service. That's how Ammon got in with King Lamoni, right?
 
I've got a good district, a good companion, a good branch and a good mission. All we need are many new, good investigators! I understand that West Memphis is a more difficult area. Collierville was, as well. I'm truckin' along, doing the best with what I've got. 

I suspect I'll be here for a while. Just a hunch. That wouldn't be too bad because I share a birthday with a kid here that'll be turning 8! Elder Kowalk and I taught him the missionary lessons on his parent's request, so that was a fun experience. Plus, it'd be a bummer to get to a new area right before my birthday. Hey, and after this transfer, I will only be a week from hitting a year! CRAZY.
 
Anywho, I gotta get going. We've been invited to a Labor Day party with our branch mission leader. I expect good barbeque and some redneck horsin' 'round. I'll most likely have pictures. Talk to ya'll next week!
 
-Elder Staib

Monday, August 27, 2012

Welcome Elder Mortenson


This past week has been showing Elder Mortensen around West Memphis. We're gonna really work on getting new investigators this next week, especially since it's bike week. A hurricane in the Gulf is said to make the next week pretty wet, so we'll see what happens.

Elder Mortensen is from northern Utah, near a small town called Hyrum. He loves snowmobiling and shooting. He worked at the This Is The Place monument as a maintenance guy, and knows how to handle horses and other such awesome things. We're quite the opposite of each other, but I know it'll be a good transfer.

Right now, at the top of our investigator list is a young family that's engaged to be married in September, or maybe October. In the near future, anyway. The man is a lyricist for a company in Memphis and the woman is going to cosmetology school. They're very friendly, and the lyricist even gave Elder Smith and me one of his songs right before Elder Smith left. He focuses his music on being uplifting and positive, as well as clean and Godly. He's had several incredible experiences in his life that turned him into a great Christian after having a hard life. It's tough to get an appointment with them, but we're working on it.

Well, I kinda got on the comptuers late, and I have to go. Hope ya'll have a good week! Good luck with school!

-Elder Staib

Photos

Saying goodbye to Elder Jarvis. He went home this past transfer.

Also saying goodbye to Elder Smith...

...and hello, Elder Mortensen!

I love my hot chocolate~!

We played some games at Zone Conference a couple weeks ago. The
winners got a yogurt-covered raisin!

Monday, August 20, 2012

I'm Getting a New Companion

Dear Everyone,

First off, Elder Smith is being transferred for the last 6 weeks of his mission, which means I'll be staying in West Memphis for a bit longer. At this rate, I will have been here for at least 6 months altogether. I never would've thought!

We said our final goodbyes to a wonderful family in the branch, the Houstons, on Sunday. They were incredible friends and had great kids. Bradley, who turned 13 last month, was a great help in the work, and it was fun to let him help teach us. One fun story I remember from that family is this: A lot of the time in Priesthood quorum, Elder Kowalk would let the electric piano play a preset hymn, and I would conduct the music. So I've been the go-to guy for leading music.

Elder Kowalk and I went to Bradley's 13th birthday party. As we gathered around Bradley with the lit cake to start singing, he said, "Can you lead the music, Elder Staib?" That was a highlight of the mission. I didn't lead, but the invitation was hilarious. Afterwards, we played foosball in the garage. Kowalk and I made a dynamite team!

Anyway, I'll miss that family very much. They're going up to Maine. The whole branch is devastated from the loss.

This past weekend, I was privileged to hear from two members of the Seventy: Elder Marcus B. Nash of the First Quorum of the Seventy and Elder Fred A. Parker of the Sixth Quorum of the Seventy. We heard from Elder Nash at the stake center in Memphis with a bunch of other missionaries on Saturday morning. The room we all occupied, with that man standing in the front to speak to us, felt like the temple.

He came with some material, but opened up the meeting by letting us ask questions. One elder asked a great question which we spent most of our time on, but I learned so many great and uplifting things from the meeting. One cool thing he said was, "I know that you attended an MTC before you came to this earth", as talked about in D&C 138: 56. I got to shake his hand and give him a hug. I guess that's one advantage Elders have over Sisters. We get to give General Authorities hugs!

Elder Parker was an interesting man. He was full of love and power. Unfortunately, the first two talks given during sacrament meeting left Elder Parker with 10 minutes to speak before the meeting closed, but we got to hear from him some more in the third hour with the Priesthood and Relief Society.

Again, he came prepared with some material, but he was impressed to go somewhere else. Instead, he talked about how we can strengthen the Spirit's presence in our homes, and how our homes need to be a place of refuge from the world, no matter who enters it. Then he left everyone with a challenge to go home, call up a family member, tell them "Thank you", "I love you", "I forgive you", and then bear testimony.

I heard from some good men the past couple of days, ones that are completely open to any revelation they receive. It was great to see that.

Let's see, the work... Some people have been getting blessings, others have had trials pop up. Nothing new has happened, really. The school year started today, so that's awesome. People are finally getting into a groove! It seems like anything Elder Smith and I have tried building up this entire transfer has just toppled down again. I hope he doesn't see this transfer as a failure. I certainly don't. Even if the area hasn't changed much, I know we have. And that's progress.

No pictures this week, so I'll try hard to get a chance to put some up next week. Elder Smith and I got to go to the temple this morning with departing missionaries. One of those missionaries was Elder Jarvis, who I got stuck in a tri-panionship with when Elder Warren left. Yeah, he gets on the plane tomorrow. He hit 18 MONTHS when I was with Warren. I'm pretty sure time is a thing that likes to speed up every once in a while. Heck, after this transfer, I'll be a week away from hitting A YEAR. Yup. Halfway point comin' up. I'm not sure what to think. I gotta be ready to burn a shirt, I guess.

I love you guys. I'm praying for every one of you, and I'm grateful for the support I've received. I'll let you know who my new comp is next week. There aren't too many missionaries in circulation for this transfer, and the ones that are floating around are pretty awesome, so I'm excited! Talk to you guys next week!

-Elder Staib

Oh, we also got to watch Pres. Monson's 85th birthday celebration, which was INCREDIBLE. Most awesome thing ever.

Monday, August 13, 2012

"I'll go where God wants me to go."


Another bike week gone by. We got blessed a lot last week, but no one's been following up. I've learned, though, that sometimes hardships aren't connected with diligence. They're just hardships for us to grow. This has been a week of hardships, but I've been growing.

I'm going to quote something I wrote in my journal on August 10:

"I really love this church, to the point where I'm sad if someone ignorantly blows it off. 

"We talked to a man the other night that didn't even know what we believed or how our church functioned, but he still insisted that we missionaries were being conned into giving the church money so that the Prophet could get a check under the table. Satan is so quick to grasp hearts! 

"This man's heart was so hard that I just wanted to bike away, not even letting him continue to flap his gums about he church he only just found out about. To him, money was more important than serving God. We could have bought cars and such with our money, but we instead decided to come to Arkansas to preach the restored gospel for 2 years of our lives. 

"I'm not out here because a group of men told me to serve; I'm here because God called me to serve. I know I'm nothing special or fantastic. I'm shy, small in stature, and even make inappropriate comments at times. But I follwed God's commands because He wants me to learn and become something that only this experience can bring me to be. I'm exercising faith 100% every day becasue of my love for this divine plan God has for me. I don't want to go home, even when I feel rejected here. I don't want to give in to the discouragement I [feel]....I want to overcome all of it, through the grace of Christ, so that I can become what my Father in Heaven, and my family, and my future family want me to be. 

"I won't falter. I won't break. I won't give in, and I won't give up. Even if I'm just a bastion to be bombarded for the rest of my mission, I'll do it. Even if Satan leads away the hearts of those I love, I'll stay. I need this mission. And there are people here and back home that need me. I'm doing the best with what I have, and that's all that God asks."

None of our contacts have been following up, so that's been a bummer. Next week, though, a Seventy is coming to our little branch to speak. We're excited! His name is Elder...Parker? We also get to watch President Monson's 85th birthday celebration. AND we get our car this week. So things are looking up!

This is the last week of the transfer. I honestly have no idea if I will be moved, or if Elder Smith will be. Either way, I'll go where God wants me to go.

-Elder Staib

Monday, August 6, 2012

We Got a Lot of Referrals


Hey everybody.

Not too much to say about this week. Elder Smith and I got a lot of referrals. We've only taught a lesson to each of the ones who are interested, so I can't say much about how the people are going, but we have a few prospects that are looking good. 

Summer is thankfully winding down, so people will finally go back to their normal lives. Man, only two weeks left in the transfer... This one has been going by pretty fast. We're also on bikes again this week, so we have that to look forward to.

I've been hit with distressing information and depressing attitudes lately, so please keep me in your prayers, that I'll have the strength to continue sharing happiness with those around me. One thing that's helped me find a new strength in myself is a talk my sister Kristen gave me before I came out. It's titled, "You Know Enough", given by Elder Neil L. Andersen in the 2008 October Conference. It's a good one, and I'm grateful that I read it when I did.

Continue to enjoy the summer, and good luck with starting school, everyone! School here starts August 20. Crazy.

-Elder Staib

Photos





Monday, July 30, 2012

Cleaning Up the Area Book


Happy late Pioneer Day, everyone! Elder Smith and I had a pretty interesting week this week. Ok, maybe the whole week wasn't interesting, but there are a couple things I'd like to highlight.

When we got our car on Tuesday, it didn't have many miles left on it for us to use, so we've had to ration out driving and biking. Unfortunately, Elder Smith's tire popped on Friday, so that further pushed our traveling efforts back. 

Over this past week, we've been attempting to contact former investigators that were in our area book. There hasn't been much success yet. People like to move around here, apparently. But it's good to clear up the area book, only so we can fill it up again.

Over this past week, I've really gotten close to two good friends that I have in West Memphis: Gene and Kattie. Gene's been investigating since last June, and Kattie was baptized in February. Not only have I seen them grow in the few months I've been here, but I've seen that the trials I've been experiencing have helped them conquer their own hardships. 

On Saturday, Gene drove us to a state park for the branch's Pioneer Day party. Elder Smith and I competed in a three-legged race, and miraculously won. Later that evening, Gene drove us and Kattie to attend a large baptismal service being held in Memphis. Elder Smith and I had personally given the Memphis missionaries advice Tuesday on how to make baptismal services more spiritual and memorable. We attended the baptism to see how our words might have brought change, compared to a very small baptism we had seen a couple weeks before in the same building. There had only been a handful of people that saw the young man baptized, and the talks were geared towards what came hereafter. 

What a change this time around! There were enough visitors to fill up half the chapel, and the talks made those getting baptized feel the blessing of what was going on. Of course, the attendance was attributed to the people being baptized. Ten people were baptized in that service.

As we were returning home, Gene treated us to a good dinner, and the four of us grew together in friendship. I might be on a mission, but that doesn't mean I need to be alone with my companion. Friends need to be found wherever you go, and they'll help you through the things that are near unbearable. Of course, the ultimate Friend we can rely on is Christ, but even Christ can be seen through others. I'm grateful for their presence in my life and the strength they've been to me.

This week will be referral-seeking and contacting. We'll be working to fill the area book back up, and getting to work. Keep us in your prayers, and we'll continue to bring others to the gospel.

OH! We also taught both the second AND third hours in church yesterday. We taught the third hour to the Priesthood and Relief Society about missionary work, and I felt the Spirit with me. It was a great experience. Anyway, I'll talk to you guys next week! Be safe! Love you, everyone!

-Elder Staib