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, April 30, 2012

West Memphis

This past week.... I'll be honest, I'm in a slump. Some people's mentality is the hardest thing for me to combat. It goes against so many of my personal philosophies to the point that I can't seem to connect with anyone. Collierville was mostly a Tennesse city overrun with Westerners, but here in West Memphis is different. It's been a challenge. They keep making commitments they don't keep. We missionaries get so hyped up over nothing ALL THE TIME. Everyone is too dang comfortable minding their own business.

Regardless of all these disappointments, we move on. We just keep visiting people and showing our love for them. Whether it will work in the long run or not, we don't know; perhaps we'll never know. Nothing has changed in the hearts of the people this past week. They're the same 7 days ago as they are today. God hasn't forgotten about us, though. Yesterday, we had a member bring her friend to church for the first time, and a man and a woman that recently moved from San Diego suddenly approached us before church began. It seems like the man is nearly ready for baptism, according to the woman. I'll have more details as I get to know these two people more.

Our mission has been given a new program for working with the members, called the "Missionary Toolbox". It's a step-by-step guide on how each auxiliary in the ward should help the missionaries with the work. Hopefully we can start applying it to this branch. They want to become a ward, but they aren't ready yet. We gotta shake things up here in West Memphis. We need God to help us do it.

-Elder Staib

Monday, April 23, 2012

Go? Stay? Go?

Hey guys.

As you probably already know, I was transferred after all. I was called in the morning saying I WAS being transferred, and then I was texted ten minutes later saying I WASN'T, and then while I was having dinner, they called AGAIN to say I WAS being transferred. SO FRUSTRATING. Of all the missionaries I talked to, nothing like this has ever happened before. 

My predictions were right. I saw miracles in Collierville, then got swept away from everything there. I made another prediction before transfers, too. I was going to be called to serve on the other side of the river (i.e., Arkansas). At transfer meeting, I was so dead set on being called on the list of people going to the other side that I almost didn't stand up when they called my name early in the meeting. 

"Elder Staib," President called, as I lifted my head and stood up as fast as I could in the midst of suits and ties, "will be serving with Elder Kowalk in the West Memphis area." 

Elder Kowalk and I gave each other a hug and sat down, but one word kept ringing through my head: Memphis. This was honestly the last place I wanted to serve, especially after the mugging that happened a month ago. I didn't want to be near such a harsh place, especially when you contrast it to a paradise like Collierville. 

At the end of the meeting, I turned to Elder Kowalk and finally asked, "West Memphis is...where again?" 

"It's just past the bridge over the Mississippi," he smiled. 

Our area borders the west side of the Mississippi. I was called to serve on the other side of the river after all. So here I am, in West Memphis, ARKANSAS.

Elder Kowalk said this place is a mix: part redneck, part ghetto, and some regular suburbs mixed in. And that pretty much summed it all up. There are a couple nice suburbs in the heart of West Memphis, but everything else outside of that is something else. There is a huge trailer park called Lakeshore, and you'll probably hear me talk about that a bit while I'm here. 

The biggest difference here, though, is that I'm working with a branch. We've got a consistent 50 people coming to church, I think is what Elder Kowalk told me. I've never been in a branch building before. I first saw it my first night here. It felt like a large seminary building (like the one I first attended at Timberline Middle School) with a chapel in the middle. Totally different from what I'm used to.

Elder Kowalk is a great guy. We get along well; as well as any other companion I've been with. He's glad that I'm a "chill" guy. He's from South Jordan, Utah. Imagine everyone's surprise when they found out I was from Utah as well. We get a lot of missionaries from the western states to serve in the South, is all.

Now onto the story of the week. Elder Kowalk woke up Thursday morning and had some stomach pains. He called the mission doctor, and after several more calls around and some resting, the doctor said that he should probably go to the emergency room. The symptoms seemed similar to appendicitis. The local surgeons weren't in town, so we chose to go to the Med in downtown Memphis. That's where the trouble began. 

It took about 30 minutes for Kowalk to be admitted, and then another 20 minutes for me to finally go in and see if he could have visitors. I walked in and sat next to him in our curtained-off room while we heard the mutterings of several crazy folk littering the ER as well. It seemed like we arrived at the peak of nut hour. We were probably the only white guys in there, too. It's not racist; it's fact. Kowalk and I were laughing about our situation the whole time we were there in a "what have we gotten ourselves into" kinda way. 

Here's all that happened: We got in, they gave Elder Kowalk some morphine to ease the pain, he got a CAT scan to see if there was appendicitis, surgeons came in to tell him he only had a stomach virus, and we left the hospital. Not much really happened. Unfortunately, the whole ordeal took 17 hours. We were admitted at 4:30 Thursday afternoon, and left at 9:30 Friday morning. Even President Petersen drove all the way out from his home in Little Rock at 11 at night to see how Elder Kowalk was doing. President didn't get back home until 3 am. Kowalk slept on his bad, strapped to who knows how many wires, and I was curled up on two fold-out chairs and leaned against the brick wall for a pillow. It was a horrible experience, but we're still laughing about it.

West Memphis will be a good area for me. The members love the missionaries. There are many things to work on within the branch (I almost typed "ward"... I gotta learn not to do that), but Elder Kowalk and I both feel good about this transfer. This past week was Stake Conference -- a very GOOD Stake Conference -- so I haven't met the whole branch yet. There are 50 regular members, but there are about 300 names on the member roll. We'll work on that. 

Oh yeah. One guy was telling us about a list of "America's Most Dangerous Cities" that are numbered based on a crime/population ratio. West Memphis ranks at #3, while Memphis ranks at #19. Just thought that was a fun bit of knowledge.

Alex, congrats on your call to Brazil! And Jared, same with your call to Nicaragua! Levi, your letter may be in Collierville right now, but I'll get it on Thursday! 

I learn something new every day, and my spirit has also been growing just as much. I'm so glad I can serve a mission, but I'm also excited to take all the things I've learned back home with me. I can't think too hard about that yet, though. Anyway. Long email. I love you guys! Talk to you next week!

-Elder Staib


Saying good bye to Elder Faleao.

Elder Faleao, me, and our good friend and recent convert, Zach.

Meeting my new companion, Elder Kowalk (why are they all taller than me!?)

Elder Kowalk in the ER.

Elder Kowalk has this tradition that for no reason at all, we dress in Christmas attire and watch Mr. Krueger's Christmas. It was a very comfy evening as we ate pizza and chocolate-covered almonds.

Going over the Mississippi River into Arkansas!

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Great Week in Collierville!


This week was... gosh....gimme a chance to reflect on it all...

First I'd like to say I'm so excited for JARED, ALEX and NOW LEVI to serve missions! I have yet to receive any mail from Alex or Levi, but my dad said Levi had sent one in recently, so I'm excited to get that. ALEX, GET WITH THE PROGRAM, MAN! (Watch, I'll get your letter today and feel like a jerk.) But this is awesome. So awesome. Jared, you'll get a letter soon. I'd hate for you to get into the MTC without some hand-written letter from me. Oh, and guys, be sure to take the letters from me on your missions. It's nice to go back and read letters every once in a while. I've got a box filling with them, all the way back to all the Dear Elders I got in the MTC. Gee, on that note, I gotta send something to Jordan soon, too...

Back to the ALRM. This week was... one of the most miraculous ever, and it really ignited my hopes for Collierville. Of course, with all these cool things going around, it sparked a premonition that I would be transferred soon. After all, this week is transfer week, and I know the way things work sometimes. That's the vibe I was getting from this past week. Too much good happened in Collierville for me to stay. But I'll touch on "me staying" in a moment.

Ok, I need to simplify some terms for you guys. There are so many vague descriptions of people going around -- Donkey Lady, Ashland people, former Arizonans -- that I just need to give names to people or something. My dad says that using real names could offend some people, so I need to abbreviate somehow. Ok...In this story, I will be talking about the daughter of the family that had moved from Arizona recently -- the same person who came to the morning session of general conference. Her name from now on will be KD.

We had told KD before about the Institute program, and she had even reminded US about it a couple days before. She was excited to say that she would get off work at 7, the same time Institute started. It was only a 20 minute drive to the church building, and YSA events usually start late anyway. We met up with KD on Tuesday night after work and escorted her to the church building. The class was learning about Isaiah that night.

She wasn't very interactive, but it was more of a "deer in the headlights" effect than a disinterest. The truly amazing events happened after the lesson was over. Several girls came over and quickly became friends with KD. There were donuts after the lesson, and KD was able to mingle and laugh with other girls for at least 20 minutes (The YSA guys don't mingle with girls well. Typical). We walked her back out to the car, and talked about her experience. SHE LOVED IT. Her big concern when she came to church about a month and a half ago was that there weren't any people her age there. Institute solved that concern quickly. She anxiously told us her Tuesday schedule, and she'll be attending Institute again this week.

She told us the situation with her family, and why they kinda cut us off. Her dad got a new job and the mom is concerned about joining the church because of disapproval that might come from extended family. I told KD, flat out, that she was the one that would bring her family to the church. She understood. She knows this church is wonderful.We want her to be baptized so bad, but she wants to come in with family. We'll keep working with them.

Now onto the Donkey Lady that had been offended a while ago. She'll be called Sis. S. I was on exchanges with Elder Hardy in Walnut Grove on Friday, but Elder Faleao and Elder Schroeder (pronounced "shrader") went up to see Sis. S and see how she was doing. She had a very warm conversation with them. She was still upset about the member and what he had said, but all she asked was not to have that member come to her house. Missionaries were ok to teach her again. Such a relief... We'll try to see her Thursday.

We had a very good lesson about the Sabbath Day with the less-active family from Ashland. The main head of the family, whom we'll call Cici, is our main connection down there. We're teaching her friend, who's a Baptist, and Cici's 9-year-old grandson. We committed them all to come to church this Sunday, including Cici's two daughters. Cici and her daughter came to church, to our great relief. Unfortunately, the other daughter got really sick the night before, so neither she nor her son that we were teaching could make it to church. Cici's friend didn't come, either. But Cici and her other daughter came, and that was a huge step in and of itself.

This morning, I was called by Elder Ivens, the AP, and was told that I was going to be transferred. I began planning out the long process of packing, and thinking of how to say goodbye to so many people. And then an unexpected text came. I'll copy it word for word for you guys: "Elder Staib you are actually going to stay another Transfer! Just talked with President. Love you Elder :) <Elder Ivens>"

So I'll be in Collierville for yet another 6 weeks. I will have spent over a quarter of my mission in Collierville, at this rate (including the MTC, which kinda messes up the whole time table anyway). This past week, on April 12, I burned my tie as a ceremonial passing through the 6-month gateway. I've been on my mission 6 months already. That's crazy. It really is.

- Elder Staib

[We received word this afternoon that Elder Staib is being transferred after all. No word yet on where he will be sent. -- Dad]


1) From left to right, top then bottom row: Elder Staib and Elder Faleao (Collierville); Elder Anderson (Southaven); Elder Schroeder (Walnut Grove); Elder Leavitt (Southaven); Elder Hardy (Walnut Grove); Sister Clark and Sister Maughn (Olive Branch)
2) The distance and time it take to drive home.
3) My tie, postmortem. It was a teal tie that had been shredded in the washer. Now it's a big gray blob, because polyester melts, I guess.


Monday, April 9, 2012


Hey everybody!

First off, there are some awesome things going around back home. JARED BUTLER and ALEX NEWEY have received their mission calls (I have yet to hear where Alex is going), and LEVI STANNARD has his papers in! Levi, I'm so happy for you! I remember a year ago, you were still preparing, and now you're here! For all you guys, and other potential missionaries, just know that no matter where you're called, God has someone prepared for you. I've already met a couple people who have been prepared for me. Not only that, but your first convert is going to be yourself.

The weather is heating up. Uncomfortably. We have not hit spring yet. It's straight into summer. And it'll only be worse. Luckily, we get the car this week. WITH FULL MILES.

On Tuesday, we helped the Walnut Grove missionaries move a part-member family from New Jersey into their new home. As we got closer to the back of the truck, I started picking up comic books that had fallen out of boxes. The back of the truck was pretty messy from the long trip they had made. There were a lot of comic books. We started to stack boxes of comic books in the garage, and the stack kept getting bigger and bigger. In the end, we probably unloaded over 100 boxes of Spiderman, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Batman and other comic series. It was a huge collection, and he even had boxes that he hadn't read yet. He has a long time of organizing ahead of him. The two hired unloaders would not have been able to do the job very fast themselves if it wasn't for us four missionaries. It was fun!

On Saturday, we helped an elderly woman in the ward with some yard work, which was also an enjoyable time. I realized that it was way fun to do service for other people, but doing chores around your own house is pretty much the opposite. I felt like I had to say that so my parents couldn't say, "Hey, you enjoy chores now! Do ours!" Nope. Others' chores. But I'll try to work out of that mentality, anyway. Chores are better when you've got friends, which is what has made chores out here fun, I think.

Easter was awesome. There were many fantastic talks given. The church was full in both wards, mostly because of the out-of-town visitors that were coming to visit families. Lemme paraphrase something I wrote in my journal: "We celebrate the day Jesus was resurrected so that all of us can live past death. Because of Him, we get to have our bodies forever, and we can live to see Heavenly Father again if we repent, obey the commandments, and receive saving ordinances. The word 'gospel' means 'good news'. I love the good news Jesus Christ has given us. It really is good news! It makes me happy, and gives me an undying hope in the future, as long as I can remember how much the gospel has blessed my life. It's the news that we can live forever. It's the news that we can be happy forever. It's the news that God loves us, and wants us to be happy." Another cool thing I heard this past Sunday was this story: A girl asked her mom once why our church doesn't have crosses. The mother replied, "Because we remember His resurrection, not his death." I learned from that small experience.

Hope you guys had a good Easter! This week, we get to take an investigator to Institute for her first time. We're very excited for her! I love you guys! Thanks for your letters and prayers!

-Elder Staib


Monday, April 2, 2012

Great Conference Weekend

Hey everyone.

Conference was incredible. I received so much personal revelation, and there were many great messages! I wrote as much as I could in my journal about what I learned on the priesthood and families. Particularly, Elder Eyring's talk from the Priesthood session really hit me. He said something to the effect of "Every step we take in the gospel leads to eternal families." It really made me think of what a blessing it is to be born into this church, and to have a righteous family that attends church and prays every night.

It also made me so excited to have my own family; to bring to Earth God's children and raise them in the gospel. It's such a big blessing, straight from the get-go. I learned from a member one of the first weeks I came to Collierville that this is one of the largest blessings we can receive in this Earth life -- being born in the gospel. I'm eternally grateful for this gift, and I can't wait to share it with my progeny.

This last week was very frustrating. The Walnut Grove Elders had spent all of our car miles, and by the time we got back home from district meeting on Tuesday, we were 4 miles over our monthly limit. We basically hit another bike week. We're gonna have to talk to them about that. Also, the weather decided to skip spring, punch it in the face as it passed, and move on to summer. The weather has been consistently in  the 80s. It hit 90 yesterday! I'm not ready for this heat!

A couple ups and downs: Earlier this week I called a lady we had been teaching and asked when we could see her again. Something said to her husband by the member that we brought with us to visit them offended her greatly, and she doesn't want us to call for another few weeks. I was really distraught to hear this. She was smoothly going along, and then...poof. Gone. I hope the time can help heal wounds, and that the member will be willing to apologize to her. On the flip side, though, I received a text during the Saturday morning conference from the daughter of the family we taught that had moved from out of state. I was so excited to finally hear from her, and she was able to come to the Sunday morning session of conference! The reason we can't meet with her family often is because of HER work schedule, so we're going to be able to coordinate that a lot smoother now. That sure lit up my week.

Well, keep safe, everyone! Enjoy the spring weather, and I'll try to keep hydrated here. Sorry, not too many pictures this week. I momentarily lost my SD card. This keychain, though, came from a less-active member that said just "gets stuff". It reads, "Shelby County, Memphis, Tennessee" and has the county crest. Great memory for my first (and only) area, huh? : ) Also, read that street sign closely. First person who can pronounce it gets a dollar.

-Elder Staib