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!