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, 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

Monday, July 23, 2012

I'm Happy

This week was bike week. Probably the worst time to have a bike week, given that it rained in the mornings or the afternoons, making the air intensly humid. On a couple days, mist crawled across the concrete from the evaporating puddles.

On the hottest day of the week, Wednesday, the heat index peaked at 115 degrees. I had the brilliant idea of doing yard work for a woman that lives by herself and isn't in the best health. We pulled in a friend with us, Gene, and got to work. I've never sweat so much in my life. My forehead was dripping, and it makes me tear up to think of the sweat that fell into my eyes, and stung. I experienced true Southern heat as I pushed the lawnmower.

But I smiled the whole time I was there.

We had a zone meeting this week. President Petersen told of a story about a man who visited another stake for stake conference. As the man introduced himself to the stake president, he asked, "How are you?" 

"I'm happy," the stake president responded. 

The man later noticed that every time the stake president was asked how he was doing, he always shared that same response. 

"I'm happy." 

The man finally asked the stake president why he was so happy. The stake president then relayed this story. (To make things easier, I'll give the stake president the name of Jim Johnson.)

Jim Johnson decided to go on a mission, but after his few weeks in the MTC and getting settled into his new apartment in the mission field, he wanted to go home. He asked the mission president over and over again, for days and weeks, to let him go home. The mission president kept giving the same response, saying that he just needed to read and pray about it. 

Nothing changed. Elder Johnson still kept asking to go home. Finally, the mission president said, "Ok, Elder, you can go home." Elder Johnson quickly packed his things, threw them into the back of president's car, and drove off. That was that. He was going home.

Elder Johnson kept talking excitedly about the things he was going to do when he got home, and thanked president for finally listening to him. 

"Oh no, Elder, you're not going back to your home. You're going to the mission home!" 

The Elder didn't want that! He wanted HIS home! The mission president said that Elder Johnson had to meet someone: the mission president's wife. 

As they pulled up and got out of the car, the mission president's wife asked, "Hello Elder, how are you?" 

"I'm miserable and I wanna go home." 

"Wrong answer. You're supposed to say, I'm happy. Now, let's try again. How are you Elder?" 

"I'm miserable and I wanna go home." 

This happened four times before he finally said, "Ok. I'm happy." 


As they passed in the halls of the mission home, the mission president's wife would always ask, "How are you?" 

And Elder Johnson would always say, "I'm miserable and I wanna go home." 

After a couple weeks, he decided to throw her for a loop and respond correctly. "I'm happy." 

"Glad to hear it!"

One day, the Elder kept on pestering the mission president that he wanted to go home. The wife finally called Elder Johnson into the dining room to have a talk. Over the course of that talk, the mission president's wife told Elder Johnson how he'd been blessed to know the gospel, that he had a wonderful family that loved him, and Christ's message is one that blesses the lives of countless people. 

Finally, at the end of their discussion, the mission president's wife asked, "How are you, Elder?" 

Through his tears, Elder Johnson replied, "I'm happy."

He went on to serve the full two years, and had a successful mission.

This past week, I've gotten letters from Levi, Micah, Mom, Dad, Uncle Rus and Aunt Marcia. I realized how many people could be reading this blog each week; how many people are watching me grow and work. I don't know how many are there, but I feel a lot of love from each of them. 

I'm grateful for all my friends and family. I'm grateful for the work I get to do. I might not see the results now, but they'll come as I continue at it. I'm grateful for this past bike week. It was hard, but I endured it. I think I even lost some stomach flub, which would be awesome! I'm thankful for my companion, for pushing me to work harder. I'm thankful for my mission president, who pushes our mission to be better always. 

I'm grateful for prayer, and that I can go to my Heavenly Father whenever I can.

The recent convert's mother wants to wait a bit before being baptized, and the uncle has apparently converted to being a baptist. We had one investigator at church on Sunday. We're praying for people to see the light. We're praying that people will understand that our church is the only church with the Holy Ghost there to bring the peace they love.

But no matter where they stand in life, I still love them.

I'm happy.

-Elder Staib

Monday, July 16, 2012

Agency is a part of God's Plan

This week has been incredibly difficult. My faith has been tried and my spirits lowered. A few of our investigators are backing off. This has probably been the hardest week of my mission. People I love very much are destroying their own souls and ignoring the feelings of the Holy Ghost, and it breaks my heart to see it. I know that when someone won't listen to us, they/re actually rejecting Christ, but I can't help but feel I'm not doing enough on my part as a missionary. Still, agency is part of God's plan, and I have no power over that. I've really been praying hard for God to be with me at this time.

I'm not in a terribly talkative mood today. We're going to a museum as a district after I email, so I'm looking forward to that.

This past week, I got my new companion, Elder Smith. Elder Smith has two transfers left in his mission. He's from Alpine. We actually went to middle school together, so it's pretty crazy that we've ended up together. He's a good guy, and knows how to teach plainly and with love.

The mother and uncle of our recent convert have commited to baptism, so we're excited for them.

This past week, several of our investigators have backed away from learning about the gospel. People that I grew close to, people that I love are choosing to follow the ideas of Men more than doing the things we've been teaching them (reading, praying and coming to church). Our teaching pool has been diminished to near nothing.

We're counting the blessings we can during these times of spiritual and emotional struggle. It's amazing what small things can hold someone back from receiving the blessings of the everlasting gospel in one's life. All these things can be overcome by gaining a divine knowledge, just as Jesus said to Peter, "Blessed art thou,...for flesh and blood hath not made it known unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven."

I know how I can receive this divine knowledge, and anyone can have the same happen to them. They just have to make the choice to receive it. We don't force anyone to do anything. Just...bluh. We need to find new people to teach.

Please keep me in your prayers, praying that I might have people that are willing to hear the gospel, and that they won't be hit with the opinions of those that have no sacred boundaries. I'll try to continue to find the people who won't muddle up the plainness of the gospel with concerns that can be solved by simply going to church, praying, and reading the Book of Mormon.

-Elder Staib

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Transfer Week

Hey there, everyone.

We got a call on Monday morning from the Assistants to the President. Elder Kowalk is leaving West Memphis after being here for 8.5 months, which leaves me as the head honcho. I honestly have no idea who my new companion will be, so whoever it is, it's a surprise. I'll find out on Wednesday. For our P-Day, we went to the temple. It was a huge session where maybe 30 or 40 missionaries attended. Several missionaries, including Elder Hardy, were attending just before they went home. Those missionaries should be on the plane by now. I also realized that I'm as far out into my mission as Elder Kowalk was when I first came to West Memphis. Gosh... I'm close to a whole year being out. I hit 9 months in 2 days. Crazy, huh?

Admittedly, a few things have been bringing my spirits down a bit. My family has been having an incredible summer, one that I wish I could be a part of, but I know that I'll have my own time sooner or later. Also, none of the people we're teaching really listens to us. We tell them the same things on how to gain a testimony -- reading, praying and going to church -- but they don't believe us or aren't willing to try it out. That's how it is for nearly all our investigators, so we've kinda been in a rut. 

Good news, though; Matt never left West Memphis. He has a ticket, but the mission he's in is making him work for it, so he'll be around for a couple more months. We saw him this past week, and he was so excited to see us. He can't come to church because the mission has "phases" and he can't leave the mission grounds until a certain phase is complete, which should only be one more month. In the meantime, he studies and prays often. He's cleaned up his language, and he has a much better outlook on the future. 

As we were parting with him, he ran back to us to tell us one more thing: he's totally kicked smoking out of his lfie! It's such a miracle. We're so happy for him, and he's happy for himself. He not only quit, but he looks back and says, "Did I really use to smell like that?" He also anxiously said that he can finally "taste food again". That was really cool to see.

I'm really hoping my next companion can be a friend, like Elder Kowalk has been to me. I need all the strength I can get in West Memphis. Something needs to happen with the people here; something that'll  help them have the desire to righteously seek if these things are true, rather than having us teach everything or looking it up online. I'll really miss Elder Kowalk. We already plan to get together when I come home, since he only lives 30 minutes north. He told me about all his memories over at the parks in Daybreak, so hopefully I can have some memories there with him and some friends.

We're both guessing that Elder Kowalk will go up to serve in Dyresburg, which is in northern-western Tennesse, with Elder Schartz. It's pronounced the way it looks. So Elder Kowalk's looking forward to that.

Today will be spent saying goodbye, packing, rearranging and cleaning. I hope I can be as close to the people here as Elder Kowalk has been. The branch will really miss him.

I'll have my new companion next week, so I'm sure I'll have lots to talk about then. Until next week, have a good summer! Stay out of the heat! and fires!

-Elder Staib

Monday, July 2, 2012

Hot and Dry in Arkansas

Hmm. How to start talking about this week. The heat kinda melted my brain together. It was our bike week, and according to the weather radio, each day was over 100 degrees. And that's not even the index! BUT WHATEVER. We toughed it out, and God blessed us for it. We worked pretty close to home. The work was still good, though. On Tuesday, our District Leader, Elder Gerber, challenged us to extend baptismal invitations right as we first talk with people. With that approach, we were able to obtain a baptismal commitment from a street contact! It was pretty cool.

We've been working with a woman, Linda, that some recent converts referred us to. She had some misconceptions of what the Book of Mormon was about, but now that we've told her what it really was, she's very excited to read it. We're hoping a testimony will blossom from this passion.

We've also been working with another new part-member family. They've had several missionaries in their home, and we're teaching them the best we can. 

This week has been teaching, teaching, teaching. Whether these seeds we plant will bear fruit is up in the air, but we're still going ahead and planting them. The biggest point we've been working on getting across is that the Book of Mormon is the foundation from which all other aspects of the restored gospel will build. It's frustrating how stubborn people can be and won't read, but the Spirit is there, and that's what matters.

This past weekend was Youth Conference. JT attended and set a great example to the youth around him, from what I hear. He also bore his testimony yesterday at church. President and Sister Petersen were at the Youth Conference to host a panel as well. And then they attended sacrament meeting at our little branch, which was a surprise. It was easily one of the best Fast and Testimony meetings I've attended. It was incredible. Unfortunately, the people that we wanted to be at church the most weren't there. Some unexpected visitors came, though, so that was nice.

Darn. Being vague is hard. My parents advised me to not using exact names for fear of offending people. 

In terms of how the mission is going, it's going well. I'm learning and changing a lot! I've been picking apart the Book of Mormon in my studies. I recently went through the first 4 chapters of Jacob, which were incredible. I'm moving on to King Benjamin's sermon. I'm also reading through the New Testament.

Well, I don't have too much more to talk about. We get our car back this week, so we're happy for that! Continue to enjoy your summers, everyone! The humidity here has been pretty low. If we don't get any rain before the evening of the Fourth, it might be too dangerous to light fireworks. Not that we can even light those things... The Fourth of July just might be a little less eventful, is all. Anyway, have a good week, everyone!

-Elder Staib