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

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

Monday, November 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


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


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


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