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, September 30, 2013

A Miracle

As my first order of business on my last weekly update as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I would like to discuss... THE WEATHER.

I have never missed home as much as I have these past two days. The weather has been so beautiful. Not a break of sunshine in the sky. Low-lying clouds hover just above my fingertips, and there's a gentle sprinkle that glides around me. I am reminded more than ever of the autumn clouds that graze across the mountains back home, and I can't wait to see them for myself soon. The temperature hasn't gone over 80 degrees these past two days. We've been driving with our windows rolled down. Ah, it's all so fantastic... I LOVE THE FALL.

I am very content with this week. It's been great. I went on exchanges with Elder Duron Tuesday, and we found a couple of really awesome people that have since turned us down, BUT it was a good experience at the time.

I'm perfectly recovered from my sickness, which is awesome because I was wondering if I would ever really have the same appetite ever again. No, that appetite came roaring back. I've been snacking a lot lately. I'm such a chub.

Thursday was a VERY good day. We went out to see the Keeners with a different member than the last time we saw them. We taught them the third lesson on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They absorbed everything. They're excited for Conference, as well. Like I said before, we've kinda been holding back a bit until their crazy schedule winds down tomorrow. After that, it's go time.

After we saw them, we went to Sis. Groves' place, which was a miracle itself since her son-in-law didn't like us over at all. We managed to have a short visit, though, for only 20 minutes. As we sat down, Sis. Groves said that her granddaughter, Sierra, wanted to sit in as well. We read a short scripture with Sis. Groves and then discussed things like going to the temple and getting a patriarchal blessing.

As we were finishing, Elder Merrill turned to Sierra and asked, "Do you have any questions?" Sierra asked very shyly, "What's a blessing?" We explained blessings of healing, comfort and patriarchal blessings to her. It was really cool to see that Sierra was paying attention.

Sis. Groves came to church yesterday, and walking slowly behind in a hoodie and jeans was Sierra. I was so happy to see her there. They stayed all 3 hours. Sierra really seemed to open up in young women's, which only had 3 people in it. I hope they attend General Conference. Apparently, Sierra's parents have no problem with Sierra being involved with the church. They're just kinda keeping themselves out. The Spirit will work on that family, I'm sure.

We have a new senior couple in the area: The Harris'. They have a unique role in the mission. They've been called as military relations missionaries, the first time that our mission has had any. They're in charge of less-active and inactive work within the Little Rock Air Force Base as well as in Camp Robinson, which is in North Little Rock. They work in the Jacksonville, Cabot and North Little Rock Wards. They've been added to my district.

Looking back on it, my district has doubled in size since the transfer began. I gave my last district meeting on Tuesday since this upcoming meeting will be a zone meeting. I love my district. They've been good friends. We've been through a lot together, particularly with the Cabot missionaries. I'm excited to spend my last few days with them since we'll be bunkering down in the church for Conference.

Oh yeah... I was able to play. Y'know, the violin. Yup. Totally happened.

I guess we're saving Fast Sunday for the Sunday after General Conference. I was put as the musical number for our intermediate hymn. I admit, it wasn't too bad. I was able to add a bit of vibrato to my bow strokes from my nervous shaking, but I kept whatever wits I could. Sis. Allred was my accompaniment, and she was fantastic. She reads piano music, and then makes up her own compositions to 'em! She's really talented.

We practiced before church, and she told me to flourish. Get my sound out there. I "flourished" the best I could. We're having dinner with them Thursday, so we'll see how she thought.

We're going to be giving Marty a blessing tonight prior to his appearance at court tomorrow. Please pray for him. There is a lot on the line, and he wants to be with his family.

Well, I'm honestly not going to talk about much else! There's your mission update from yours truly.

I plan to work my final few days. All my thoughts, feelings, insights, impressions and warm fuzzies will be fleshed out when I have time to do it at home. My testimony has been sprinkled around this two-year-long blog. If you haven't seen it by now, READ IT AGAIN. It's there.

I love y'all! I'll be literally seeing many of you next week. Thank you, those who have supported me by emails, or by prayers. I was able to serve these two years because of each one of you. My mission has been a miracle.

-Elder Staib

My last district meeting. We got a new senior couple!

Elder Duron tried doing some touch-up cutting... but he forgot to put a guard on his clippers!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Golden Investigators, Going to the Temple, and a Case of Chicken Pox

It's been an interesting week.

Last Monday we got a text from a man named Derek Keener. Elder Merrill taught him and his wife right before I got here, but when the new transfer started, they suddenly became very busy -- too busy to see us. This past Monday, however, we got a text from Derek apologizing for his being so busy and asking us to come over this week to pick up again with the discussions.

Elder Merrill has been talking so highly of this family for a while, and we got really excited to see them. They live on base, so after our dinner appointment, we had a member come with us to teach Derek and Nicole.

It was a wonderful reunion. They were very honest with us, and expressed their sincere desire to learn about this church. They feel that everywhere they turn, they keep meeting Mormons, so they take it as a sign that they have to investigate deeper. They went up to Fayetteville a few weeks ago for an emergency preparedness conference held at our church building up there, and they loved it.

From what I had been told, Nicole was going to be hesitant. Quite the contrary. By the end of our visit, she was pulling Derek along to keep commitments and to come to church. Derek will be very busy with his job up until October 1, so we'll cut him some slack until then, but once that day comes, they are ready and willing to devote everything to finding out more about this gospel.

I've never seen GOLDEN INVESTIGATOR as brightly as I do with them. Even Nicole suddenly blurted out and said, "The one thing I'm gonna struggle with is giving up tea. I love my tea! It's gonna be so hard!" We hadn't even taught them the Word of Wisdom yet. They've just been reading and other things. What's most important is that they're willing to change. I'm so happy for them!

Rebecca and Faith are going to the temple, and they're getting a personal tour on the grounds by the temple president himself. It'll be really exciting for them!

Emily Garrett is going through some big changes. She came to all 3 hours of church yesterday. Families in the ward are also having her over for activities and meals. I'm really happy about that.

Elder Duron had the chicken pox from Sunday to Friday, so we had to go on splits with Elder Chapman while someone stayed with Elder Duron. Poor Elder Chapman and Elder Duron got cabin fever bad. It was nice for us, though, because we were technically on "bike week", so we got the car clear up until Friday instead of giving it to the Cabot Elders on Tuesday!

Yesterday, however, I got really sick.

I woke up with stomach pains. I still went to church, but my stomach just wouldn't settle down. After church we had dinner at a member's house, and they gave me something to help me feel better. We walked up the stairs to our apartment after they dropped us off, and once I lay down on my bed, my stomach sloshed up into my throat. I held my mouth as I ran across the hall and vomited into my companion's toilet. I stayed in bed for a few hours, and then when I got up to get a drink of water, I vomited again. I don't have anything left in me. I lost 5 pounds yesterday, so I can't complain about that! I'm feeling better now; still a bit queasy, but nothing serious.

Libby called us earlier this week and told us that her daughter won't allow us to stop by any more. I'm really bummed about it. Libby still wants to see us, but we'll have to make visits outside of her home.

I wrote a couple things for the mission today: I wrote them a page of my Many Mighty Miracles (the stories of miracles I've seen here in the mission) as well as my departing testimony that will be published in the mission newsletter. It's all wrapping up. Next Monday is my last legit P-Day. I don't really have much to say about any of it, as long as I'm still wearing the name tag. So I'll just keep on!

-Elder Staib

We spent our P-Day with Jesse King. He left this past week for his mission in Canada.

Full Moon!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Love Others, No Matter What

I've been bombarded with letters from the mission home saying things like, "Thanks for serving! Hope you come again!" and "Be sure you give your mom a hug!" and "Be sure to pay your companion back for all that money you borrowed!" So my mind has been kinda torn apart, so I will try to reconstruct my memories using small notes I wrote in my planner so that I would have something to write about today.

The other morning, as we walked around to find someone to teach, I noticed a house down the street with a giant Snoopy sitting on a stump. I told Elder Merrill we'd knock on that door. The man at the house was just about to climb into his car when we walked up. We had a nice chat with him for a half hour. He was atheist. He was born Catholic, but it "took him until he was 20 to get indoctrinated out of it." Now he thinks that he's just a blip in the universe, and exists only for pleasure. He'd been depressed his whole life because he felt like he was just working for others to live rich lives. He retired 3 years ago, and he says he's the happiest he's ever been because he gets to do what he wants. He has a wife and no kids. He's living for himself. I have never met someone so selfish in my life. he was nice, certainly. But he was horribly selfish. I asked him what made him happy. He didn't get close to saying family or friends. His happiness came from giving himself pleasure. It was a sad scene.

One of the sisters in my district has had a really tough time recently. She's been praying to know if she should continue to serve a mission. She's engaged, and many of her friends have been saying they would feel better if she came home and got married. Her parents really want her to serve a mission. The Cabot elders gave her a blessing; I gave her a blessing; she and her companion have had several prayers. Finally, on Tuesday, Pres. Petersen talked with her. She has decided to stay. I'm really happy for her, and I testified to her that it wouldn't be easy, but it would be worth it. She knows some of the heartache that I've gone through myself, and I told her similar counsel that I received before I left to serve. She's a lot happier now.

When the transfer started, I had 3 sets of missionaries in my district: Jacksonville, Cabot Elders and Cabot Sisters. Two weeks ago, the North Little Rock Elders got put into my district. This past week, we got the Sherwood Sisters. I have to call a bunch of people each night. My stewardship seems to be added unto DAILY. And they all seem so young. I'm so old.

Also recently, a recent convert from Montana moved in with her daughter and granddaughter on the military base. Her name is Libby. She's here because the daughter, Melanie, has a brain tumor. Melanie had brain surgery on the 5th and will go in for radiation and possibly chemo. Libby is so happy to be a part of the church and wants to serve however she can. We're gonna try and go in to teach Melanie and her daughter, Sierra, as well. I feel a lot of love for them.

Because of Faith's promotion, she's been very busy lately. She's eager to progress, though. She really wants her family sealed, so we're gonna do what we can to help get Marty on board.

I'm not putting this next part here to puff myself up or anything, but... especially because this is my last area, and I'm closing my mission, I want to remember this. The Relief Society president was speaking with a less-active woman after church. She pointed to us and said, "These boys will help you with whatever you need." The less-active member needed a blessing. After we gave the blessing, I asked her if she needed anything. The Relief Society president jumped in and said, "They mean it, too. These are the best missionaries that Jacksonville has had since missionaries began serving here again." Jacksonville had been re-opened to missionary work two years ago, and Elder Merrill and I have brought 2 baptisms into the ward since there had been an 18-month drought.

I'm so grateful that God has brought us miracles. These baptisms happened only because it was the right people at the right time. Elder Merrill and I were only the harvesters after the missionaries before us have already sewn, watered and trimmed each individual for us to reap.

I love the members here, and I love to smile around them and laugh with them. We really do have to love people into the gospel. I dunno if it's bad to say or if it's the secret to missionary work, but most of the people I have seen progress the most are people I have loved the most.

Love others, no matter what. That's what I've learned.

Now I'll continue to finish off my whole loaf of French bread. Love this stuff.

-Elder Staib

Monday, September 9, 2013

We Had a Baptism!

I'm gonna try and write this while Elder Merrill and Sister Jardine are playing a game involving tennis balls and using hymnals as paddles. Today's been a very good P-Day. I have some good friends here!

Let me share a couple experiences, involving baptism, violins and roaches.

Baptism. We had a baptism! Faith got baptized, which was a miracle. In the middle of the week, she was approached by her uncle. He asked her if this was what she really wanted, and for her to seriously consider her decision. Faith still wanted to be baptized, but she felt that she didn't have the knowledge and faith to back up the church.

We asked her to pray about being baptized this weekend, and if not this weekend, which weekend? We followed up with her the next night. She got a promotion at work that morning and sees it as a huge blessing from God. Faith got baptized in gratitude to God for the many blessings she's been bestowed recently and along her path of life. She was so radiant on Saturday and Sunday She knew that what she was doing was right. She doesn't want the missionaries to leave her alone, though. And we won't!

Violins. This past week, we had a dinner appointment with a family, the Allreds. Sis. Allred is very musically talented. We had a fantastic meal with them. During the meal, Sis. Allred asked me with a big smile on her face, "Do you play the piano?"

I said, "No, but I played violin for four years in middle school and high school."

Later in our visit, Sis. Allred went into her bedroom and pulled out an old violin case. I put two and two together, and was not ready for her request.

"Play it," she said.

This violin was made in the 60s. It belonged to Sis. Allred's mother. I tuned it the best I could, even though the A string could not stay tight. The only sheet music I had at the time was the Arkansas Little Rock Mission Song in my missionary binder. I played it the best I could. Good enough for a 4th grade recital, anyway.

After I was finished, Sis. Allred got excited to see that the music had a piano accompaniment. She took the music into her piano room and had me play along with her. It was nice to know that I could still read music and play a few notes on my stringed instrument. Thinking back on it, I hadn't played a violin in nearly six years.

Well, word gets around fast in the Relief Society. Sis. Allred and the other sisters have already volunteered me for performing a musical number during my last sacrament meeting of my mission, with Sis. Allred as my accompaniment. My whole district wants to sit in and watch. I am SO nervous for it. I'm getting a different violin to practice on. I get to choose the song and everything. Heaven help me.

Roaches. Short funny story. Elder Merrill and I were sitting on the couch after a long day when he calmly said, "That's a big bug on the wall." I looked into the kitchen. THERE WAS A 2-INCH COCKROACH ON OUR WALL. We grabbed a glass bowl and tried catching the thing. Elder Merrill tried to knock it in, but the roach fell onto Merrill's chest instead! He screamed. I screamed. We both freaked out. The roach landed on the ground on its back and became immobilized. We caught it in the bowl. We proceeded to turn the bowl into slay the roach with fire. Fire and Repel mosquito repellant. I'll leave those things to the imagination, but that was the largest roach I had ever seen on my mission.

My last district meeting went pretty well. I've been working on asking my missionaries inspired questions instead of being boring. We had some good interactive lessons where we shared ideas. In essence, our district meeting was a form of Socratic Seminar. Hey, school taught me something!

Well, I'ma enjoy the rest of my P-Day. Hope y'all have a good week and enjoy school and feel the Spirit in church! CHURCH IS GOOD.

-Elder Staib

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Miracles May Happen

Good morning, everyone!

Yesterday was a fantastic P-Day. We went to the ZOO. The Little Rock Zoo, to be exact, which is not quite as popular as the Memphis Zoo. We had a fun time, nonetheless. Some members of the ward took us because they already had season passes. It was fun to see the penguins and the reptiles and the elephants and the monkeys. I took a lot of pictures and a few videos.

One crazy part was when we entered into the indoor exhibit where they let birds fly around freely around you. There was a large spoon-billed bird perched high above me, and as I was taking pictures of it, it swooped down right over my head! It came within two inches of hitting me. I got a picture of it closing in on my face.

Not much else happened for the remainder of the day since it was Labor Day, but I was very exhausted by the time I got to climb into bed.

So I've got news. I am now... a District Leader!

For my last transfer, I get to watch over two other companionships. Our district used to consist of Jacksonville, the Cabot Elders, the Cabot Sisters and Lonoke, but Lonoke has been pushed into a different district. Now it's just the two Cabot sets and us.

I'm giving my first district meeting today, and I'm feeling pretty good about it. It's easy to share two years-worth of experience to a bunch of relatively new missionaries. Sis. Jardine is training, as is Elder Chapman. I can tell their new greenies WHATEVER I WANT, and they'll automatically believe me! Think of the possibilities! Heh, kidding. It is interesting to note, however, that several of my missionary friends have asked me if I've made myself a throne or had my district members refer to me as Overlord or something like that. Awwww, where would they get the idea I'd even do that sorta stuff?

I'm excited to have two new missionaries in my district, though. One is Sis. Hubbard, 19, from Idaho, and the other is Elder Duron (pronounced dur-OWN), 18, from Arizona. They're both eager to be missionaries and do whatever they can to see miracles. I'll do what I can as a missionary to teach them what I've gained in my two years. I get to teach three district meetings this transfer, instead of only two that occur during a usual transfer. Don't remember how that played out exactly, but I'm excited for it.

I'm going on exchange with Elder Boyer today. Faith will be interviewed for her baptism this Saturday. She's excited to be baptized, but not too excited to be interviewed, especially by someone she doesn't know. Elder Boyer will warm up to her, though. He's chill like that (little oxymoron).

Elder Merrill and I are still striving to bring others into the gospel, but no one has been clinging on lately. Once Faith is baptized, we need someone else to really focus on, but we can't determine who. Faith's family has been the only family to even come to church since I've been here. I've gotta do some Preach My Gospel studies about inviting people.

Two Sundays ago, I gave a talk in church. The topic was on member missionary work. I shared my own missionary experience about Brianna, and again, I shared my dad's experience about his efforts as the ward mission leader in El Dorado Hills. I will just share here briefly what I shared in my talk, along with a few ideas I'm willing to flesh out now.

When I got to West Memphis, there was a girl, Katie, that had been baptized the month before I arrived. She was so gung-ho about the gospel. She loved every minute that she got to go to seminary, church, mutual and any other activity.

I'll honestly say that I was a bit jealous of Elder Kowalk; that he was able to find and baptize such a wonderful spirit. Miracles came about because of Katie's baptism. I hoped at the time that I would be able to find someone as prepared to hear the gospel as Katie was, as well as someone who needed the gospel as desperately as she did.

I have a testimony that God calls certain people to certain places at certain times for a reason. Otherwise, I would not wish to ever return to Pocahontas, Arkansas.

When I arrived in Pocahontas, the missionaries were in process of working with the Rasdon family to bring them into the gospel. Three of their six family members had been baptized at that point. After about four weeks of in my new area, we found out that a seventh family member would be returning home. Her name was Brianna, and she had her own share of problems and doubts.

One of the first things she told her parents when she got settled in at home was that she did not want to go to church and she did not want to learn about whatever religion they were studying.

Then Bro. and Sis. Musick happened. They went over and watched the Restoration DVD with the whole family. Brianna cried. She wanted to learn more.

I don't doubt that Brianna had found peace and comfort in her life as she took the missionary discussions, but most of her change did not come before her baptism. Elder Whetten and I asked and asked and asked before she finally agreed to give a closing prayer to one of our discussions. She had a panic attack after we left because of it. What she did have, though, was a willingness to listen to our message, a willingness to act for herself, and a willingness to understand that the Spirit was testifying to her that these things were true.

She and her younger brother, Zac, were baptized April 6.

As I said, Brianna felt the Spirit and was willing to change. A lot of it was more internal than external at the time. Her true change, though, came after her baptism.

She was playing around on her little iPod Touch one day. I think we were having dinner with the Rasdons, so there wasn't a formal discussion going on. But as she played with the iPod, I'm sure that it was an impression that came to me and said, "Tell her about the Gospel Library."

I helped her download it to her iPod right then and there. She spent the rest of the day reading the Book of Mormon. She spent hours the next day reading it. It took her only a few days to reach 2 Nephi. It was at that moment Brianna began to really be converted.

Now she uses her conversion to strengthen and bear testimony to others. Several of her friends are now taking discussions. She knows her purpose in life and her divine potential. She loves God, and has become a huge inspiration to me to know that no matter what happens in your life, you can always find God's love if you seek it. I found the person on my mission that received their own pearl of great price.

Brianna, of course, is one of many miracles I have seen as a missionary. I am so thankful that God has used me as an instrument in His hands. Eternal happiness does not come from personal achievements. For me, it comes by helping a brother or a sister home. It comes from the small smiles you bring to someone's face by showing them love. It comes from the knowledge that you have friends and God by your side to lift you up.

I think that we're called to lose our lives for Christ's sake because it requires us to become more Christ-like to those around us as we strive to serve them. That was one little piece of wisdom I picked up recently.

I hope y'all have a safe week, and don't neglect a person whose hands need to be lifted and whose spirits need to be strengthened. Miracles may happen.

-Elder Staib