Sunday, March 1st was our first day in a new Pagedale Branch assignment. Pres Fingal has asked us to help sister Sherri Cullen prepare to go to the temple to receive her endowments and to be sealed to her husband Dan Thomas. She wants to be ready for April 18th. It is an exciting assignment and goal. RaDene and I have been blessed by our temple service and attendance and happy to be helping Sis Cullen prepare. The Church resources on the temple are so rich now. The Brethren have provided a great deal of information about temple ordinances that enhance our ability to discuss the important covenants and promises available in the House of the Lord. Because of intervening conferences, stake, general, and zone, we have developed a schedule that doesn’t have a lot of float, but that should cover the territory in the time available. Here we go.
Tuesday was Mission Leadership Council for the Mission President, Sister Bell, and the young missionary leadership. The office staff doesn’t participate in the council directly, be we do get to spend some time with these wonderful people because we prepare and serve them lunch. We wanted to break our menu mold, so we ordered teriyaki sauce, aluminum bowls, and sesame seeds, and bought broccoli, chicken strips and rice. We gathered up all the crockpots of the office staff and went to work. RaDene, as usual, added a real visual touch, with green table clothes, shamrock plates and napkins, and shimmering green center pieces. A feast for the spirit, eyes, and belly.
Wednesday, March 3rd was what we call Temple Tuesday. The missionaries are invited to attend the temple soon after their arrival, and then again on their 6, 12, 18 and 24 month marks. One of my jobs is to keep track of whose turn it is to come into St Louis on Temple Tuesday and post the information for the missionaries to see. We don’t typically attend, although we surely could, but it just is so hard to leave our office posts during the day in the middle of the week.
While Temple Tuesday was going on, I went out to St Peters to check on the elders’ apartment where the water heater had burst and flooded the place. I was glad to see that the dehumidifier, fans, and carpet cleaning had all done its work so that the apartment was ready for the elders to move back in.
On my way back to the office I got a call from RaDene that a sister had left some of her temple clothing at the temple. She was enroute to Effingham, Illinois, so returning would be very difficult. So, I went by the temple to see if I could retrieve them and get them into the mission mail delivery system (of which I am an integral part, if I do say so myself). I went to the laundry counter and found the clothing. Moreover, the temple worker behind the counter, having seen my name badge, introduced herself as related to the Hatfields in Utah County. We had a grand time getting acquainted. It is fun to know our family is all around us, even in the mission field.
This is the week before transfers so President Bell is spending time in the office seeking inspiration about what missionaries should and shouldn’t be transferred. There are so many thoughts that go into those decisions to take to the Lord. One factor is how the missionaries are embraced by the members. This cycle, the President has become very concerned that some sisters are not being used by a ward in the Columbia Stake anywhere near potential. He is inclined to move them to a ward in the zone where the elders are leading the mission in baptisms, with no small amount of the effort coming from the members. He is thinking that a second set of missionaries, some sisters, would flourish there. Of course that means they need a place to live. And fortunately, their current lease only has a couple of months left. I did all the computer searching I could, narrowed my vision to three apartments, then it was time to go look.
On Thursday, March 4th Sister Hatfield got a call from one of the Elders we work with in the Pagedale Branch. He is from Brazil originally, although his family has immigrated through Utah and now lives in the Atlanta area. Early on in our relationship with Elder Windmiller, Sister Hatfield insisted he talk to Gareth Vidal, our Chilean son-in-law, confirming that they both speak Spanish and Portuguese. Elder Windmiller had lost his cell phone. The Church has the missionaries’ phones heavily loaded with filters, encryption, and other daunting software to help keep missionaries safe. One feature provides for phone location. Sister Hatfield figured out how to turn it on for the lost cell phone from her computer. Rather remarkably, it showed the phone at a commuter train station called the Delmar Loop. It looked like it was on the tracks themselves, based on the mapping. Well, having found a locating signal, we had to go look. So we jumped in the car and headed towards downtown.
It turns out the Delmar Loop station is in an area that is a bit sketchy. All sorts of yelling and commotion was going on at the station, including a police presence. It felt a bit risky to park the Audi and go searching. Indeed, Sister Hatfield demurred, and stayed locked in the car. The locating signal was now not pointing to the train station, but to an old building across the street. Several old men that could have passed for homeless were walking up and down the sidewalk. It wasn’t clear what the building was, but being intrepid missionaries, Sister Hatfield left the car and joined me to knock on the door. We were greeted at the door by an old man who seemed genuinely confused by our introduction: “Hello, we are missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. One of our colleagues has lost his phone and we think it might be inside your building. Have you seen it, and can we come in and look?” It turns out the building was home to a County funded senior men’s residential facility. No wonder the poor old fellow was confused. Helpfully though, he invited us in and found the on duty caretaker. She was a middle aged woman who was accommodating. We explained the situation and that the locating signal had brought us to her facility. She asked around for us, made a general announcement, and invited us to make a search.
After having sized up the elderly residents of the care center, we realized that if one of the men had picked up the phone in or around the train station, which seemed distinctly possible, there was a strong likelihood he would not remember he had, or where he had set it down if he brought it in. These men were really not accountable for their actions at this stage in their lives. So rather than intrusively search in vain, we just left our card and asked for a call if something showed up and that some young missionaries would be by the next day to check. We parted on friendly terms with the caregiver, feeling a bit of kinship with her in our respective roles to help God’s children. We had tried, but alas, the phone never did show up. Fortunately for him, Elder Windmiller had a connection with the mission secretary who promptly arranged for a spare mission phone for him.
On Friday the 6th, my duty was to try to find an apartment for sisters in what we call Bear Creek, a ward in Columbia, Missouri. Bear Creek already had a set of Elders, but they were the highest baptizers in the mission, and it seemed directly connected to the efforts of the ward. President Bell wanted to fan the flame. My practice is to do an internet search, narrow the candidates to a manageable number, then go look. An internet description is no substitute for eyeing the neighborhood and looking at the apartments inside and out.
I quickly ruled out one of my candidates. This was going to be the home of sisters, after all, and the complex looked somewhat unsafe in context. A second choice was a townhouse on the outskirts of town in an older neighborhood with small homes surrounding it, and a pleasant park nearby. It seemed like a possibility, but I wasn’t feeling sure. The third choice was a very new complex that had a somewhat pretentious name, “The Links at Columbia.” It wasn’t a PGA tour stop, but it did have some units that overlooked a small golf course. I was a little worried about the message I might be inadvertently sending to the ward, even though the price was really quite reasonable.
I stewed about it for the next couple of days and then it hit me. I needed to call the Bear Creek Bishop. That was a flash of inspiration. He quickly steered me away from my second choice, knowing that although the park looked pleasant in the daytime when I had seen it, it had long been a magnet for untoward activities after dark and just too near to the townhouses for comfort. And he heartily endorsed my third choice, quickly assuring me that “The Links” had a family friendly reputation with a good blend of all sorts of people, young, old, students, singles, and families. Calling the local priesthood is an excellent tool for the toolbox. I quickly wrote my check and made a deposit. While somewhat of an administrative hassle, it is on the other hand somewhat comforting that we needed to have a background check on the proposed resident sisters. Presumably all residents have passed. I joked with President Bell that our lease comes with discounted green fees. Shall we go golfing after missionary interviews in Columbia when the weather warms up?