16-22 Feb 2020
February 16th just might have been our busiest Sunday ever. It isn’t always true, but Sunday is generally a day that we turn from our regular mission assignments to participation in our Pagedale Branch. This is refreshing, and usually we have a somewhat more personal morning, getting to church by 10 a.m. and our ministering is ending by 3 or 4 in the afternoon. Not this Sunday. We were invited to participate in Ward Council, which had a missionary focus this week beginning at 8 a.m. Then we spoke in Sacrament Meeting, our first Sunday address since our short talks in the MTC in early December. We were privileged to speak about President Nelson’s concluding questions from October Conference: How would my life be different if I didn’t have knowledge gained from the Book of Mormon? And, how have events following the First Vision made a difference to me? What inspiring topics. We loved exploring our thoughts on these questions, and had lots to share. It’s a good thing, because in Pagedale, the Sacrament service goes fast, leaving 40-45 minutes for the two speakers.
After our ministering visits to members becoming fast friends, plus some detective work searching out lost members, we had Elder and Sister Thomson over for dinner. They are serving in a CES capacity, teaching institute, helping with other YSA activities, and seeking out single adults that are not actively participating. By their own description, they have a challenge in little structure and few deadlines. It is clear that not all senior missions are the same. I am grateful for ours, even if it feels overwhelming at times.
Monday February 17th was a day in the office, but not like other days. The Church wants and audit report from the missions every year, just like it gets from all other Church units. But unlike a stake, there are no called mission auditors. Missions rely on stakes answering the call for an audit. And unlike many units of the Church, there is A LOT of spending and many transactions to look at. The Ericksons tried mightily to get an auditor in the office before they left, without success. Which meant that the rookie office staff had to respond to questions and document requests for 2019 with very little knowledge of things. But we muddled through. Our auditor was a Boeing operations auditor by profession, so he was quite proficient and kind. He even helped us ferret out some information we could not find ourselves, reducing somewhat the exceptions in the audit findings. Housing generated no exceptions, which is to say, Elder Erickson was a very capable housing coordinator.
Tuesday was a half day in the office and then just a complete change of pace for the rest of the day. I picked up Taz and Tammy Murray from the airport and brought them to the office to meet folks and see our digs. Then the four of us headed out to the St Louis Arch, the smallest National Park in the country. And yes, we rode the capsules, much like an enclosed ferris wheel, to the top of the arch were we walked the last two flights or so of stairs to the top. The top is an arched platform looking out through a series of smallish horizontal panel windows, both east over the Mississippi towards Illinios, and West over the city of St Louis. The sky was only partly cloudy so the views were spectacular. We didn’t stay up top too long for those with fear of heights and claustrophobia. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel that, but was exhilarated by the experience. Beneath the arch is a great underground museum not only about the arch itself, but with the great symbolism it represents. Although Missouri is a pretty conservative place, St Louis itself has long been quite tolerant, perhaps partly by necessity, with the original Spanish settlers, followed by French, the English, and the Americans lastly, including a very large population of immigrants that came up the Mississippi from New Orleans in the mid-nineteenth century to outfit for treks west. It has been a melting pot for sure. The museum has quite a bit of information about the Mormon Migration, much of which came through St Louis (including the Hatfields!). The museum has a 1840 edition of the Book of Mormon prominently on display. We were too late for a tour, but we also saw the historic courthouse in the vicinity of the Arch were the infamous Dred Scott trials were held, also in the mid-nineteenth century, a black mark on the American judiciary, not overruled until the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment following the Civil War.
Then we went to dinner with the Taiclets, long time friends, fellow students, and business partners of the Murrays who live in St Louis. They were part of the Murray candy business and actually lived in Salt Lake for a number of years when they were operating the business. They are delightful people and we hope to see them again a time or two while we are here. We went to a Jim Gaffigan stand up comedy show, which as a Christmas present from their kids, was real impetus for them getting out here. We ended the evening with a stunning light show on the beautiful old train station lobby ceiling, where reputedly every soldier from west of the Mississippi came through on the way to Europe for the World Wars.
On Wednesday the 19th I met Richard Lindmark, an older member in south St Louis, whose son was transferred to Florida and had no need for his washer and dryer. He had called the mission office the week before and asked if the mission could use the equipment. The timing seemed providential a few days before I had been out to St Charles and concluded that the washer pump was no good. But I was unsuccessful in finding a repairman. Then RaDene called with the message, which I promptly returned, accepting the generous offer. On this day we made the trip down to pick up the equipment, and met Bro Lindmark. He seemed jovial enough, but I could tell life was not altogether easy for him. His wife passed away two months ago of Alzheimer’s disease. He was tending a grandson that apparently had been expelled from school. And now his son was moving away. His home was modest, to put it generously. In all, I was grateful for the widower’s mite. And the Elders in St Charles could now wash their clothes! Lucky for us, the Murrays and Taiclets invited us out for dinner one more time that night. It was so good to see old friends, and make new ones.
On Thursday, I made a trip out to O’Fallon, Missouri, to replace an old refrigerator handle. The sisters had been using their fingers to pry the fridge open for who knows how long. I got the make and model number and with a little more detective work, bought a very good looking “used” replacement and needed bolts on Amazon for less than $20, when new was about $60. I think the real issue was a to me undetectable paint flaw. The sisters made me feel like a hero. You now know that the modern supply chain is the real hero.