Sunday, March 29th was our third week without gathering for church meetings. We miss the fellowship of the saints. We enjoy our small sacrament service together. We use some pita bread, and have extra large pieces in order to give us more to chew on, which is a physical way to extend our meditation. RaDene made a great effort to put together some packages of scriptures and small gifts, beautifully wrapped, for the adults and kids in each our children’s families. They represented each day of the last week of Christ’s life on earth. Her creativity and enthusiasm are the ribbons that tie our family together. We were able to conclude our day with a video conference with our adult kids. We crave keeping up a little, with what is going on in their lives. We have found that trying to have a video conference with grandkids--babies and pre-schoolers is fun, if in short, spontaneous bursts, but too chaotic to accomplish much more than blowing kisses.
On Tuesday, March 31st I made a pretty epic tour around the Cape Girardeau Zone. That is the southern leg of the mission, taking in a good deal of southern Missouri. It was a reminder of how remote some teaching areas are, and why you just can’t often run out to some places. You really need to bundle the reasons to go, which of course, makes them even longer adventures when you do. I first went to the heart of the zone, the city of Cape Girardeau. Some senior missionaries had left from there several weeks ago. I had some young missionaries look after things while things were so crazy with the COVID-19 departures. But it really was time to get down there and see what needed to be done to close the apartment. Some sisters living nearby had their eyes on a few items in the apartment, and I was more than happy to let them have whatever they could use. The mission really doesn’t have the capacity to store full apartment’s worth of furnishings, and in the current environment, the charities aren’t open to receive donations. And anyway, beds are not acceptable anyway for sanitation concerns. What to do with senior apartment large beds is a problem, but not one the young missionaries can solve. They can swap out couches, broken dressers and tables, and other things that are typically nicer in the senior apartments. And while there, I made the usual rounds of fixing lights and blinds, checking alarms, and generally addressing whatever is on the missionaries’ minds. And I feel good about praying with them before I depart.
The next stop was Sikeston, home of the Lambert Café and “throw’d rolls.” It’s closed though, so no stopping for comfort food. I took a new elder a bag that he had left at the mission office when his trainer came to pick him up the week before, helped them with some shower and linoleum repairs, and generally tried to encourage them that they were not forgotten down there. Then I was off to Poplar Bluff, on the edge of the Ozarks. Sikeston is pretty flat farm land. By the time you get to Poplar Bluff, the rolling hills have become quite a bit higher, and beautifully forested. The elders here needed desk chairs, and since they only had one broken one, I agreed. The apartment itself was surprisingly nice, with a townhouse feel to it. One of the elders here is famous for bringing brownies to any meeting he goes to. I’m a fan of his. Perhaps the prettiest drive in Missouri is through the Ozarks between Poplar Bluff, northward to Farmington. The beautiful pine forests, rolling hills, rocky outcroppings, rivers, and lakes are postcard pretty. And the highway was a wide, divided, four-lane road, easy to drive. Particularly because I am sure I didn’t see more than a dozen car in two hours of driving.
In Farmington, I fixed a bathroom fan, noted a missing kitchen chair for next time, and collected keys for the Farmington North apartment that we was going to be closed. I like the Farmington North Apartment, but it just doesn’t seem to make sense to have two sets of missionaries in such a small unit, borne out by the fact that we have had no one using it for a couple of months. It’s a good thing I have a few weeks to get this ready to turn back in. The sisters that lived here last have accumulated a lot of stuff to deal with. By now its getting late, but I need to make one more stop in south St Louis, an area called Webster Grove. Even though the apartment was recently vacated by the missionaries living there as we go through the COVID-19 downsizing, I wouldn’t have stopped but for a call Sis Hatfield got over the weekend. One of the young sisters that had been staying there phoned RaDene somewhat sheepishly, saying that she realized on her plane flight home that she was hungry, and that she couldn’t find her sandwich. Maybe she had left it in the apartment? Sure enough, the apartment was in better than average shape, but on the kitchen counter was a made peanut butter and Nutella sandwich, together with open jars and bread bag. Nothing was green, but there was plenty of fresh food in the fridge that needed to go—along with the sandwich. So I made an emergency clean out, noting that I needed to get back here before long. These young ladies had been stocked with food. RaDene had worked this whole day in the office, and when I finally picked her up about 9 pm she left for the first time that day. She has tremendous stamina and determination.
Wednesday, April 1st was almost as big an adventure as the day before. The Housing Assistants and I piled into the truck and headed for “Mexico.” It is fun to say that, here in Missouri. The sisters there had been patiently waiting for the lease to begin in their new area of Bear Creek North, in Columbia, and that day had finally come. Mexico is a smallish town north and east of Columbia. It got its name back in 1836 or so, when the New Mexico territory, on the way to Texas, was established. We loaded everything out of the two story plus a basement townhouse in Mexico, leaving the washer and dryer because we didn’t really have room to pack them in. We headed the 45 minutes or so to the north east part of Columbia and got the keys to the new apartment. It was a real change, being a new, but small one bedroom apartment. It did have the benefit of being in a nice, stable complex. It is too close to I-70 though, and the trucks make more noise than I would like. It’s tolerable if the doors and windows are closed. But the sisters seem content.
On Friday, April 3rd RaDene joined me on a tour of vacant apartments in Webster Grove North, Oakville, Fenton, and Rockwood 1st. We’ve learned that as missionaries left, they didn’t necessarily leave things in condition ready for new missionaries to move in when they start coming back to the field. RaDene is helping me develop a checklist of what needs to be done to be move in ready. Sometimes, it isn’t much. Maybe just a light cleaning, or replacement of a missing comforter. But sometimes we have moved out dressers, beds, or other things to occupied apartments with specific needs, and sometimes the apartments are cluttered and in dire need of a deep cleaning. Developing the schedule of how to get move in ready preparations done is challenging.
Saturday, April 4th was the beginning of General Conference. After the Saturday afternoon session, we loaded the car with mail and face masks to take to Cape Girardeau Zone. We mostly just passed things to the zone leaders there, but took more mail and masks to Farmington to make our ride home a bit longer, because it would be difficult for the zone leaders to get to the Farmington and Poplar Bluff teaching areas. Farmington and Poplar Bluff would be meeting together on Sunday to spend one session of conference together. The Evertons and the Bells helped take masks to other zones in the mission. Our supply of paper masks is thin, and if we don’t get a resupply, the 1 or 2 masks that we have been able to distribute won’t be any good for long.