Sunday, May 31, 2020

3 May – 9 May 2020 Coming Up Green

Sunday, May 3rd.  On a too infrequent walk, I had my first hay fever sneeze of the season.  The grasses must be coming out.  It probably won’t be the last:  I’ve never seen more acres of thick green grass.  It seems like every homeowner, to say nothing of the farmers, owns a John Deere tractor for mowing.  We joke that folks don’t retire around here, they just mow.  Seriously, how do they keep up with it?  By the way, I’ve learned that corn is a grass, technically, which explains why southern Illinois is planted with so much corn.
May 5th is our first special incoming missionary transfer.  We are starting to see the draft of where the 19 missionaries will be placed around the mission.  I’m sure that 19 new missionaries doesn’t seem overwhelming, but consider this:  each missionary has a companion, each companion must be brought to the transfers by a companion.  Each of those must leave with a companion.  So 20 missionaries coming very likely involves something more like 80 missionaries.  And those missionaries probably represent 25 to 35 vehicles.  To say nothing of luggage, mail, bedding, phones, keys, SIM cards, and documents.  Add in the Mission President and his companion, the office staff, Assistants to the President and housing assistants, and well, it is quite an undertaking for those 20 incoming missionaries.  Ah yes, lets add social distancing rules to the mix, and the challenge starts to present itself.
On transfer day, we must make final preparations.  I find myself short of a few box springs.  We go to Costco, the Mattress Firm, and a few other places.  It’s in vain.  Somehow, the COVID environment has drained the stores of bed parts.  I sort of suspect that the few stores that are open are having a run on goods, and resupply is challenging.  Fortunately, I’ve thought ahead a bit, and at least I will have mattresses and clean bedding, bought or laundered.  It seems that very a respectable mattress can be delivered in a surprisingly compact box, and I’ve bought a bunch.  I’ve also bought comforters and pillows, which we supply to new missionaries.  I’ve also found my way to the local laundromat and spent some time there, having collected during our vacant apartment cleaning project a fair number of mattress covers and comforters that are in good shape but need to be cleaned.  Some missionaries will temporarily need to make do with a good mattress set on the floor.  But either my chivalrous or sexist self reserves that lower station for the elders.  I dashed around setting up “tri’s” as we call them, in apartments where an odd numbered companionship has been assigned.  These tri’s regularly must be taken down.  But it makes for a bit of a mad dash just before and immediately after each transfer to get apartments ready.
Setting up for transfers is not all administrative.  We move people, luggage, bedding, vehicles, and set up a tent and tables to try to create some flow.  So we are on it several hours before the appointed time.  So as to avoid giving appearance of inappropriate church meetings (COVID rules, lots of cars and people), we are presently holding tranfers in our mission office parking lot.  No one is coming to work lately, so we don’t think anyone minds. 
We have tried to plan things so as many new missionaries as possible can arrive and leave the transfer quickly with their companions out to their teaching areas.  In ordinary times, there would be a large arrival dinner, some orientation, and spending the night at the mission home for the elders and a local apartment outfitted for the purpose for the sisters.  But we need to try to minimize COVID vectors, so we are trying to dispense with anything unnecessary and streamline.  In the end, we did it.  The transfer happened, but it wasn’t as rapid a process of getting the missionaries out as the President had hoped.  We have things to learn. And in spite of our intentions, a pretty good size group of sister missionaries spent the night together anyway, for a variety of reasons, sort of making that arrangement on their own. 
On Wednesday the 6th, there were enough loose ends that I determined that me and the housing assistants needed to divide and conquer.  I sent them west to the Columbia zone, and I stayed closer to home, visiting the St Louis South zone (Crystal City), the western reaches of the St Louis zone (Washington City) and the Lake St Louis zone (O’Fallon, Missouri).  Missing keys, left luggage, forgotten mail, and so it goes.  We are the mission pony express.  Thursday the 7th took us north and east to Springfield, Jacksonville, and Pittsfield, Illinois.  In addition to either setting up or taking down tri arrangements, we did some repairs along the way.  We hung blinds in the windows of the bedroom of the sisters in Pittsfield.  I trust the landlord won’t mind.  It just couldn’t be put off any longer. 
On Friday, May 8th we held an orientation meeting for those new missionaries arrived earlier in the week.  But we did it by Zoom video conference, as so many things are done these days.  It was a chance for the President and companion to give some valuable thoughts, for the staff to give some training on their respective responsibilities in the office, and to hear from their AP colleagues.  I think we did a good job.  It is difficult to hold attention on a tiny screen that the missionaries hold in their hands and try as I might, it feels more like a lecture than an interactive exchange.  It turns out that we are much better at talking over each other in person, than over video, if you know what I mean.  After the new missionary orientation, the President and his staff had an extended discussion about how we could improve transfers in this COVID era.  We will have many more.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

26 April – 2 May 2020 Here They Come

We experienced another first on Sunday, April 26th.  Sure, we had virtual Nursery with the grands and home sacrament just the two of us, but we also had a mission-wide devotional.  Pres Bell continues to look for new ways to inspire the young missionaries during this time of physical isolation.  Where ever they were around the mission, they connected by video conference to share another experience together.  I’m pretty sure this mission-wide Sunday devotional was another first—and we were there.  (By the time this is over, I’m pretty sure we will all be Zoom subscribers.)  Pres Bell invited his two mission presidency counselors and their wives, the Mahaffeys and the Slezaks to share some information about who they are and their testimonies.  They are great people, and a great bridge between the mission and the local membership.  They made the mistake of telling Pres Bell that they would be willing to help with the apartment cleaning and inventory project this week.  They may be sorry.  Missionary apartments can be surprising, good or bad.

On Monday, the plan was for RaDene to go with me across the Missouri River to St Charles and, wait for it, clean and inventory an apartment.  But we realized as we were getting ready that morning that that was optimistic thinking.  RaDene really couldn’t be away from the office.  She is the communication hub in so many ways.  And with prospects for missionaries coming, zone conference on Tuesday, reports to write (partly because they weren’t done on Saturday because of a cleaning project), she really needed to hold down the fort.  But, I had the trained housing assistants and I recruited a couple other elders in the area to come help.  We went in like a white tornado.  It seems like I scare each missionary that watches my decision making for the first few garbage bins, but pretty soon, they catch the vision and happily pitch along with me stuff that has accumulated over years of member donations, care package contents, and countless missionaries and that now has no discernible value.  And so the week would go.

Tuesday, April 28th was zone conference.  Ordinarily it would be over three days at three stake centers, but like last time, we held one video conference across the entire mission.  For some, I know the experience is painful watching a small phone screen for hours at a time.  But on the whole, it works remarkably well.  The Spirit is not bound by present senses. 

On Wednesday, the assistants and I headed out for Macon, Missouri, a good three hours from St Louis.  I knew that the apartment was in tough shape, which is why I assigned it to myself, in addition to it being such a far trek.  Otherwise, the work was about how my descriptions have gone above.  But there was one tender mercy involved.  While we were enroute, one of the missionaries we were meeting to help us asked if I could give his companion, Elder Buck a blessing when we got there.  I responded that of course I would, not knowing what the problem was.  When we finally arrived, we went inside to find Elder Buck red faced and in tears.  I asked him what was wrong and he shuddered that his grandfather had died recently.  I asked how recently, and he said, earlier that morning.  President Bell had just the hour before called Elder Buck to give him the news.  Elder Buck and his companion, the housing assistants, and I all sat down and quite literally cried with each other for a while.  I could not help but recall losing my own Grandpa Reed while I was a world away as a young missionary.  We talked about Elder Buck’s memories of his grandfather and comforted him that his grandfather was now beginning a mission of his own.  Finally we circled together and gave Elder Buck a priesthood blessing.  Looking back, I am so glad that we took time to really listen and take some time to mourn with Elder Buck.  And as we got to work, Elder Buck seemed to be in much better spirits, working cheerfully alongside the rest of the day.  Not long before we left, Elder Buck came to me and showed me a picture on his phone and asked if I knew an Amy—his mother had said that I might know an Amy.  I didn’t know what he was talking about, but I looked at the picture, and it was David and Amy Rawson and their boys.  Elder Buck’s mother is Amy’s cousin.  Elder Buck’s Grandfather Ken is Amy’s uncle.  I told Elder Buck that I was related to Amy—she is my sister in law—which made me a relative of Elder Buck too, I reasoned.  He seemed contented to know that someone from the family had been there for him in his morning of sorrow.  Tender mercy indeed.

A cleaning on Thursday was remarkable for what happened near the end of the project.  Elder John had been invited to participate in a baptism going on in the Bear Creek Ward in Columbia, where he had come from the week before.  His former companion was baptizing a young lady and we together paused our work and witnessed the ordinance by video conference.  Only about five people were at the baptism in person.  But, this was Elder John’s 16th convert in Bear Creek.  What a remarkable, humble missionary.  It was a beautiful thing to watch him talk and share his feelings by video, something that would never have happened now that he had been transferred without the COVID changes to missionary work.  And lucky for me, it was the first baptism I witnessed in the Missouri St Louis Mission, and it was by video.  Interesting times.

Saturday, May 2nd finally arrived.  We have worn out many brushes, rags, and senior missionaries.  Our friends the Evertons have been particularly hard working.  We could not have made it this far without the work of many.  And now, there was one last vacant apartment to work on in Mt Vernon, Illinois.  I had really wanted to take the housing assistants because by now, they were well trained in what an apartment should look like.  But there were so many things that needed to be delivered in various areas that we could not stay together and do it all.  By Friday night, I had made a list of places for the assistants to make deliveries.  At least it was Saturday, so RaDene could go with me to Mt Vernon.  Thankfully, the apartment, although getting up there in age, was in great shape.  The last senior companion there, Elder Robb, got messages from us giving him the prize for best kept apartment.  We only removed two garbage bags of clutter and a bag of clothing donations.  Three garbage bags was a winner, by all accounts.  After doing a bit of polishing and door repairs (I must rehang doors in virtually every apartment I visit) we could check the last vacant apartment off of our list.  Elder Johnson, who met us to help clean and inventory, had made apple scones that morning and shared with us.  A treat for sure.

When we arrived home, we knew we needed to get caught up on a bunch of office work.  We struggled with whether to stay in P-day clothes or put on missionary attire.  We opted for the latter, grumbling a bit, and RaDene even had me turn the car around and go back so she could change, not feeling like she was dressed well enough.  We had not been there more than half an hour when President and Sister Bell and the APs came in to set up for a Zoom conference with the 19 incoming missionaries on Tuesday.  President Bell invited us into his office to participate in the conference.  We had completely forgotten about it, which is odd, because it was Sister Hatfield’s bright idea in the first place.  We needed the chance to orient and get acquainted with these missionaries before they even got on the plane because everything was happening so fast in their lives and in ours.  They and we had received their reassignments late Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.  President Bell gave us the chance to introduce ourselves and make a few remarks in the conference.  Well, we were sure glad that we had gotten dressed in missionary attire before we went to the office.  We stayed very late that night while, after the conference, RaDene set up interviews with the missionaries for Sunday and Monday.  We realized that with things moving so fast, and social distancing being a concern, we didn’t really have the luxury of having upwards of 80 missionaries, 40 cars, house keys, and SIM cards to exchange and transfer while waiting through the expected four hours it would take for regular intake interviews with the President and mission nurse.  The interviews needed to happen before the missionaries even got on their flights to come.  RaDene communicated with everyone and made it happen.  I think we are about ready for our first post-COVID missionaries reassigned after serving in foreign countries.

MSLM Photo memories of COVID 19

Our first of many Zoom Zone Conference - March 19, 2020
Sister & Elder Jacob, Elder Hatield, Sister Everton, Elders Newbold and Kelimb
The St. Louis branch of the rapidly formed MSLM Travel Agency - Tuesday March 24, 2020
The Utah Branch / Core of the MSLM Travel Team - Kamie Hubbard shown here at 5am Thursday March 26th

Lovely Ladies in Masks -first departing group March 26th

All 14 members of the main departing group on Thursday, March 26th

First arriving group (MTC Evacuees - Friday March 27th

AP's say goodbye to Elder Scott, (last flight out) and the office on Friday, March 27th

19-25 April 2020 Can We Get Ready More Rapidly?

Sunday is fun in the COVID time because we have been teaching Nursery (more Nursery than Primary) to our grandkids.  We acted out King Benjamin on the tower, complete with foil covered crown and bathrobe on a step stool.  Taking our own challenge to our kids and grandkids to spread the love, we cut out valentines and taped them on the doors of our two lovely, aged sisters from Pagedale.  (Abbi did not accept the idea of a heart attack in April.  She is sure that Valentines are only appropriate in February.)  Then we headed to the office to print out boarding cards for our latest group of departing missionaries.  Will we ever start getting missionaries back?  President Bell held a mission wide devotional this Sunday evening.  In our time, this is a first.  Technology is providing some opportunities that we would have never done but for the virus shutdown and shut in. 

On Monday, April 20th I drove back down to Farmington, MO to turn in that apartment with the newly painted fan blades.  We still got dinged a couple of hundred dollars of our deposit for the heavily marked walls that need repainting.  It is frustrating to lose any of the Mission’s deposit money, but I must admit that sometimes we aren’t as careful as we could be.  Then (surprise!) I took a detour to Washington, Missouri to drop off some cloth masks to some sisters out there.  They are so brave as they become skilled at inside proselyting by technology while staying socially distant.  I’m convinced it will help the Work move forward at a better pace as more finding is done on line—where the rising generation spends their time and gives attention. 

Wednesday, April 22nd was transfers.  That is remarkable because we actually had missionary moves on the calendar this time, as opposed to emergency departures which we have experienced almost every week for the last 6 weeks.  I had to say goodbye to Elder Hamblin, a faithful, quiet housing assistant.  But he is off to be a zone leader in Springfield, Illinois.  I’ll miss him, but he will do good and stretch a bit more in Springfield.  As his replacement, I welcomed Elder John.  Elder John is from a ranch in Emmett, Idaho and very much looks and acts the part.  But his down-home style is very endearing.  He baptized 15 people in has last area.  He wouldn’t be mistaken for a gospel scholar, but he is tender-hearted and genuine.  People just relate to his honesty.  Bonus:  he is handy with pulling a trailer and fixing things, a couple of skills I can make use of.  To have everyone with a bed tonight, we jumped in the truck, loaded some furniture, and headed to Cape Girardeau to make room for a new three person companionship.  While we were down there, I installed a replacement part on some nearby missionaries’ broken blinds.  I could have searched in vain for that part in stores for days, but on Amazon I had it in days with no hassle.  Honestly, I’m afraid Amazon is going to rule our world soon.  They are just too good at filling our needs and wants!

On Friday, April 24th we had an office staff meeting that rocked my world.  With all the departing missionaries and resultant empty apartments, I had created a plan to clean and inventory all 23 of them during the next four weeks to be ready for hoped-for incoming missionaries.  But President Bell shared that a conversation with the Area Presidency advising that we may receive as many as 40 missionaries on May 5th, with 20 more or so every two weeks.  Apparently, 90 percent of early responders have told the Church that they want to be sent back out to the field as soon as possible.  That means that there will be thousands to absorb in US missions while the COVID environment stabilizes allowing for transfers to foreign countries.  RaDene helped me take my four weeks to readiness plan and turn it into a one week plan.  Yes, we organized a schedule that pressed the entire mission presidency and their families, all senior missionaries, and young missionaries near the empty apartments to work, with some of us cleaning multiple apartments every day of the week, starting Monday, April 27th through Saturday, May 2nd.  Honestly, I don’t know if we can pull it off.  Each apartment requires a great deal of elbow grease, not to mention a ruthless attitude of getting rid of accumulated stuff.  Somehow, with all she has to do, RaDene helped me not only redo my plan, but enlist the soldiers.  She has tremendous capacity.  At least it was the Jacobs’ 50th anniversary, and Sister Bell made a delicious chocolate cake.  And what’s more, an anonymous benefactor made arrangements with a local deli to cater lunch for the office.  How delightful.  Food is always a welcome gift to missionaries, even senior missionaries.

Elder Scheurman came in and sensing our need, displayed some marvelous talent at a much needed time.  He took apartment inventory and cleaning checklists and turned them into Google surveys.  Each group of apartment workers will have information as to what my expectations are for cleaning the apartments next week and automatically accumulate furnishing deficiencies into a report so we can see and fill the needs.  Now its time to start making calls to delegate the work.

On Saturday, April 25, RaDene and I and the housing assistants drove down to the vacant missionary apartment in the Rockwood 1st area.  We had scoped it out some weeks before, and frankly, the missionaries that had left it in terrible shape.  The kitchen and bathroom were downright dirty and the closets set a new standard for clutter.  Meanwhile, the beds and bedding were in really bad shape.  We divided in order to conquer.  RaDene and I put on gloves and tackled the kitchen and bathroom, respectively, and Elder Scheurman and Elder John were in charge of tossing stuff.  It was a good teaching experience since the elders experienced what our standard was for neat and clean.  Every few minutes I got up from standing on my head in the bathtub and answered questions about what to keep and what to toss.  My motto:  when in doubt, throw it out.  We filled a dumpster.  It took us almost three hours, but by the time we were done, it was someplace you wouldn’t mind staying yourself.  But, it was a bit ominous.  If every apartment would need this much grit and determination, we will have a difficult week next week indeed.

12-18 April 2020 Get the Masks Out

Sunday, April 12th was a delight.  Although birthdays generally mean gatherings, grand food, and presents, this year was different.  We made an omelet for breakfast, which was about as close to familiar as this day got to a normal birthday in recent years.  We rarely cook breakfast since being on the mission.  But afterwards, RaDene made German chocolate cupcakes while I read a touching set of tributes she had collected for me from family, work colleagues, friends, and neighbors.  Some of the people she coaxed to write to me were quite unexpected and flattering, like former lawyers, co-workers, and directors at Headwaters.  Those were deep, rich associations.  But most special of course were the messages from my dear family.  Reading memories of my now-grown children, I was struck by how much outdoor adventures had meant to them.  One thing is for certain, the houseboat has been a good investment.  At any rate, the effort yielded the best birthday gift I could have imagined out here in the mission field, and it was a total surprise.

Then we did some reverse birthday giving.  We wrapped plates of cupcakes, donned our masks and gloves, and made deliveries from the edge of front porches, respecting our social distances.  For Annie Stewart and Dee Marche, our aged ministering sisters from the Pagedale Branch, we thought that if we were not allowed to visit them in their homes, we ought not give them our baked goods.  So, they received instead what they had said were their needs—rolls of precious toilet paper, beautifully wrapped.  Our missionary friends in the vicinity—the “Frontenac Sisters,” the Housing Assistants, the APs, the Evertons, and the Bells were the lucky recipients of RaDene’s German chocolate cupcakes.  For dinner, we made the unimaginable.  Barbequed pork chops steamed in the Instant Pot.  The smoker gods must have thought I had lost my marbles.  But, without so much as a barbeque grill here, it was the best we could do.  And surprisingly delicious. 

Tuesday, April 14th was a bit crazy.  I had given notice to vacate an apartment in Farmington in the Cape Girardeau zone before COVID-19 looked at all serious and long before the instruction to keep apartments for reassigned missionaries.  So, I had to get moved out by the end of the month.  The landlord had found a new renter and so asked me to get possession back ASAP.  I had told him I thought I could get it back to him about 10 days early, but to do it, I accelerated the moveout to this day.  Storage is at an absolute premium so what to do with the furnishings?  I had a solution:  take it to the Mexico apartment in the Columbia zone which we had vacated two weeks earlier to move some sisters into a new apartment in a new area.  Of course that meant careful packing of the truck and trailer and a long 3 hour, 180 mile road trip between zones.  And of course, this being the season it is, we dropped off home made face masks to the elders in the Farmington area which mothers were sending by the box full.  If that wasn’t crazy enough, just getting to Farmington from St Louis takes over an hour, and home from Mexico is about 2 hours.  So we had 6 hours of windshield time, not counting the loading and unloading.  Yes, it was a long day. 

Wednesday, April 15th, was easy by comparison.  We needed to vacate a senior apartment for which we had also given notice because the MLS couple was released and no replacement seniors were in the pipeline in this era of pandemic.  I didn’t want to throw it all away—at least not yet, but again, storage was a problem.  In what seems like a never ending shuffle board game, we took it all to a nearby apartment in the Hazelwood North area that had no missionaries because they were sent home.  But that didn’t mean it had no furniture.  Indeed, it was fully furnished.  So, we moved things around in the front room and dining room, and filled the available space with the senior missionary furnishings, including the bed, which certainly is not helpful for young missionary purposes.

On Saturday, April 18th, I had the pleasure of taking Sister Hatfield with me back down to Farmington to clean the apartment we had moved out of on Tuesday.  Can I just say that RaDene is a great worker?  One of the crazy things we had to deal with was glow in the dark stars stuck all over the ceiling and ceiling fan.  The came off the ceiling pretty well, but they peeled the paint right off the ceiling fan blades.  While RaDene finished cleaning the fridge, I uninstalled fan blades and painted them.  It wasn’t perfect, but probably up to apartment standards.  The hardest part was standing on an overturned plastic mop bucket ever so gingerly to get the blades reinstalled.  It is so hard to convince folks that putting sticky stuff on apartment surfaces is not a good idea.  I’m sure it seemed cute and harmless at the time.  On the drive home, you won’t be surprised to know we stopped in Crystal City/Riverview area and then in St Louis Hills to—wait for it—drop of homemade cloth masks, as well as mail, which pretty much goes without saying.  The housing workers are part of the mission pony express.

Calendar of Events in the Church and Missouri St. Louis Mission - March 11th - April 20th 2020

A Calendar of Events March 11 - April 20, 2020

So we don't forget... all the incredible, unprecedented moments during 
the COVID 19 Pandemic in the Missouri St. Louis Mission:

March 11th   - in the Missouri St. Louis Mission
·         New Missionary Orientation for 9 new missionaries
·         Mission Wide Transfers  (changes in Mission leadership?....
·         Received Notice that 5 missionaries from Korea had received temporary Assignment to MSLM anticipated arrival on March 23rd

March 11th  Church Announcement:
·         Restrictions on Stake and Leadership Conferences.  Weekly Church services held under the direction of Local leaders.

March 12th  Church Announcement:
·         Gatherings of Church Members Suspended worldwide, branch, ward, or stake activities
MSLM impact – Zone Councils were scheduled for that day. Zone conferences were scheduled for 3 days in the following week – March 17-19, Stake Relief societies were planning meals for 50-70 missionaries each day.

March 13th  Church Announcement:
·         Temples would be closed except for living ordinances

Friday, March 13th  church group email system ‘broke’ .  

Church worked to release a new system, in time to start communicating regularly with parents regarding COVID 19 notices/information.  It was probably related to the fact that the church was revamping it's Missionary portal and asked that all of our mission documents, letter templates etc be transferred to Google Drive... without much instruction or technical support to do so!  It was a huge project that coincided with all that was happening due to COVID19 - 

March 15th – First at home sacrament meetings

MSLM impact - we had 9 new missionaries and many transferred missionaries who were in new areas for the first time and did not have relationships with members or priesthood leaders to support their work... they had to find other ways

March 16th – Church Announcement: COVID-19’s Impact on Missionary Service
·          young missionaries with health issues and senior missionaries may be released from service
·         Missionaries who begin their service and are unable to travel to assigned mission may be temporarily reassigned to another mission
·         Missionaries who would complete their mission on or before Sept 1 2020 may be released after they have served for 21 months

March 17th – LDS provide disaster relief to Tennessee Tornado Victims  (was this the storm where mission vehicles were damaged?)

March 18th – Earthquake in SLC damages Angel Moroni statute

March 18th – MSLM – 9pm President Bell received initial list of missionaries who ‘out of an abundance of caution’ would need to be released.  He called staff and asked us to prayerfully consider who should go home.  We were 'flexing' to have our first zoom zone conference the next day - and would have to include a staff meeting to discuss and decide

March 19th
·         1st Mission Wide Zoom Zone Conference,
·        1st young missionaries and Senior missionaries contacted to and told they were being released
·      Pres & Sister Bell in conjunction with Mission Medical council began painstaking work of identifying others who were at risk, Elder Hatfield & I served on the council for 2 hours during the this day
Elder Hatfield made phone calls to Stake Presidents as names were decided upon, I started preparing departing materials, certificates of release, letters, etc.

Friday, March 20th
·         Received Email from MTC that 6 missionaries who had calls to foreign countries had received temporary assignment to MSLM

March 20th  Church Announced: More Temporary Adjustments made to Missionary Work
·         Coming weeks substantial numbers of missionaries will need to return to their home nations to continue their service
·         14 day period of self-isolation and may be assigned to serve within their home country
·         MTCs will not receive missionaries – training will take place through technology

Saturday, March 21th – State of Illinois Stay at Home Order effective beginning at 5pm

MSLM impact:  No one would be able to be baptized in Illinois. (3 full zones, 2 partial zones impacted)   Missionaries would not be able to gather at church buildings – even in small groups.  (5 zones were impacted by this order  - all of the areas in O’Fallon, Champaign, Springfield, part of the areas in Hazelwood and Cape Giradeau)

·         First of the Senior missionaries started for home (Thomsons & Emmersons)

Monday, March 23rd – St. Louis County Stay at Home Order effective at 5pm

MSLM impact:  Baptisms could be conducted if fewer than 10 people were in the building at the time.  Must observe social distancing practices.  People could gather at church buildings for sacrament meeting – if 10 or fewer people were in attendance and observed social distancing while there.  (parts of 3 zones were impacted, St. Louis, So St. Louis, Hazelwood)
·         We expected the arrival of 5 missionaries transferred from Korea, they did not arrive

Tuesday, March 24th
·         Mid morning received an email from Missionary Department directing our office to make the travel arrangements for all of the missionaries were to be released
·         Sister Bell, Sister Hatfield worked in conjunction with Sister Hatfield’s sister, Kamie Hubbard to begin booking trips
·         Learned 2 more missionaries would be evacuated from the MTC to our mission, for a total of 8 new arrivals on Thursday, March 26th.

Wednesday, March 25th
·         More missionaries received notice of releases
·         Flurry of activity in the office to prepare all the departing packets and welcome notebooks

Thursday, March 26th
·         18 missionaries departed, beginning at 6am, rolling departures/reassignment of companionships
·         6 pm learned that the flight for 8 incoming missionaries had been cancelled

Friday, March 27th
·         7 missionaries departed,
·         8 missionaries arrived transfers occurred in Mission Office Parking lot

Saturday, March 28th
·         New Missionary Orientation conducted via Zoom

March 31st – Church offers new Options for Missionary Service by April 30th
·         Impact on MSLM:  the 6 Korean missionaries and the 3 new missionaries we were expecting on April 21st will be delayed

Thursday, April 2nd
·         3 more missionaries depart

Friday, April 10th
·         1st New Missionary training via Zoom for 17 missionaries (9 from planned transfer in March, 8 from
Monday, April 13th
·         4 more missionaries depart
Monday April 20th
·         3 more missionaries depart

Church at Home with Nana & Papa Begins!

It's been over a month since I first posted the following photos on Blogger.  I haven't had a moment to get back to adding captions/explanations.  And truth be told, I don't have a moment today!  It's Sunday and we are at the Mission office.  President Bell is conducting zoom interviews with the 19 missionaries who we got word on Thursday would be arriving in our mission on Tuesday - yes, 5 days later!  In other words - life as normal - transfers every other week - in the Missouri St. Louis Mission during COVID 19 Pandemic.... But I digress....

Here are photos from our first Google Hangout Church at home with Nana & Papa on Sunday March 22nd.  

Super heroes can stand for the Right

We can be gardeners planting seeds in the Lord's vineyard - like missionaries!

Sunday afternoon chat with his folks while he watches big fluffy snow flakes fall and papa with his hands full of the 'fruit' he harvested from the tree while our grands watched ("Silly Papa - taped oranges on the tree)

My friend Eva sent me a photo from Easter 2019 standing outside my house... my house 2020

Like Swans on a Lake & The Case of the Missing Peanut Butter Sandwich

The following are the articles that were included in the 18 page COVID19 Special Edition of the Mission Newsletter, published on April 24, 2020

Like Swans on a Lake by Sister Hatfield
That’s how I described it to someone who asked how things were going in the MSLM office during week 3 of the “COVID19 transfer”.
On Tuesday, March 24th President Bell received a “Major Process Change” email from the Missionary Department directing our office to to make all the travel arrangements needed to get the 27 missionaries who had been identified home ASAP.  
A few minutes after President Bell gave me the news, I had the thought to post it on my family GroupMe thread.  I pushed the thought away a couple of times, but finally, still feeling like I shouldn’t take time to give my family a frivolous update - I stepped into the back office where I wouldn’t be overheard and dictated a quick text.  At the end of my texted I quipped “anybody want to help me book tickets?”  before I was able to sit back in my chair, my sister Kamie texted “I would love to” followed by a text from my niece, “that’s my mom’s dream job”. 

Minutes later I had my sister on the phone.  As soon as she was able to open her computer, I shared with her a google doc listing the names, birthdates, and hometowns of all the missionaries who we needed to get home. And Kamie got to work.  Not long after, Sister Bell arrived at the office and the three of us made quite the team.  Sister Bell searched and found the best priced flights and Kamie worked with the airlines to book the tickets.  I managed the communications between the mission, the parents and stake presidents and started orchestrating all of the typical departing processes.  Despite the fact that several more missionaries were added to the flight pool and almost a third of the flights canceled and had to be rebooked – somehow, miraculously, within 72 hours of posting an inspired message on my family’s group text, 26 of Missouri St. Louis’s finest missionaries were safely home or on flights soon to be home.  Like swans on a lake.

The case of the Missing Peanut Butter Sandwich by Elder Hatfield
Many of our departing missionaries left with very little time to prepare.  One sister called after she arrived back at home.  She said when she was on the plane and couldn’t find the sandwich she was sure she had packed - she had the thought that maybe she had left on her apartment kitchen counter.  Late one evening a day or two later I stopped to check.  Although the apartment was otherwise neat and clean, sure enough, on the kitchen counter was a peanut butter and Nutella sandwich, right next to the open peanut butter jar!   Fortunately, the food was found before any great infestation occurred.
Meanwhile, I had plenty of other empty apartments to consider.  I talked to President Bell and developed a plan to start closing apartments, trying to maintain what I thought we would need.  I prepared notices to terminate and decided to send them out on April 7th.  On the evening of April 6th, the day before I was to send notices, I received an email from the Missionary Department.  It instructed me that we should not close apartments.  If that message had come a week, or even a day later, I would have put in motion legal notices to terminate leases that might have been impossible to reverse, and at the very least embarrassing to the Mission’s reputation.  I felt relief for the direction from the Church, just at the moment I needed it. 

The process of caring for many empty apartments and getting them ready again for missionaries that will be sent to the Missouri St Louis Mission will be a big job.  I am grateful for the office staff and missionaries who share the burden with me.  In the end, I feel confident that we are being led by leaders that operate with inspiration.  The Lord’s Work with go forward even better suited for our world than before.  It is a blessing to be a part of it.