Sunday, May 3, 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.

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