Wednesday, June 24, 2020

14 - 21 June 2020 Wedding Anniversary In the Mission

After nursery with the Husseys (the Hatfield Grands were visiting Arizona to give their recently delivered mother a break), Sister Hatfield and I felt like we needed to visit the Fenton, MO sisters, first for her responsibility, second for mine.  Sister Hatfield had a new member welcome packet for the sisters, and I had bathroom door hinges to fix.  Yes, it was the Sabbath, and it was probably the wrong example, but I did my work in a white shirt and tie.  Actually, I do most of my work any day in a white shirt and tie, so that doesn’t really erase the demerits.  It gave Sister Hatfield a few minutes to chat with the sisters and share her light with them.  She is good at that, thankfully, because I’m way too stuffy and formal to help these young missionaries the way that she can.  But at least I can pray with them.

Sister Hatfield had some other little gifts to deliver, including one to a St Louis-acquired friend, Patti Hintze.  As RaDene knocked on her door, RaDene’s phone rang in the car where I waited.  It was Patti telling us that her smart home told her we were there.  She invited us to her “favorite” son in law’s house (prize name for living in his mother in law’s neighborhood) where the Hintzes were having dinner.  They invited us to stay, but we had to decline, but really enjoyed meeting the family.  Maybe best of all, Patti gave RaDene a full on hug, and Elder Hintze (Area Seventy) gave me a warm handshake.  RaDene and I almost didn’t know what to do it has been so long since we have had hugs and handshakes.  It may have been inappropriate and reckless in public health terms, but we loved it.

The reason we couldn’t stay for dinner with the Hintzes was that we had invited the Pagedale Branch Elders over for Sunday dinner.  It really does help us to have someone over for Sunday dinner.  That has been a tradition for too long for us to stop and not feel withdrawals.  Later that evening the housing assistants dropped off a cookie—they remembered that it was our anniversary from Saturday.  They may be knuckleheads, but they are tender knuckleheads. 

On Monday the 15th we needed to deliver those five beds we bought on Saturday.  After picking up a few more things from storage, I left RaDene at the office and I was off with Elder Nelson and Elder John to the Cape Girardeau zone.  The first stop was the zone leaders’ apartment in the city of Cape Girardeau.  It had recently been a tri, so our job was to make it a quad so that two companionships could live there.  You won’t be surprised to hear that, although they have two bedrooms, they decided they would rather keep the weights in the second bedroom, and all four sleep in the first bedroom.  Apparently working out is more important than space, privacy, or any other such consideration.  I did make them take down the scores of limp gospel library pictures hung around the entire apartment like a crown border.  I just couldn’t imagine using the bathroom with apostles and prophets staring at me. 

We set up our second quad in Sikeston down on the Arkansas border.  I threw away a bent Christmas tree.  Yes, it may be sacrilegious, but someone must do it to make room in the second bedroom closet.  Then it was off to Poplar Bluff.  I used to feel sorry for the elders clear down there so far away from the heart of the mission.  On this trip I learned that a member owned the local meat store and he supplied the missionaries gratis.  Steaks, chops, ribs—I wasn’t feeling too sorry any longer.  I had learned the secret as to why Elder Westrup, a known foodie, had been down there for so many months without complaint.  I need to clarify one thing for the record, which is that I am using “quad” loosely.  It is really two companionships, but for housing purposes, it is four people in the apartment.

Tuesday, June 16th—Anniversary Day.  Well it was by the calendar, but there was little time for celebrating today.  Missionaries started arriving, in the first of a two day rolling wave of arrivals.  It is much harder to execute with precision when the missionaries don’t all arrive at once.  I realize that precision is not the weightiest matter, but it isn’t clear to me why mission travel doesn’t have them coming on the same day at least.  I spent the afternoon making preparations for opening some apartments, like getting new keys made, and gathering bedding, signs, traffic cones, etc. for the transfers tomorrow.  The best part of the day was the arrival of Marie Leavitt, Sister Hatfield’s cousin.  Sister Leavitt was originally assigned to Japan, but she never got there because of COVID.  She was reassigned to come here.  Interestingly, her home is in Missouri, although Pierce City, in southwest Missouri, is outside of the Missouri St Louis Mission.  It was a lot of fun to meet her, and see again her stake president-father Ben and mother Megan, as well as recently returned missionary-big sister.  After scooping up Sis Leavitt’s luggage, and sending her off with the Frontenac sisters, we had dinner with Ben, Megan, and big sister.  What lovely people.  Marie will be fun to watch because she will be an outstanding missionary.

On Wednesday, June 17th, I started the day with what has become a weekly ritual:  President Bell leads the elders around the mission on Zoom in “Workout Wednesday.”  The exercises are challenging, but no one would expect anything less from Pres Bell, a pro-level athlete in his younger days.  One of his mantras with the missionaries is to “own your morning,” meaning, an exercised body will provide stimulation to the mind and spirit, so we take our morning exercise seriously in this mission.  There are weight sets littered all over, in almost every apartment, although they get swapped around some, when the most energetic get moved and find the equipment deficient.  Speaking of exercise equipment, RaDene uses her stationary exercise bike religiously.  It may just be the most important thing we brought from home.

After “owning our morning,” I dropped RaDene off at the office and I went down to Webster Groves North, an apartment that has been vacant for a couple months, and not visited in several weeks, but that I knew would be the new home of some sisters by day’s end.  I didn’t know that there would be any problem, I only know that critters have a way of moving in when there are no humans to keep them out.  I am sure the sisters did not miss the bugs I swept up off their floor and felt better with the AC on. 

I have already whined about missionaries not being sent in a single flight (or in the case of the last two days, five flights) and set up for the actual transfers emphasized my concern.  With the last group not arriving until 1:30 pm today, we could not start transfers until 2:30, but meanwhile, the housing elders and the trailer had to be at the airport at 2 pm.  We thought we had explained that dropping off tables, signs, shade tent, markers, bedding, etc. had to happen before going to the airport in order for us to be ready for the start of transfers.  But, it didn’t happen, so Sister Hatfield and I did everything we could at the Frontenac parking lot, but I was at a slow boil while we waited for everything to arrive in the truck and trailer, way behind schedule.  And it didn’t help that our most experienced housing elder was not coming at all because of a toe procedure scheduled for that afternoon.  For all the handwringing, it worked out, and we didn’t delay the transfers by much.  And in the end, I had a new housing elder, Kyle Merrill, a fine young man from Santaquin, Utah.  Elder Merrill did not replace anyone.  For the second time in recent arrangements, we had a housing elder threesome.  I think Pres Bell has some hopes that Elder Merrill will feel useful and be kept busy to boost his spirits.  I am sure we will succeed at that.  It isn’t without challenge having three assistants.  It makes me feel responsible to make our efforts especially productive and efficient, knowing all the man hours that are being expended in anything we do.  And Elder Merrill and Elder John have a tendency to feed off of each other’s “silly” energy, which can be exhausting.  Selfishly, it also means the truck seats are always full, so I can’t invite Sister Hatfield to come along on trips where her insight, spirit, and company are very helpful.

Thursday the 18th was a pretty typically post-transfer day.  There are always tasks that need to be done that couldn’t be done before hand.  I solved the problem of not having RaDene by sending the assistants to deliver furniture and bikes all over the Cape Girardeau zone.  I was happy to be able to do so, because they really wanted to eat at Lambert’s CafĂ©, the home of “throw’d rolls.”  We had talked about it last time through Sikeston, but the timing wasn’t right.  Meanwhile, RaDene sacrificed her time in the office to come with me where we saw most of the Columbia zone.  In Perche Creek, the newly arrived sisters discovered they had almost nothing in their kitchen to cook with.  Off we went to the rescue, spending some money at Walmart to get a microwave, pots and pans, etc.  The Church must either trust me or have no options, because I have a Church Visa card with a very high limit.  I don’t approach the limit, but I use it almost daily, trying my best to be a frugal spender of Widows’ mites. 

Then we went north to Moberly to deliver bikes.  The missionaries were not home because they were at a service project that evening.  Knowing this would be the case, I brought a key.  But when we got there, I looked down at the key and to my chagrin, I had brought the key to the Macon apartment, not Moberly.  RaDene called the elders, and explained our plight.  They sheepishly admitted that the door was probably unlocked and we could let ourselves in.  All those zone conference lectures I give about locking doors don’t seem to sink in.  In this case, it was a blessing.

On the way home we stopped for some ice cream on our way back through Columbia.  The ice cream was disappointing.  But, it wasn’t one of the St Louis trademark ice cream stores, it was a national chain, so what should I have expected?  What wasn’t disappointing was listening to Elder David Bednar’s talk on religious liberty.  Without being critical of government action during the Pandemic, he pointed out how very swiftly executives all over the country, at national, state, and local levels, had eviscerated religious gatherings, ordinances, and associations of all kinds.  It is rather sobering to think about.  The conclusion he reached was that religious liberties must weigh heavily in the balance when governments consider the public needs.  We certainly do not want to set precedents for religious freedoms being easily swept aside.  Governments must make accommodations and allowances to narrowly tailor necessary religious restrictions for even the most crucial government objectives.

Saturday, June 20th was sobering.  I participated in my first membership council with our mission presidency, acting as clerk.  A young missionary had gotten himself into very deep water and the Area Presidency asked our mission president to hold a council before sending the young man home.  I’ve been in many councils over the years, but there is something particularly poignant about doing this with a full time missionary.  I am happy to report that the recent changes in procedure have really brought a Atonement of Christ focus on membership councils that is very healthy, it seems to me.  We don’t even use the harsh words of discipline, disfellowship, or excommunication any longer.  I pray this is the start of a journey back for this young man.

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