Sunday the 21st we had video nursery/primary with all the grandkids again. It was good to have Abbi and Ezra back in the mix. Cousins sure help hold Kennedy’s attention better than Nana and Papa on their own. We know that we are getting close to the end of our family sacrament service. It has helped me have a little more focus and intention this past few months with the change of surroundings, people, and responsibilities. As much as I have learned from it, I feel the importance of gathering with the saints for this renewal.
It is Father’s Day, and RaDene had a big surprise for me. She had taken some of her precious shopping alone time which she really needed for baby quilt materials she is working on for Amelia Rose and got me a tabletop-size propane grill. She wrapped up some spatulas for me to open, but had some pretense for us to go to our neighbor senior missionaries’ apartment, the Evertons, and on their dining room table was a big box for me to carry home. It caught me completely off guard, but I went right to work assembling. It’s funny, but we had invited the APs, Elder Kilembi and Elder Harriman over for dinner last night and then bought shish kabobs. I figured that this was a meal that Elder Harriman could enjoy with his food sensitivities. I had wondered how we would cook them. I actually woke up today thinking about using the broiler in the oven, the thought of which was not very satisfying. RaDene had an alternative plan all along! After delivering some small Father’s Day gifts that Sister Hatfield had prepared, for evening entertainment, we watched a couple of episodes of the Chosen, a crowd funded series about the life of Christ through the eyes of people who knew him. It is a fascinating perspective. Then the housing assistants dropped by to say hello. They are such good hearted souls, even if sometimes scattered. It was hot and humid outside, even late into the evening, and they didn’t really seem to want to go. I figured out why—they had walked the mile or two from their apartment to ours. Lucky for them, they would break curfew if I didn’t give them a ride home, which seemed to make leaving much easier for them.
On Monday the 22nd we came home from work for a dinner break. It’s our goal to come home at a decent time to eat and then go back to the office, rather than skip dinner, keep snacking, and then eat way too late. We were distressed to find our bird feeder hanging from the tree outside our back porch had been smashed like a piñata. It is a little thing, but we take a fair amount of joy watching the birds, spying for the beautiful cardinals, observing the cardinal chicks maturing, and not least, laughing at the antics and tenacity of the squirrels sometimes raiding the bird feeder and otherwise feasting on the seeds the birds spill overboard onto the ground. So we felt a little violated when our feeder was destroyed. Ever the mother, Sister Hatfield made a sign, taped it on the feeder, and rehung it to scold the culprit, assuming he would wander by again. We immediately went onto Amazon and ordered a replacement, and grilled some chicken.
A while after we were back in the office, RaDene yelped, “Oh, we are getting more missionaries.” By the time we left, it appeared that 10 more young missionaries were being assigned to the Missouri St Louis Mission to arrive in July on a special arrival and transfer. It was surprising, because we had pretty much assumed that June would be our high water mark because the many missionaries brought home from around the world would surely be on their way to their new assignment by the end of June. Perhaps not all in June as we had supposed.
On Tuesday, June 23rd, I divided to conquer with the housing assistants once again. I sent them to do some needed repairs and make some deliveries to the Columbia zone, which is a full day’s worth of activity, and I went south. The Webster Groves sisters had called Saturday night saying that their smoke alarm was going off, but that there was no smoke. They were going crazy. We talked them through the battery removal, but they couldn’t seem to do it. After mistaking which alarm was going off (there are often multiple, some belonging to the apartment, and one belonging to the mission), they videoed the back of the device, and I realized it was one of the mission’s sealed, 10 year smoke alarms. They almost never malfunction, but of course if they do, it would be late at night. Really out of good options, I recommended the sisters toss the faulty device in the dumpster. So this day I brought a replacement and installed it.
Then I drove down to Farmington, Missouri, a good hour south of St Louis. We once had an apartment here, but during COVID it was closed. Recently President Bell had wanted sisters to go back to Farmington. They have been living and commuting from Cape Girardeau. It’s in the same stake and zone, but over an hour’s drive. That was tolerable during the deepest COVID restrictions, but was becoming increasingly burdensome, especially for interactions with Farmington members. I had a list of five apartments to scout, having done my best on internet searches. But you can only tell so much from a picture and a paragraph. I looked at the first three apartments, and although they had some qualities, I just felt flat about them. The fourth and fifth really felt right. My spirit lifted with some good feelings at the bottom of my list. I called them, confirmed near future availability at both, and started for home with a proverbial skip in my step. On reflection, I feel like there was some discernment given to me that confirmed Heavenly Father is in the details of our work, and will guide us if we are open to prompting.
That night (after grilling dinner again!) were back in the office and I was starting online apartment applications. I heard some additional squeals from Sister Hatfield across the room. She had gotten notice that more missionaries were coming in July. We left before we saw the end of the list late that evening.
On June 24th we came in to find that over night 14 more missionaries had been assigned to the MSLM, making for a total influx of 47 for July, in three separate weeks, with no schedule departures. We expect to be at 227 by the end of July, an all time high, exceeding the 210 missionaries of the “Surge” when Pres Monson lowered the missionary age some years ago. Things will be busy getting ready. That afternoon, I went to Hazelwood South to inspect what appeared to be a broken pipe to the missionaries. Sure enough, there was a broken pipe in the wall and a good crop of mold was growing and the ceiling sheetrock was bulging. This will be a mess to clean up—fortunately, this one is on the landlord. We stopped at Goodwill and made some much needed donations. Much needed by us, that is. All the thrift stores have been closed and we have accumulated an oversupply of lamps that we can’t use and which are really hard to store without breaking. Today we lightened our load. Then we went across the Mississippi to O’Fallon, Illinois to the Shilo West teaching area. Somehow, this apartment is still empty, but not for long! We had already cleaned there, and I have been negotiating with the landlord to get new carpet, linoleum, and paint. Meanwhile, it needed a shower curtain rod, a dresser, a large window blind, and a furnace filter to put it in final shape for re-occupancy, which is surely coming soon. The assistants and I were a little late getting back into St Louis, so I had them drop me off at the apartment where Sister Hatfield was ready to do a final fitting for Elder Nelson and his new trousers. I’m not quite sure how he got pants without a hem, but Sister Hatfield has him covered.
Friday, June 26 was mainly devoted to a mission office staff meeting. And the meeting was mainly devoted to marveling how many missionaries we would be welcoming in July and how to be ready for them. Sister Hatfield has spent time in the mission software setting up empty teaching areas where we have some spare bedrooms that could be filled and splitting existing area boundaries. I have been inventorying and planning for beds. President Bell is committed to start thinking about missionary assignments, which is the gating item for any real preparations. He is realizing that for our group of 21 coming in the middle of the month, 20 will have no experience and need trainers. That will spread our young missionary leadership thinly. Afterwards, I asked the housing assistants to go retrieve a used washer and dryer that a member was donating the mission. Its good to have a couple in storage. You just never know when equipment is going to stop working and it isn’t necessarily easy to fix or replace, so I’m glad to have some in reserve.
We went for haircuts late in the afternoon. I’ve lost my former job as RaDene’s color stylist. She has given up her job as my barber. It was a bit awkward when she told us that she and her husband were divorcing and she was moving into the basement of her daughter’s place. It is sad when long-time spouses, bound to together by temple covenants, can’t make it work. But we tried to cheer her, and I’m sure we will follow her to her new hair salon. On a happy note, our stylist lives in the same neighborhood with the Jacobs. We dropped in on them and persuaded them to go to dinner with us. We were a bit hesitant at first, because the parking lot was packed, and we didn’t know what the seating arrangements might be. But, after a little wait, we went in and had a delightful meal. There was lots of delicious Italian food, but the highlight was the St Louis style “toasted” raviolis. That is to say, deep fried raviolis. They were yummy. I keep saying it, but St Louis punches above its weight in excellent eats. Just before rolling into bed, the Pittsfield sisters called, alarmed that there was a bird in their kitchen light fixture. They were quite excited. I tried to call back, but they didn’t answer. I’m curious what happened!
Saturday the 27th started pretty early with JustServe training from the North America Central specialists. They got this calling after having served as JustServe coordinators in an NAC mission (in Colorado, if memory serves). So they are particularly good at providing training with application to missionaries. It is gratifying to hear about all the work being done by members around North America for the simple reason of Christian service, including by missionaries. We have come along way. It was not that long ago when service was discouraged for missionaries because it was thought to be an unnecessary drain on proselyting time. Now, it is recognized for doing so much good, enlivening the missionaries, knitting them to their communities, building bridges, creating natural curiosity, and just doing good. We were introduce to the Billion Graves organization, which catalogues headstones by an easy to use application on a smart phone. It is such a brilliant idea to capture the invaluable family history information contained on headstones before they are illegible! RaDene pointed out that working in a cemetery in community, particularly a small community, could be a very natural introduction to families that live there and potentially have ancestors in the cemetery.
After fielding a call from the Webster Grove North sisters who were concerned about an invasion of centipedes and rolly pollies, I replaced the bird feeder that had been vandalized earlier in the week. I decided to make things just a bit more challenging for the squirrels—I hung the feeder on thin wire from a branch probably 15 feet high. We shall see what these clever creatures do.
We ended the day with a special assignment to present about JustServe to our mission presidency and their wives. The business part of the meeting was effective and inspiring. The sociality of gathering around a table full of food and kindred spirits was delightful. That’s two evenings in a row out with mission colleagues. It’s been a long time since we did that.