Whatever reprieve last week was, this week is its antithesis. It was time to implement our revamped transfer process, because we would begin receiving missionaries on Monday, May 25th and start conducting transfers in the mornings while welcoming additional arriving missionaries in the evenings for the next three consecutive days. This week was a “special” transfer, meaning it wasn’t part of the every six week calendar that the Missionary Department has mapped out for years in advance. In that respect, it was not unlike a lot of transfers we have had in the past several months. But what was different this time was the Missionary Department decided that sending out too many missionaries in too large of groups was not good health practice. So they broke the large group of missionaries they were sending into 3 groups, and sent them on consecutive days. I sure hope we prevented someone from getting sick, because it about did the mission staff in. Arrivals and transfers are a big deal. Getting ready for one is challenging. Getting ready for three would have been overwhelming, especially while trying to keep social distance. The ace up our sleeve was we saw this coming, and we had a plan.
Tuesday, May 26 was our beta test. We had lists and schedules and had been checking and rechecking for several days. Now it was time to do it. We had a new set up scheme in the Frontenac parking lot, and the senior missionaries, moving assistants, and APs arrived an hour and a half early to get ready. We had driveways to block off, traffic cones to place, tables and chairs to set up in stations, parking areas to designate, luggage to set out, mail and other deliverables to assemble, and our secret weapon, transfer instructions, in three different colors for handing out. It was a warm, sunny day, and the set up went well. Some missionary cars arrived earlier than we had planned, throwing us off just a bit, but we recovered. By the time President and Sister Bell got there with the new missionaries, we had a good deal of the transfer work completed, which was the goal. Our plan had really helped.
Meet Elder Nathaniel Nelson. He became a third housing assistant today. Ordinarily after three transfers one housing assistant is sent back to the field. Not this time. We have three Has. This is a bit odd, but these are strange times all around. Elder Nelson is a bright young man, interested and skilled in the performing arts. He might just bust out in a show tune at any moment. And he’s good! But, even though he is from Wyoming, he seems a stark contrast to the rough and ready other two housing assistants, especially Elder John, who fancies himself a cowboy. Missions bring all kinds together in the service of Christ.
Off we go for post-transfer work—first a stop at a new found mattress warehouse store that supposedly has twin foundations ready and available. And yes, they do! The simple pleasures of a housing coordinator. Then we left for Rockwood 2nd to set up a Tri. Normally, this wouldn’t be that big a deal, but Rockwood 2nd is the apartment of the only two known cases of COVID-19 among the missionaries. Sisters Austin and Greer had suffered together for about six weeks, and only recently found themselves getting back to normal. President has assigned a new incoming sister to join them, and she needs a place to sleep. I must admit, it felt a little—hmm, I don’t know what the word is—something like uncomfortable?—to go into a place where you know that the Corona virus has been in force. We kept our masks on and stayed socially distant. What would it feel like to actually move in there with the rccovered missionaries? The new sister is brave! But Sister Austin and Sister Greer look good, so its just a mental thing (right?).
Then we went to St Charles North to deliver luggage that wouldn’t fit into the Sisters’ car at transfers earlier today, to O’Fallon, Missouri to drop of a Missionary Support Funds card to a hungry missionary, and finally to Troy to set our second apartment that would hold four missionaries, at least until I can find another apartment in the area. This last arrangement includes a young man that Sister Hatfield looks after because of their shared diagnosis, so I have some feelings for him. He is brave too. He could have taken the easy way out and gone home during the COVID purge (that sounds wrong, but it was a difficult and negative experience for most everyone), but he (with Sister Hatfield’s encouragement and support) decided to stay. He now gets to add on top of the social isolation period a cozy living arrangement. I’m proud of him.
Wednesday, May 27th was the second test of our new transfer process. And the forecast was for rain. We recommended to move the transfer stations into the gym, but the decision was we
would conduct the transfers outside, rain or shine. This time it was definitely rain. In fact, there was a small river dividing our parking lot space in two. The HAs went to the mission home to borrow some patio umbrellas, which were of marginal help. The square shade tent clearly was for shade, not rain. Packing tape would not stick to hold up signs. Tables could not be kept dry. We had to keep luggage and bedding (especially pillows) in the trailer. It rained constantly during the hour we had for set up and the 45 minutes of transfers. Jackets became a wet nuisance. Afterwards, it took three days for my shoes to dry. Only about the time that the Bells arrived with the new missionaries did the rain ease off a bit. We were clearly not as smooth as yesterday in the clear weather, but we did it. I’m not sure the benefits of doing this outside in the weather outweighed the burdens. We’ll talk about this more at the staff meeting on Friday.
On Thursday, May 28th we did it again. Only it didn’t rain this time, and we were smart enough to leave a bunch of our stuff in the back hallway of the building where it was easily retrievable. We were learning, if not exhausted. After the transfers we headed for the Columbia Zone to Fulton, to drop off some chairs, and to Riverview South in Jefferson City. I need to make a decision to renew the lease there, or not. And we have had a couple of issues, like ants, so I really did want to take a look. A new Elder Logan Morrison just assigned to serve in Riverview is the son of my cousin’s best friend in Arizona. So it gave me the chance to welcome Elder Morrison to the mission.
Having done all this, it was getting late, and the elders are hungry. We talked about what we could eat, and I learned a little secret. Thursdays are boneless 2 for 1 day at Buffalo Wild Wings. The missionaries take frequent advantage of this. And since I had three assistants, the arithmetic was just right to split orders. We found one in Jeff City, and from the parking lot phoned in our order. It was hilarious though, because it was raining and banging on the truck roof so hard that Elder Scheurman and the hostess could not hear each other. It was a wonder it worked at all. In the 15 minutes we waited for the order to be ready, it slowed enough for us to go in and buy our wings. When we got inside, to our surprise, there were people eating at tables. Sheepishly, and not knowing for sure whose rules we might be breaking, we asked if we could eat our takeout inside. They obliged, and I left a good sized tip. This was my first eat in meal in months, and it felt good. We were so tired after this week that we took turns driving the 2.5 hours back to St Louis.