Sunday July 5th started off just a little blue, saying goodbye to Mal’s family. But we don’t have time to wallow in any sorrow, because there is just too much to do. We have another transfer this week. But first, church started back up for us. We’ve been hearing rumors that the St Louis Stake was getting going, but on checking with Pagedale Branch Pres Fingel, this is the Sunday. It is a bit strange. Everything is so sterile, distant, and sparse. Don’t misunderstand, we really enjoy going back to take the sacrament with the saints. But, many members feel uncomfortable, and they are encouraged to continue with their home-based sacrament. We are seated every other row, with people only in family groups on the ends. After the sacrament, we had a two testimonies and then closed. Then we were ushered out with minimal hellos. “Wait, is it over already?” was the feeling I was left with. We stood out in the hot sun for a few minutes talking to the Nerhrings, the temple recorder and his wife, before we made our way to the car. We went home to our Come Follow Me studies, like we have for months now. And then, we were off to the office for transfers preparation work. It is funny how what we do all week feels like it can also be done on the Sabbath, except for calling landlords and other service providers. I wonder if that is true or if I need to rethink my belief that the Lord’s work on a mission is the same everyday? But I won’t be thinking about it today because there is too much to do regardless. This week’s transfers are a day earlier in the week than usual.
I got a call from the Macon elders. They are sure that their pull out couch has bedbugs. They are really worried about it. I talked them away from the ledge and they asked for permission to put the couch in the garage. I encouraged them to take it to the dumpster if they could find a member with a truck to help them (speaking again about ox in the mire on the Sabbath). Then I gave them the standard bedbug speech. Hopefully, we don’t have an out of control infestation.
Monday, July 6th started with a fairly early trip to Farmington to sign and deliver a lease and pay deposits. They require certified checks, but it turns out that the credit union adjacent to our mission office is in association with our credit union in Utah so getting certified checks was not too hard. I drove the 1.5 hours down, but no one had done anything over the long holiday weekend, so I had no trouble getting the new apartment lease for the sisters. Then I made my way to historic downtown Farmington to the utilities office and signed up and made a deposit for electricity. The mission will reimburse me for all these personal checks I’m writing, but it does make me wonder what happens if the mission office staff doesn’t have a substantial checking account to float the short term finance needs.
Meanwhile, I’ve sent the housing assistants off to the South and O’Fallon zones to set up beds. Sometimes we need to divide in order to conquer our to-do list. I raced back to the office and started making duplicate keys for areas we were opening, and lists for me and for the housing assistants to be ready at transfers. Late that day we got word that one of our incoming missionaries missed his flight connection in Detroit. Sis Hatfield and the Bells lit up the phone lines to make alternative arrangements, including spending the night with the missionaries in Detroit. The missionary’s dad was okay with him just spending the night in the airport. We have done that before, with disastrous results. We would not let that happen again. But it does mean that some folks will be off schedule at transfers tomorrow, because this elder’s substitute flight won’t arrive until transfers are over.
Tuesday, July 7th was transfer day. We have the revised COVID process pretty well down, although my sense is that the missionaries are not being as careful as they once were about social distancing among themselves. I suppose it is a reflection of society at large—we can be antisocial for a time, but it is hard to keep it up for an extended period. After transfers, we take our sweaty selves out to a quick lunch, which has become a bit of a post transfer tradition, and then we are off to finish setting up new beds in Warrenton, Dardenne Creek, and Oak Valley. Along the way, we do some table and couch swapping and reallocating. Then its back to the office to work until 10:30 that night. We have another transfer next week.
On Wednesday, July 8th I head to Springfield, Illinois. Some members dropped off a meal at the elder’s apartment a few days ago and was alarmed by what they perceived to be a dangerous environment. No one else seemed too concerned, but I couldn’t just brush it off as overly confident elders. I needed to look for myself. I met with the elders, spoke with the zone leaders, drove around the surrounding neighborhoods, and did some online searches for criminal activity. In the end, I could find nothing upsetting. In fact, the complex looked about as well maintained and orderly as any in our mission. I’m sure some drug sales have gone on in the parking lot, and maybe the members happened on one, but my conclusion is that I would probably only find a less suitable neighborhood if I tried to move. Apartment living just comes with some element of unexpected, uncontrolled environment.
Next we were off to Mahomet, about an hour north and east of Springfield. We were taking down a tri, moving out unwanted furniture, and fixing fans and lights. Both of these sisters are on reassignment from South America and seem to be adjusting well to their new home and work. Finally we went to Champaign to deliver some chairs before praying and starting the long journey back to St Louis.
Thursday the 9th was moving day for the Farmington sisters. We loaded our mission trailer with beds, a couch, tables, chairs, and kitchen utensils and small appliances that we had purchased a few days before. We met the sisters at the leasing office and got the keys, then went around to the apartment. It is nice, but small. It was satisfying to see the sisters excitement about getting into their teaching area and near their ward. Then we went the hour to Cape Girardeau where they were moving from and got the things that needed to go to Farmington. While we were there, we fixed a blind and smoke alarm for the Cape Girardeau sisters and then went to Goodwill and Walmart to try to find a kitchen table. No luck. The Farmington sisters are going to need to make do with the round plastic table until I can find something. Furniture is pretty tough to find right now. Most of what I’m looking for comes from manufacturers that have been shut down during COVID, and supplies are scarce. Goodwill isn’t accepting furniture donations or selling it right now. They only take and sell what fits in a box. We did find an inexpensive dresser though, which I was reluctant to buy because it won’t be durable. But I got it anyway because they needed something. We went back to Farmington and moved the rest of the furniture in and assembled the dresser, which was a Chinese puzzle. I really had a hard time keeping the housing assistants focused on the work because, dare I say it, the sisters are really cute and engaging. They cooked chicken for us while we worked and I did not have the heart to say we would not eat it. It is surely part of my job though to chaperone these small group encounters!
Friday July 10th was mostly an office day, except for the gun shot investigation. The elders in the Wentzville teaching area (Troy, Missouri) had reported a gun shot in their neighbors apartment that came into the elders apartment. No one was hurt, but like Springfield, I could not let it go uninvestigated. The neighbors, who were a father, son, and son in law, had told the elders not to report the matter and they would patch the hole. I told the elders not to patch the hole until I could investigate. I called the police, and they said that the accidental discharge of a weapon under the circumstances I described was not a crime. It would have been in a church or public place, but not in a private residence, even if the bullet goes into another residence. I went to the apartment and saw were the bullet had entered the bedroom of the elders, right above one of their pillows and then gone at a 45 degree angle into the front of the house where the slug got stuck in the wall. No one had been in the bed when it happened, but they had been in the room just feet away. This was much too close for comfort. Next I went and knocked on the neighbors’ door and asked to speak with them. They were blue collar men for sure. But they seemed not to be addicts or irresponsible, and said that they had not been drinking. The 9mm handgun had dropped from a table while unloading a holster and discharged. I explained how seriously we took the situation, with the safety of the missionaries being of utmost concern. They gave me every assurance that the accident would not repeat. I’m confident it won’t. It is a reminder of how many guns there are in Missouri. About 30 percent of residents own them. For better or for worse, the Missouri population is well armed.
Saturday, July 11th was a P-day with very little time for personal preparations. We had another transfer next week, and we are really running low of excess resources to accommodate them. We spent a good part of the day in the office planning. That afternoon I took the housing assistants to the furniture warehouse to buy 13 box springs for incoming sisters. The elders would need to make do with mattresses on the floor which I buy online. Our office neighbors have surely wondered what we do with the scores of mattresses Amazon has delivered to our office hallway over the past several months.