On Sunday, August 2nd we returned to the Pagedale, Missouri Branch for an abbreviated sacrament meeting. Attendance was limited to 25 percent of capacity, which meant that about 25 people could be in the chapel. A very few people ended up in the relief society room overflow, but not many. We were spread out with plenty of room between families and individuals. Clearly not everyone felt comfortable returning yet. When it was over, we were ushered out the side door where we had a few brief conversations in the heat. It is hard to go back to church and not be able to experience the sociality of the saints. That evening was a special treat. The Bells arranged a fireside for the mission consisting of a 40 minute virtual tour of Palmyra conducted by Sister Miner and her companion. Sister Miner will be transferred to the MSLM later in the month. They took us through the original Smith log house, scampered down the road to the newer clap board house, and then out into the Sacred Grove. These young women were inspiring. I have no doubt but that they will bring a spirit to our mission that could be found in few other ways. Finally, late that evening I got a call from Sis Everton, our mission nurse. The Elders in Jefferson City had terrible skin blisters. The preliminary diagnosis was scabies, a very difficult pest to eradicate. I was not looking forward to the possibility of needing to throw out beds, bedding, and furniture in an attempt to fight off the mites that burrow into human skin. Ugh! The next day, we learned (to my relief?) that the rashes were more likely poison ivy. Wow, that ivy oil apparently spread through four elders, each of whom look terrible.
On Tuesday, August 4th I signed a commitment for a new apartment lease in the Missouri River ward of the Lake St Louis Stake. It has been difficult to find, and even now, we will need to wait almost six weeks before we can take occupancy. Low cost housing is tight. I also took a vacuum and a smoke alarm to the Webster Grove North sisters. I’m replacing more of these alarms than I would have expected. They say they have a 10 year life, but on closer inspection, they also say the lifespan is decreased by heat and humidity. Well, that explains it.
Sister Hatfield was asked by a missionary to repair his pants at an MLC meeting a couple of weeks ago. Like most missionary meetings, her attention is in high demand at missionary meetings. She took the pants, but did not carefully think about who gave them to her. After the sewing, she made some sheepish phone calls around the mission to figure out who’s pants they were. It wasn’t easy. I thought the cause was lost, but finally, Elder Reid, from the South zone claimed them. Mystery solved. Sis Hatfield has been trying to help Sis Bell with referrals. The software leads us to believe that we have as many as 70 people that have not been contacted by the missionaries. Pres Bell has, naturally, chastised the missionaries for not following up and picking the low hanging fruit that a referral represents. After lots of frustration, it turns out our missionaries aren’t lazy—the software refuses to change the referral status after the missionaries have made attempts to contact the person referred. Sis Hatfield and Sis Bell were on a long conference call with Salt Lake to first identify the problem, and then to try to find solutions. So far, the only thing that works is for an administer to manually change the referral status. The missionaries can’t do it. Well, that won’t work very long. There is simply too much to do.
Wednesday August 5th started out like most Wednesdays, with me joining the video workout led by President Bell. Is a 60 year old too old to be doing this with men 1/3 his age? Maybe. I do it anyway. We headed for Belleville, Illinois to deliver some recently arrived desks and a simple set of metal and fabric drawers substituting as a dresser for the sisters tucked into the small front bedroom. They have been good sports, basically living out of their suitcases and studying on their beds and kitchen tables. They were so appreciative of what we brought to them—a little payback for the housing coordinator. Later that evening Sis Hatfield discovered that her emails to the incoming missionaries were largely lost in the ethersphere. The missionary software system allows you to create groups for email communications. She had done that for missionaries coming later in August to communicate important information related to their arrival and service. Almost by mistake, she learned that one person had not received the email, then another, and another! Yikes, she spent hours recreating the message and sending it one by one to the 35 missionaries scheduled to come on August 26. Technology!
On Saturday, August 8th Sis Hatfield and I spent some time cleaning our apartment. It was preparation day, and I am the housing coordinator, so what’s sauce for the goslings is sauce for the goose. For some reason, we decided to dust above our stacked dryer, and a light brush of the rag displaced the dryer exhaust tube. It was attached only by a very insufficient piece of duct tape. And on further investigation, the upper end of the coiled tube wasn’t attached to anything at all, just partially stuck into a sheetrocked chase. We spent the afternoon chasing down connectors and other parts to make this darn thing work so it wasn’t blowing dryer dust into our bathroom all the time.
After the home projects were under control, we cleaned up and went with the Bells to a drive by wedding reception along the front walk of the Mahaffeys, the first counselor in the mission presidency. It was a unique experience, greeting people without even getting out of the car. But something tells me that this can’t be part of the new normal! Afterwards, we went to dinner with the Bells and while we were at it, accompanied them to the dance studio to pick up their son from practice. He has been back in Utah for a good chunk of the summer. The Bells are especially glad to have him home because his older brother has decided to spend his whole senior year back in Utah. That was certainly a difficult decision for the Bells, especially if he decides to go on a mission soon after graduation.