Sunday, September 13th was a mixed blessing. Finally, the Husseys had the chance to return to church services. It has been too long since little Kennedy has been to church to continue developing that good habit. That is of course, what we want. The downside is that she and her almost one year old brother Ben are no longer available for video Primary on Sunday mornings with us and their cousins in Utah. We’ll try to keep it up, but at separate times. It’s a fun way to connect with these precious young grandchildren as best we can, and supplement their parents’ good home teaching. After our Sacrament service in the Pagedale Branch we did our ministering to our widow friends and then came home. Our project for the afternoon was to blitz through our last 15 years of pictures on our phones. The goal was to find some photos to contribute to a memory book niece Janie is helping put together for Dad’s 90th birthday in a few weeks. That is another subject. What I was reminded of in looking through my hundreds of pictures, automatically cataloged by date and place, was what a wonderful, rich life I have had. We have been surrounded by family and friends, and visited interesting places all over this world. Its clear that the blessings of heaven extend from spiritual to temporal, from relational to geographic, and much more. Thanks be to God for a wonderful life—and magical technology to remind me of it.
On Monday, September 14th I received word that my application for an apartment in O’Fallon, Missouri was accepted, I made two local hotel reservations for companionships to be assigned in newly formed areas where there is no chance to get new apartments by transfers on Wednesday, and more good news, a complex we use here in Creve Coeur will have an apartment available for us to lease on Saturday. These are small but important victories in the battle for the souls of good men and women. The missionaries actually get excited when I tell them I will need to put them up in a hotel while I look for an apartment, but the novelty soon wears off when they figure out the inconvenience of eating with only a microwave and minifridge and a very limited budget. We try to give them a bit more financial help, but not much.
Tuesday, September 15th included the happy chore of buying vacuums. I know, that sounds odd, but we have a lot of vacuums, and constantly need to get more and repair the ones we have. The happy part is the small vacuum store off of Lindberg Avenue where the proprietor is helpful, accommodating, and knows me by name. He must be one of the foremost authorities on what makes a good vacuum, and which brands and models to pick, and which to steer away from. He has a great sense of humor, and sorts through his box truck, attic, and back room full of trade-ins helping find what we need. No doubt, we are one of his very best customers, with his vacuums spread over most of two states, but it wouldn’t matter. I’ve seen him enough to know that he treats all of his customers with care and concern. He would make a great bishop—I wonder if he’ll ever get there. If only I could find someone like this to bring my broken washers and dryers.
Later, I checked into the hotels I reserved yesterday so that tomorrow the elders could go without me accompanying them. I sent the housing assistants to set up more beds for TRIs, retrieve furniture from a generous member in Jefferson City, and get to the airport on time to pick up luggage for arriving missionaries. I stayed back to check and double check transfer plans with Sis Hatfield, who is meanwhile preparing for the communications and technical support the incoming missionaries and their trainers will need starting tomorrow. Our work is quite a contrast: she is in the new world of virtual tools, while I’m literally in the old fashioned bricks and mortar world. Nowadays, we need both. So for example, when we got home tonight, Sis Hatfield spent her late evening talking missionaries through phone glitches, while I ran bedding through the laundry.
Wednesday, September 16th was transfer day. Sis Hatfield tells me that this is number 17, but I’ve long ago lost count. Eight elders arrived last night, and one sister who came back to the MSLM after having been sent home for health precaution reasons at the beginning of COVID. I went to the Frontenac building to do physical setup for the transfers while Sis Hatfield made a quick trip to the office to get some needed lists. Then we conducted a new missionary orientation, which gets the missionaries acquainted with handbooks that the office staff , and especially Pres Bell and Sis Hatfield, have compiled. It is a place the missionaries can go for a lot of the nuts and bolts of life as a missionary. Elder Riley Schuerman, one of my former housing assistants is coming back from being a zone leader in the Champaign stake to be a Traveling Technology Trainer for the mission. Technology is the prime tool for teaching, but some missionaries are not as adept with their phones, Facebook, and church approved applications as they need to be. But some are very skilled, including Elder Schuerman, so he is being brought in to spread the skill. This is a new position Pres Bell has designed and we have high hopes for its ability to raise our trajectory of success.
After everyone departs Frontenac, and I treat the housing assistants to hamburgers, we make some post-transfer arrangements in Shilo East, Fairview, and St Louis Hills. Sis Hatfield hustles back to the office to meet missionaries in need of phones, Books of Mormon in Swahili, or whatever inevitable needs they have after coming to town and moving areas. Later, while the housing assistants take a smoke alarm and a few accessories to Missouri River North, I meet the Pagedale elders at the home of Asfari (Dee) Marche. She has agreed to give the mission some tables. I hope we didn’t overwhelm her with me plus four other elders. Pagedale now has a second pair of elders, and they are in a hotel, so the existing companionship is helping them meet members and investigators. But turns out we needed all of us. Sis Marche has a lifetime of possessions in her basement, stacked wall to wall, and floor to ceiling. To get to the tables, the elders are moving a lot of stuff around. We are forced to leave a couple of prizes because we can’t get to them. We offer to return and help Sis Marche any way we can as she takes on the task of sorting through the valuable from that which needs to go.
On Thursday, September 17th I spend part of the morning doing paper, telephone, and computer work, and then I need to get out and see some bodies. Apartment leasing agents and managers are not always responsive electronically. It isn’t necessarily easy to see them face to face, either, because offices are often closed for COVID concerns. But I figure I must try. It has been too long since I have heard about my applications for the Pagedale and St Peters apartments. I want to see if I can break the log jam. I know that the problem probably has to do with the mission’s square corporate lessee peg trying to fit into the apartments’ round individual person lessee hole. I can at least show them that I am a real person. I am told in Pagedale that they are still trying to get higher up direction as to how to handle our application. They promise a response by week’s end. In St Peters, I have more success, and actually pay $250 in application fees for a unit that will be available in early October. Then I head off to O’Fallon, Missouri to take a look at an apartment that has accepted my application and, shamefully, which I have never seen. I can’t seem to get everything done I would wish too, especially when so many things are not going smoothly and take more time than they should. Maybe it has to do with trying to secure six apartments simultaneously all over the mission. Thankfully, the apartments in O’Fallon look good and safe. Frustratingly, the St Peters manager calls me just hours after I have paid $250 and tell me that the unit I have been applying for is actually not available until the end of October. That is a Halloween trick for sure. Now I need to figure out how to get my “nonrefundable” application fee back. It sure seems like I ought to get it back when they have baited and switched, now doesn’t it. I drive all over the area looking for alternatives and go back to the office and do more web searches. I am frustrated by the lack of success, either way.
But I am cheered up by the O’Fallon, Illinois sister training leaders that stop by our apartment to pick up air mattresses and blankets. They have some new sister missionaries getting endowments today that the STLs have been shepherding to and from sessions of the temple. I happen to be cooking dinner, and RaDene and I look at each other, and invite them to stay and share a meal with us. I’ve cooked for two, but we will feed five with it. I laugh that I have overchopped vegetables to work out my frustrations, and its easy enough to cook some more corn. And Sis Hatfield sets the table in a snap, and afterwards, finds our favorite candy for dessert. Soon, no one is hungry. Visiting with Sis Pettingale, Sis Singleton, and Sis Slater was just the medicine I needed. We talked and laughed, shared stories about what it is like to go to the temple for the first time, and tough mission experiences we are all going through right now. In the end, it refocused me on my service to the missionaries, and off the frustrations of it all.
On Friday, September 18th I recruit Elder Merrill to research apartments on the computer in St Peters, figuring that a fresh set of eyes can’t hurt. What do you know. Not knowing where the teaching boundaries are, he finds a promising lead across the freeway from the teaching area, but still in the ward. That could work. Why hadn’t I tried that? It’s because I was handcuffed by my knowledge and couldn’t think outside my teaching area box.
We would investigate the St Peter’s lead later. First, I have gotten a call from the Edwardsville elders. They have locked themselves out of their apartment. To their credit, they have tried the manager, but he has said it will cost $75 for his help. So, we open our office spare key box, and off we go to open it ourselves. It will take us over an hour, but we need to be out anyway to buy apartment furnishings for our move in tomorrow. Then we go to St Peters and I am liking what I see. And the manager seems to know just what to do in the case of a corporate lessee. She has a sheaf of standard corporate application forms, which is unusual, but welcome, actually. If they have a process, I believe I can navigate through it. On the way back to the office, the Creve Coeur manager we are moving into tomorrow calls and says they have decided they need to change the carpet in the unit and it won’t be available until Monday. I feel frustrated, but would rather have the missionaries in a place with decent carpet. It means I need to react to the delay however, including making an extension to the hotel stay. Because I have bought the room online, the hotel can’t help me, and I need to buy more days online again, and then call the hotel back and make sure they see the extended booking and not require a checkout and check back in. RaDene is in the office preparing the weekly baptism report for the stake presidents in the mission. She has so many reports and projects that are relentless.
On Saturday, October 19th, we have our P-day, with me going to get two couches from a member. There isn’t much we don’t need at this point, and I’ll put the couches quickly to use in newly opened apartments. We make a quick stop at the office, where I request a refund of my application fees from the bait and switch complex in St Peters, and get messages off to Salt Lake for Dunn & Bradstreet information and insurance certifications that I’ll want to have in hand as early on Monday as possible. Then I send of the elders to Effingham to take down a TRI and to Tuscola to deliver a member-donated dresser.
Back at the apartment, Sis Hatfield has invited Elder Paul and Sis Patti Hintze to dinner. It is a bit awkward to “entertain” in our missionary apartment, but the Hintzes are gracious and good company. We are grateful for their friendship, which extends to the practical: Patti has taught us about St Louis gooey butter cake, the local source for premier pies, and she has been a great quilting resource to Sis Hatfield. Elder Hintze has been an important resource in making decisions about COVID questions. He has come out of retirement at Mercy Hospital to join the St Louis County Health Department staff on its COVID team, so he has a lot of insights helpful to us.