Sunday, September 20th started for us with Primary for Abbi and Ezra. The subject was Christ’s appearance in Bountiful. The Sermon on the Mount and as Bishop John Welch calls it, the Sermon at the Temple, is so rich with values, doctrine, and miracles to teach. It is almost a manual for what parents should teach their children to become. Elder Brady, a recent arrival in the Pagedale teaching area, gave a beautiful, sincere, and hope filled talk on faith. Even as a missionary, Elder Brady authentically shared how he did not know all, but his faith and hope is helping him progress in his personal journey, and help others that are pure in their desires to learn the Gospel.
After church, we went to see our old friend Annie Stewart and met her great (or is it great-great?) granddaughter Harmony, who is 11. At first, Harmony was a little standoffish, what with these two strangers coming into her grandmother’s home. But Sis Hatfield showed a video first to Annie, and then cued up a beautiful children’s video on Who Is Christ and asked Harmony if she would like to watch it. She was very interested in what she saw, and after that, joined our discussions about Christ and even decided she wanted to participate in our little sacrament service. If missionary work is done in small steps, we have taken a couple today.
That afternoon, Sis Hatfield made a batch of St Louis gooey butter cake. Rather than eat it all, we delivered some to the Bells, who were having a farewell dinner with Elder Daughtery. He is leaving a few weeks early to get back to Idaho for the potato harvest. Then we took a plate to the housing assistants, instead meeting their apartment mates because the HAs were teaching a lesson. We were able to make the Frontenac elders feel like we were delivering the treat to them, too, which we were happy to do.
We went back to the office because Sis Hatfield needed to print a boarding pass and gather a few other departure papers for Elder Daughtery. My job was to put the ever important travel treats in a plastic sack. We would take these materials back to Pres Bell and Elder Daughtery at the Mission Home. To Sis Hatfield’s surprise, she could not find the reservation to print the boarding pass. Oh well, she thought, Pres Bell would get him checked in at the counter in the morning, which sometimes is easier anyway for a travel party of one or two. But somehow, Sis Hatfield could not let it go. She called the church’s emergency after hours travel number, which seemed extreme, but she felt to do so. The travel agent could not find the reservation either. After a few minutes of hold time, she came back and told us that United Airlines had changed Elder Daugherty’s flight. Instead of departing at 8 in the morning, his flight was now at 6 am. It was a small miracle that RaDene had felt to press the point, or Elder Daughtery would have missed his flight entirely and maybe not gotten home as planned. Sis Hatfield called his father who was friendly, excited for the early arrival of his son, and happy to make a last minute connection between Elder Daughtery and Elder Stevens, who it turned out had been high school opponents in the Idaho state basketball tournament, without realizing it until this very night. The only person that wasn’t happy was Pres Bell, who now had to get up at 4 am to get Elder Daughtery to the airport on time!
On Monday, September 21st I had to fill out a corporate apartment lease like no other I had been asked to complete before. I needed the Church’s Dunn & Bradstreet number, incorporation information, ownership, and other details no one had every cared about before, in my experience. I felt like a lawyer again, doing legal research on my own Church. Did you know that the Church is owned by a single stockholder, Russell M. Nelson. Its called a “corporation sole,” a little used corporate structure authorized by a few states primarily for purposes of charitable organizations. When Pres Nelson departs mortality, the next president of the Church will become its sole owner. Then I was off to the bank to get another cashier’s check to go with the corporate application. I’ve gotten more cashier’s checks in the that last two months than in my whole life before now. Its actually not too hard to do, provided you have an account with sufficient funds that the bank can withdraw. All that together, I went to St Peters, MO to submit my application to lease. I hope it is accepted. At least they had a corporate application form, so they seem to have a process to follow. So many apartment owners and managers are completely confused by the idea of renting to the Church. On my way back, I stopped at the long term stay hotel in St Charles to confirm when we expect our two sets of elders there to finally check out, make appropriate payments, and get statements. It has been surprisingly challenging to get hotel statements that match credit card statements. I’m not sure why. After a career of staying in hotels and matching hotel folios with credit card statements, it is a bit of a mystery. It must have something to do with not always being there to check in, check out, working through internet booking sites sometimes and directly with hotels other times, and who knows what other variables.
On my way back to the office, I see that an email has come through with a new apartment lease. It is the same manager that on Friday told me that they were not ready for our Saturday move in as planned. That was frustrating, what with all the last minute arrangements that had to be made. When I open the lease, I see they have listed the wrong apartment. I call the manager to say there has been an error, and she tells me that the apartment we have been planning to occupy isn’t available. Why didn’t they tell me that last week? So I take a look at what they are offering as the alternative, see that it is just fine, sign the lease, and we move Elder Scheurman and Elder McNeil, the newly assigned traveling technology trainers for the mission, out of their hotel and into the apartment. They will be busy. If there is anything the missionaries need training on, its use of technology for proselyting. We are definitely building a bridge between the way missionary work was done in the past and the way it will be done in the future.
While I’m working on the moving project, Sis Hatfield drove to Belleville, Illinois to visit the three sisters serving there. One will be heading home to Samoa next transfer. She has been showing a stiff upper lip, and a friendly hello, but Sis Hatfield has sensed that she needed some help. And she did. The stress of finishing strong, the worry of whether she has done enough, the confusion of potential quarantine in Hawaii before going on to Samoa, and the crazy long flight home have weakened her spirit. But Sis Hatfield gave her and her companions an evening of motherly attention, and they later sent me a sweet note thanking me for “sharing” Sis Hatfield with them that day. RaDene certainly has spiritual ears tuned to the welfare of others.
Tuesday, the 22nd was one of those two steps backwards days. At least it didn’t feel like progress. I got a call from a manager 30 minutes away in St Peters, where I’m trying to get an apartment for some elders in a hotel, telling me that every blank on their application needed to say something, even if it was “N/A.” That’s pretty ridiculous, but I need the application to be viewed in its best light, so I went out there and wrote N/A on any blank lines. It’s more than silly: they have much more information than they need to decide if they want the Church as a tenant. Later, I went to the Hazelwood South apartment, where the elders had told me that leaking from the upstairs apartment was flooding their bathroom and kitchen. Actually, the flooding wasn’t that bad, but the moisture has obviously been inside the walls and floor for some time. The sheet rock is coming apart and hanging in the mechanical room next to the bathroom, and the kitchen cabinet made of particle board is swollen and cracked. I took pictures and sent a message to the landlord documenting the situation. I will need to come back when we feel more certain that the leak is stopped.
On Wednesday, September 23rd the weather has a nice fall coolness. I recruited the housing assistants to help me with a project I have been wanting to do ever since I arrived here: clean out the mission housing storage shed. It has been filled with so much stuff over who knows how long that it is impossible to know just what is in there and even if you do, nearly impossible to get it out, to say nothing of trying to store something we might actually need. The problem is that we have been moving so quickly we haven’t had the luxury of a few hours to work on the project. Equally damming of the effort, the winter temperatures and humidity are frightfully cold in there, and the summer is like a sauna without a bathing suit and towel. Today is quite nice, and I have a little time. So we jump in pulling out boxes, crates, and broken appliances, equipment, who knows what of all kinds. There are more teacup plates than will fit in two big boxes. There are a dozen broken lamps. The piles of rusted and lidless pots is spectacular. You get the picture. The Goodwill doesn’t even want this stuff. So we load it in the truck. We also load some serious cleaning supplies, and we head to Hazelwood South where we take out the washing machine to access the mechanical closet and pull out hanging, moldy sheet rock, ancient rags, and parts from previous repairs, and scrape, sweep, and spray with bleach. I take more pictures to send to the landlord so they know the damage to the sheet rock, insulation, studs, and joists. Hopefully, they will take some action. They can’t say they didn’t know. Meanwhile, our cleaning and mopping will make it much more livable for the elders.
Friday, September 25th is part two of zone conference for this transfer. Part two because the President feels like two shorter sessions a couple of weeks apart does more to keep the motivation up than one long day. The conference this time is virtual, meaning we will shuffle in and out of the President’s office to appear on camera before the missionaries. It’s the entire mission, so to call it zone conference is not really right, except that it keeps us on a calendar that in the future will relate to smaller, in person zone conferences when meeting restrictions abate. Relatedly, I’ve been hunting down county by county COVID restrictions for all nine stake centers in our mission. Sister Hatfield is helping me devise a scheme to group some zones at stake centers with the least restrictive meeting regulations so that next transfer we can have some in person meetings with the missionaries, albeit masked and maintaining social distance. Everything is harder in COVID.
Strangely, we are just about to go into our zone conference presentations, when we are alerted by Salt Lake that our phones are down and it is uncertain when they will operate again. Sis Hatfield has all the mission office phone calls forwarded to her cell phone, and then spends hours with communication technicians figuring out that our mission phones are obsolete, unsupported, and won’t ever work again. It’s a good thing we all have personal cell phones as backups. It sounds as if the Church will supply newer, supportable phones to us, but how long that will take is anyone’s guess. Did this really need to happen right now? After zone conference is over at about 12:30, we take a short break and start a marathon staff meeting that goes until 4 pm. At least the office phones are not ringing to interrupt us.
On Saturday, September 26th we have our monthly JustServe video training conducted by the North America Central Area JustServe specialists, the Searings. They have had our very positions as mission JustServe specialists before taking on the role for the NAC Area so they are good at holding meetings helpful to us and missions, as well as the primary drivers who serve in the stakes. The Church is sponsoring a JustServe campaign this fall called Real Lives. Real Change., which gives more visibility through social media of the usefulness of service and volunteerism to our communities. The missionaries ought to be good at spreading the news on Facebook about the JustServe work they and others do for the good of many.
Afterwards, I meet the housing assistants and we load a trailer full of furniture to open a new apartment in O’Fallon, Missouri. First I meet the leasing office and sign the lease—in person. It has been months since I did that. Thankfully, this apartment has easily been the shortest distance between identifying a potential to executing a lease and moving in that I have experienced, taking only about 10 days. I’m grateful for that, because after multiple false starts, we needed to get the elders moved out of the hotel and into a place they could live in closer to their teaching area. Naturally, we are well short of lots of furniture, and dressers seem to be in especially short supply for some reason. For the O’Fallon elders we have accepted a donation of a very heavy entertainment center, taken out all the wiring, retrofitted some shelves, and made it do. It will stay there for a while, even after dressers become available again, because it is too heavy to move back down the stairs without extraordinary cause.
We have a nice young couple in our Pagedale Branch that is expecting their first child. She has had many miscarriages, so we haven’t seen them around a lot while she tries to stay COVID healthy. RaDene has been supportive, and she has decided to make a baby quilt for them. Sis Hatfield has a talent for designing and sewing quilt pieces. And somehow, with everything else going on around here, RaDene made a beautiful quilt this summer for our granddaughter. So, thinking she can do it again, for our Saturday evening end to our preparation day, we go quilt fabric shopping. Also of note, we ate out at a Mediterranean restaurant on their patio. A small sign of either normalcy, or just being tired of social isolation.