Sunday, October 11th seemed like it was going to be a bad day. Our nonagenarian sister in the Pagedale Branch, Annie Stewart, was not at home when we stopped by after sacrament meeting. She had been hospitalized a few days ago. Her grandson said it had to do with headaches and chest pains, so it was probably related to her high blood pressure. She might be released in a few days, but she did not answer when we called her hospital room. We made sure he had our phone number. We can’t help but worry about Annie. Later that afternoon, another sister we visit and talk to regularly said she “needed a break” from church. In talking to her, she does not want our relationship to change, which I am grateful to hear. I’m thinking that she is just feeling overwhelmed with life pressures, and trying to give herself some space where ever she can. We will stay close to her. Better feelings were shared later that evening when Dad celebrated his 90th birthday with the family. Malory, AJ and their two adorable kids made a surprise trip out from Alabama to be with him. I am so thankful for the health and strength my parents have enjoyed in their old age. I miss not being able to celebrate with him and the rest of the family, but I know he is my biggest supporter for serving this mission. One of his greatest qualities is faithfulness, putting the Lord first in word and deed.
Monday, October 12th started with a meeting with Sis Hatfield and Pres Bell. Technology has become such an integral part of missionary work, and Sis Hatfield plays a key role for the MSLM. It starts early, with helping missionaries bring compatible phones, to providing directions on setting up the church’s safety application, which restricts use to approved internet sites. She has become a sharp shooter in helping missionaries use Area Book, the missionary department’s proselyting data collection app. She spends lots of time on the phone with them, often recruiting help from missionary department technology specialists in Salt Lake City. The mission has assigned a few young companionships to travel around the mission and train the rank and file in Facebook finding and teaching. There is a fuzzy line between what Sis Hatfield does supporting the missionaries and the duties of the Traveling Technology Trainers. So, we organized and coordinated efforts, making sure we understood Pres Bell’s vision of what can be done to expand the mission’s successful use of technology. Later, I went shopping for a washer and dryer set for a new mission apartment. After doing some research, I figured out that no one had equipment in stock. Apparently, the reduced manufacturing of durable goods extends to large home appliances. But, Home Depot will have something for me by the end of the month. The elders will need to use the laundry of the apartment complex in the meantime. Helpfully, the Home Depot appliance specialist recognized I was with a church, and helped me apply for a state tax exemption. It will save the Church almost $90 on this purchase. Thanks, Home Depot! That night, Sis Hatfield and I worked until 10 p.m. getting ready for zone conferences the rest of the week.
On Tuesday, October 13 we got up early and headed the 2 ½ hours to Columbia for our first zone conference of the week, where three zones would meet each day for the next three days. The sites of the conferences were not centralized. Instead, they were located where the local county ordinances would permit the size of the meetings of about 80-90 people. We did research to find that these counties would be in Columbia, Missouri, Springfield, Illinois, and Cape Girardeau, Missouri, more or less the three outlying arms of the mission. By the time it was over, we would drive between 700 and 800 miles to get around. We were almost late in Columbia, because we had a tire pressure warning. Ordinarily, I would not have paid much attention until I had some time, but I had pulled a screw out of the tire a few days before so I felt like I need to deal with the problem, which turned out to be a non-issue, except for making us slow to conference. Besides presenting to the missionaries, we brought mail, and helped organize and serve Sis Bell’s cinnamon rolls and fruit outside. It amazes me how food, no matter how carefully thought through, requires a good amount of time and effort to set up, take down, and clean. After the zone conference, RaDene and I dropped off mail and a birthday present to Elder Kilembi and his companions, zone leaders who had to participate electronically because they had helped a family move a few days before, and unhappily, the father of the family tested positive for COVID-19. The sister training leaders were on the same service project, and were also quarantined.
Before heading back to St Louis, we wanted to stop for lunch, and chose a sandwich shop next to the University of Missouri campus. As we rounded a street corner, Sis Hatfield looked up, and exclaimed, “that is where I had my EEG when I was five years old.” She hadn’t been around Columbia long enough to know that she was indeed looking at an old wing of the U of Missouri hospital. She had a recollection of a landmark, the Columns on the campus center, which we found and enjoyed taking a look at and reminiscing about her family’s stay there some 50 years ago while her Dad worked on his masters degree in economics. RaDene called her Mom and together they laughed about all of the misadventures they experienced that year, from tramatic separation from friends and family, cockroaches, seizures, amputated finger, chicken pox, and more. It is no wonder Sis Hatfield easily pronounces Missouri as Misery, given the childhood memories.