Sunday, October 25, 2020

11 - 17 October 2020 Childhood Memories of Columbia, Missiouri

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.

 On Wednesday, October 14th we traveled to Springfield, Illinois.  One of the things that zone conference week brings a disruption from exercise and healthy eating routines—we are simply on the go early and long this week.  Sis Hatfield’s presentation to the missionaries was memorable, as she shared a clip of our granddaughters saying farewell to each other at the end of Dad’s 90th birthday weekend.  Kennedy and Abbi hugged and kissed, and Kennedy said goodbye.  Abbi paused, and responded, “Never goodbye, never goodbye.  I’ll come to your house someday soon.  Never goodbye.”  It was adorable and captured the hearts of all the missionaries. 

 Thursday, October 15th took zone conference to Cape Girardeau.  The local sister missionaries hitched a ride with us.  Sis Huffaker and Sis Jarman are such good friends to us and to each other.  Sis Huffaker started her mission in South Korea, where our son Spencer served, so we feel a certain bond with her in that regard.  It was the first rainy day of the cooler fall season, so we were not sure how we were going to serve the midmorning snack socially distanced and outside like we had been doing the past two days.  And Sis Bell called Sis Hatfield in a small panic that she had forgotten the grapes for the break and left them at the mission home.  By the time of the call, we were too far to turn around, so we dropped the sisters off at the Cape Girardeau stake center to participate in the beginning of the conference, and Sis Hatfield and I headed to a local grocery store for fruit.  There was a break in the rain, so we were able to have our food break served inside in a line and send them out the door for snacking and visiting.  It worked okay.  Sis Hatfield had the idea of having the mission sing happy birthday to my Dad, since this was his birthday.  So afterwards, the young missionaries, together with Pres and Sis Bell obliged me, and out in the parking lot, Sis Hatfield led them in a spirited happy birthday song, which RaDene posted for him and the whole family to see.  I was tickled that I could offer something special that day to him. 

 We took a detour on the way home to Farmington, where the local habitat for humanity reportedly had used kitchen tables.  We are in need of those around the mission.  Our elders in Farmington have done quite a lot of service for them, so they have sold us furniture at deep discounts before.  Its funny that in a metro area of 3.5 million people, it seems impossible to get large furniture at the local second hand outlets, so we go 150 miles south where they don’t seem to mind accepting donations of and selling large furniture items.  The funny part was when we got to Farmington, it was just a little after 4 p.m.  I called the store manager, and he had already headed for home to watch his kids while his wife went to work at her evening job.  After trying unsuccessfully to keep the trip from being a waste, the manager finally said, “I’ll just give you the door code, and you can let yourself in and see what might work for you.”  So we did, which felt strange, for sure, but inside was a treasure trove of old furniture, including kitchen tables and chairs.  We picked out a couple, called the manager, and he sold them to us at half the marked price.  We left a check on the counter, packed out one set that we needed immediately, marked the other set for future pickup, and locked the door on our way out.  I guess some people trust the missionaries.  We treated ourselves and the young sisters to St Louis-style barbeque for dinner, and headed home.  We logged 291 miles for the day.  Tomorrow will be a much needed catchup day in the office.

 Saturday, October 17th was moving day, this time for us.  After a few false starts, we finally jumped on an upstairs apartment in the building we live in.  Sis Hatfield has observed recently that workers have been in and out of this apartment, and although the leasing office didn’t have it yet on their list to show, she persuaded them that we should be able to take a look before it had been through the ready checklist.  We have been holding our breath for some months now since our upstairs neighbors moved out.  The sewer pipes have done their jobs during this COVID summer with no one upstairs.  But now, it has been re-leased, and we knew that we are at risk again.  For peace of mind, we made the move, figuring that upstairs had to be safer.  Some sister missionaries helped move closet and cupboard stuff, and the housing assistants carried the big furniture.  Since I had given our couch away to a newly opened of elders, and since the President’s office couch was quite awkward in the space, we inherited the office couch.  I joke that every time I sit on it I feel like I’m in an interview.  Naturally, it will be a few days before we are settled, but we find we do enjoy the upstairs apartment.  Maybe that is because we have lived in our perch of a house in Provo for too many years to be ground dwellers.  During a family video call that evening, I got a frantic call from some elders in Decatur, IL that their oven “blew up.”  After troubleshooting for a few minutes, I recognize they won’t be getting the help they need for several days.  I send them to Walmart to get a hotplace burner to give them something to cook on through the weekend.

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