Sunday, October 4th was the second day of General
Conference. We enjoyed the morning
session on BYUtv, figuring that we would slip over to the office between
sessions to print out boarding passes for the 10 missionaries departing tomorrow. Sis Hatfield sat at her desk and the tension
began to build. As she looked for
itineraries, she found she couldn’t print boarding passes for one and then
another. Finally, in exasperation, she
called the Church emergency travel service.
The agent wasn’t having any more luck.
It turned out that eight of the 10 flights for the missionaries going
home had been cancelled by the airlines.
So, what had been planned as a short stay at the office between sessions
turned into something very different.
Schedules were now completely upset, and missionaries and parents at
home had to be called and alerted.
President Bell’s airport shuttle schedule was moved up because he now
had to leave for the airport for the first flight at 4 a.m. The previous plan to leave the mission home
at 6 a.m. was a lost luxury. And instead
of taking them in two groups, the missionaries would either need to go in four
groups, or be left at the airport early to bide their time. Maybe most distressing, a sister returning to
Samoa would not make it home at all. Two
days ago, flights to Samoa were cancelled for the foreseeable future. Fortunately, Sis Fuimaono has a sister in
Hawaii who will take her in. The only
other option was to stay in St Louis, which didn’t seem like a good plan. All in all, the plans and expectations of
many people were upended between conference sessions. Sis Hatfield worked deep into the afternoon
session to get things back on track.
Like we are fond of saying, everything is harder in the COVID era.
The pleasant part of the afternoon was hosting Sis Thomas and Sis
Webster for the afternoon session. Sis
Thomas, our dear friend by now, is heading home tomorrow, and coming from the
Cape Girardeau zone, they would either need to drive during the afternoon
session, or in the break between to be at the farewell dinner at the mission
home. Sis Hatfield invited them to come
watch with us. That was a good plan
until we needed to work on travel, including my supreme contribution of putting
together travel treat bags. As it
worked, I had to go home and open up our apartment for the sisters so they
could watch while we worked at the office.
By 5:30, we had travel sufficiently under control so that we could go to
the mission home to help collect luggage to stow in the trailer, say our
goodbyes, and take last pictures. These young
people have a place in our hearts.
Monday, October 5th for me was hopeful. I took an application to a Maryland Heights
apartment that seemed willing to work with the Church. The staff was friendly and helpful, which was
a breath of fresh air. We bought some
beds, shopped for kitchen wares, and electronically signed the lease for the
new Pagedale apartment to be ready for move in in the morning. We also left the office in good time today
because we had planned video FHE with the grandkids. Can’t get enough interaction with our fast
On Tuesday, October 6th we started the day by moving in the recent
second companionship of Pagedale elders into the Hawthorne School Apartments,
my new favorite apartment in the mission.
Sure, the living space is great, with exposed high ceilings and rich
dark oak woodwork, but Madeline, the middle aged live-in resident is a
charmer. She took pleasure in showing us
the two vacant apartments in the school, one of which was the converted old
boiler room, and the other of which was the adjacent coal storage room. That may not sound very appealing, but they
are both fascinating spaces. If it wasn’t
a bit of a drive to the office, I’d be tempted to take one of them for myself
and Sis Hatfield.
Wednesday, October 7th was transfer day. I met the housing assistants at 9:15 at the
Frontenac building for the physical set up.
Then at 10 a.m. the new missionaries’ caravan arrived and we ushered
them in for orientation and trainer assignments. We start with the President giving some
thoughts to the new missionaries, but then he excuses himself to the other room
to “train the trainers.” Meanwhile, Sis
Hatfield conducts the staff in their orienting remarks to the new
missionaries. About an hour later, we
join the trainer missionaries in the gym and watch the joyful unions. The remove their masks and embrace as only
missionary companions do—full of hope, love, and devotion, and with a full
measure of anxiety at the same time. We hustled
outside to be ready to help the new missionaries and their companions with
keys, luggage, pillows, phones, addresses, transportation, and other practical
details. Shortly after, the transfers of
the infield missionaries begin, and we have over 100 missionaries coming and
going through our transfer process. It
is a joy to interact with many.
This transfer, Elder Nathaniel Nelson is leaving the housing assistant
assignment and is on his way to Sikeston, Missouri, and outpost of the
mission. Elder Nelson assisted with more
transfers than any other young person has in the history of the mission as we
swelled from 130 to over 250 missionaries.
Taking his place is Elder Smith, a young man that has been serving in
the adjacent Maryland Heights area. I
look forward to making a new friend. I
start by taking him and Elder Merrill to Five Guys for a late lunch, a semi
tradition for me and the housing assistants after transfers. Afterwards, we jump back in setting up beds
in Fairview Heights, Illinois, taking down a tri in Lebanon, and more set ups
in San Carlos. In all, we have missed
only one companionship who is short a bed in Springfield. I hate that, but there is nothing that can be
done today. An air mattress will have to
do for this night.
Thursday, October 8th I send the housing assistants out on
their own to set up the Springfield tri and make a few other needed stops
around the Springfield zone. Typically,
I would want to go and see for myself the condition of apartments, which helps
me plan for lease renewals, training, and see what should be done on a future
return trip. But this time, I can’t
leave the office for the day—there is simply too much concern I have for three
companionships in hotels, and one in particular where the manager is giving me
signals that they don’t want to deal with the Church application any more. I need to develop some alternative
apartments. But it hasn’t been easy at
all. What I can find is either too
expensive, full, out of the area, or unwilling to deal with a corporate
lease. I’m on my third full application for
the St Peters elders, and now it looks like it might fall through again. I did take a brief break to go out to the
apartment of the Hazelwood sisters to install a new dryer selection knob. Their’s was broken, and Amazon had the
replacement part. I was also cautiously
excited to find an in shop appliance repairman who says he will let me drop off
broken washers and dryers for him to assess and repair for me. That would be so much more convenient than
trying to connect with traveling repairmen—the standard business model—to wait
at an apartment to meet and then pay for in apartment repairs. Frankly, that almost never works. Interestingly, the shop is in Ferguson,
Missouri, just out side of St Louis, arguably the first place where an African American
was shot by a police officer in the recent wave of civil injustice and unrest.
I must admit that the most meaningful activity on Friday, October 9th
was watching a documentary that RaDene had come across. It spoke to the dangers of a society,
particularly a democracy—where citizens are incapable of finding truth in the
maze of computer directed advertising, news stories, and personal
entertainment. Our “truth” is fast
becoming what computers discern are our “likes” and feed us over and over
again. The narrow mindedness and
polarizing effects are scary indeed. But
one need only look around and see the reality of the problem. This Presidential election season has been alarming, even from the well insulated perspective of a missionary.
Saturday, October 10th was delightful. We went on a long walk/jog—a “wog”—through a
course RaDene has plotted out. It was a
good stress reliever. Then went to the
St Louis Botanical Garden Butterfly House, a conservatory of educational
gardens, indoor and out, with lots of butterflies and other insect creatures,
and their habitats. The Butterfly House
is adjacent to a large park that contains houses, cabins, barns, and other
structures and artifacts from 100 to almost 200 years ago from a small
settlement in the area. We didn’t get to
take a tour because we need to do our shopping, so we have reason to return.