Sunday, January 31st was out of order. We went to church, then descended into the primary room in the basement and set up our laptop. We had video primary with both sets of grandkids from the Pagedale primary room. Somehow, it felt nostalgic with the posters, and pictures, and symbols decorating the walls over the neatly organized miniature chairs and tables. After tracking down a missing COVID test, par for the course these days, we prepared a farewell dinner for Elder Isaac Harriman and his companion APs. Elder Harriman goes home in a week. He has been an excellent example to all the missionaries, and a strong assistant for Pres Bell. We were surprised to learn that this seemingly shy, straight arrow has a girlfriend back home. I guess I must say fiancé, because they have a wedding date already of April 14th. I hope they are as they remembered each other! That evening, we had some birthday party envy as we watched by video little Ezra blow out three candles and open gifts from his home with our family surrounding him with love. How we longed to be there to give him a hug in flesh and blood.
Monday, February 1st saw Elder Jacob back in the office, complete with stents to try to relieve gall stones that aren’t scheduled to be removed for three weeks. He looks weak, tired, and uncomfortable. I hope he can make it three weeks. He isn’t going to be able to work many long days in this condition. It is good that I’m coming up to speed on the financial secretary duties. We have received a power shut-off notice for a nearby apartment. It is really hard to understand how this happens. I don’t know if the mail is not delivered, the email doesn’t get through, or we lose it when it does come. One foot in the paper world and one in the electronic, either by choice or by circumstance, it is hard to keep track of multiple utility bills each month for 100 apartments. On reflection, it is surprising it doesn’t happen more often. I also spent much to much time today trying to gather evidence of payments made to an apartment complex as part of our application that they said they would refund because they simply couldn’t make a decision about the Church as a tenant. But somehow they now aren’t sure they actually got my application money last fall. I’ve had to get my credit union to find evidence of payment of an electronically deposited check neither I nor the CU ever got back, and for a second step application payment, evidence of payment on a cashier’s check from a bank at which I am not an account holder but managed to finagle a check out of some months ago. It adds up to about $400, so it’s worth the effort, if aggravating.
Tuesday, February 2nd, Ezra’s birthday. About noon, Spencer called and let us watch Ezra open his homemade Buzz Lightyear quilt. He clearly recognized his name set out in big block letters. It is adorable and a keepsake. Sis Hatfield’s gift is a cupid’s arrow to the heart.
The housing assistants and I made a trip to Alton, Illinois to address a washer problem. It was reportedly leaking. On arrival, I looked things over, and nothing was an obvious problem, so I started the washer. It filled, agitated, drained, and spun without incident. A bit sheepishly, the rest of the story came out. The elders acknowledged that the leaking washer was “really full” and had spun out of balance. We deduced that the water had sloshed out the top of the washer tub. The elders agreed to watch their load size and balance, and let me know if they had any further problems. I doubt I will hear more about this washer for a while. Next, we went to the Hazelwood sisters apartment after they complained that the air condition wasn’t working. AC wasn’t working? It’s 20 degrees outside? On inspection, the cooling coils box was a complete block of ice, with about an inch of frost building up on the outside over the internal block of ice. I was a bit stunned. We turned off the system and told the sisters it needed to stay off for at least a day, when we would come back. I also explained that HVAC systems aren’t designed to cool when the outside temperature is below about 60 degrees, and the inverted inside/outside temperatures mess up the heat/cool exchange, freezing the coils and potentially damaging the system. A cracked window is a better choice for fresh air than running the AC in the winter. We ended our housing field trips for the day at the sisters Webster Grove apartment which was too cool. Checking the filter, it must have been a year since changing, and it was so clogged that it is a wonder there was any air flow at all. It is hard to be the “dad” to so many “kids” living in so many apartments. But we love them all, and are happy to help them with sometimes the simplest things.
Sis Hatfield’s help is anything but simple. She is sorting a phone survey she and the young technology missionaries have circulated around the mission to learn what kind of phones are in the mission. Long story short, it appears that about 50 percent of the missionary phones are in danger of failing when AT&T stops supporting 3G phones later this month. The Church’s solution to slowly change out to T-Mobile, which says it will support 3G for a few more months, is agonizing. We know that this is kicking the can down the road, and in the meantime, providing much less service and data availability. RaDene has the ear of the missionary department’s chief communication manager. She is clearly far ahead of the vision and aptitude of most mission communication specialists in trying to solve the problem of keeping the missionaries electronically connected—the lifeblood of their work in the new era.
On Wednesday, February 3rd I tired of bureaucracy. A corporate landlord changed its mind about where they wanted the Church’s rent checks to be mailed. The Church, quite understandably, wants a change of address to be in writing from the vendor. This time though, the landlord’s email is insufficient, which is a change. The Church wants an elaborate form completed and signed, showing the new primary address, which is the same as the secondary address on the form submitted when we entered into the lease four months ago. To balance my day, I returned to the Hazelwood sisters apartment to take a look at the HVAC frozen solid as of yesterday. By this afternoon, the coils have defrosted, which I clean out, replacing the crazy dirty filter too. Maybe the poor air flow contributed to the problem. With everything clean, dry, and reassembled, we cross our fingers and turn it on. Thankfully, it is working, so no permanent harm. Whew. I also brought a pole to put in their sliding glass door track to block it open just a few inches in the event they feel like they want some fresh air. That seems unlikely, looking at the wintery forecast.
On Thursday, February 4th we have our weekly mission zoom workout, led by Pres Bell. He looks tired. The burdens of the leadership of the mission are weighing on him. The callings of bishop and mission president are similar in at least one respect: anyone that thinks they want the job doesn’t really understand it! We are praying for him and his sweet companion often, trying to do whatever we can to do allow him to spend most of his time doing what only he can do as the key holder of the mission. Not long after the workout, I got a text from him to hold off on taking any steps to shut down two apartments we had decided we could let go as the mission slowly shrinks from its highest census. The transfer has been tricky having received a few more notices of impeding returns by missionaries to their original assignments. We head off to Columbia to try out some new mold treatment on some shower grout that seems particularly good at growing the stuff. Of course I will need to clean it deeply first so that the chemical can get to the roots of the problem. I know most people don’t use it anymore, but there is nothing quite like Comet to get a deeply soap filmed bathtub and shower really clean. The things you learn on a mission.
Next we drove the 30 minutes or so south to Jefferson City, stopping on the way to pick up flowers and new pots and pans for Sis Miner. She is the young lady who had the stove fire accident a week ago, with burning oil spilling on her as she bravely took it out the door. The flowers were to cheer her up, the pots and pans had lids so that she would have a way to smother flames. Too little, too late! Her arms hands, and one calf and foot look so red and blistered, and that was what I could see that wasn’t bandaged. Poor girl. But to her credit, she was a cheerful and happy as anyone I know. What a great person. We take the opportunity to go see the elders in Jefferson City, because I will have the chance to chat in Thai with Elder Scott, our Thailand Bangkok transferee. He is doing language study when we arrive. I’m afraid with only five months left in his mission, he isn’t going to make it back to Thailand. That outcome is becoming a reality for a number of our missionaries. It must be a pretty significant disappointment for them, but we are blessed to have been strengthened by them here.
Back in the office the President has made up his mind about the two apartment closings again, so I quickly give a notice to vacate to one of them where the lease will soon be up and we need to give 30 days notice of our intent not to renew. We stayed until 10:30 again, working away to be ready for a transfer that wouldn’t happen for six more days. The details can hardly be worked out, much less meaningfully summarized.
Friday, February 5th included Sis Hatfield composing a letter to the missionaries, copying their parents, explaining what we know about which cell phone models will be supported by AT&T later this month, and which ones won’t be. There are many considerations, but in essence she was delicately communicating who ought to consider buying new phones. The cheapest supported models we could find cost almost $200 (or more of course). This could be a big ask for some families, and some have only recently bought phones that it turns out won’t work. Adding to the stress was the hunch that there is uncertainty about it all, in spite of the best information we have. Sis Hatfield is a good writer, and she nailed it. I think those that are in position got the message to upgrade cell phones, and those not, won’t feel bad.
Pres and Sis Bell made a hilarious dance video, complete with pom poms, celebrating some amazing recent finding and baptism statistics: the missionaries have reported 378 new investigator finds in the last three weeks, and 18 baptisms in the last two. It was so gratifying to see Pres and Sis Bell rejoice, both body and soul, and share their joy with the missionaries. Meanwhile, the housing assistants and I spent a good chunk of the afternoon organizing and cleaning out our storage. We are down from our census high of about 255 missionaries to about 225 next week after transfers, starting some corresponding contraction of areas. I have bought beds for everyone, and we need room to start storing the extras. It won’t be 1 stored for every 1 missionary decrease because there are a bunch of bad old beds around the mission, and we will use this opportunity to discard them and keep the new ones in service. Even so, we will need to store a bunch until ordinary wear and tear requires their use. Sis Hatfield continued transfers planning for communication issues at the office until 11:30 pm, and I kept her company.