Saturday, March 27, 2021

14—20 March 2021 Bus Driver Angels in SLC

Sunday, March 20th gave us the opportunity to take Elder Howard and Elder Livingston, missionaries serving in the Pagedale Branch boundaries, to meet Sis Annie Stewart.  We taught her from D&C 25 and showed her a video on Emma Smith that Sis Hatfield had downloaded to her tablet.  The missionaries helped me administer the sacrament, and we sang I Am a Child of God, which Annie remarked was beautiful.  I’m sure she meant the melody, not the singing.  It was a good addition to our visit to have the young missionaries with us.  Later that evening, 12 of our missionaries gave their departing testimonies by video to the entire mission.  This is one improvement that I am sure we will not roll back.  Having everyone benefit from these powerful messages is wonderful.  We certainly enjoyed the intimacy we formerly had of the small group of departing missionaries testifying to themselves in the mission home.  But this is better.  Thanks, COVID!  This is a group of young people that we have served with for over a year now, so we have come to know and appreciate almost every one of them.  But preparing for Elder Riley Scheurman to go is especially emotional, because of our close association with him as a housing assistant during the particularly challenging times of the onset of the Pandemic.  Sis Hatfield recorded parts of Elder Scheurman’s and Elder McNeil’s testimony to share with their mothers.  They will be proud.

 Monday, March 15th started early with a panicky phone call from the assistants to the President.  They were at the airport struggling to get Elder Atwood on a flight to SLC.  The Delta agent had told them it was really a Southwest flight, and Southwest said no, it was Delta flight.  They didn’t have time to go back and forth anymore, and so called Sis Hatfield for advice.  She gave some instructions and Elder Atwood was off to his gate.  The day would be an adventure.  He was going for an interview at the Mexican consulate in support of his visa application to return to Mexico as a missionary.  As we reflected for a few moments that morning, we realized that we had not prepared Elder Atwood as carefully as we wanted.  He had very little time between the his landing in SLC and the interview time.  Would he know how to catch a taxi from the airport to downtown?  Did he have sufficient funds?  These questions and more were covered in some  paragraphs of instructions from the travel department that Sis Hatfield had sent to him, but had he read them?  And did he understand?  We wished we had gone over things.  Sis Hatfield sent him some texts with simplified instructions, and asked for him to call with questions or text an acknowledgement.  He never did.  Later that night, the APs went to the airport to retrieve Elder Atwood from his most excellent adventure.  They understood his plane would be three hours late so would go back later that night.  Taking the trust but verify approach, Sis Hatfield looked online and learned that the plane had landed on time and so told the APs they ought to get back to the airport.  The longer we do this, the more we are of the opinion that young, travel inexperienced missionaries shouldn’t be asked to take people to and from their flights.  There are too many details that are easily missed by the infrequent flyers.  The assistants suggested to Sis Hatfield that one reason why Elder Atwood had been successful was because he was able to connect to WIFI at the airport.  Well, that isn’t supposed to be possible, from a technical standpoint, with the restrictive software the church puts on missionary phones.  So she called Elder Atwood, and sure enough, he has a second phone from home that isn’t handcuffed with missionary software.  That is a violation of missionary rules on several levels, but knowing Elder Atwood, not terribly surprising.  He is a young man from a wealthy family that doesn’t take orders from others.  And Elder Atwood is a terrific tease.  I never know if he is telling me the truth or pulling my leg through his thick east Texas drawl.  He did fess up to the improper phone, which Sis Hatfield will help him straighten out.  Meanwhile, Elder Atwood told Sis Hatfield an amazing tale.  When he arrived in SLC, he walked out, and had no idea where to catch a cab, but did have the presence of mind to ask a bus driver how he could get downtown.  The bus driver said he couldn’t take him, but he offered to call his buddy.  The buddy showed up minutes later and personally escorted Elder Atwood to the consulate.  He then awaited Elder Atwood’s call when he was done and took him on a little tour and back to the airport for his return flight.  The buddy was supposed to be golfing that day, but had the feeling that he shouldn’t.  As Sis Hatfield said, apparently the Lord wants Elder Atwood back in Mexico. 

 I worked on insurance certificates for the new policy year until 10:45 pm.  Many sophisticated landlords require renters to show evidence of liability insurance as a lease obligation.  The church maintains a policy that is available for many purposes, including renter’s liability for missionary apartments.  The policy expires on March 31 of each year, and a new policy goes into force on April 1st.  The policy term is not in synch with any leases, so in general, applications for certificates must be done twice a year in order to capture the full year of the lease with two pieces of the policy year for any property where insurance is a lease requirement.  After April 1st, it isn’t so bad.  But on March 31, every outstanding certificate expires and so there is a mad rush to get new certificates issued.  It takes me days to organize the effort and then hours to put in all the online certificate applications to the church risk management.  I can’t imagine the chaos for those folks this time each year receiving and responding to what must be many thousands of certificate renewals. 

 On Tuesday, March 16th, Sis Hatfield walked about five miles (no, really) shopping for the mission office refresh.  They looked at tables, chairs, paint, and other finishes.  They started about lunch time but didn’t finish until about 6:30 pm.  They did good work, but I must admit, I was most interested in the lemonade/ice cream freeze treat they had at Chic-Fil-A.  I’m going to need to try that.  I was taking a tour of the Columbia zone.  The housing assistants and I headed out pretty early to clean the Bear Creek North apartment that we are turning back to the landlord later in the week.  I had asked the sisters who moved out to take a run at cleaning it.  I must confess, I was holding my breath a bit, given how it looked when we moved the furniture.  But I was pleasantly surprised.  They had rolled up their sleeves and cleaned quite well.  After thanking and praising the sisters, I sent them on their way, and the elders and I cleaned the cupboards, appliances, and floors with a little more depth than the sisters had gotten to.  And we retrieved the lights from around the high ceilings, replaced some lights, and brought home a broken built in drawer for some careful repair.  Then we went to pick up all the extra stuff the sisters were wanting to give up after sorting through two sets of kitchenware, and a few other odds and ends, like a sewing machine.  We stopped in the STL’s apartment in Smithton Ridge and took measurements for a broken blind.  We headed out for Macon and delivered a kitchen table to take the place of the small plastic one they have been using for months.  We also fixed the kitchen faucet and left them a present on the side of the tub:  Comet.  On our ride home we marveled at the power of the revelations of the early Restoration and what an intellectual testimony they are.  The echoes of so many scriptural passages from the Bible with nuanced but profound clarifications worthy of deep study and research a century and a half after being penned are beyond the pale for a scholar, much less an unschooled young man.  It must be the week before transfers, because after a long day out of the office, RaDene and I continue our work in the office until 10:30 pm.

 Wednesday, March 17th is St Patrick’s Day.  Thankfully, I had a little green in my face mask.  It was accidental, because so far as I know, I don’t have any Irish roots.  Sis Hatfield, on the other hand, came to work properly dressed in a green top and skirt.  Green does look good with red hair.  The sisters in Bellevue, Illinois have complained that the slats in their bedroom blinds are broken.  I have the measurements, so we pick up a pair at Walmart and head on over.  Carefully moving desks set in front of the windows, which display some beautiful paintings the sisters are working on, we take down the old blinds and hand the new ones.  Elder Nielson commented that he felt confident he had acquired some housing skills and that he could hand blinds in his own home someday.  He mused that he wanted a power drill for his birthday.  Yep, I’m rubbing off on these young men.  On our way out, we noticed the furnace filter is beyond dirty, so we change it and leave a couple of replacements.  I’m thinking we need to call some sister housing assistants to broaden my influence in the rising generation.  On our way back to St Louis, we stop at an apartment we will be turning back to the landlord next month.  I wanted to size up the task in front of us to get it ready.  I was disappointed to find all manner of open and perishable food left in a dirty kitchen and arms full of all manner of clutter.  I need to add a second day to our turn over preparations—there is much cleaning out before we can clean up.  I told Sis Hatfield about my reaction and she is strongly urging me to make a video message to distribute around the mission to help do some teaching before missionaries can conveniently leave their messes because of transfers next week. 

 Sis Hatfield has been doing her own teaching today.  Young Sis Atkins is a whiz technology, but she has no sense of document layout for a printed page.  Sis Hatfield has edited the content for this edition of The Harvester newsletter, but it needs to be put in format.  Sis Atkins doesn’t quite see it, so Sis Hatfield is patiently showing Sis Atkins what a visually pleasing layout of headings, pictures, captions, text, borders and other elements look like.  Sis Atkins is a quick study, and is learning things never thought about by the text message generation.  Late that night, RaDene opens her finally arrived Valentine’s gift from me:  a copy of Repicturing the Restoration, by Anthony Sweat.  I wanted to get a copy when I realized how much religion is engrained in my own mind based on the limited visual art of LDS scripture and church history.  We need to expand our minds with truth, and pictures are powerful teachers.

 On Thursday, March 18th, I awoke with a shrink wrap revelation.  We small writing tables that we use in the mission as study desks.  During the Pandemic and missionary surge, we bought some extras.  Now that we are starting to contract, we have a few extra.  They will be useful in the future, because missionaries break things like this.  But they are awkward to store with their legs and take up a lot of space.  I’ve thought I would like to disassemble them and then we could easily store for use as needed.  But I’ve been loathe to take them apart because I know that the legs and hardware will be easily separated from the table top and get lost.  That will make them useless.  We don’t have the boxes any more and they are an odd size to try to box.  I’ve thought of duct taping the parts and pieces together, but I know that the tape adhesive can easily ruin the surfaces.  I’ve stewed about this for some time.  But this morning, I awoke with the answer.  I will put the bagged hardware and the legs inside the desk table and stretch wrap it all together into a nice flat package.  Inspiration comes about even the little things. 

 Later, I took the housing assistants to Home Depot, bought a toilet seat, and sent them off to Mattoon, Illinois.  They have seen me do it enough by now that they can replace the seat that is allegedly leaving splinters and take down an extra bed and desk without my close supervision.  Meanwhile, we have a new missionary welcome video meeting that 2 missionaries coming on Tuesday of our group of 21 are missing because the MTC teacher will not excuse them, in spite of Sis Hatfield and Pres Bell’s polite but sincere request.  A bit of an odd power play going on there, for some odd reason.  And while we are having the welcome video meeting, there is chaos in the office because two missionaries headed for Brazil tomorrow have arrived in St Louis and the mission office to weigh luggage (my job), check in with the airlines, register negative COVID tests and finish other necessary and confusing travel paperwork (Sis Hatfield’s job).  We try to keep that activity off camera.  I finish the day working on the missionary apartment rent roll adjustments for the month for Elder Jacob to put through the church system tomorrow because I will be very busy out of the office, and if we wait until next week, the mail will almost surely deliver some rent checks late.  It is disruptive and unnerving when late rent notices start getting delivered to missionaries’ doors, so we start the process early to avoid that. 

 Saturday, March 20, 2021 comes and goes and Pres Bell still hasn’t released the new transfer board indicating where the missionaries will be come next Wednesday.  That means I will have two work days plus transfer day itself on Wednesday to get beds everywhere they need to be.  It would be easy to criticize Pres Bell for not getting this done sooner, but if he doesn’t feel settled about the assignments, there is no fault to cast at him.  My job is to make his work easier, not to cajole or complain.  Among those missionaries who have reached the end and who are leaving on Monday is Elder Riley Scheurman, my former housing companion and lately serving well as a technology specialist and a great help to Sis Hatfield.  We have seen so much growth in him and he has endeared himself to us.  So, as a prelude to his final supper at the mission home tomorrow, we take him and his companions Elder Reader and Elder Petty downtown to our favorite barbeque joint for a late lunch.  Officially, they close at 6 pm, but at 3 pm the line is winding around the building and they are out of all meat except pulled pork.  Sis Hatfield negotiates an outside picnic table for us, and we have—you guessed it—pulled pork.  And mighty fine pork it is.  Before we are done with our meal, the place has pretty much cleared out because by now, they don’t have any more pulled pork.  Someone ought to invest in more smokers here at Pappy’s and they could get a return on investment for sure. 

 After lunch, we end our preparation day and get back to the office.  Sis Hatfield needs to assemble departure packets and I need to buy 14 pillows (I already have 7) for the incoming missionaries on Tuesday.  With all the set up that will need to be wedged into a few days, we won’t have time to be looking in the stores for pillows.  While we are out, Sis Hatfield has us pick up 50 plastic bins to hold proselyting publications that are mostly just piled on the metal shelves in the office.  Since we must move out for the paint and carpet, these materials will never hold up unless we put them in something.  When we get back to the office, I see that Sis Hatfield has started sorting and packing already.  There is a lot to think about and a lot to do with respect to the office remodel.  How did this happen on our watch?

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