Sunday, May 16th was a day of heavy ministering, mostly with RaDene’s lasagna. Annie Stewart has been hospitalized twice this month. Dee Marche fell a few days ago and broke her arm in three places, requiring surgery. Sometimes the best you can do is feed folks in need. And so all day yesterday, Sis Hatfield shopped for, assembled, and baked her homemade lasagna. For good measure, she made a pan for the assistants to the president, who can’t seem to get enough food lately, at least judging by their consumption of office treats, including the forbidden departing missionary snack supply, which we had to stop. And of course, she made some for me and the housing assistants, whom we had invited for dinner. While it warmed in the oven and before the housing assistants came for dinner, Sis Hatfield slipped over to the office to work on the mission history. The housing assistants were quite late. It turned out they had an emergency service project that afternoon trying to help someone be ready for their house sale pictures, listing, and open house tomorrow. These young men will do most anything they can to meet a need. We then hustled off to the St Louis stake center to watch a fireside for prospective senior missionaries. The Jacobs were on the panel, and we sat next to the Hintzes. We are becoming close to a number of friends here in St Louis. Then we headed back to the office to get travel documents for Elder Merrill who is headed to Salt Lake City in the morning to participate in a Mexican consulate visa interview. Sis Hatfield reminds him of his instructions, and at about 10:30 we say goodnight to him and the APs who will take him to the airport in the morning. This has been a busy but fulfilling day.
Monday, May 17th. This is a day to celebrate. Sis Hatfield has finished the 2020 history of the Missouri St Louis Mission. What a year it was. And what a project the history has been. It took the efforts of Sis Hatfield, Sis Atkins, Sis Bell, me, and others, to say nothing of all the missionaries that have contributed with their COVID survey responses that give real texture for the year. Sis Hatfield is kindly preparing copies for the Bells and their staff. We are starting to think carefully about our St Louis family reunion starting May 28th. My job is to get Cardinals baseball tickets for Thursday, June 3rd. It is a bit of a process because demand is high and COVID restrictions have limited how many tickets are available. I’ve been watching the on line ticket sales daily. RaDene has recruited Ashley Fuller, a young mother in the Pagedale Branch, to help baby sit that night so the adults can go to the game. And there are dozens of other activities to choose from. RaDene has started a spreadsheet of times and possible destinations. Honestly, St Louis is very family visitor friendly. We can’t wait to show it off.
On Tuesday, May 18th I followed the lead I had that the Dardenne Creek apartment needed some attention. In general, it does not pass the neat and clean test. We found a leak coming through the kitchen ceiling originating in the upstairs bathroom by the shower. It is obvious that the elders are not being at all careful about containing their shower water. The bath towel rack was on the floor and I had to hunt around to find the attachment hardware. A hole in the front room wall was too big for me to patch without some backing, which I will bring next time. In the same zone, we visited Oak Valley YSA and talked to the manager about our broken sliding glass door pane, carpet cleaning, and renewal for the new year. I have sent them two emails and left a voice message on the subjects. I decided I better stop by in person. The manager was very helpful. The leasing agent was abrupt and unfocused. I’m guessing he is the one that has been so unresponsive. We will see if he gets the new lease papers to me. And of course we stopped in the apartment to see the sisters, fill them in on discussions with maintenance, and fix their leaky kitchen faucet while we were there. On the way back to the office we picked up some unwanted items from the Missouri River South elders. Of all they had set aside, the charity thrift store only wanted the wooden rocker. It is hard to give junk away. I picked up Dossan Bell from Parkway West High School because Pres and Sis Bell are on mission tour in O’Fallon zone. We fixed one more hole in the wall in Sandy Creek, then spent the evening laying out the new cabinets that need to be hung in the mission office.
On Wednesday, May 19th we strapped on our carpenter belts and hung cabinets and decorative shelves. It was a bit more challenging because the wall studs are 24 inch on center, and metal. Then we headed back to Dardenne Creek with what we needed to address the problems we discovered yesterday: a curved shower curtain, a new curtain, splash guards, wall board backing, and cleaning supplies. I was miffed to find the kitchen ceiling wet again and the bathroom floor mat soaked like someone had just pulled it out of a barrel of water. How could this be? I had given instructions to be careful just yesterday, albeit not to everyone, because everyone was not home. That night, Sis Hatfield and I dropped the mail off at the mission home for Pres and Sis Bell to deliver to the Lake St Louis zone tomorrow where they will be on tour. Today, they were in the St Louis zone. Pres Bell finished the day in a sketchy part of town tracking down a referral. They were walking around, preaching, teaching, bantering, and singing. Honestly, the poor folks recognized them as “church people” and gave a great deal of respect. Outwardly, it might have seemed dangerous for these missionaries, but the truth is, these people love bearers of truth, even if they don’t know quite how to commit to it. Given their circumstances, it is understandable, and I’m sure they will be given great deference at judgment day. The highlight was a rendition of “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam” sung by the elders and Pres Bell to a crowd of African Americans squealing with delight, captured on video.
Thursday, May 20th required some engineering. In this age, a large display video screen is not optional office equipment, but Pres Bell only has a stand screen for his office. After Sis Hatfield pointed out the need, Pres Melby quickly ordered a pull down screen which we are now to the point in the office remodel where we can hang it. But it can’t be directly on the wall where Sis Bell wants to hang art work. It must be suspended from the ceiling. That required some engineering because in the office, we have drop down ceiling tiles underneath mechanical ducts, piping, and wires. The only option was to attach some chain around the steel beams and drop the chain through holes in the ceiling tile to suspend the screen. Sis Hatfield helpfully suggested that the suspension first be to a hanging wood beam that we install just above the tiles, and then to long hooks positioned in the hanging beam through the tiles to hold the screen itself. This was clearly a better design, even if harder to execute. We some very careful measuring, we got the job done. The only casualty was breaking a fragile ceiling tile by the simple act of trying to pick it up. But that was replaceable. That evening, Sis Hatfield worked until 9:30 pm at the office preparing for tomorrow’s staff meeting, new missionary training, and organizing the new missionary lunch. Yes, we would meet in person for new missionary training for the first time since the Pandemic meeting restrictions started 15 months ago. I needed to burn the late evening oil too, because I was still reorganizing, labeling, and updating records from the transfers last week.
Friday, May 21st took us early to the Frontenac meeting house to set up for the new missionary training and luncheon. It was an odd feeling of deja vu. We have been to Frontenac for transfers under strict distancing and masking conditions, but not for in person training and food service in about 15 months. It took a few minutes to get our bearings. We were greeted there by lights, poles, treats and other preparations for “Mormon Prom” to be held there later that evening. Part way through our own set up we were competing for space with the platoon of moms that had come to continue decorating for the big night. So, our big social coming out turned out to be a bit of a conflict with others also coming out. I think we are experiencing pent up Pandemic release. Because we were having new missionary training at Frontenac, we also had our weekly staff meeting there immediately beforehand. For a variety of reasons, the staff meeting began late and was rushed, which spilled into a late starting new missionary training that couldn’t seem to get back on schedule. Sis Hatfield and I were the very last persons on the agenda, right before the lunch break. By the time the meeting got to us, it was time to adjourn. Luckily, Sis Bell’s lasagna wasn’t hot yet, so Sis Hatfield was at least able to bear sweet testimony of how these faithful young missionaries are the legacy of the brave Nineteenth Century pioneers. After serving lunch, the Bells and the new missionaries headed to the temple for baptisms, and we headed to the office were we stayed until 7:30 pm, which seemed like leaving early. We were moping a little, and managed to get ourselves invited to go over and visit the Ereksons. Rock took us on an outside walking tour of the Sisters of Mercy Convent. It was delightful to be outside and learn about something new. Rock and the young missionaries have performed a fair amount of service here at the convent helping “sisters” move in and out. Apparently, the missionaries are well liked by the nuns. When Joy made it home, we sat on the Erekson’s secluded, wide deck more or less built around an enormous silver leaf maple. We visited together, watched the night sky, and ate mango ice cream until midnight, feeling reenergized.
Saturday, May 22nd began with a harrowing call that a sister missionary was missing in Eureka, Missouri, about 40 minutes south and west of St Louis. Although we were wakened from a sleep, Sis Hatfield started thinking about how technology could help locate the missing sister. First she called the Missionary Department technology help desk, hoping that there might be a GPS signal. The last transmission was about 2 miles north of the apartment towards the main highway, but it was from 5:15 am, and now it was about 7. We had no idea whether it was an abduction, runaway, or something else. The missionary department was discouraging contact with the police because an adult missing for an hour or two would get no action. While we raced to the last signal location, She called her AT&T rep and asked what he could do. Meanwhile, Pres Bell was at the sisters’ apartment where he found red fluid in the carpet, possibly blood and vomit, empty pill bottles, and a goodbye note. Grant Monson from AT&T called Sis Hatfield back saying that the last call made from the phone was to 911. This new news persuaded us that a call to the authorities might indeed be productive, and Sis Hatfield called the Eureka police who confirmed they had responded to a call and had taken a young woman to an emergency room early this morning. The officer on the phone wasn’t sure what hospital, but offered two suggestions. With my help, Pres Bell started calling, and we received confirmation that the missing missionary was at Mercy Hospital in Creve Coeur. Pres Bell headed that direction, leaving Sis Hatfield and I responsible to secure the apartment, car, and take care of the shaken companion. Sis Bell had been brave all morning but was now on the phone with Sis Hatfield and in tears knowing that the sick sister would survive. The responsibility that the Bells bear for so many is almost overwhelming. Arrangements were made for the companion sister to join the local sister training leaders. They came to the office so the companion could borrow a phone since, thankfully, the sick sister had taken her companion’s phone, which had the SIM card, connecting it to the cellular network, which turned out to be a big blessing for her rescue by the police. Sis Hatfield spent a good deal of quiet time with the companion helping her process, and explaining how her sick companion was now being well cared for by the health care professionals. Later that afternoon and into the evening, Sis Hatfield and I returned to the Eureka apartment and packed missionary belongings and took a first pass at cleaning the red vomit, which on inspection, looked to be pill coating dye, not blood. We initially had been a little hesitant to clean it up, fearing that it might be important to the investigation of a worst case scenario. Paul and Patti Hintze had planned on dinner with us this night, but our long emergency had stopped that idea. But by 9:30 at night, they were curious how we were doing and they invited us to have a late supper at their house while our nerves settled down. Then we spent 30 minutes shopping for our Sunday dinner, and were home by 11:30 pm. Although the very worst fears were averted, we were all plenty shaken by the experiences of the day.