Sunday, April 18th ended with a startling reminder that we are not ready for Monday. We had Elder Nielsen and Elder Reid for dinner, and Elder Nielsen casually asked us if we were taking Sis Martin to the airport tomorrow. Sis Hatfield and I looked at each other. We had not done any of the departing missionary tasks she needed to depart in the morning. We finished dessert abruptly and headed for the office. We hadn’t printed out her itinerary, check her in, and prepared her other departing missionary items. (For my part, I had not prepared her departing missionary snack bag, a job I take very seriously.) We finished our work and rushed to the mission home, arriving about 9:30, certainly later than we would have wanted, but as it turned out, things were still lively there, and so we dropped off our things for Pres and Sis Bell to successfully take Sis Martin to the airport in the morning, without anyone knowing that we almost forgot entirely. That would have been a stressful call at 6 a.m. Thank goodness we had the elders for dinner.
Monday, April 19th held a lot of worries about the 2020 mission history. Last year, Sis Hatfield received reminders about the 2019 history from the Church, helping her know what it was to contain, how it was to be formatted, and importantly, when it was due. To her knowledge she did not get any of those prompts this year. But Pres Bell has just alerted her that it was due March 31st. So we are late. Not the end of the world, but a bit embarrassing. Sis Atkins sent a short survey to the missionaries asking them some simple, but pertinent questions about their experiences with the mission during the Pandemic. The format of the survey data is cumbersome, with the questions repeated over and over again. More, the answers are not easily editable, and in raw form, the data runs on for some 80 pages. It really looks like the responses, to be of value, will need to be retyped. I’m frustrated, RaDene is overwhelmed. Sis Atkins is on family vacation this week and naturally, unavailable to help. I spent the evening reading the survey responses, highlighting for Sis Hatfield what seem to me to be the gems, representatives of the highs and the lows of the missionaries’ experiences during COVID-19.
On Tuesday, April 20th Sis Hatfield worked on visa applications and COVID test reports. She helped Elder McCann, going to Columbia, and Sis Jensen, headed to Korea. It would be nice if any of these processes were standardized, but none are, and if you work on just a couple for one country you are starting to feel some familiarity and efficiency, then it is on to a different set of requirements for a different country. For my part, I’m digging in on building office partitions. We had thought we would be moving in today, but the carpet installers have at least one more day of work. The schedule has been extended because of paint delays, and I’m trying to figure out how to assemble them and make them moveable. That’s not so easy when they are heavy by themselves, mounted to even heavier industrial shelving, and don’t fit through doorways. I need to try to get the paint on the finished partitions so that we can move them right into place because now I will have no time once we are finally able to move in. It’s funny how my mind keeps coming up with different ideas and solutions as the challenges emerge. I think my finished product will look pretty much how I designed, but the execution process keeps changing. The Bells have come taken a look to see the progress, and they really want the florescent lighting to be fixed—we have a hodge podge of tubes of different hues and intensities, and several are missing altogether. I agree that this needs to be fixed. I hadn’t planned on making it part of what I need to get done right now, but I can see that the Bells want this to be a priority. So be it. Sis Hatfield is trying to get to the mission history, but Sis Bell is shopping for on line for cabinets and shelves and is asking for Sis Hatfield’s participation and help to put an order together. The facilities representative is swamped with an arson fire that destroyed a stake center in Cape Girardeau, so for her to place the order, which is what must be done for budget and purchase control reasons, the order must be ready for her to receive and hit “submit” without much more, or this won’t happen on any sort of reasonable schedule. We will break our 10 pm curfew again, and no work during these 15 or so hours on the history.
On Wednesday, April 21st we saw Elder Aspinall join the ranks of Assistant to the President. The current assistants may not be around much longer, and Pres Bell needs to get someone in training, just in case. Elder Adams goes home in one more transfer, and Elder Lambson may be reassigned to the Dominican Republic now that it is reopening. Elder Aspinall is a kind and gentle young man, and you would never know that he was a standout running back at Timpview High School. He has been suffering from some sort of knee injury that I don’t understand well, but he has been cheerful and patient. Now he needs a bed and a desk in the APs’ apartment. We spent some time sorting through the furnishings that the housing assistants brought back from Tuscola, one of the apartments we are closing this month. Honestly, it is just about as much work to figure out what can and should be saved, and what needs to be disposed of, as it was to collect it up in the first place last summer and fall during the wave of incoming transfers. You would think that the thrift store would be the easy answer, but they don’t want furniture. I suppose it takes up too much room for most of them. Afterwards we head out to Oak Valley YSA, where the sister training leaders live, to take them an air mattress for exchanges, fish out a shower drain bolt Elder Reid dropped down the sink with a glued-fitting p-trap, patch a couple of holes, and install a blind that it took about four stores to find. Back at the office, we move one more storage self into our remodeled office, assemble the partition and add its shaker-style trim. We are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel on this carpentry project. Sis Hatfield has been wrestling with more SIM cards not working for missionaries, for no apparent reason. Our AT&T rep thinks it may be related to using SIM cards from cell carriers in phones not provided by the same carriers. In other words, AT&T programs its SIM cards to work in the phones that it selects to sell to its customers. Theoretically, a SIM card should work in any unlocked phone, but there may be underlying incompatibility issues. Grant keeps saying, it sure would be easier if the church would just buy its phones from AT&T, the majority cell service provider for the missionaries. That may seem self serving, but its probably true that things would work better if we didn’t treat SIMs and phones like interchangeable widgets. We stayed at the office until 10:30 pm, with Sis Hatfield working away on the mission history. There is still much to do on that project.
Early on Thursday, April 22nd Sis Hatfield and I got out the truck and picked up Elder McCann, bound for Columbia, and Sis Jensen, headed for Korea, and took them to the airport. It is always bitter sweet saying goodbye to these young people, but they have a lot of light to offer in other places. At 9:30 am I went to the storage unit to get cleaning supplies and then met the Lindell South sisters to clean glass, carpets, counters, and other newly redone surfaces so we could begin to move into the remodeled office. It is so much more bright and clean than before. Now Sis Hatfield’s genius of space usage will really start to show. Our facilities agent has ordered some decorative shelving for us, and I’m not sure why, but the pickup was at the Alton, Illinois Home Depot, so I made a trip out there to get them. Elder Reid and Elder Nielsen helped move big items back in all day, including the shelving with built-on beadboard partitions attached, except for the largest one, which was too big to get through the doorways and had to be assembled in place. I worked on that, including finish calking and painting until 8:30 pm and was exhausted. About that time, Elder Stanford, who did not need anything else from a mental health perspective, called to say his kitchen ceiling was collapsing and water was running down the walls. The microwave was filled with water. I sent the housing assistants with towels and buckets to the rescue. I called the after hours emergency number for the apartment complex. It turned out that the newly installed dishwasher in the apartment above had a faulty water fill attachment, and it worked its way loose and streamed water until it found its way into the Elders’ apartment below. Strangely, the upstairs neighbors are members, so it was actually some members that invaded the missionary apartment. With the water source finally shut off, and the mopping done, the elders could go to bed, and so could we.
Friday, April 23rd started at the table saw at Pres Melby’s house. The cabinet makers had left built-in desk ends with exposed brown laminate strips next to the new beadboard skirts. Sis Bell didn’t like it, and everyone agreed it needed to be fixed. Simply painting wouldn’t work on the laminate surface, so Pres Melby agreed to let me come one more time to cut some beadboard strips that I could attach to the brown laminate. While we were down on the south side of town, we went to the furniture store to pick up the new reception area chairs Sis Bell had purchased for a very good price. The chairs very nicely pick up the cream, grey, and brass colors of the new built-in desk countertops. Rather than heading straight back to the office, the housing assistants and I went out to the Oak Valley YSA sisters apartment. After looking in at least three stores over the last week, we had finally found a blind size they needed, so we took that and the extraction tool to try to retrieve the tub drain bolt Elder Reid had dropped down the bathroom sink with a permanently glued p-trap. Elder Reid successfully got the bolt, which had gone nowhere in the week or so since it had dropped there, and had the tub drain reassembled before I had the blind installed, and I’m pretty fast at that by now, I must say.
Then we returned to the office to unpack the reception area chairs and help Sis Hatfield get a few other things in place before our first staff meeting in the remodeled office. It was a great beginning to our new office. And Pres Bell shared some powerful teachings on faith he received in the North America Central Area mission president’s training the last three mornings, building on Pres Nelson’s conference talk. Do we have faith to baptize? Do we have faith not to baptize? Can we feel the Lord’s love without distracting ourselves by baptism comparisons to others? Afterwards, we continued the move-in process until 8:30 pm when we finally decided it was time for a little dinner. So Sis Hatfield and I took the housing assistants on a Friday night outing for food. It took us three tries before we finally found a restaurant that was still serving. We almost missed our Friday dinner, but eventually were filled by pizza, salad, and our service this day.
Saturday, April 24th was technically a p-day, but with the office move still not complete, and a soft moving deadline of Monday, we did a few necessaries in the morning and spent the afternoon moving desks, files, supplies, and reinstalling computers and key board trays until 9 pm. We hurried to the grocery store to get some Sunday dinner groceries. We’ve invited the four Pagedale elders to eat with us tomorrow.