On Sunday, April 25th we stopped in to see Annie Stewart and found her home in chaos. Her granddaughter Clarissa who was recuperating from bullet wounds had moved out two days before, but was still working around the house. Her granddaughter Angela who was healing from a broken hip and shoulder from a car accident was in process of moving. Angela’s grandson “Juice” seemed to be the only one trying to attend to Annie who was suffering from high blood pressure symptoms. We tried to minister to them all as best we could, but it didn’t take long before we decided the best we could do was feed them. We went to the grocery store deli and got fresh sandwich makings, salad, and fruit, and drinks. We try to help Annie by not getting too much added sodium or sugar. She sweetly offered us money for the groceries. Juice quickly made a sandwich for Annie. It didn’t take the other household members long to make their own plates. We felt better, and so did they.
Monday, April 26th was the first full day of work in the remodeled mission office. Sis Hatfield is feeling anxious about some things: First, in a week we will be holding the Mission Leadership Council at the very same time as the mission vaccination clinic. There are synergies, like missionaries not needing to drive to St Louis twice, but there are conflicts too, like scheduling shots on a rotating basis that will surely be disruptive, and relearning the flow of the clinic because the MLC will take up the gym where shots were administered the first round. Second, the craziness of it all has yielded absolutely no time this past week for Sis Hatfield to work on the mission history. She has been working late nights as it is. And it seems that most of the rest of what needs to be done on the history is nondelegable. Third, Sis Bell is shopping for office art and accessories and there are a crazy number of move-in details that keep Sis Hatfield looking at the office remodel project when she needs to move on to other things. Last, because of all of the above, and more, our preparations are behind where they need to be for the fast approaching transfer. Sis Hatfield needs to set some things aside and get departure and arrival communications in the pipeline or the missionaries, their parents, and the Bells will not know how to be ready. We left the office at 10 pm feeling like we haven’t got to the most of what should have been accomplished.
Tuesday, April 27th was devoted to cleaning out and cleaning up the temporary office space. We are determined not to move stuff back in that is superfluous. The housing assistants and I snuck away for part of the afternoon to clean a Shiloh area apartment to turn back into the landlord. The layer of grease behind the fridge and stove was almost impenetrable. Fortunately, Sis Peterson and Sis Strand from the remaining Shiloh area came to help us and their efforts made it so I could focus on the tub, toilet, and kitchen floor behind the appliances, some things I could not ask anyone else to take on. Elder Reid got himself in trouble with a neighbor who is very protective of the dumpster and told him to smile for the camera as he took pictures of him and the dumpster, apparently feeling like we had discarded more than our share. He said he would call the manager and the police. Okay, we did throw away a fair amount today, but we haven’t use the dumpster at all in weeks, and even when occupied, I doubt the missionaries were large contributors to the trash—they simply can’t buy much. And we are paying tenants after all. It makes you wonder what bad experience the neighbor has had to threaten Elder Reid like this. Elder Reid handled it with grace, showing maturity beyond his years.
Back at the office, Sis Bell has been offended that Sis Hatfield has rearranged a few accessories Sis Bell purchased. I thought Sis Bell had said that any of the stuff could be returned, so naturally, it didn’t seem to me such a bold idea to try a few things in different locations in the office. The conflict is hurtful to both of them. Too bad. That evening Sis Hatfield went with me to the Melbys’ house to return tools we had used for the remodel project. They are interesting people. For example, Sis Melby has bought a half dozen 150 year old solid oak doors from a salvage business that specializes in collecting vintage materials from old St Louis as decrepit buildings are being torn down. They have filled their home with such treasures. Even in the short time and limited interactions, we have become friends. We would have loved to get to know them even better. The mission will miss their energy and enthusiasm for the work when they move to Montana next month to pursue the dream of remodeling a ski lodge to be their home. Sis Hatfield and the technology specialists, Elder Reader and Elder Petty worked until 9:30 pm on taking bugs out of the reinstalled computer systems as well as trying to reinitialize mission phones so that we could try to respond to pressing missionary communication needs.
Blessedly, on Wednesday, April 28th Sis Hatfield seems to be successfully working through the decorating misunderstandings of Sis Bell. Meanwhile I am addressing the mundane needs: buying pillows for incoming missionaries, installing coat hooks, creating power sources for the minifridge through a cabinet and for the President’s desk by a floor channel. We celebrated Sis Chamber’s fast approaching departure by treating her and Sis Miller to dinner out at the Quesada Factory. We had hoped to eat in, but the dining room was closed, so we head for a nearby park where we enjoyed a picnic, finishing just in time before a storm closed in. But the springtime trees were worth being outside for. Sis Hatfield used the day from 8:30 am to 10:30 pm, with only the picnic celebration reprieve, to do transfer work and schedule 200 or so missionaries and others for the vaccination clinic.
Thursday, April 29th was a cleaning clothes day. Not as in washing clothes, but as in wearing clothes to clean in. I do a lot of work inappropriate for a white shirt and tie, but generally wear them anyway, because I want to be a good example to the young missionaries. Today is one of those days when I made the exception and dressed the part. We were headed for Tuscola, Illinois to finish moving out of an apartment and to deep clean it to turn back into the landlord. Having ruined several pair of slacks, when I think I will be using bleach, that is where I draw the line on regular missionary attire. We had put a second set of missionaries in Tuscola during the height of the COVID transfers, but as we settle down a bit, Pres Bell decided this was one of the places to scale back. It made it easier for me to give notice that the kind, elderly man I had rented from had sold to a real estate firm a couple months before, so I didn’t feel like I was slighting any expectations. I had the opportunity to make some introductions to an older lady at the Tuscola apartments that was fretting about rent increases. I hope I was able to soothe her concerns just a bit and make it easier for her to welcome the next missionaries that ask to talk to her. Then we were off to Decatur to drop off a phone to a missionary who had broken his, and to check on the list of items for fixing I had sent to the landlord a week or so ago. Satisfied that progress was being made, we headed to Litchfield, Illinois via a small town named Boody. Elder Reid and Elder Nielson could not stop laughing.
In Litchfield, we were making another phone drop-off and pickup. While we were there, and since I was dressed for it, I demonstrated for the elder residents how to scrub the tub, and wash the shower curtain. For good measure, we tightened the toilet seat, an all too common need around the mission. Then I went into the kitchen to gather the candy treat of the elders, offered in thanks for our help. I stopped at the kitchen sink to wash my hands (which needed it after the bathroom work). I flipped on the water faucet and was soaked by the sprayer, which my housing assistants had rigged on with a rubber band. The gag was meant for the missionaries we had been serving in Litchfield, but I got to the sink first. We all had a good laugh. We were back to the office by 8 pm. While were on our tour of southern Illinois, Sis Hatfield had been back in the office, naturally, and accomplished some important tasks. She had finished the Harvester, our mission newsletter for this transfer, and helped Elder Frewin with travel preparations, heading for Peru, his original assignment. Most importantly, Sis Hatfield had connected with Sis Bell and they had spent the afternoon together planning decorations and accessories for the office. They are a formidable team when they are yoked together.
Friday, April 30th. What, is this month really over? Sis Hatfield is directing me in hanging mail baskets, white boards, and other items around the office as a result of her work with Sis Bell. At staff meeting, Sis Hatfield explained the updated missionary protection software and how that will impact phone set up and use. Communications are a never ending challenge. After a 20 minute break following the staff meeting, we dive right into the zoom meeting with the missionaries coming next week. Four of them are called to the Missouri St Louis Mission, and one to Finland, although her arrival will be delayed because she is in the middle of her vaccinations, recently a missionary department requirement to complete before a foreign assignment will be fulfilled. For several weeks, we had another sister coming to the MSLM after a Finland assignment too, but somehow at the last minute the missionary department was able to get her directly to Finland, bypassing us. This makes the smallest arriving group we have seen in our 18 months of service. I speculate that young people are delaying mission applications. Or maybe this is just part of the natural ebb cause by the school calendar. At 4 pm Sis Hatfield and Pres Bell received notice that three other sisters headed for Finland will come here first to go through the vaccination process. That is a big, expensive detour. At 6 pm two of the mothers of two of the Finland-bound sisters called to say that they are planning to get the Johnson & Johnson single dose vaccination over the weekend, so can they please avoid the plan to come to St Louis? I told them that was a call to make to their respective stake presidents, who would consult with the missionary department. I stared at the draft transfer board until 10 pm trying to decide what living arrangements are necessary for transfer day next week. There are not a lot of incoming missionaries, although that plan seems very fluid, but for some reason, the President is feeling inspired to move around many of the missionaries already serving with us.
Saturday, May 1st started with Sis Hatfield and I trying our hand at pickleball, Christmas and birthday gifts that needed to be opened up. It was good to jog our old joints and bones around the court. Not wanting to be a hypocrite, we cleaned the apartment after our morning exercise, and then headed off to O’Fallon, Illinois to turn in the keys to the landlord for the Shilo West apartment. We got all the way out there only to find the office closed and no one answering the phone. Having driven too far over here, and seeing no regular way to transfer the keys, I cleverly hid them in the lip of the awning over the porch and left two messages at the numbers I had as to where they were. That reduced my frustration a little. On the way back, we wanted to stop for food. Two of the regular restaurants we stopped to try were packed, Illinois regulations having been recently relaxed to allow in-restaurant dining causing a Saturday evening stampede of sorts. Bravely, we walked into a small storefront Chinese buffet, where (ahem) large people were walking out, often a risky sign as to food quality. But we pressed on, and to our delight, were greeted by a cheerful, polite staff, and even better, rows of freshly made Chinese food of all sorts, including stir fry and sushi chefs on call. Okay, the sushi chef was technically out of place, but it was really tasty, and we will not complain about a little oriental fusion. Back in St Louis, we stopped at Home Depot to pick up new cabinets for the office remodel. Obviously, the work is not yet done on that project. Lastly, we met the housing assistants at the storage unit so I could pick out our best mattress for them to take to a suffering elder in Alton. He was sent home once for back pain, received some sort of shots therapy, and now it is almost unbearable again. I’m not sure our best mattress will save him.