Sunday, June 13th. Today Sis Hatfield was in charge of nursery at church, and I was her assistant again. The original thought was that I would be helping with an older primary boy that has some learning and social disabilities, but he hasn’t been here the last couple of weeks. So, with a need in nursery, that’s where I have been too. Sis Hatfield can come up with a lesson, story, song, or some other learning activity on a dime, so we play for a while and learn for a while, and then mix in some snacks too. Annie Stewart was not feeling her best, so we did what we could to cheer her, and I gave her a priesthood blessing. Then we were off to a Sunday afternoon at the office. The missionaries departing St Louis tomorrow need to be checked into their flights and get boarding passes, and other departing materials. While Sis Hatfield finished that work, I took the last of the baby things we borrowed for our family reunion back to Ashley Anne Fuller. Let me just say, she has one sweet stroller. If I were in the market, I get that one. Then we headed to the mission home to gather luggage as the departing missionaries came in to stow it away for the night in the trailer for transport to the airport. It has become a bit more of a problem at the airport, because lately, there is a cranky guard that won’t let us bring the trailer into the parking area like we used to. So now we are forced to just go to the departure curb which makes timing difficult. As has become our tradition on transfer Sunday, we had the housing elders to our house for dinner. Elder Dailami has a kidney stone that is really hurting him. His urologist appointment isn’t for another week. We will see if he can make it that long. In the evening, I start calling companionships to tell them we will be coming to rearrange beds and other things in apartments to accommodate the missionary movements on Wednesday. It’s kind of funny, that the housing coordinator is the first communication letting missionaries know that something is happening in their area this transfer.
Monday, June 14th starts with Sis Hatfield and Sis Everton going on a walk together. Sis Hatfield and I are determined to get the most we can out of these last months of our mission, and that will include more time for Sis Hatfield out of the office for teaching, service, and other activities. We’ll need the support of Sis Everton to help with staffing the office for a few hours a week to make this happen. And we want to have greater society with the senior missionaries too, so Sis Hatfield is filling in Sis Everton on our aspirations. She is supportive, in her own way. Then we took Elder Pazos to the airport for his return flight to Mexico. His flight time didn’t coincide with most of the departing missionaries that are headed to the mountain west. Elder Pazos is a fine young man whose spirit will be missed. It leaves a bit of a funny feeling knowing that as a Mexican, there is small chance we will ever see him again after seeing him often over the past 18+ months. Then the housing assistants and me depart for the Springfield, Illinois zone to set up beds and study tables in Litchfield, two apartments in Springfield, and Jacksonville. We also do some maintenance and deliveries, like taking the Jacksonville sisters their third vacuum in a month. The first time they didn’t really need one, they just didn’t know that a hose had come unattached. The second time, I suspect that there was a severe case of overloading in the dirt bin. The third time may be a legitimate blown motor. We shall see. Or, this all may be a certain sister’s way of getting to see one of my housing assistants. No names will be named.
Tuesday, June 15th involved a trip to the washer repair shop to make room in the trailer for beds. Then we were off to the Cape Girardeau zone and Farmington, Missouri. I spoke to one of our landlords in Farmington about our continued vacancy at his duplex. Pres Bell is having a hard time deciding to shut down the second area in the Farmington ward, even though we haven’t been occupying it for a couple of months now. We did shut off the water so as to reduce anxiety about the possibility of an unnoticed leak in the apartment. Back in St Louis, we had to abort two of our planned set ups because we had packed four left halves of bed frames. Anyway, we were pushing up against the time we needed to be at the airport and we had set up the crucial beds that needed to be used tonight. With 25 missionaries coming in on four flights at two different terminals almost simultaneously, we had to carefully stage an armada of cars, trucks, and the trailer to get them all. In the end, our careful coordination was put to the test by a late flights. Sis Hatfield had to take charge in one terminal while the Bells directed in the other, sending missionaries out to vehicles, while we carefully circled back and forth from the cell phone lot to the absolutely packed pick up zone. In the end, Sis Hatfield and I brought three sisters late to the arrival dinner, and the Evertons brought the last sister two hours late, well after dinner was over. But they are all here.
Wednesday, June 16th was the big day. Big because it was transfer day, and because it was the anniversary of Elder and Sister Hatfield. For me, it started with being run out of our apartment before 7 am to make room for six newly arrived sisters to shower and dress in our apartment to alleviate the congestion in the neighboring sisters’ apartment, which we were using well past bathroom capacity. Then it was off to the Frontenac building to set up a row of 50+ pieces of new missionary luggage, the likes we have not seen since last summer when the COVID transfers started coming in scores. The new missionary training meeting was live, in person, and unmasked, a gathering we haven’t had for new missionaries in 15 months or so. What a relief. Sis Hatfield and I had the chance to start getting acquainted with Sis Dansie, the adorable granddaughter of the Dansie family from Herriman, Utah, who we have known for 10 years or so. They store our boat in their barn during the winter. She is on scholarship at BYU for her musical talents, having grown up doing western wrangler shows with her family. She is a spark if there ever was one. We left Frontenac and Sis Hatfield joined me and the housing elders for burgers at Five Guys. Gourmet burgers and fries would be our nod to our anniversary this day. Lunch following the transfer meetings were only the start of it today. We haven’t been able to get on top of the apartment preparation this time around like we try to, and there is a lot of apartments still to set up. So, we head to the office to unpack from the transfers and repack for apartment work. Before it was over, we had set up in Oak Valley in the Lake St Louis Stake, St Peters in the Hazelwood Stake, Rockwood 2nd and Parkway 1st in the St Louis Stake, and St Louis Hills East and Webster Groves North in the St Louis South Stake. Fortunately, the work in the outlying stakes was done and didn’t change today. Meanwhile, Sis Hatfield has learned that COVID tests have not been received in Salt Lake by the laboratory. This is not good news for the missionaries departing for Guatemala tomorrow. There is still a narrow chance that the tests could be delivered and processed before morning, but Sis Hatfield had to made the decision to arrange for local, emergency testing at $250 a test. It’s worth it for many reasons, including the disruptive effects of moving missionaries back out to companionships and sending them in a couple of weeks if they don’t go now. She is great with dealing with decision matrices under pressure.
Thursday, June 17th was monumental for one important reason: Sis Hatfield taught her very first missionary lesson. She recently told the Pagedale elders that she was ready and available to help teach, and that very week, Elder Oviatt and his brand new missionary companion, Elder Anderson asked for Sis Hatfield to help teach Brenda, a middle aged single woman. They planned the discussion ahead of time, with Sis Hatfield having her part. At the appointed time in the afternoon, I watched the office phones while she drove to meet the elders at Brenda’s house in St Louis. We will be praying for Brenda! That evening we attended the farewell dinner at the mission home for Bud and Rose Vela, the member leadership support couple that have served faithfully in the Fairmont City Spanish Ward in the O’Fallon zone. They are the salt of the earth. He has served as elder’s quorum president for almost two years now. They are from south Texas, and their Spanish language skills, testimony, and maturity have been so useful here in the MSLM. Also attending the dinner was Rafael Morris and his wife. These good folks that have made it their personal mission to reclaim the Greenwood cemetery, neglected and overgrown for a century, but the final resting place of about 50,000 black St Louisans from the post Civil War period to the very early 20th century. They estimate that they are about half way through the 30,000+ acre jungle, tenderly finding long lost memorial stones. Dozens of missionaries give service at the cemetery every week, so we have a special love for Rafael and connection to his work. Rafael told the story of a miracle. He was mowing when a cable laying in the long grass wound around his mower blade. Trying to extricate it, he was shocked, literally, and later learned it was a downed high power electric line. He should have been electrocuted, but he says he has known that he has a mission to fulfill, and knows that he was protected by angels knowing that he is not done with his work on earth yet. After dinner, Sis Hatfield and I drove to O’Fallon, Illinois to meet two elders who are having crazy phone problems. It almost never happens that both companions cannot connect with a SIM card to the local wireless network. And strangely, other phones tested do connect. Sis Hatfield went armed with three mission phones and substitute SIM cards, and the phone number of the AT&T representative, Grant Monson, who so often helps us through connectivity problems when no one else can. In the end, it was determined that both phones were programed to work only with cell carriers we don’t use. One of the phones was purchased from Verizon, so it is not surprising that it was locked and wouldn’t work. But the other one was purchased by the missionary weeks earlier from the church’s approved vendor, but was also locked and unavailable. And as it turned out, the phones that Sis Hatfield brought would not restart with the SIM card either. We will need to do more work on a mission loaner phone and deliver it out tomorrow. So frustrating.
Friday, June 18th started early at the office, with Sis Hatfield working on getting a mission loaner phone to work for the O’Fallon missionaries. She is one determined servant of the Lord. We had it out to them before noon so that they could get on with their missionary purpose. Today, the temperature reached 100 degrees, which was sweltering indeed with the humidity. The heat index was about 110. Fortunately, Pres and Sis Bell had surprised us early today asking if we could take a group of missionaries to the temple in the afternoon for proxy baptisms. We jumped at the chance. In the late afternoon heat afterwards taking a group picture in front of the temple, we wanted very much to invite them all to go out for ice cream, but we were not sure if Pres Bell would have approved, so we let the opportunity go by. It felt later like maybe it was a bit Pharisaic to not have done so, but we were not sure. We drove home and settled on Chinese takeout for dinner, which we took to the office, and ended up sharing with the APs, Elder Lambson and Elder Aspinall who were there doing companionship planning. Sis Hatfield took the opportunity to try and deconstruct baptismal reporting with them, a perpetual, weekly problem that rarely seems to be right or easy the first time.
Saturday, June 19th was notable because we awoke in the wee hours of the morning sweating in bed. The power was out. It stayed out for 18 hours, until 7 pm Saturday night. Life is not the same without electricity. Sis Hatfield went to the community gym to work out and shower. We both went to the office where the AC was on and so we spent most of the day working in the office. That is until Sis Bell invited us to go swimming at the home of temple president and matron Thomas, where the Bells and their boys are regular swimmers. The Thomases are generous in inviting friends to use the pool, and today, we bared our white skin and swam for the first time in two years, since the summer of 2019. It has been since my first mission in Thailand since I have gone so long without swimming.