Sunday, May 23rd. I got myself up early to head into the office to finish my sacrament meeting talk. When I got back to the apartment, Sis Hatfield said if I was giving a talk, I had to have my haircut first. So we went out on the deck and she cut it. That was the first full cut she has given me in 18 months or a little more. Sis Hatfield hasn’t had a haircut to her satisfaction in about that same period of time, until recently, when someone in our office building recommended a short haircut specialist who did a great job. Sadly, we decided it was best to cancel our appointments with the member who has been cutting our hair. It is hard to take your business away from a friend. Sis Hatfield learned from Pres Bell that our sick sister’s toxicity levels were coming down after her pill overdose yesterday. We are all relieved. All except the mother of the companion, who is demanding what steps be taken to help heal and protect her daughter. She doesn’t seem to appreciate that she consulted with one of the church’s foremost missionary psychiatrists on the very afternoon of the incident, spent most of the day with Sis Hatfield processing, and has been paired since with some of our best sister missionaries since. But is hard to be too upset with a concerned mother. Meanwhile, an elder has had a meltdown and needs care and attention. I knew from a couple of months ago when he was worried that there were dark forces in his apartment that he was fragile. We had a pleasant dinner with Elders Lambson, Adams, and Aspinall, the assistants to the President, getting to know them even more personally. We finished the eventful Sabbath with a Zoom fireside, featuring the talented church singer and songwriter Nik Day and Dallin Woodbury, a 15 year old family friend of the Bells with an amazing story of survival and resilience following a life threatening and ultimately maiming wilderness accident.
Monday, May 24th started early with a Zoom yoga class led by Sister Driver, something we enjoy and like to support most Monday mornings. I am almost too late already, but I finally took the time to get a St Louis vehicle emission inspection so that I could start the renewal process for my Utah licensed truck. It was a hassle at the inspection station, and a hassle to fill out the required out of state inspection paperwork to submit to the Utah DMV. Then I went to help some elders with the mission carpet cleaner that they were struggling to use. I always try to support missionaries that show a willingness to clean and care for their apartments. It hadn’t been on my list of things to do, though, and I was a little frustrated that I could not also help a young family in the Pagedale Branch who were packing their U-Haul truck. I apologized to the elders quorum president, Dan Thomas, who assured me that things went quickly and smoothly without me. I guess I had made the right choice.
Sis Hatfield has had her own frustrations trying to help Pres Bell standardize his missionary release letters. He needs honorable release, medical release, personal choice release, and serious misconduct release letters, but the differences are nuanced and seem to require customization for almost every missionary anyway. And there is a letter to the missionary and a letter to the stake president in each incidence, doubling the difficulty. She is spending hours on the phone each day helping missionaries install an updated missionary protection software that wipes out apps and requires a long, only sometimes successful process of resetting the phone, installing the protection software, and installing other necessary missionary apps. Even with smart, capable missionaries, the process can take a couple of hours. We took the sick missionaries suit cases and bags we had packed for her on Saturday to the mission home tonight. The Bells will give it to her when she is released from the hospital and sent home. Standing in the garage passing off the bags, Pres Bell could hardly hold in his emotion as he shared a glimpse of the relentless burden he carries for the physical, spiritual, and emotional health of the missionaries, all while teaching and motivating them to do a difficult work. He is a true and valiant soldier in the war for the souls of men and women, in and out of the church. Back in my mundane sphere, the missionaries in the Missouri River South area have lost all power to their apartment. I help them troubleshoot, and when the obvious fixes don’t help, call the electric utility and the apartment maintenance service for more help, and help arrange for members to keep the refrigerated food from spoiling. By 11 pm power is restored and all is well again. I arrive to our apartment to find a big box at our door. It is a set of three Radio Flyer children’s scooters delivered by Amazon. Sis Hatfield is in fine form preparing for our family reunion starting the end of the week.
Tuesday, May 25th included a trip to an apartment manager’s office to complain. The mission has received monthly billings from the apartment’s billing service that included rent due of $43,564 for one unit, and other obvious errors. My phone messages and emails have not been returned. So, I decided I would pay the manager a visit in person. Of course the bills were in error, and that was straightened out quickly. In this day and age, no one actually looks at statements that a computer system kicks out to check for accuracy or even reasonableness. And the billing service folks probably wouldn’t know much about what was accurate anyway. When I came out of the office and walked across the complex parking lot, I saw some young men pushing and shoving each other, and in a few seconds, it was an all out fist fight. The first I have seen in a while. It was two on one, which didn’t seem fair. But it didn’t seem wise to get into the middle of it, so I just watched and made sure it would end without serious injury, which it did. That afternoon, I took the elders down to the Rockwood 2nd apartment to retrieve an internally leaking washer. I was surprised when I found the leak after starting a washer load as a part of a cleaning project. For some reason, the sisters living there had not noticed or reported the leak, which was significant. That night, Sis Hatfield and I started some of the last work on the mission office remodel. Sis Bell has chosen a beautiful, large canvas print illustrating a missionary companionship walking in a rural setting that looks very much like Missouri. We took the picture to the hobby store for framing. When it is done, it will hang on the wall behind the secretary’s desk, becoming the focal point for people coming into the office.
Wednesday, May 26th began with a trip to Dellwood Washer Supply to drop off a washer for repair. While there, I told Mike that the widow’s broken stove I had called him about some time ago was indeed too old as he had feared and so parts would likely be impossible to find. As an alternative, I asked him if he knew where I could get a good used stove. To my surprise, he happened to have two in his shop. The gas one, which Annie needed, was gleaming clean, fully refurbished, and a real bargain at $200. I made a quick call to Pres Fingal of the Pagedale Branch, got his approval, and bought the stove. Now I just need to get it installed, which will be a bit challenging over the next week or so. Then we were off to Tuscola to deliver fans in support of flagging air conditioning. We headed towards Decatur, and because cell coverage was not consistent, we stopped on the side of a cornfield so I could have a conference call with Mom and her aftercare counselor. The elders sat by patiently as Mom and I conducted a little family business, not knowing where I would be when I set the appointment the week before. In Decatur, we took measurements for broken blinds, took down an extra bedroom, and inventoried other needs, including a kitchen table so that the missionaries would return the table they had taken without permission from the local church building.
On the return trip to St Louis, I got a call from Pres Melby of the mission presidency. He wanted to know if I knew Elder and Sister Jacob, a missionary couple that the missionary department asked him to contact about extending their mission. Did I know the Jacobs! They are my office mates and dear friends. He pays the mission bills and she creates convert baptism records. We will miss them as much as anyone when this is all over. Naturally, I agreed to call Elder Jacob and confirm his length of service intentions. I also persuaded Elder Jacob to extend by 30 days to the end of September so that we could have time for St Louis Stake Pres Bunderson to find a replacement for the Jacobs and so they could be trained before the Jacobs departed. I reported back to Pres Bell and Pres Melby, who liked our plan. Pres Melby can now report to the missionary department, and Pres Bunderson can get to work on replacements. We hustled back home so that the housing assistants could get to evening teaching appointments, and so I could join Sis Hatfield in hosting Sisters Miller, Peterson, and Abbott for dinner. Sis Hatfield wanted to connect with Sis Abbott after her harrowing weekend, starting on Saturday morning when her companion went missing. I’m no expert, but she does seem disconnected from her missionary work, which is to be expected, I suppose. But she is with two bright, spirited young sisters who can hopefully pull her back on track. After spending the evening shift at the office, Sis Hatfield and I headed to the mission home to hand off mail and supplies to Pres Bell for his delivery tomorrow as a part of his mission tour. I was a little surprised when Pres Bell lamented that he was not Superman, trying to respond to the needs of all his missionaries, including the mother of one involved in the disappearance this weekend. She had a list of things for Pres Bell to do to assist her missionary, only some of which are even possible, to say nothing of what is feasible. We were happy to lend listening ears and offer support. He is Superman in my book.
On Thursday, May 27th I received a 7:30 am text from Pres Bell communicating an alternate plan. The companion of the sick sister would return to her apartment tomorrow. Pres Bell is bringing in a new sister and sending them back to their apartment in Eureka, Missouri. Instead of having three weeks to get the apartment ready for missionaries, now I had 24 hours. I quickly got into the office, signed and delivered two leases that needed my attention, got a contractor going at an apartment, picked up a carpet cleaner, picked up the repaired Eureka washer, and headed out there. Lucky for me, Sis Jeanette Mahaffey of the mission presidency and her sister agreed to meet us and help with the cleaning. I turned them loose on the kitchen and stuffed closets, which I worked more on the vomit-stained carpet and bathrooms. We took out 12 garbage sacks full of donations for the thrift store and an equal number for the dumpster. Missionaries have so little, they just can’t bring themselves to discard even what they don’t need. But we are ready. That is, the apartment is ready for the sisters to move in tomorrow. Back at home that evening, Sis Hatfield and I worked on paring down the list of possible activities for our family reunion. There are so many family friendly alternatives in St Louis. Sis Hatfield has created colorful calendar pages for each day of our reunion and activity cards for us to select and post on our calendar. It is a charming touch.