Saturday, June 5th. On Saturday, June 5th, Elder Nielsen and Elder Dailami stopped by my apartment to pick me up. It was time to try to install the refurbished range that we had found for her. We stopped on our way down Page Avenue at the Home Depot to get some pipe compound. I warned the elders that we might be back if the existing fittings didn’t work on the new range. When we arrived, Annie was happy to see us, but a bit concerned about what to do with her old stove. I told her we would take it with us and she didn’t need to worry. Having had access to trucks for most of my life, I am frequently surprised with the concerns people have about moving something large, and then disposing of it. I helped the elders get the truck and trailer parked along North and South Road near Annie’s gate and side yard, the most direct access to her back kitchen door. We were able to get the gas off, disconnected, and the old stove out the back door. The next step was to clean the floors and walls in the range space. We found a broom, but never could find a dust pan. A piece of cardboard did the job. For cleaner, I found a bottle of vinegar and went to work. There are some places that don’t see the light of day very often so when they do, you need to take the opportunity to clean them. It sounds like a yucky job, and it sort of is, but I imagined all the home cooked, southern meals Annie and her family had prepared in this space over the years. Now was the moment of truth: would the old gas line fittings work on the new range? They did, and after purging the lines for a minute, the stove fired right up. Annie, who had been supervising from her kitchen chair, clapped and shrieked with glee. I heard her warn her greatgrandchildren live ins, Jordan and Jasmine, that they had better keep it clean. I took a short video of Annie and her new stove to share with President Fingal of the Branch so he could see her gratitude for the church’s assistance. I asked the elders to drop me back at my apartment before they went on to drop the old stove at the back of Delwood Washer, where Mike has a recycler come by to pick up unwanted appliances. Having played a role in our little welfare project, Mike has been asking how the installation went. When he drives up his alley on Monday and sees the old stove, he will know.
Sunday, June 6th started with a surprise. Elder Jacob texted us saying he had some steaks and potatoes, and he would bring them for dinner. We assumed he meant that he and Sis Jacob would come to our place, but text messages can be ambiguous. We carefully worded our reply of acceptance, noting we had planned on grilling vegetables and had a gooey butter cake in the works and would love to have them join us. His agreement clarified things, and we had a Sunday dinner with friends to look forward to. But first, we had to get through church, which for us was team teaching nursery. Sis Hatfield looked after the true Sunbeams, while the one year old red-headed daughter of the Primary President, Sarah Gardner, became my charge. I seem to get along with redheads pretty well. She especially liked the oversized farm animals puzzle, with all the lifelike animal sounds it elicited from me. Stake President Bunderson had come to the Pagedale Branch, and he had brought food with him. Sis Hatfield said it was left over from a stake youth activity. We took some and went to visit our ministering sisters. Dee Marche was just home from the hospital when we arrived, having taken a fall earlier in the week and broken some bones that required surgery. We did not stay long but felt good about how we were instruments to provide a meal to Dee and her husband right when it was needed. Annie was glad to see us, feeling frustrated about the lack of help she was getting from her great grandchildren, especially Jordan, who was being paid by the Veterans Administration to provide some part time care three days a week. I agreed to try to call the VA supervisor to see if they could help Jordan see his responsibilities clearly, or if not, get someone outside the family to help. This is a delicate situation. Anyway, she is still going on about her “new” stove, which I am not sure she will be in condition to use much at all. Then it was to the office so Sis Hatfield could circulate invitations for the new missionaries zoom meeting we will be holding on Friday afternoon. After a delightful dinner with the Jacobs, we watched the departing missionaries bear their testimonies over zoom to the entire mission. They were powerful. Maybe best of all, Pres Bell decided there was no reason that the parents of the departing missionaries shouldn’t participate and witness the son’s or daughter’s final testimony.
On Monday, June 7th, I had Elder Jacob prepare a rent check for an apartment in south St Louis that has been on the look out with us for the check from the church in Salt Lake City. By now, we are a full week late, but because we have been such a steady payor and I have been proactively communicating, the manager has graciously been waiving late fees. I didn’t want to push the goodwill any further today, so I hand delivered a replacement check. It has been a full two weeks since the church mailed the checks. The once reliable US Postal Service is letting us down.
Tuesday, June 8th was a field work day. The elders and I left by 10 am, with our first stop in Litchfield, Illinois. The missionaries had complained that their kitchen sink disposal was stuck. Some time ago, I tried to coach them through some self help by using a hex key to get it going. They said they couldn’t figure it out. Mildly annoyed, I put them on the trip schedule to help them out and today was the day. I was quickly eating crow when I took a look and to my amazement, there was not only no hex key, but there was no port to insert the key and free the mechanism. What? Who ever heard of that? I googled the model and sure enough, the manual suggested you put a broom handle down the throat of the sink drain to try to free a stuck disposal. Now that is crazy engineering! All disposals get stuck sooner or later. I worked a hammer handle down the disposal and with some effort, got the mechanism working again. Lessons learned: 1) don’t buy your disposal at Walmart, and 2) don’t be too quick to judge the missionaries when they can’t get it fixed. We made a stop in Springfield, and then on to Decatur, where we replaced a bedroom window blind, the couch, a desk chair, and a kitchen table. Notable about the table was that it had been taken from the church, along with a couple of classroom tables, without permission, I learned. I had the residents help us load the church’s tables into the trailer and take them back to the church and emphasized that if they needed something, let me know, don’t help themselves to things from the church. We drove on to Champaign-Urbana to deliver a cell phone and other mail. We always make getting phones delivered a priority, because without modern electronic communication, the work of the mission does not move. We headed south and stopped in Tuscola to make some towel rack and wall repairs. Elder Lamb invited me to swap my tie for one of his collection. He is making a souvenir collection out of swapped ties. That seemed a bit odd, because these missionaries were not wearing ties and were heading to dinner with ward members. I asked Elders Nielsen and Dailami about that, and learned that missionaries assigned to Spanish speaking areas were not required to wear ties while proselyting. Apparently the rule has been stretched to include meetings with members. I’m thinking I want to be a Spanish housing coordinator. After heading east to Paris, on the border of Indiana to deliver mail and supplies, we headed home. We made it by 11 pm. Oops. Curfew broken after a 13 hour trip with very little fooling around.
Wednesday, June 9th included a friendly discussion by Sis Hatfield and me with Pres Bell about the socially isolating patterns we have established during the Pandemic. He encouraged us to break out of some of these patterns. We will try to have Sis Hatfield get out of the office a bit more, where she has stood vigil for hours on end 6-7 days a week, for 18 months. For example, we think we will look into joining with one of the local missionary districts to participate in their meetings, teaching, and activities. That afternoon, I paid by credit card a second apartment that hasn’t received its rent check. What’s worse, this is the second month in a row the check has not come. Frustrating. I am going to ask them again about an electronic transfer of funds each month where the church deposits directly into the landlord’s account. I’ve tried before, but it is time to try again. Sis Hatfield’s missionary name tag was noticed today. She was invited by the checker at the fabric store to join a missionary meeting at her church. They traded phone numbers. We’ll see.
I began Thursday, June 10th hanging “floating” decorative shelves in the office. It is one of the final touches to the office remodel. Honestly, I am not wild about them because they will only collect useless decorative items and dust. But, they are part of the vision, so I’m getting it done. The housing elders are helping me, and they have gotten one shelf noticeably crooked. I’ll need to fix it, but not right now. We needed to go to the Lindell South sisters’ apartment, where the air conditioner is broken. On inspection, the unit service door is not shutting tight enough to depress the safety switch. A little sheet metal work solves the problem. On our way to Sandy Creek to patch holes in the walls and replace a vertical sliding door blind, we see the county rodeo is opening this weekend. Elder Nielsen helpfully suggests I take Sis Hatfield for our anniversary. To a sheep rancher, that sounds like a romantic date. Working our way home, we stop at Target to buy 25 pillows for the incoming missionaries. We looked a bit odd pushing our four carts stuffed to overflowing with pillows. They completely pack the back seat of the truck, so that Elder Nielsen is in some danger of suffocation as we drive to Costco to buy departing missionary treats. The out of office chores complete, I join Sis Hatfield in the office where she is working on the mission newsletter, without the usual assistance of our service missionary, and missionary travel. I worked on reviewing a lease for the replacement apartment in Warrenton, Missouri we inspected during an afternoon of the family reunion, where we have received notice to vacate by the end of the month. We left the office by 10:30 pm.
On Friday, June 11th we had a marathon staff meeting, focused on the 10 departing missionaries and 25 arriving missionaries next week. This will be a big transfer and the logistics are impressive. We will be sending armadas to the airport for the people and luggage. Catching our breath for a few moments, we quickly jump into a Zoom meeting with the new missionaries. We see Sis Dansie for the first time, the granddaughter of the lovely family in Herriman, Utah where we have stored our boat for the winter for years, and who have it in their barn for the entirety of our mission. She is a dead wringer for her spunky grandmother. The President is having a tough time making decisions about missionary placements for transfers. I’m planning as best I can without complete information. Sis Hatfield and I work on the transfer until 11 pm. Yep, it feels like the week before transfers.
Saturday, June 12th is a return trip to the Central West End of St Louis. We had thought during our reunion that we would tour the Catholic basilica and walk the shops in the district. With our focus on kid-centric activities, we did neither. So Sis Hatfield and I went back. The mosaic tile and glass walls and ceilings are beautiful, said to cover more square feet than any sanctuary outside of Russia. It looks even more impressive when the lights come on, signaling the beginning of mass. We hadn’t planned to, but when Saturday evening mass began, we found seats on the beautiful, if uncomfortable benches and took it all in, observing the faithful and their rituals. One observation is that catholic priests sing better than LDS priesthood leaders. On the other hand, LDS congregations sing better than catholic worshipers. That may have more to do with the more esoteric music I heard in the mass than we sing in our often services. Afterwards, we strolled down the beautiful quite streets to the trendy Euclid Avenue, lined with quirky shops and restaurants. We stopped at a pizzeria and had yummy roasted vegetables and a “mashed scallion” pizza seated at an outside table in the middle of the blocked off street. We had Fitz’s sodas to offset the surprisingly tasty vegetarian food, and of course topped it off with frozen custard as the sun went down on this warm, delightful day in St Louis.