Sunday, June 20th was a tender day. This is the first year I couldn’t send my Dad a card, giving him a call, or telling him how much I love him. Sis Hatfield had a little hug and cry together, having one more thing in common. I knew it was a risk that Dad wouldn’t make it if I went on a mission at his age. I miss having spent the last year and a half of his life with him. I miss not being able to help support Mom more now that he is gone. But for all my wistfulness, I know he supported me serving a mission. We are a missionary family. At a family call this evening, Mom related a couple of miracles in connection with the timing of Dad’s passing. It was a miracle that Audrey Workman, his granddaughter had a soccer tournament two weeks before his death in Salt Lake City. Although it was a bit of an effort for him, he insisted on making the trip up to see her play and spend time with her and with Lori. Lori and Audrey needed the miracle. It was also a miracle that Emily Jensen, Max’s wife, delivered little baby Elle just in time for Dad to see his newest grandchild. These are tender mercies for those of us surviving Dad. In the end, I have a few wishes that things would have been different, but no real regrets. Life does not work out the way we want it to in many details, but it does work out. Most of my feelings have root in the simple fact that I miss my Dad. As it is said, heartache is a sign of love.
Monday, June 21st took me to Lake St Louis to sign a lease that neither I nor the manager could make work electronically, and then to deliver an missionary support fund visa card to an elder in the LSL area. He had been doing without for several weeks now, so we were anxious to get it to him. When I called ahead, the missionary needing the card said they were at the local church building. When I arrived, their bikes were parked by the doors. But the doors were locked, and no matter my knocking, I couldn't get anyone’s attention. So I called on the cell phones of both the missionary I was looking for and another companionship in the same apartment. No answer. Frustrated, I was driving away when the missionaries called. They had gone to a park. Too bad they didn’t tell me! They said it would be a while before they came back, and to just to put the MSF card in one of the bike helmets. The bikes were not even locked up, so I had some reservations, but I wasn’t in the mood to work on another solution at this point, so I left the envelope in a dangling bike helmet. I hope the missionary gets it.
Tuesday, June 22nd started very early. Sis Hatfield and I picked up Elder Wadsworth, departing for Mexico, at 3:45 am at the apartment of the assistants. The terminal was surprisingly busy with travelers lined up in their tourist garb. There is little doubt that the world wants to get back to normal. We came home and cat napped for a bit before heading out to O’Fallon, Illinois to support the zone conference of the Illinois zones. It turned out to be quite a production getting there. When Sis Hatfield and I were nearly there, the housing elders called and said that the mission truck, which had been taken in for an oil change yesterday afternoon, was still not ready. It turned out that the truck also needed brake work, and the power had gone out at the shop so nothing had been done. The problem was that we had been depending on the mission truck to pull the trailer full of food, water, grill, mail, supplies, and surplus housewares I was distributing to the missionaries. Not having the trailer was not an option. So we turned around and headed back to get my truck. But it wasn’t just that easy, because the hitch and trailer-sized ball was on the mission truck. We went to the auto supply store and got a receiver and ball, and then hitched my truck to the trailer, which I turned over to the elders to drive so I could ride with Sis Hatfield. The elders are always delighted to drive the Raptor when the opportunity arises. But of course that wasn’t the end of it. The propane valve on the mission grill was broken. It took three stores to finally find one that wasn’t out of propane tanks. Apparently there is a propane shortage in Illinois. And because Pres Bell had inadvertently torched the long handled grill spatula warming up the grill on last use, I had to grill about 90 burgers with a shorty, leaving me with red skin and no arm hair. But not to fret, after the conference was completed, we went to the Dairy Haven for orange twist ice cream cones. Ice cream solves most problems.
Wednesday, June 23rd was zone conference in Chesterfield for the St Louis, St Louis South, and Cape Girardeau zones. With all the glitches yesterday, we tried extra hard to be organized sufficiently so that we could listen to the presentations. The highlights came from unexpected sources. The Everton’s daughter Sarah and their granddaughter Maddy were in town for a few days visiting. Maddy told her story in zone conference. She suffered a heart attack as a 12 year old, and after some intensive care, her heart seemed to be improving. But after a few months it became clear her heart would not last. She received a heart transplant donated from a family of a deceased young lady. Maddy has steadily gained strength and now, at 18, she is preparing to serve a mission. Right after Maddy, Pres Melby, the mission presidency 2nd counselor who is a heart surgeon, told of his odyssey leaving a prestigious position at Barnes Jewish Hospital, selling their home, only to have the purchase of a home in Montana terminated by a breach of contract and his new job spoiled by extortion. And this after fasting and prayer that they should make the move. While his immediate boss at the St Louis hospital wants him back, his boss’s boss has been reluctant, but seems to be coming around. He explained with great humility how he and his wife are searching to learn the lessons the Lord would have them know. Inspiring. For zone conference lunch, we grilled and served 90 more hamburgers. I bought a longer handled spatula to make it slightly less painful.
After zone conference, I went to Lake St Louis to pay a visit at the real estate firm managing the leasing for our new Warrenton apartment. Needing to move the sisters in on Friday, we were none too early to sign the lease, pay first month’s rent and deposit, and get the keys. Then we raced to Warrenton and arrived at the city offices at 4:50 pm in the nick of time to sign up for sewer and water service and obtain an occupancy permit, something a few cities in the mission require. The permit purportedly gives some minimal habitability assurance to renters after an occupancy inspection. But naturally, there are fees involved, and a cynic might wonder if the program is a profit center for the city. Back at the office, Sis Hatfield ordered sandwiches for the elders departing for Mexico and Guatemala in the morning staying with the assistants for the night, and we all enjoyed dinner together while they finished their travel documents. While at the office, Sis Hatfield shared a sweet exchange she had with Elder Conner Nielson’s mother in Monroe, Utah. He has been an outstanding housing elder, but is going home at the next transfer in late July. His mother expressed her gratitude for the love and concern Sis Hatfield and I have offered to Elder Nielson over the last 5 months. We will miss him, but his mother deserves the chance to hold him again. We tried to leave the office by 9:30 pm, knowing that we had an early morning tomorrow.
On Thursday, June 24th we were up by 3:15 am to pick up Sis Emily Fredrick and take her to the airport at 3:45. She is on her way to the Dominican Republic today. The airport was surprisingly busy, but she was ready and check-in went smoothly. Earlier this spring she and her parents had opted not to have her get the COVID vaccine and she had very nearly lost her opportunity for reassignment. Having learned their lesson, they have been diligent in getting Sis Fredrick’s affairs in order since then. She is another fine young missionary who we will miss a great deal. Then we jumped into the truck with the housing assistants and headed for Columbia and the final zone conference for the week. We forgot Sis Hatfield’s phone, which we didn’t realize until we were almost to St Charles. But thinking of all the missionaries that would certainly need to talk to her today, we turned around, judging that it would be better to be late for conference than for Sis Hatfield not to have her phone all day, to the detriment of the mission. Because this conference involved Columbia, Lake St Louis, and Hazelwood, Elders Nielson and Dailami were participants. That meant that Sis Hatfield and I hurried them off to the meetings and we set up for lunch, mail and supply distribution, and surplus housewares giveaway. And then the weather turned nasty, and we moved everything inside, except the barbeque grill. I cooked under an umbrella in the rain. I don’t know why I wear a suit as a missionary. It is rarely appropriate for what I do. I’ve smelled less like smoke after some campouts. Afterwards, we made the drive back to St Louis, dropped Sis Hatfield at the mission office, and the elders and I took the leftover food, grill, and other gear back to the mission home, dropped off unclaimed housewares at St Vincent dePaul’s thrift store, and the rest off at storage. Then it was back to the office to help Sis Hatfield finish preparing for staff meeting tomorrow morning.
Friday, June 25th was moving day. After staff meeting at the office, I went back to the apartment to change into “service” clothes, our euphemism for something other than white shirt and tie. Then we were off to collect boxes and help the Warrenton sisters move to the new apartment we had leased. The sisters were pretty much ready for us, and the move went smoothly. We’ll need to come back with a more comfortable couch, shelves, a furnace filter that fits, and a few other items another day, but they will be okay for the time being. Today was one of those days when I was particularly grateful for housing assistants, and Elder Nielson and Elder Dailami are among the best.
On Saturday, June 26th Sis Hatfield and I celebrated Elder Nielson’s and Elder Dailami’s missionary success by attending the baptisms of Ethan and McKenna Brown, a brother and sister that the elders have taught. Sis Hatfield and I were honored to attend. With COVID restrictions last year, baptism attendance was discouraged, if possible at all, so these baptisms were the first we have attended live in the Missouri St Louis Mission. The elders had a third baptism this same day. Amazing. We headed out to Doug and Lilly Nehring’s house late this afternoon. Sis Nehring agreed to quilt a pieced blanket that Sis Hatfield has ready and Lilly and RaDene talked shop. I loaded a coach and large chairs that the Nehrings donated to the mission and took them back to St Louis. I met the Nehrings and Sis Hatfield at India Palace for a yummy dinner out and interesting conversation. The Nehrings are well read, enthusiastic, and fun to talk to.