Sunday, June 27th was a two loaf day. We have invited our entire district of 11 to our home for dinner. So I made two loaves of bread, and Sis Hatfield made three pans of her homemade macaroni and cheese. But first I had to earn those calories. I did so at church, because Silas came today and was not sitting still. His mother gathered him up off of the rostrum a few times in sacrament meeting, and in primary, I chased him around rooms, down hallways, and up the stairs a few times. Finally, we figured out how to barricade the primary room door so he couldn’t get out. We were in the presence of the rest of the primary, but not participating. Drawing on the chalkboard seemed to be the only activity that held his attention for more than a moment. Meanwhile, Sis Hatfield was working in nursery. We hope that we are not indelibly impressing a negative association for us with the young primary members we are wrangling. Visiting Annie Stewart, we showed her most of the proceedings at the joint CJCLDS-NAACP-UNCF event where it was announced that the church would provide scholarships and other funding to support education with these organizations that the church has partnered with in recent years. The talks of the NAACP leadership was invigorating. Our black brothers and sisters certainly know how to preach and sing.
We measured, chopped, stirred, baked, and set the table a good part of the afternoon. But the outcome was delicious. Sis Hatfield’s macaroni and cheese is second to none. The young missionaries’ dessert didn’t really materialize, so we pulled out the backup ice cream we had, adding one more layer of creamy deliciousness to the meal. But the effort was well worth it. The young missionaries felt our love and support for them, and them for us. Elder Winn most of all knew he mattered to us because we had gluten and diary free analogs to everything we served. We finished our district meal and then settled in to watch Elder and Sis Christofferson’s fireside from Salt Lake to the Missouri St Louis Mission. Sis Christofferson is Elder Jacob’s first cousin, so I guess it was hard for them to say no. And it was uplifting. Their teachings and advice was full of love and spirit. They answered questions posed by the missionaries, and even answered a few more in writing after the fireside after time ran out on our video conference. Elder Christofferson made us all feel like extensions to the work of the Apostles to fulfill the Great Commission. Everyone basked in the glow of the testimony of a living apostle.
Monday, June 28th required that we dump out empty flower pots sitting on our deck for the second time in two days. We’ve had to take the flowers out of their decorative pots to try to help them drain, recognizing that they were struggling with all the rain. And it is a good thing we did, because the empty pots have been filling to the brim each day. The National Weather Service has issued flood warnings for the Missouri River. We ended the day with family home evening at the Jacob home. We shared our thoughts coming out of the Christofferson fireside. Then we had an eclectic selection of appetizers and desserts brought together to finish off the evening. We were fortunate to meet Annie, an Everton daughter that was in town who shared the evening with us. She is delightful and brought a welcome freshness to our discussion.
On Tuesday, June 29th the housing assistants and I took apart some of the ceiling in President Bell’s office, secured chains on the interstitial framing, hung a hidden beam, fastened hooks, and installed a dropdown screen under the reinstalled ceiling. His office is now ready for projection at either end of the room. This is one of our contributions to bringing the mission technology forward. Then we hand delivered the rent check to the sisters’ apartment in Weldon Spring, because the rent check there has been lost in the mail for two months running. We are trying to earn back a little goodwill and let the USPS work itself out. While we were in the area, we added a finish coat to the large hole in the living room in the Dardenne Creek apartment and replaced the badly leaking showerhead. This apartment is looking quite a bit better after our recent attention. Then we headed back to the sisters’ new apartment in Warrenton to bring some shelving, kitchen chairs, and a couch. We were too late on the couch. One of the sisters had spent $50 on a couch she found on Facebook Marketplace in self-help. We also failed at the post office. For some reason, the mail keys at this apartment require a $40 deposit at the post office, which I was prepared for, but they also require a copy of the lease, which I didn’t think to bring. I’ll need to come back again sometime. Ugh.
Wednesday, June 30th was lithotripsy day for Elder Dailami. It was time to fix his kidney stone problem that he has been suffering with for about six weeks now. Hopefully, this treatment will work for him. It didn’t work for me. Meanwhile, Sis Hatfield and I attended our first district council meeting, held around the high council table at the St Louis stake center. It was a bit of a reprise of our district council Sunday dinner. Elder Oviatt does a great job leading the district in a humble but purposeful way. As a bonus, Sister Nguyen brought authentic spring rolls to finish our meeting. We are starting to feel a connection with our adopted young missionary district. Back at the office, Sis Hatfield dived into her work, and I headed out to O’Fallon to retrieve keys for the Vela apartment and went over to inspect it. Now that is the way an apartment should look when someone leaves it. Elder Vela gave me a copy of his songs written and performed for his family. It is a collection of old timey country music, with great instrumentation. His voice is rich and strong. A hidden talent I never saw performed in the mission. The drive home was in a downpour, with many vehicles pulled off the side of the road, and everyone with their hazard flashers on. When it rains here, it doesn’t hold back. That night back at the office we prepared for MLC, new missionary training, and Sis Miller’s departure for Brazil until 10 pm. Another full day in the MSLM.
Thursday, July 1st. Today we broke some new ground by holding the mission leadership council meeting and the new missionary training meeting simultaneously. Pres Bell has always preferred to have MLC on the first day of the month, where possible, to generate enthusiasm and momentum early each month. It just so happens that the first of the month is also about the same time as we would typically have new missionary training, coming about two weeks after the new missionaries have arrived. To save on mileage, which is becoming an increasingly big deal for the missionaries post-pandemic, since they find themselves wanting to go more places and do more things than they could a few short months ago, it was decided that MLC and NMT would be held at the same time and at the same place. So while the Bells and the assistants carried on with the leadership council, Sis Hatfield and the staff conducted the first half of new missionary training. The idea was to end MLC and NMT at the same time and feed them all lunch, which Sis Bell had planned and the staff would help carry out. But as it happened, NMT stayed on schedule, and MLC went overtime by about 40 minutes, and so the lunch timing was awkward. Oh, well. The training was excellent in both meetings. The staff members each had informative, personable presentations, delivered right on the time schedule. Sis Hatfield had a particularly good message around the theme that these young missionaries are the spiritual legacy of the pioneers. It is true: whatever the genetic posterity of the pioneers, these young people are unmistakably the spiritual legacy of this dispensation’s early members. And MLC, while not on schedule, had lots of involvement and presentations by the young missionaries themselves, which is a great way to emphasize learning. By the time we had everything cleaned up and put away after lunch, the day was mostly spent. I always overestimate the time that will be available after a lunch gathering. What seems like should be wrapped up by 1 or 2 pm latest, almost always stretches to more like 3 pm or later, so there isn’t much left of the work day outside a evening at the office. We also said goodbye today to Sister Linsay Miller, our young neighbor who finally has been able to go to her original assignment in Brazil. We will miss her very much, but happy to share her spirit with the people of Brazil. It was distressing however, that Elder Dailami, two days past his kidney stone procedure, admitted to being at an 8 on a pain scale of 10. Hopefully, we will find a way to keep him comfortable for the next few days.
Friday, July 2nd was a little wistful for me. Spencer and his family moved into their new house today. This is the first move he has had that I have not been there to play a role. He has had the support of others, but it still is hard to not be there. We must have faith that our family “[is] well; they are in [the Lord’s] hands, and [He] will do with them as seemeth [Him] good” (DC 100:1), as he promised to the early missionaries who left their immediate families for missions to spread the gospel. I hung a beautiful, but slightly odd picture of Joseph, a very pregnant Mary, and a young shepherd and flock in Pres Bell’s office. The art is not odd, but the selection for hanging in the office of the mission president is seemingly odd. Pres Bell explained the deep meaning he takes from the everlasting companionship of a husband and wife toiling to give birth to a new generation, while the young shepherd does his work, oblivious to Mary and Joseph. There is much for a missionary to think about in all of these threads of this beautiful art. I took Elder Nielson and Elder Dailami with me to the apartment of San Carlos 2. We went to reconnect a dryer vent hose, or so we thought. It turned out we walked into a buzz saw. Not only was the dryer vent hose unconnected, the hose did not vent to the outside, but into a plastic bucket. That is to say, lint was sticking all over the ceiling and walls around the dryer. More, we discovered a backed up kitchen sink, a missing blind, and door knobs missing on two doors, including the front door. More, the elders had hung a heavy punching bag on the kitchen door way casing, warping and cracking the casing, and pulling the wood away from its calking. These projects will take a few visits and some help from the landlord to solve.
After working on all this, Elder Dailami was looking pale. I had Elder Nielson stop at the convenience store for drinks, since we were out of water. We had one more task to replace mattresses across town in the St Peters sister’s apartment, but I tried to keep Elder Dailami quiet while we finished our work. We quit early and I sent the elders home with instructions to Elder Nielson to feed Elder Dailami and make him rest. Meanwhile, Sis Hatfield discovered a beautiful park, Longview Farm. It was acquired by the Town and Country township about 20 years ago when it was an operating horse farm with pastures, fences, barn, lake, and homestead. The city has turned it into a peaceful, pastoral recreation site with walking paths, gardens, conference rooms, swings, therapeutic horse riding, and other amenities. It is a popular setting for wedding pictures, and understandably so. We finished the night with our latest new ice cream find: Oberweis Dairy. Elder Nielson has mentioned it to me before. We liked it enough that we added yogurt and chocolate milk to our purchase after our ice cream cones.
Saturday, July 3rd took us to the south St Louis neighborhood known as “the Hill.” It is the Italian district, with red, white, and green strips popping up all over. It is a wonderful combination of residences interspersed with small eateries, shops, and businesses. We feasted on pasta at Mama’s, and walked to the local bocce club, the Imos piazza, a beautiful neighborhood park complete with gardens, fountains, and chess tables, all decorated with marble, from Italy, I assume. It’s the epicenter of the Hill on Marconi Street with St. Ambrose Catholic Church on one corner, an Italian gelato shop which we tried with delight on another, and the slightly formal, but family friendly neighborhood piazza. Naturally, the Hill is home to the St Louis-famous Imos pizza chain, and later I learned that baseball stars Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola grew up there. We finished our outing walking by other restaurants we dreamed of visiting sometime, and exploring some townhomes under construction, signaling the slow but sure gentrification of this gem of a neighborhood in St Louis. On our way home we drove around the streets west of the St Louis Arch, reconnoitering how we might come and where we might park to trek to the Arch for fireworks tomorrow night, in what promises to be a crowded venue.