Sunday, July 4th, Independence Day. I suppose that it was fitting that on this day of celebrating freedom, a stranger joined our testimony meeting and denounced the LDS faith. Perhaps Pres Fingal had an inkling of what was coming, because he rose and whispered something in the stranger’s ear before he began. He was very articulate, and clearly smart, quoting multiple passages from the Bible. His thesis wasn’t altogether clear, but it seemed to be that the Book of Mormon and the LDS faith in general were false because of the notion that mankind somehow contributes to its salvation by our works. He had a few other daggers, like Mormon wives being chained to pregnancy for eternity. I was not sure what should be done in response, because of his shotgun attack. Sis Hatfield was. When the stranger finally sat down, Sis Hatfield rose and bore her powerful testimony and summarized Elder Lawrence Corbridge classic talk, Standing Forever, addressing attacks on our faith, which can be analyzed as primary questions or secondary questions, the latter being endless, and insufficient to overcome testimony of the primary questions: we are children of a Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ is His Son and our Savior, Joseph Smith was His prophet, and the Church is the Kingdom of God on earth. Knowing this, all other questions are interesting, and often important, but not necessary to our faith. Was it coincidence that Sis Hatfield and I had verbally reviewed that very talk while we drove to church just minutes before? Then Bro Nehring, the temple recorder, and Bro Fuller, the ward mission leader bore their own powerful witnesses, and all was well. No one directly said that the stranger was wrong, but the firm testimonies overcame the strange spirit left by our guest.
We had Sunday dinner to welcome our new neighbor and sister training leader, Sister Hannah Dellenbach. She is delightful, and full of positive, cheery energy. She together with Sister Annika Peterson will be a powerful force for good in the St Louis zone. We left home about 8:30 pm to pick up President Bell, Sister Bell, and Zander. We were taking them downtown to the Arch in hopes of watching the fireworks there. Our preparations helped, because we found parking without too much trouble, and worked our way with the rivers of people towards the grassy hill of the national park. We squeezed into an opening and spread our (moving) blanket and had a wonderful view of the aerial spectacle. There are some great places to watch Fourth of July fireworks in the United States, but beneath the Gateway Arch in St Louis must be among the best. The brilliant display was framed by the giant structure as the booms and flashes reverberated off of the highrise buildings behind us. It was spectacular.
Monday, July 5th was our first attendance at a zone p-day. Once a transfer, each zone will get together for a larger group activity. This day, the Hazelwood zone gathered at a park in St Charles for field games. Sis Hatfield and I played our first games of spike ball, a sort of volleyball played off of a round bouncy net near the ground. We watched games of volleyball and visited with missionaries in an environment we don’t usually see them in—recreation. Then we snuck off to the store to buy water, oranges, and some other snacks while the zone played a large game of Frisbee soccer. The weather was warm and sunny, and we finally headed back to our apartment to clean up before staffing the office for the afternoon.
Tuesday, July 6th began with an early morning game of pickleball at the tennis court with Elders Lambson and Aspinall, the assistants to the President. Elder Aspinall showed himself to be a fast student of the game, athletic, and with great hand eye coordination. Later, I headed to Edwardsville, Illinois to meet Brother and Sister Brothers, newly called stake housing inspectors to work in the O’Fallon zone. I provided them training and some lists and forms. They will be a great help keeping track of the 10 apartments in this southern most of our Illinois zones, which stretches the breadth of southern Illinois. Then we stopped into the recently vacated senior missionary apartment in Fairview Heights, and made a few preparations for new senior missionaries anticipated to move in next month. It is odd to have a empty missionary apartment that does not scream out for cleaning and decluttering. I had to pinch myself.
After returning from St Louis Hills to the office, Sis Hatfield showed me what was on her desk. She had received from the missionary department a box of phones and Verizon SIM cards to be distributed to the areas with the greatest connectivity issues. Well, the areas with the greatest issues still outstanding. We have already breached later-made rules by getting wifi installed months ago in a few apartments that were completely disconnected during the Pandemic. The rules required that if the standard AT&T cell coverage did not work in an area, that T-Mobile be tried. Having tried T-Mobile without any improvement anywhere, the next offered fix was the present solution of a Verizon phone to be used as a hotspot for the companionship’s phones. It is true that Verizon is reputedly best coverage in the nation, but it is pretty rural and hilly here. And carrying around a third phone seems clunky. And the church will not activate the phones until they are all distributed to the problem areas and set up with the complicated instructions provided. We will see how this goes. Sis Hatfield seems to have a perpetual, nearly fulltime work in trying to keep the missionaries connected so they can do their work!
Wednesday, July 7th. Still trying to finish a few things for the sisters newly moved in Warrenton, Missouri, I headed out to the post office to show them the lease, ID, and pay a $40 fee to get keys to the apartment mail box. This is the first time I have had to do that to get mail keys. I also delivered a Verizon phone and SIM card on behalf of Sis Hatfield because the connectivity in Warrenton is very poor. Then I headed south with the housing assistants to Parkway 2d out in Chesterfield to fix a couch that had a missing leg (how does that happen?), get a beeping smoke alarm settled down, and while unplanned, have a vacuum intervention. Vacuums can only be stuffed so full until they don’t work anymore. Then we headed further south to Rockwood 2d to take down a tri because Sis Dellenbach had moved up to Lindell to be an STL, taking Sis Miller’s place after she departed for Brazil last week. As is becoming a pattern, we also took a Verizon phone that Sis Hatfield needed delivered to the Rockwood sisters. Then we headed still further south to Sandy Creek, a rural community for sure, and delivered a blender, night stand, hung a towel rack, delivered mail for one of the new elders from his home. He opened it while we were there and showed us a magic trick or two from the newly arrived bag of tricks. We all have different talents, don’t we? One of the elders mildly complained that water on the sink counter was pooling in a corner because it wasn’t level. I told him not to worry about the somewhat unlevel counter. His concern should be keeping the water in the sink, or wiping up what gets out. I don’t think that has occurred to him.
Thursday, July 8th was a travel day, and we wanted to be back in time for a dinner appointment that the elders had with a member. So we headed out fairly early for the Cape Girardeau zone. The first destination was Farmington, where three sisters are pretty much squished into a one bedroom apartment. To help, we were bringing a reading chair and shelves for the bathroom, as well as repairing a laundry door. There was sticky syrup left on the counter after breakfast since the sisters had to hurry off to exchanges. Trying to wipe things up a bit, I got squirted by the broken sink sprayer when I turned on the kitchen faucet. Joke’s on me! I’m going to call this one in to the landlord. We left Farmington and drove south to Fredericktown, where a branch had formerly been meeting, but has been realigned and absorbed by Farmington and Sikeston. I hadn’t seen it before, but the church building in Fredericktown is still maintained and with its signage prominent along the main road. It is actually a beautiful, smallish building, clearly with an architectural style not originating in Salt Lake. I wonder what the Church intends to do with the property?
It is such a beautiful drive between Fredericktown and the City of Cape Girardeau. The forested, rolling hills are lush, with some meadows carved out for some of the few cattle ranches I’ve seen in eastern Missouri. The stretch across the edge of the Ozarks seems almost like time has passed it by. There is one dwelling that I have noticed a few times that catches my eye. There, I can imagine old Uncle Jeb rocking on the porch, shotgun across his lap. I haven’t dared stop to knock and find out for sure. In Cape Girardeau we have three apartments in one complex, and the goal here is to find HVAC filters. None of the missionaries nor the stake housing inspector has been able to find them. It is a bit of a challenge, which the housing elders have solved almost before I can run in out of the driving rain to have a look for myself. We discover and work on miscellaneous other problems. One was a washer that would not wash with warm water. Turns out the supply hoses were installed backwards and the missionaries had not thought to see if the cold might actually be warm. While driving home, Sis Hatfield has not been answered one too many times by Dee Marche. So Sis Hatfield drives to Dee’s home to investigate. She finds Dee feeling marginally well, but not in the mood to answer our phone calls lately. Sis Hatfield makes an appointment to come back on Saturday so that she and I can look at Dee’s car AC and hopefully go out to dinner together. The idea has been on the calendar for weeks. We’ll see if we can actually make it a date.
Friday, July 9th ended with Sis Hatfield and I eating a little ice cream along with a mostly much younger crowd on outside benches down in Chesterfield. As we sat there, Mother Nature was putting on a terrific lightning show to the north, the direction of our apartment. It was awesome, at least at that vantage point, with delicious ice cream. When our treat was gone and it was time to head for home, we recognized that the storm had not passed, but there really didn’t seem like anything else to do but make a run for it. As we drove farther and farther north, the light rain turned into a down pour, and finally into a Midwest hail storm. The noise on our car roof was deafening. Cars were pulled over with hazard lights on. But pulling over made no sense to me, because of the continued exposure to hail that the national weather service was warning would injure animals and people. Indeed, we got a picture of a two in piece of hail from Elder Reeder, one of our neighbors. We swerved into our carport, hoping our car had not been damaged, and dashed for our door, hoping we would not be damaged. We settled down inside to a gale wind, lightning, and torrential rain.
Saturday, July 10th was a bit of a wreck in the wake of the storm. The power had gone out—for the 2nd time this month. It is fortunate for us that the plumbing requires no electricity. But it does upset the routines, so we felt a bit discombobulated. With the power still out, we went to the temple to attend the Pagedale Branch’s proxy baptism appointment. We had hesitated, not wanting to crowd out members who might want to go from our little branch. As it turns out, it was a good thing we went. There were only two other couples with us, the Cullen-Thomases, who organized the event as married relief society president and elders quorum president of our age and stage, and a brand new young couple who had just arrived to the area. We were rather needed to keep the witnessing and recording going, as well as acting as proxy. It is always a sweet, peaceful feeling to be at the temple. Afterwards, we stopped into a local Asian noodle bar near our apartment for some excellent ramen and lo mein. The warmth was welcome because the storm was still raging. If only there was some way to redirect some of this moisture to the parched west. We got some takeout to share our bounty with Dee and Charles Marche. In addition to dropping off food, Sis Hatfield and I recharged Dee’s car’s AC, something she had indicated she was advised she needed to make her AC function, but which she could not afford. So we invested in a $35 can of refrigerant and some YouTube training. We successfully got the AC to drop from 85 to 54 degrees, which seemed like a victory. I hope it holds. Later that night, Sis Hatfield got two calls. One, to conduct primary in the absence of all the other primary leaders and teachers being ill or traveling, and two, to play the organ for sacrament meeting. Her talents throttle is on full here.