Sunday, August 15th. I was stopped in the foyer by a counselor of the branch presidency. The stake auditor was in the building and looking for answers as to why a check was written to me for a stove. How soon we have forgotten about our branch welfare service for Sis Stewart. She is not answering her phone, and uncharacteristically, her front door is closed. Finally, her 30 something great grandson Gerard came to the door and shared that Annie was in the hospital with some sort of digestive tract problem. We tried calling the hospital without success. We hosted Rock and Joy Erekson for dinner. What a great time we had sharing experiences and perspectives. A shared meal like this reminds us how much more social our mission would have been had we not been isolated with COVID. But, I suppose just about anyone around the world would have had a more social time this last 18 months. The Ereksons are particularly personable and special people though, and it is an opportunity lost not to have had more time with them. The evening was busy. It began at 5 pm with a Provo Area devotional featuring Elder Todd Christofferson, who spoke on the Spirit. At 8 pm, the mission had a new missionary fireside with the 29 (less a few that missed) missionaries scheduled to arrive in early September. They look to be a fine group of well prepared young saints. As that fireside ended, we joined another devotional already in progress, featuring our home ward former bishop, Jack Welch, his renowned organist brother, and their wives who are all leaving on senior missions. What made it notable was that Elder Christofferson, a life long friend of the Welchs, attended the meeting and gave some remarks. He had driven down from the Salt Lake studio to the Edgemont stake center. We heard him in Zoom meetings twice in a three hour period from different venues. It is a new world.
On Monday, August 16th the Lindell sisters brought their brown bag lunches to the office to eat with Sis Hatfield. I got to join in. Before lunch was over, we celebrated Elder Everton’s birthday with pie. Elder Jacob brought an apple pie and ice cream, and we contributed a left over strawberry rhubarb pie that the Ereksons brought to dinner last night. I saw Elder Everton go back for three pieces of the strawberry rhubarb. It was amazingly good. Props to the Smokehouse Market, a gourmet shop in Chesterfield. That evening, the Jacobs had arranged tickets for the Hatfields and the Evertons to join them at the Muny, the outdoor theatre at Forest Park where we saw a great performance of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. We had steeled ourselves for hot steamy weather for days, but it turned out to be absolutely delightful. It was fun to see the diversity at the Muny. Some were dressed in tee shirts and shorts, others were dressed in dresses and heels, harkening back to a day when the Muny was attended by the St Louis elite. We didn’t feel as self conscious as we often do in our missionary attire. This was a great experience of St Louis culture.
Tuesday, August 17th began with some startling revelations that Pres Bell shared. Months ago, some missionaries had acquired a gaming console and TV and had hid the gaming console in the kitchen drop down ceiling. Unrelated, a sister missionary and an elder have been texting each other in clear violation of mission rules. Worse, when Pres Bell asked them to stop, they said “that’s not going to happen.” This is so disappointing. He is considering disciplinary steps, including cancelling zone p-days until further notice. It is too bad that the many will pay for the disobedience of the few. But we support the need to instill a clear sense of purpose with all missionaries. That afternoon, Elder Dailami, Elder Paulson, and I headed to Shiloh to retrieve the sisters broken dryer. While out across the river in Illinois, we went to Edwardsville to replace some broken bedroom blinds and while there, we replaced some filters that were well past cleaning the air. We were distressed to learn just before we headed home that insurance review has stopped Elder Dailami’s scheduled imaging tomorrow in preparation for his kidney stone removal procedure on Friday. This is so disheartening to him. He was so hopeful to finally end this persistent pain that has gone on for two months now. I sense some depression, in addition to the raw physical pain. Home later that evening, Sis Hatfield and I are doing some planning for a Pagedale district dinner for young missionaries we have promised to host on Sunday. Pres Bell interrupts this to plan Sis Cottle’s departure to Canada, which has just opened up to American visitors. There are companionships to rearrange, travel to schedule, departure meals to coordinate, online registrations to complete, and early morning transport and check-in at the airport. We are experienced enough at this that we can do it on the fly.
Wednesday, August 18th started with news that Elder Dailami’s imaging approval that was revoked last night has been restored again this morning. This roller coaster ride is fierce. But we maintain priorities, and Elder Dailami will get his MRI to pinpoint his kidney stones. The Evertons will accompany him, and I will become Elder Paulson’s companion for the day. Elder Paulson and I headed to Cape Girardeau to clean the empty apartment there. We worked hard cleaning things that had not been cleaned in too long. The biggest mystery is why colored wax was all over the bedroom blind slats, window sill, down the wall, and in the carpet, with apparently little effort to do anything about it. I did something about it. And Elder Paulson is earning his stripes as a first class worker, even in the dirty, unglamourous jobs.
Next, we needed to discard in a nearby apartment the largest couch in the mission which is famous for being a backside magnet that lulls missionaries to sleep. It is also seriously crowds missionary activities and makes cleaning difficult, to say nothing of its broken feet and torn fabric. Fifteen months ago, it resided in a senior missionary apartment where it was well cared for and didn’t seem so out of place. This is another eye opener of how hard these young men are on apartment furnishings. We carried it down three flights of stairs and strapped it onto the back of the pickup. We headed for the burned down Cape Girardeau stake center, hoping that there was a big dumpster there. Arriving there, it was astonishing to see the vacant lot where the stake center once stood. It looked more like a grassy park with all the structure completely gone, except for some parking and to my luck, a dumpster. It was not big enough to swallow our beast, so we pounded and tore it into big pieces to make it fit. We also did our good turn by cleaning up the several garbage cans worth of yucky trash that was scattered around the dumpster. That was an effort. Back at the office, Sis Hatfield is working with Sis Cottle on departure papers and making her a smoked salmon salad that I haven’t been around to share. That night, Gareth sent some video of torn off roof shingles from our home in Provo. The damage is meaningful, but the tar paper looks sound. So I coached Gareth in where I have a supply of shingles and how to make some repairs. I’m confident that Gareth is a sufficient craftsman that things will be okay. We also are encouraging the stake JustServe coordinators. We have promised a big turn out on the September 11th national day of service at the Greenwood Cemetery. We can make sure there is a good workforce of missionaries, but we also need chainsaws and other power equipment that the missionaries don’t have and can’t use. We need these from the members and the wider community.
Thursday, August 19th started bright an early, with a trip to Champaign zone. I made good use of the travel time making lots of phone calls and texts along the way. We went straight to Rantoul because the elders had some service in the late afternoon. Elder White and Elder Buckley wanted a carpet cleaner, a bedroom ceiling light, and some advice on how to use touch up paint in their bathroom. It was frustrating that the carpet cleaner would not work after hauling it all the way up there, but it was good that we could help them get set up to fix peeling bathroom paint they got from the manager. My best suggestion though was to give them a fan to run in the bathroom for a few hours after shower time to try and dry the walls and ceiling. Then we visited the sister training leaders’ apartment in Champaign to replace their worn out couch with a nice futon couch donated by some members. They were out on errands when we arrived. We also rehung a towel rack we found in the laundry closet and identified the AC filter location, often a bit of a treasure hunt. We sent the sisters a picture of the filter slot so they could find it. Then we went to two nearby elders apartments and gathered up 2 box springs in one, and 2 mattresses in the other. I am sure we did not set up the beds that way. As we were driving out of town, we got a call from the sisters who said that they had forgot their apartment key. It was lucky timing that they were locked out when we were only 15 minutes away. We went back, let them in, and gave them the speech about every missionary carrying their own key. One key between three sisters is insufficient, for sure.
As we were working in Champaign, Elder Dailami got a call from his urologist. The MRI showed just one 1-mm stone still in his kidney. That is insufficient reason to undergo the procedure on Friday, so his surgery is off again, but this time for a good reason. We wondered why he was still in pain, however, but concluded that his nerves were so irritated and swollen that they probably just don’t know how to not be in pain any longer. That evening back in the office we planned how Elder Dailami and Elder Paulson could use their found time tomorrow working on a long list of items in the O’Fallon zone. Sister Hatfield was working hard to prepare for tomorrow’s staff meeting, and we didn’t make it home until 10 pm. Why does it feel like the week before transfers when they are still three weeks away?
Friday, August 20th was stressful. Sis Hatfield and I spent a good deal of time trying to think about how much training would be needed to cover office staff responsibilities and when the training would occur. This is particularly important for Sis Hatfield because she will be splitting her secretary work into three parts to distribute among incoming sister missionaries. For my part, I’m charting senior missionary housing transitions, and figuring out what we will need for temporary housing while the overlap for training occurs. It won’t be the biggest transfer in terms of numbers, but it may be the most important.
Saturday, August 21st was an adventure. We went to the St Louis Science Center with Pres and Sis Bell. It is a great place to learn about many topics, with displays and activities suitable for a range of ages, from young to old. And like so many civic assets here, it is free, mostly. There is a charge for parking and for some of the special exhibits, but there are plenty without them. We did pay for the planetarium showing. Thinking about how ancient civilizations tracked the heavens so precisely, it made me think about the great movie in the sky that constituted part science, part spiritualism, and part entertainment for almost everyone after the sun went down. We shared dinner at the Fountain on Locust, a restaurant and ice cream bar remade out of a vintage car dealership. We reminisced on our COVID mission together, and how things might have been different, some obviously more enjoyable, but some experiences we would missed. As we dropped the Bells off at the mission home, Spencer let us know that we had made an offer on a small duplex in Rigby, Idaho that looks like it will be accepted. A week ago, Sis Hatfield felt impressed to join a discussion between Spencer and a realtor to infuse the discussion with some energy. A week later, in a very difficult market, we may have found something. The basement is rented but the upstairs is empty. It will be a blessing to us and to Ancsi and Gareth who have been looking in vane for a place to stay while at BYU-I. RaDene felt the inspiration just in time. D&C 100:1.