Wednesday, August 25, 2021

15-21 August 2021 Weary, But Stone Free


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.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

8 - 15 August 2021 We Have Lost One of Our Own

On Sunday, August 8th I went to church, and helped with the sacrament.  Silas, my primary charge, left with his parents immediately after the first hour.  So, I was not needed in primary today.  I had noticed a middle aged man dressed in gym shorts slip into the chapel about half way through the meeting.  As the meeting ended I expressed thanks to the speakers and Pres Nehring came up to me and pointed to the man and said his mother had died this morning and would I take him to the hospital where his family was gathering.  After a brief meeting with the priesthood brethren and a prayer, the elders and I took David Anderson out into the foyer and got more acquainted.  It turns out the missionaries had met David 10 days or so before in a street contact.  Today, as David was feeling the grief and pain of his mother’s passing from the effects of cancer, he stopped into our church, not knowing it was the meeting house of the elders.  David was hungry, and he was given some snacks by the members.  We took him to buy him lunch, then to the Barnes-Jewish Hospital by Forest Park.  I gave him a little cash and we made sure he got some help in the hospital, and then we said goodbye.  The missionaries will try to connect with him again tomorrow.  Sis Hatfield being out of town, the elders went with me to see Annie Stewart.  We were disappointed to learn on her front porch from her grandson Marcus Davis that Annie was hospitalized for some sort of digestive or intestinal illness.  As we were leaving, Marcus asked about Pres Erekson.  Now about 30, I estimate, Marcus said that Pres Erekson had given the eulogy at his mother’s funeral when he was 9-10 years old, and it had always remained in his memory.  I just happen to be friends with Rock Erekson and was able to connect Rock and Marcus.  This afternoon, the Decatur sisters called and explained that they had locked themselves out of their apartment.  We were having no luck getting ahold of the manager.  Just about when I was ready to give up on the manager and drive a key the 2.5 hours up to Decatur, the sisters called.  The manager had surfaced, and my night of driving was cancelled. 

Monday, August 9th was very likely the saddest of our mission.  Young Gabrielle Iverson, who had gone home about two months ago after a suicide attempt, has died.  Her father called Pres Bell who told the office staff.  We had frantically responded when the suicide attempt was made here in the mission, and have prayed for her ever since Sis Bell accompanied her home that week.  She was a sweet person.  I can only imagine the demons she must have been battling.  Now I know she is at peace with a loving, merciful God.  We hope her family can find some comfort in the midst of this tragedy. 

Rock Erekson invited me to join his wife Joy and the young elders for dinner tonight, hearing that Sis Hatfield is in Alabama.  He regaled us with tales of his great grandfather who was a Vermont convert and stalwart saint, pushed out of Missouri and then Illinois.  He was a member of the Nauvoo Legion and the Mormon Battalion, and Rock has temporary custody of his flint musket and sword.  I cannot imagine carrying them all the way from Iowa to California and back to Salt Lake.  They are heavy!  We helped the Erekson’s widowed neighbor, Sally Ledbetter, move a few pieces of furniture to Jill’s basement, another neighbor.  Jill’s husband has a vintage Land Rover which he proudly showed off to us.  Other than the fact that it must have been 110 degrees in the garage so I was sweating like a rag, it was great to meet these people.

Tuesday, August 10th was mostly an office day, holding fort while Sis Hatfield was in Alabama.  A family taking their daughter to college in Arizona drove through Missouri to drop a birthday present off for their son, the oldest child in the family.  It was a pleasure to meet them and feel the love they have for their missionary and for everyone serving with their son.  They expressed their gratitude to the office staff several times.  It was a blessing to hear.  And what an adorable family.  There must have been four kids I saw, plus one I didn’t traveling in the family van.  They had written cute notes all over the outside of the package, which they said I could read.  One stood out.  It was from the second born, the daughter on the way to school.  It said something like this:  “I may not have been the first out of the womb, but I was the first to get a job and the first to go to college.  How is second place suiting you now?”  I sensed some sibling rivalry.  I also collected a phone from a missionary, answered church travel calls, and took care of other secretary business as best I could.  I hope she can figure out what I’ve been doing!  Later, when Elder Jacob came into the office, I went to Webster Grove to glue down a carpet threshold and inspect the “roaches.”  These young ladies must be from Utah.  The pests were not roaches at all, just a species of cricket.  They were a little hard to identify with the boot prints along their backs.  I’m so glad the sisters left the crunched corpses on the floor for me to scrape off for them.  Then we went to Lake St Louis to rehang a TP holder, a towel rod, and patch those and other unrelated holes in the walls.  In Dardenne Creek, we resecured the stairway banister to the wall studs with long screws, replacing the bent 10 inch spike they had pounded in with a rock to hold it temporarily.  Goodness.  After work was done, to my surprise, the housing assistants invited me to Fuzzy’s for a taco Tuesday dinner.  Then it was back to the office to work with Elder Jacob until 10 pm.  I wish I could say I got as much done as most nights, but Elder Jacob has more stories than most, and I’m a willing audience.  

Wednesday, August 11th was notable because there was no invitation from President Bell to join a Zoom workout Wednesday as there has been almost without fail for 21 months.  I’m guessing that Pres Bell is taking a much needed break while his family is in town for a reunion this week.  I hope he is reconnecting and energizing.  He so deserves it.  Their vacation was sadly shortened by an important day planned at Six Flags and Busch Stadium because of flight cancellations on Friday night that could not be rectified until Saturday night.  They were so sad.  I’m hoping they are making up the lost time somehow.  I met Elder Dailami and Elder Paulson at 8:30 am to head to Springfield.  On the way, I called Rafael Morris and talked about the September 11th JustServe project we are working to organize at the Greenwood Cemetery, planning to clear a section of the Cemetery long lost to nature.  I also talked to Ancsi, who is trying to think about how to help Gareth organize his growing painting business.  And I talked to the family history coordinator in the Champaign stake who is more than a little upset at the missionaries up there who have apparently put some Adobe software on the family history center computers without church authorization.  I guess the church techies found it in some sort of remote audit.  He was fuming about the possible need to wipe the computers and take away the missionaries’ keys.  I think I was able to calm him down a bit and broker a peace.  I called the missionaries up there and coached them on the approach to take.  There certainly is a tension between the rarely used family history computers and the missionaries’ need to proselyte with technology, but few technical resources.  The family history computers are a shared asset, but the sharing rules are not always easy to abide, made more difficult by the constant turnover in missionaries.  Meanwhile, I learned that the Springfield sisters had locks changed recently and were not planning to be home when we arrived.  I persuaded them to leave the back door open and keys on the table so I could make copies.  I also circled the Springfield neighborhood several times, trying to sort out any feelings about whether the neighborhood was safe.  Two of the three sisters recently living there have had some vague concerns about safety.  My conclusion is the neighborhood is good.  The location is not in the new suburbs of Springfield, but in the older, more modest part of downtown.  But the residents clearly take pride in their smallish homes, and I believe where the sisters are is an important part of the city for the church to be in.  Now I’ll see what the Lord thinks about my conclusion after prayer.

Thursday, August 12th.  Stunned is too strong, but I’m still processing the news emailed to the mission from the church last night that 14 additional reassigned missionaries are coming our way on September 7th, bringing the current total to 29 incoming missionaries that day.  With about half that number going home in the September transfer, we need to find areas, phone numbers, beds, and transportation for about 7-8 additional companionships.  I’m pretty sure I don’t have enough beds for that many new missionaries anymore.  Could it be that I will need to buy more?  I’ll need to do a careful inventory.  The housing assistants, Elder Dailami and Elder Paulson and I headed to Cape Girardeau to secure an apartment that was vacated there in late July.  I’ve been too busy to get there and get my eyes on it.  Today is the day.  It was a sisters’ apartment, so while it needs some cleaning for sure, it needs cleaning out even more.  The closets are loaded with clothing, much of it in really good shape, and some of it still with tags on it.  How does that happen?  It will be a really good day for Goodwill.  We bagged up about 5 trash bags full of donations, and a few more with trash.  The closets of outer darkness live on, despite my preachings.  We also visited a nearby elders apartment where I had requested some maintenance from the landlord, which I wanted to check on, and for whom we had brought a proper kitchen table to replace the plastic folding table they have been using.  I was surprised to find a church-style couch on the back porch, covered with a tarp.  I surmised that the elders had obtained the couch when the nearby stake center burned down a few months ago.  But Missouri humidity would not be kind to couch kept outside for long.  I sized it up, and it looks okay at the moment, so I had the housing assistants haul it into the house.  Because the elders aren’t home and I can’t seem to reach them by phone, I won’t haul their front room couch out without warning to them, but I have been itching to get rid of that 12 foot long circular couch for a year now.  Now I have something to replace it with, and so I will.  My conversations with Sis Hatfield let me know that she is trying to instill a little peace into Kennedy’s life.  She is really struggling with potty training, and we are convinced it is all emotional.  Her life seems a little chaotic and rushed, which is absolutely understandable given the stressful dynamic of three children under five and two parents employed in demanding professions.

Friday, August 13th.  I guess by the calendar this is an unlucky day.  But I didn’t notice anything, particularly.  It started in the office early getting ready for new missionary training that will be held via video conference.  Technical difficulties kept the conference from starting on time, which was in some ways helpful because it gave me a few more minutes to practice a Zoom conference with Sis Hatfield in Alabama where the Wi-Fi signal has not been stellar for her.  It also gave me a chance to prepare a work list for Elders Dailami and Paulson to go out and work on for a few hours.  Sis Hatfield’s training was excellent on how to get help with phone problems, and even better as she invited the pioneering spirit into the meeting.  These missionaries are not always the genetic descendants of the Mormon pioneers, but each one of them is most certainly their spiritual legacy. 

President and Sister Bell said goodbye to their children and grandchildren yesterday who had come from Utah for a short week visit.  Things did not go particularly smoothly travel wise, either coming or going, which certainly adds to the stress and spoiling of plans.  Pres Bell looks tired to me.  Saying goodbye again is hard, I know.  I will pray for him.  His burden is so heavy and relentless.  And it is harder to imagine more difficult news than that Sis Iverson has moved beyond the veil.  It seems so premature to us.  I am confident that the Lord will make everything right in the end.  Elder Dailami has been almost excited the last couple of days.  After months of doctor, clinic, and surgery center visits, all without success, and suffering and pain all the while, he is finally on date for a procedure to definitively remove his kidney stones.  He was crestfallen this afternoon however, when the promised surgery date of Monday got moved back to next Friday, another week from now.  He is more than a little disappointed, verging on angry.  And why wouldn’t he be?  Poor man.  We headed to Carbondale, Illinois to assess a sister apartment.  I’ve been there, of course, and I think the location is ideal.  But some complaints have gotten to Pres Bell that maybe it is too crowded.  I don’t remember that, but will take a look.  Carbondale is the largest city in southern Illinois, established in the mid nineteenth century because of railroad lines.  It is the home to Southern Illinois University, and very much has a college town vibe.  It has been the location of a fair amount of racial strife and activism over the years, including a shoot out between the Black Panthers and police in 1970.  It was also the first place to begin celebrating what became our national Memorial Day.  It was immediately clear what was wrong at the sisters’ apartment.  They had a massive dresser that occupied an entire bedroom wall in a relatively small bedroom.  The beds were set up perpendicularly on the other two walls so that one sister’s feet were at the head of the other sister.  I suggested that we move the dresser out into the second bedroom, being used as an office, which had a practically empty wall.  With a little doing to get the large piece moved, and some needed cleaning underneath things, the problem looks to be solved.  We rehung a towel rack and fixed some broken lights while we were at it, had our prayer, and were on our way.  The sisters seemed genuinely grateful for the attention and assistance.  We stopped in the elders apartment in nearby Murphysboro and gathered up bed pieces stuffed behind a couch, door, and water heater.  We can find better use for it than this. 

Saturday, August 15th was preparation day.  Preparation for Sis Hatfield to return home after her week trip to Phenix City to help Malory and her family adjust to the new baby.  It was a blessing for her to go, and a blessing for her to come back.  We celebrated by eating out at the local Thai restaurant, which brought to mind our dear friends the Cooks, whom we texted while we ate.  I also sent out mission wide messages looking for beds that I may have lost track over the last six months or so.  With my experience in Murphysboro yesterday, I decided I needed to cast out the net and see what I come up with.  There are more missionaries now coming in September than I have beds for.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

1 – 7 August 2021 Your Families Are In Mine Hands

Sunday, Aug 1st.  Neither Sis Hatfield’s nor my primary charges came to church today.  So we were in Sunday school together for the first time in 16 months.  It was a joy.  Annie Stewart was in rare form today, with her health and spirits being the best we have seen in a long time.  And that, after she reported taking a fall in the bathroom this morning requiring her grandson to raise her from the floor.  She reported no resulting injury.  Sis Hatfield took a SIM card to Sis Smedley, who has been in the hospital for four days now.  She has had over a liter of fluid drawn from her chest and lungs, for no diagnosed reason.  Her symptoms are labored breathing.  She is doing her best to fulfill her missionary purpose in the hospital, passing out Books of Mormon to her caregivers, who, from all indications, are sincere in their acceptance.  Her companions, who fortunately had been in a tri with her, need to return to their area, just as a matter of physical logistics.  So to keep Sis Smedley connected, Sis Hatfield is taking her a SIM card so her companions can take the area phone number back to Farmington with them.  After an impromptu dinner with the APs, Elder Aspinall and Elder Kimball, we have some calls with family.  We have learned that while Spencer and Elisabeth have taken the kids to Arizona, their chance to play with cousins there has been thwarted by a sister in law contracting COVID.  Meanwhile, we are scrambling to consider what Malory will do as she faces inducement on Tuesday because AJ’s mom also has come down with COVID.  She was Plan A for taking the kids while Malory delivered her baby.  The in-laws of both our married kids have COVID in different parts of the country.  Strange, and inconvenient to say the least.  Sis Hatfield is discussing with Mal if she needs leave the mission a week early to help Mal.  We spoke to our aging mothers too, and wished we were in position to give them more assistance in their old age.  We are relying on the Lord to do for our families what we cannot while we are on His errand.  This is a test of faith, and an opportunity to see the Hand of the Lord in our lives.

Monday, Aug 2nd was a difficult day.  We prayed for Malory and her family that Sharon Hussey’s COVID would not interfere with Malory’s ability to deliver her new baby in peace, with AJ at her side, and knowing that someone was caring for her children.  Instead of a restful day of preparation today, Mal is getting her kids tested and trying to make alternative arrangements since her mother in law will be unavailable to take them when she goes in for delivery tomorrow.  Sis Hatfield is within a whisker of accelerating her permission to leave and going right now, rather than waiting until Saturday, as planned.  We can hardly focus on the preparations we need to make for our zone conference presentations this week. Meanwhile, we are counseling with Ancsi and Gareth about housing.  Now that Gareth is required to attend school full time in Rexburg, they have been looking unsuccessfully for a place to rent.  And we can’t find a place to buy that makes any sense.  My advice was for Gareth to look for men’s housing, and to commute on weekends while a long term solution is found.  Not a great idea, but we seem to be running out of options.  And we both reflected on our aging mothers and their needs that we are not helping to meet.  My Mom is suffering from dizziness, and the feelings of loss every time she looks around and realized Dad isn’t there.  Kay is struggling with how to help Karl who is becoming unable to care for himself much.  We will be looking for the Lord’s promised blessings:  “your families are well; they are in amine hands, and I will do with them as seemeth me good; for in me there is all power.”  D&C 100:1.  And so the blessings begin.  The kids test negative for COVID.  The daycare will permit the kids to attend school tomorrow, even though they were exposed last week, on the strength of the negative test.  AJ’s Aunt Priscilla, Sharon’s sister, will take Kennedy and Ben to daycare and pick them up again.  Mal will be able to have this baby.

I spent the afternoon buying and setting mouse traps for the Parkway 1st sisters.  My first instruction was to get the bagged garbage out of the house instead of leaving it sitting on the inside of their front doorway.  Meanwhile, in the office Sis Hatfield is helping four elders get their travel papers in order to leave for Mexico in the morning.  We will have sent about 50 missionaries to their original assignments as of this week.  A family from the Cape Girardeau ward apparently has their eye on one of them for their daughter.  We jumped through several hoops this evening keeping the interaction missionary appropriate.  But it was a distraction for many young missionaries, the assistants, and Pres Bell.  Finally, we arrive home at dusk and Sis Hatfield cuts my hair in the parking lot in the near dark.  I can’t go to zone conference tomorrow looking like this.  Just when we think we are back in control of things, the teaching trainers drop by the apartment at 9 pm for Sis Hatfield’s help, and at 9:30 Pres Thomas calls asking for confirmation about temple attendance by missionaries tomorrow.  He hasn’t caught up with his secretary yet, who has all the information.  Finally, at 10:15 pm the sisters in Mattoon call saying that they smell gas.  I counsel with them, and finally give them the phone number of the fire department.  They come and test, and confirm that there is no gas leak.  It is better to be safe than sorry.  In the end, although challenging, we have been blessed today. 

Tuesday, Aug 3rd with be Malory’s baby’s birthday.  Sis Hatfield and I are filled with anticipation and no small amount of longing that we could be there.  But, we are missionaries, and with limited ability to leave and help, we feel good about the decision to have RaDene go help next week when AJ needs to be at the start of his school year.  But first, the Lindell sisters a few apartment buildings away need my help first thing.  I get a call at 7 am that they have locked themselves out of their bathroom.  Failing to get them in by talking them through it by phone, I hurry to finish getting dressed and head over with my shish kabob skewer.  To the amazement of the sisters, the locked bathroom door is open in an instant.  They look adorable in their jammies.  Then we start our road trip to Springfield for the first of three days of zone conference.  While enroute, I remark that I wonder if Malory has started labor yet.  Sis Hatfield calls AJ, with no answer.  So she texts.  A few minutes later, a video call rings in from AJ, baby boy in arms.  He is smooth and plump, with some dark hair and ruddy skin.  Mal went through labor in about 2.5 hours.  She tells me she will name her baby Richard Sanford Hussey, after his paternal great grandfathers.  This is a sweet remembrance for me. 

At zone conference, we deliver our presentations exactly within the allotted time.  Overruns are a frequent problem that mildly aggravates Pres Bell, so staying on time is a victory.  It has been reduced to setting a timer (or two) right on the podium.  Oddly, this is only the second in person zone conference presentation Sis Hatfield has given this year because of illness, funeral, and sequencing.  With all she has to offer the missionaries, two live 10 minute presentations for the year hardly seems sufficient.  Afterwards, the Jacobs accompany us to tour Lincoln’s house in Springfield.  The NPS has done a great job of preserving and restoring the neighborhood where Abe and Mary lived for 17 years during his early legal and political career.  There are other parts of Springfield that give a glimpse of what it would have looked like in the 1840s and 50s.  It is fascinating history coming from a small prairie town.  Driving back to St Louis, we stop by the airport Federal Express office to send a baby quilt to our grand-niece Elle Jensen.  Sis Hatfield continues to spread the love.  With some frustration, we learned that church travel has advised a new missionary trainer that he will be leaving the mission for his foreign assignment in five weeks.  Pres Bell had specifically asked that church travel not distract missionaries weeks to months in advance with news like this.  Hopefully, he will be able to finish his training responsibilities in spite of the knowledge that he will be leaving.  The church machine just has too any people, including volunteers, for everything to be done just right.

On Wednesday, August 4th, Sis Hatfield woke feeling unsettled and out of sorts.  We couldn’t figure out why.  As we prepare to leave for the second day of zone conferences, we called Mal and then we knew.  The nurses had taken Richard from her without clear explanation and he had been gone all night.  She was too exhausted and confused to figure out what was going on, and she needed help.  AJ had to be at home with the other kids.  RaDene felt terrible that she wasn’t in Alabama to advocate for her daughter.  But, after gathering her thoughts, RaDene called her back and talked her through what we knew and what should be done.  With encouragement, Malory worked it through and got some answers and help from the nurses.  At zone conferences, it was obvious that Sis Hatfield was in her element, teaching, training, encouraging, and visiting with the missionaries.  Her love and talents are valuable here in the mission, just like they would be in Alabama.  We can’t be everywhere, and it is a privilege to do for these young people what we can.  Sis Hatfield and I left promptly after the zone picture to head to the airport to pick up an elder returning to the field after some unfortunate events required him to go home for a couple months to get things straightened out.  It was a last minute addition to the mission, so I sent the housing assistants to Columbia to set up a bed for him.  The office seemed like a blur of visitors all day long—mostly missionaries—so little on our lists was getting done, particularly for Sis Hatfield.  We keep telling ourselves that welcoming and assisting the missionaries IS our work. 

I slipped out for an hour to train a senior couple called in the St Louis stake to be housing inspectors.  They are life long St Louisans, and it was a joy to hear their story.  They will be great grandparent-like influences for the missionaries here, I am sure.  While Sis Hatfield helped more missionaries in the office, I went to the temple to deliver a quilt to the temple recorder so he could take it to his wife for the machine quilting.  (I have never considered the temple as someone’s place of work and a place where a personal item might be delivered—but so it is.)  I was greeted in the temple foyer by the Pres and Sis Thomas, the temple president and matron, who were gathering a YSA ward for temple service.  Sis Thomas insisted that I tell Sis Hatfield’s story of her choosing me instead of a mission when asked by her mom if I would wait to marry her while  RaDene served a mission.  That story apparently is remarkable to many.  Meanwhile, Sis Smedley, our hospitalized missionary, is being transferred from Mercy Hospital to Barnes-Jewish-Washington University Hospital, where more specialists are available to help diagnose her condition.  We are grateful she is getting as good of care as she could get anywhere.  Sis Hatfield fielded an odd call from a recent convert who was complaining that the missionaries were violating his privacy by requesting Facebook friends of his coworkers.  She apologized on their behalf and helped counsel the missionaries that in this case, the member is always right in his request for boundaries.  We worked late as Sis Hatfield tries to be ready to leave the mission on Saturday for a week.  Will we survive without her?

Thursday, August 5th marked the end of zone conferences for the mission.  There were so many beautiful messages, most taught by young missionaries to each other.  Pres Bell has found a great formula, and each zone conference seems to be a little better than the last.  We received the good news that little Richard has been released to Malory’s room.  The observations and treatments will be much less aggressive, and Mal will be able to start getting accustomed to a new baby in her arms.  He looks good too, except for the roughing up he suffered from needles, surgical tape, and other procedures hard on newborn skin.  Leanne Gustin has identified and vetted a potential housekeeper to help Mom.  All in all, the Lord is blessing our family, as he promised.

Friday, August 6th.  Mission leadership is forgetting that transfers of missionaries creates a cascade of changes inside the missionary department’s data base, everything from phone numbers, to addresses, to boundaries, to area naming conventions, to rents, to smoke alarm testing, to investigator lists, and more.  We need to do some more training of our new assistants to the president so they understand all that is entailed so that they are making changes that they intend to.  Last night and this morning Pres Bell could not get in touch with missionaries because they had been moved from one box to another, when all they wanted to do was change the name of the area from south to west.  Instead, all the details were changed too, making the missionaries all but lost for a time.  The housing assistants and I drove to Illinois to take down extra beds, desks, chairs, etc. in O’Fallon and Effingham.  I had to make a list of the O’Fallon elders of housing cleaning and decluttering for them to attend to.  And, I sanded and put a second coat on the wall patches in Effingham made necessary when the hide-a-bed couch sprang open a few weeks ago.  It’s looking much better now, to my relief.  Sis Hatfield’s baby quilt was delivered to Max and Emily today, they confirm.  And Sis Nehring brought to the office the quilted blanket for Richard so that RaDene can carry it to Alabama for him tomorrow.  Whew, the timing for both has worked out.  Malory was released from the hospital, and Sis Hatfield cleared her desk and packed her bags. 

On Saturday, August 7th I sent my best gift to Malory—RaDene.  I took her to the airport early this morning.  She got through security with her quilting needles and scissors.  The trip went smoothly until Sis Hatfield took the wrong train and went to the international terminal instead of the baggage claim.  The shuttle back took way too long, so RaDene missed her shuttle to from the Atlanta airport to Columbus.  Oh well.  She got the edging almost done on Richard’s quilt.  Meanwhile, I posted my first JustServe project on the website.  I was pretty proud of myself for deciding it needed to be done now and starting the ball rolling on the 911 National Day of Service we are organizing for missionaries, members, and the community to help reclaim the Greenwood Cemetery.  That night, the Jacobs took pity on me.  They had me over for pork tips over rice before our trip across the river to O’Fallon, Illinois where the Belleville ward was holding a missionary fair.  Sis Hatfield and I had been asked to participate long ago, but had declined knowing that she would be in Alabama.  The Jacobs were asked to go instead, and they invited me to come along, which I was happy to do.  We had at least as missionaries as members at the fair, but no matter, it was fun and good for all.  If only one young person or senior couple was encouraged to serve because of the efforts to put on the fair, it was worth it.

25-31 July 2021 Weightlifter in the Way

On Sunday, July 25th we awoke with a start in the morning grey to a terrific thunderstorm.  We held our breath that the power would stay on.  It did, but the power of nature was manifest yet again.  We began our effort to type our children’s patriarchal blessings.  Sis Hatfield is getting some scriptures custom bound, and a feature of these scriptures will be the inclusion of patriarchal blessings.  The catch is that the binder needs an editable, electronic copy of blessings so they can be sized correctly for printing and the binding into the volume of scripture.  There are few ways of learning and appreciating a text more than the deliberate, slow process of typing the words, one letter at a time.  It gave Sis Hatfield and I a deep appreciation of the eternal identity of our children individually and our family collectively.  These blessings inspire us to do better and to be better as we see the potential of our children. 

At church, Stake President Bunderson attended in order to release David Fingal and call and sustain Douglas Nehring as Pagedale Branch President.  Pres Fingal is single, but today it looked like his family would always support him, attending church in force, even including his ex-wife.  His beautiful grandchildren were somewhere between tweenagers and young teenagers and politely and attentively listened to all the proceedings.  The tributes and thanks to Pres Fingal were sincere and deserved.  Newly sustained Pres Nehring’s remarks were enthusiastic and inclusive.  As a white man, we will all pray that Pres Nehring will be able to touch the members something like Pres Fingal has done as a black man in this largely inner city branch full of people of color.  Following sacrament meeting, Sis Hatfield and I presided over a primary of two—Silas and a baby, which accompanied by her mother Rachel, really left us as a primary of one.  Silas must have remembered the good time he had cradled and swinging in the soft blanket last week in primary.  He did not hesitate to take my hand and come down the stairs with us to another hour of directed play with me and Sis Hatfield.  I am not sure how we will hold primary when the Fuller family of children make it back to church next week. 

After church it was off to the office to make preparations for the missionaries gathering at the mission home this evening and flying out tomorrow.  Our participation in the Pagedale district paid dividends today, as the two sets of Parkway sisters offered to come to the office and help with the work.  It was a blessing to have their help and company for a couple of hours.  Then Sis Hatfield and I went to the mission home, me to grill chicken for the departing missionaries’ last Missouri supper, and Sis Hatfield to provide departure papers and instructions.  I stalled more than usual today to extend our goodbyes to Elder Conner Nielson, an aw, shucks Monroe sheep rancher that we will really miss until we see him again.  About 10 pm I got a pretty panicked call from the Hazelwood sisters indicating that the ceiling was leaking in their hallway.  I convinced myself that a bucket would hold off the emergency until morning, and the sisters agreed.  More alarming, the Harvester newsletter had a departing missionary’s testimony printed twice, leaving out another missionary’s testimony.  Sis Hatfield jumped into action, getting some technical help from Sis Atkins, and heading into the office to make some reprints for the departing missionaries and dropping them off on front porches for distribution first thing in the morning before folks headed for the airport.  I admire her ability to get a job done, anywhere, anytime. 

Monday, July 26th was celebration day, missionary style.  Sis Hatfield turned the wonderful age of 59.  She began her day dressed in her exercise outfit delivering necessaries and saying goodbye to the many sisters preparing to head for the airport and their flights home.  It was a bit of a makeup for her having had to dash to the office last evening to retrieve materials when she should have been saying goodbye before the farewell dinner.  An hour and a half later, we got a call from the Gonzales family, who were hopelessly turned around on their way to pick up Sis Gonzales from the sisters’ apartment for her roadtrip home.  We figured out where they were and turned into live Siri, giving them turn by turn directions to get them here.  Sis Hatfield and I agreed that there was probably not a single other couple in the church that they could have called that could have successfully provided the directional services we rendered.  We have become well acquainted with our environment. 

Not long afterwards, Elder Dailami called to let me know that what he suspected was another bout with kidney stones was keeping him from being able to make the second run of luggage to the airport for the departing missionaries.  Elder Dailami is no pain pretender, so I know that this is serious.  I dashed to the bakery to pick up Sis Hatfield’s raspberry lemon cake from the French bakery just in time for the 10 or so missionaries I’ve invited to sing happy birthday to her.  Elder and Sister Hatfield stole the show, following with a Dutch rendition.  So, naturally, I sang (pathetically) in Thai, and the Jacobs and a couple of young missionaries sang in Spanish.  Then, not waiting for cake, I dashed out to the housing elders’ apartment to check on Elder Dailami, who was looking terrible, and pick up Elder Paulson, and the mission trailer loaded with luggage and head to the airport.  There, the cranky security guard was on duty, prohibiting us from dropping from the parking structure, so we wedged our way into the drop off lanes on the ticketing level, dropped our trailer tailgate, and unloaded.  It gave me one last chance to give Elder Nielson a hug goodbye. 

As Elder Paulson and I were trying to leave, there was luggage left alone right in the middle of the traffic lane.  Waiting for a minute, but recognizing no one was on the way to move it, I asked Elder Paulson to move it to the curb so we could get by.  Just then I saw a man who had been leaning in a window in another lane come across, and confront Elder Paulson.  He was asking for help.  His English was heavily accented Chinese, but it was clear that he could not make his flight without a COVID test, and he had a testing place address in his hand.  I looked at Elder Paulson, and shrugged.  Our deadline was now satisfied, and so I said we could help, knowing that his address was in nearby St Charles.  He gratefully hopped in back seat while Elder Paulson loaded his bags, and off we went.  We soon learned that Coach Ma was an Olympic medalist in 1984 in weightlifting.  He still competed all these years later.  He was on his way to Brazil for a speaking engagement, then to the Pan American Games as a 50-something competitor.  But he couldn’t travel without a COVID test, and now he would get one.  I gave Coach Ma my card, and later we exchanged texts, agreeing to connect again after he returned from the Pan American Games. 

The young sister missionaries and traveling technology trainers accompanied Sis Hatfield to a birthday lunch, which took too long, but was excellent company.  Meanwhile, I was off to Webster Grove, Missouri and Belleville, Illinois to set up a places for a sister missionaries on Wednesday.  Arriving back to the office late, we treat the housing elders and ourselves to sandwiches for Sis Hatfield’s birthday dinner.  Not exotic, but satisfying.  We then went to see Elder Dailami at his apartment, being watched by another elder recently abandoned by his companion that went home this morning.  Elder Dailami looks brave, but pale.  Sis Hatfield and I headed to the office to work until 10:30 pm, preparing for transfers.  Sis Hatfield said her birthday was a great mission birthday experience, a blend of celebration with people that depend on her and love her, while still spending the day in service to them and the Lord.

On Tuesday, July 27th I was companions with Elder Paulson for the morning, while Elder Dailami continued to rest.  It hasn’t been frequent that I have been the designated companion of a young elder, but this was one of those times.  We set up extra beds at the mission home and at the Lindell sisters’ apartment so those places would be ready for unusually large numbers of elders and sisters, respectively, arriving this afternoon.  The we headed out to the Missouri River South area in Lake St Louis to set up a tri in a sisters’ apartment.  By mid afternoon, Elder Dailami was feeling marginally better, and caged, so he and Elder Hein, his temporary companion, joined us in the trip to the airport to pick up the 32 arriving missionaries and their roughly 90 pieces of luggage.  It was quite a caravan of mission cars, vans, trucks, and trailer to pick them all up.  But we were efficient and the missionaries were focused and helpful.  We got out of there before the airport security had a chance to urge us on. 

After dropping our passenger at the mission home, the housing assistants and I went to the Frontenac building to unload and sort luggage for transfers tomorrow.  We needed the truck and trailer empty to get other supplies for the transfer from both the office and storage, including 32 pillows, which we bought from an incredulous clerk at Target.  While we were at Frontenac, Sis Hatfield and the technology trainers were back at the mission home helping the new missionaries set up their phones and install missionary software.  Those phones won’t work smoothly again for 18-24 months, but should provide a measure of safety from the evils of the internet.  With the expected heat tomorrow near 100 degrees F and high humidity, we picked up shade umbrellas from the mission home patio as part of our preparations, at Sis Hatfield’s good suggestion.  Less brilliantly, I got a call from Pres Bell that the sisters tri we set up in the Missouri River area was in error.  The mistake was caught in a missionary’s letter to the President indicating her excitement to welcome a new missionary into their companionship.  In hindsight, I had misread the transfer board for two closely named areas, and in the many rereads since the first misread, my mind had seen what I expected to see, not what was there.  I called the sisters and apologized for my mistake and the wrong expectations I had created.  Oh, well, at least the furniture is within about 15 minutes of where it should have been, and I’ll correct my error tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 28th was transfer day.  But first, we had our Zoom Wednesday morning workout led by Pres Bell, notwithstanding his injured knee.  His tenacity is remarkable.  I hustled in and out of the shower and made myself scarce at the office in order to make room for a half dozen new sisters that came over for showers, etc.  I did my personal scripture study at the office, and then left directly for the church to do the physical set up preparations for transfers with the help of the housing assistants.  In new missionary orientation, I bore witness to the role of Joseph Smith as Prophet of the Restoration.  Recently I have recognized the fulfillment of Moroni’s prophecy that Joseph Smith’s name would be held for good or for evil by all people.  The internet and social media hastened the outcome.  After we got the missionaries into their cars to leave for their areas, Elder Dailami was as pale as a sheet.  Pres Bell and Sis Everton counseled together, and the decision was made to take Elder Dailami to the emergency room.  The prospects for waiting weeks more for the urology clinic to take action was unacceptable.  To make things easier, Pres Bell assigned Elder Brady to help with the afternoon’s housing labors.  Elder Brady is on his way to Mexico next week.  It is hard to tell whether he is happy to help me, or just being obedient.  Regardless, he was good help for sure to fix yesterday’s set up error plus four other apartments.  Along the way, we redistributed lost sheets of a sister and a backpack of an elder inexplicably found this afternoon at a sisters’ apartment.  We were home by 9:30 pm.  Yay, another transfer day done.

On Thursday, July 29th Elder Dailami bravely decided to forego more aggressive treatment for his kidney stones and come back to work.  I think he has some comfort that the stones are small enough that they “should” pass on their own.  I don’t know if I believe that!  First on the agenda was training Bro & Sis Kimlinger in Jefferson City.  They have been called to be housing inspectors in the Columbia Stake and zone.  They are wonderful people and will be a great assistance to the missionaries out here.  It was inspiring to hear his conversion story after serving in the military.  They brought us peaches, so I am sure the missionaries they visit will be taken care of too.  While out there, we went to the Riverview Columbia apartment, the southwest outpost of the mission, made some repairs, delivered supplies, assessed needs to meet on a future trip, and generally made the elders feel like they are not forgotten and that their work is appreciated.  I looked at my phone and saw a temperature of 99 degrees with a heat index of 111.  I felt pretty depleted just from the heat.  We will definitely need to wash our shirts tonight. 

Friday, July 30th was staff meeting and the opportunity for the staff to acknowledge Pres Bell’s birthday tomorrow.  He has dubbed us his “Dream Team,” which is more than a bit hyperbolic.  Still, it conveys the good feelings we have among us.  Staff presented Pres Bell with a handsome souvenir of his service in the Missouri St Louis Mission.  Sis Hatfield had found a metal silhouette of the St Louis skyline, prominently featuring the Arch, and mounted it on antique tongue and groove boards engraved with his service dates.  He seemed touched, and so were we. 

Sis Hatfield has been working tirelessly to find a path to get permission to put wi-fi in 12 missionary apartments that have terrible cell service, negatively impacting their ability to do their work.  This afternoon her most recent inquiry was finally answered by the assistant of the church’s technology department.  If all three major cell service providers are tested in an area and reception is not improved, then wi-fi will be approved.  Given the effort to take alternative SIM cards and other necessaries to do the required tests in each of the areas, this will be no small undertaking.  Sis Hatfield is mapping out a plan to test expeditiously.  Certain of our missionaries need connection.  Late that afternoon, Sis Bell confided to Sis Hatfield that she had no plans for celebrating Pres Bell tomorrow on his birthday.  It is understandable.  The stress and work of transfer week is all consuming.  But never fear, Sis Hatfield said she would help hatch a plan—gatherings are one of her special skill sets.

Saturday, July 31st looks like rain.  And the Mahaffeys, who had graciously agreed to host a barbeque for Pres Bell, are without power at their house.  That won’t work.  But that is only a setback.  We scheme about moving the party to the mission home, or the Frontenac church, or most interestingly, to the mission office.  After weighing it all, Sis Bell decides the mission home is fine.  So we pivot, and with a trip to Costco and a few hours work, we pull off a memorable gathering at the mission home, including the Hintzes, Thomases Mahaffeys, Hatfields, Evertons, Jacobs, and of course, the Bells, together with Sister West and Sister Pettingale, returned missionaries in town visiting.  The sisters may have been the life of the party, sharing some of their dating escapades.  Also humorous, in the confusion, the Thomases didn’t get the word that the party had moved to the mission home, and at the appointed hour, had let themselves in and walked through the Mahaffeys’ house with their tray of grilled veggies, startling themselves, and the Mahaffeys.  A memory maker for them, for sure.