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 , 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.