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.