Wednesday, September 29, 2021

19-25 September 2021 The Beginning of the End: the Transition Begins

 Sunday, September 19th started with ward council.  Our objective was to impress on Pres Nehring and the rest of the council that our time with the Pagedale branch was drawing towards its close, and the sisters we minister to will need some new contacts.  Pres Nehring seems to have some ideas.  Sis Hatfield gave a short talk on 2 Nephi 25:23, focusing on the truth that the Lord’s grace is what saves us, after all we can do.  The same is true for our missionary service.  We do our best, and then the Lord sees to it that what must be done is done, after all we can do.  That is a very comforting and freeing thought.  After church meetings, we had the pleasure of taking Grandma Kay with us to visit Annie Stewart.  The matriarchs connected in a special way.  

Back at the apartment, (former) Sis Kenady Pettingill dropped by to see us with her fiance.  They were both working in St Louis, and took the time to come around and make introductions before their return trip home tomorrow.  Sis Pettingill will be married next time we see her in Utah.  We hosted dinner with the APs and the St Louis STLs.  No matter how much we rub shoulders with these young people, we continue to be impressed with their spirit and character.  After dinner, we persuaded Kay to come on a sunset ride with us to the Greenwood cemetery.  She was a bit reluctant, but after getting there, hearing the history of the cemetery and the Morris’ personal mission to reclaim it, she was so glad that she didn’t pass on the visit here.  Sis Hatfield then went into the office to help the sisters that met her there to get their departure papers in order for travel to their assignments in Costa Rica in the morning.  Monday travel is challenging because of the disruption to the work required on Sunday.  Oh well, the cause is more than worth any inconvenience.  Indeed, making this happen is the reason we are here.  

Monday, September 20th.  Grandma Kay requested a priesthood blessing this morning on her departure day.  She has multiple health challenges, weighty family concerns, and a husband who is struggling to maintain his independence from admittance to a long term care facility.  Sis Hatfield had some inspiration for her Mom that led her to Boyd K. Packer’s April 2003 general conference address, “Golden Years.”  Elder Packer shared some remarkable statistics.  At that time, the 15 apostles had a combined 400+ years as general authorities, and 1100+ years of life experience.  Elder Packer noted some important roles of seniors, including a testimony the burns so bright that children and grandchildren can warm their hands by it.  “That is what grandfathers and grandmothers do.”  In the office that morning, I carefully prepare the rent payment report for the 100 apartments in the mission.  There are many junctures in the rent payment process where something could go wrong, and I am determined that my report won’t be where something does go wrong.  I also take the opportunity to stop by the manager’s office and I am successful in getting an appointment for Thursday to take a look at the new senior missionary apartment we have been working to secure.  I return to the office to accompany Grandma Kay to the airport and make sure she gets checked in and helped with a wheelchair through security and down the concourse to the gate.  It has been a sweet visit to share a little bit of our mission with her.  She had to be so brave to come on her own, knowing that a short week ago she was in the hospital with a hip problem, but she and we are so glad she did.  Meanwhile, Sis Hatfield attended what was originally planned as a sisters p-day activity in the St Louis zone but has morphed into a multi zone sisters’ conference.  The young sisters love the wisdom and cooking of the senior sisters, and the senior sisters love the vitality and sweetness of the young sisters.  Elder Packer would be proud of what these grandmothers are doing.  

I headed across the Mississippi to O’Fallon, Illinois to conduct a virtual tour with the landlord of one of our missionary apartments over there.  Last year, they wanted pictures, and this year, they wanted a video tour.  I was a little nervous about whether the elders would have it in decent shape, even though I have urged them to clean it thoroughly.  To my delight, they had done an excellent job of cleaning up and cleaning out.  The conversation with the manager went smoothly and we will both be happy to renew the lease.  We had ordered two filing cabinets to accommodate the changing work stations for the new office staff.  I arrived at the office to find that our cabinets had arrived, but on opening and inspection, were badly damaged.  With a little effort, I was able to get through the Amazon maze to the seller and request replacement cabinets.  During the evening, we had our last family home evening as an old staff with the Evertons, Jacobs, and Hatfields.  Sis Hatfield observed that Pres Bell has been pained over a struggling missionary.  It has been inspirational to watch how Pres Bell takes so personally his stewardship over these young people.  He aches right along with them, mourning with those who mourn and comforting those who stand in need of comfort.  Thinking that it was appropriate for us departing seniors, we reviewed Elder Packer’s “Golden Years” address and had pot luck refreshments.  We certainly have had good treats with this group!

Tuesday, September 21st is more than a little disturbing.  Our daughter, who is back at work after a painfully short six week maternity leave, is feeling overwhelmed and in crisis at work, with ghastly murder and abuse trials on the schedule this week, starting today.  She even asked the judge for a recess because she couldn’t control her emotions.  Sis Hatfield and I are praying mightily for her.  It hurts that we can’t be there to support her in this difficult time.  She is not getting support from her inlaws who refuse to be vaccinated or to follow doctor’s orders to wear a mask with baby Richard.  Our prayers are answered by an experienced, albeit part-time prosecutor who steps in to take one of Malory’s felony trials.  He may never know how grateful we are for his work.  We reorganized and refitted the office work stations today in anticipation of the arrival tomorrow of Elder and Sister Sapp from Meridian, Idaho.  I ordered some undercounter files for the new vehicle coordinator station in the front office bullpen.  Its going to get a little snug in the office.  In order to make time for these preparations, I sent the housing assistants to Champaign all day without me.  It took going to three stores to find all the materials and supplies they needed for the trip.  Meanwhile, Elder Jacob and Elder Everton are working together on mission finances, because Elder Jacob will be released next week and the new financial secretary won’t come until November.  Bless his soul, Elder Everton will be the bridge to get the work done in the interim and train the replacement.

Wednesday, September 22nd.  We worked at the office for a while, and then I headed out with Elder Paulson and Elder Williams to check on a refrigerator that keeps going out and a dishwasher that keeps falling out of the cabinet.  It turned out that the fridge gasket has a gash in it, no doubt allowing warm moist air to be sucked in until the vent is frozen over.  I patched it with duct tape as a temporary fix.  The dishwasher cabinets tabs were broken, so we fashioned replacements with conduit tabs.  As we were leaving for our next apartment, Sis Hatfield called and said that Elder and Sister Sapp had arrived, hours early.  So I hustled back to the office, participated in the introductions with Sis Hatfield, and took them to lunch.  Then we helped them check into their extended stay hotel where they will be for the next week.  Sis Hatfield’s eagle eye saw the torn couch cushion and encouraged me to call the manager for replacements and get more dishes sent in.  Elder Sapp is an infectious storyteller and a hard worker.  He will be a great replacement for me, inspiring the young missionaries wherever he meets them.  After spending a little more time in the office with the Sapps, we sent them home to settle in, and we settled in for a long evening at the office.  

Thursday, September 23rd.  I took Elder Sapp with me to Pagedale and the old Hawthorne School to meet Madeleine Lee, the manager, to sign a lease renewal.  It is obvious that Elder Sapp’s easy personality will win many friends here in the Missouri St Louis Mission.  We swung by the office to pick up Sis Sapp so she could take a first look at the apartment we are planning to move them to in the neighborhood of the other office staff.  It looks like it will be great.  I detected a smile from Sis Sapp.  We walked downstairs so I could introduce them to the Lindell South sisters, their new neighbors.  Back at the office, the training is feeling a bit overwhelming, so I took the Sapps out to lunch for sandwiches while Sis Hatfield hung back at the office to work.  That evening, Sis Hatfield and I went to the home of Sherri Cullen and Dan Thomas.  We have appreciated their friendship over the past two years.  Their non-traditional background (she was raised Mennonite and he practiced Buddhism) is fascinating and refreshing, but very much faith filled.  We ended the evening talking tattoos, something they both have many of.  Sis Hatfield even got to see some of Sherri’s hidden tattoos on her back, which are, apparently, spectacular.  I understand that tattoos are addictive, but I still don’t understand how the pain, described by Sherri as a slap on a sunburn, is willingly tolerated.  We went back to the office to work in preparation for tomorrow until 10:30 pm.

Thursday, September 24th was our final new missionary training.  Sis Hatfield’s testimony that these young missionaries are the legacy of the pioneers was touching to this very large group of new missionaries and their companions, and to us.  I spoke on their missionary work being the most important work, more important than that of doctors, engineers, political leaders, or civil rights lawyers.  Back at the office, we had a staff meeting, missing the Jacobs since Elder Jacob had food poisoning and twisted his ankle.  That is unlucky timing, just as Elder Everton is trying to train on finances.  And then we had a introductory Zoom meeting with missionaries preparing to enter the MTC to arrive in the October transfer.  It felt a little strange to introduce myself, knowing that I will have only moments with these new missionaries.  

Saturday, September 25th began with me listening to Elder and Sister Gong’s worldwide missionary devotional.  Sis Gong’s focus was on the safety of obedience to the commandments.  Elder Gong explained what some of the “needful things” are that we must prepare as suggested in DC 88:119.  He also gave a great plug to “a house of order” having meaning and application as relates to missionary apartments, from the same verse of scripture.  Meanwhile, Sis Hatfield is communicating with Dr Anderson, her mission field psychiatrist, looking for answers to her sleep deficiency during this period of high stress receiving and training new senior missionaries.  He is very generous to help, considering that he is hospitalized himself right now with kidney stones and colitis.  

We met up with the Nehrings to drive across the river to Cahokia, Illinois.  The Mississippian native american civilizations had a strong center in the east St Louis area.  It’s signature surviving relics are conical, ridgeline, and flattop earthen mounds, including one that is the largest in the US.  The large, powerful community had about 20,000 people at its zenith in the 13-14th centuries, archeologists estimate, larger than either London or Paris at the same period in history.  From atop the largest mound, the St Louis skyline stands out in bright relief.  I had stumbled onto the Cahokia church while researching the mounds, and so we took a swing by on the way back.  The church is the oldest, longest continuously used Catholic church in America.  It was built in 1698 from black walnut posts and beams growing at the time of Columbus and then filled with rubble in the old French style.  Its candlesticks and sacramental goblet were gifts to the church by King Louis in the early 1700s and taken over to the St Louis Cathedral upon the visit of Pope John Paul for his use at mass.  As we poked around the outside, a man bustled over and asked if we wanted to look inside, which was an understatement.  He was mildly excited and proud to open it up for our inspection.  He showed us a trap door in the chapel floor that reputedly was used for hiding and refuge by freedom seeking slaves and their protectors during the era of the nineteenth century underground railroad.  We ended the evening at dinner with the Nehrings, he working as temple recorder, and Patti and Paul Hintze, the new temple matron and president.  This sort of rarified connection does not happen for us in Provo!

Saturday, September 25, 2021

12-18 September 2021 Emergency Trip to Utah


Sunday, September 12th.  The Pagdale elders called me this morning and asked if I would pick up JW Miller again and give him a ride to church, which I was happy to do.  He told me that he had to start his work shift at noon, so he won’t be able to stay for the second hour.  Maybe that was good.  Our priesthood meeting lesson was interrupted by another visitor that took issue with the principles of agency being discussed.  He insisted loud and long that God would make us do His will, until finally Dan Thomas, our elders quorum president, verbally engaged him.  The visitor stormed out and we worked to real the Spirit back in, and the lesson went on.  After church, we visited Annie and sang hymns and read scriptures.  It was as if her time with us was a warmup.  She broke into a baleful song with self made verse that was a prayer to the Lord.  I am sure He heard her.  She is so sincere in her faith in Christ.  We hosted Sunday dinner for Dan Thomas, Sherry Cullen, Marilyn Greene, and David Fingal, members of the Pagedale branch.  We discussed our hopes and dreams for the branch, and learned about the ups and downs that it has been through over the years.  It certainly has been a struggle for this little branch of the church.  That night we talked with Malory who is girding herself to go back to work next week.  We tried to be encouraging, pointing out that she plays a vital role for her community in keeping the peace, something that benefits many, even if it is of some cost to Malory’s children and husband.  Inwardly, we are mourning that our grandson Richard will soon be in the hands of daycare workers at the tender age of six weeks old.  

Monday, September 13th.  A member had offered that I use his chainsaw at our Greenwood cemetery project last week, but I couldn’t get it to work well, so I rented one.  Today I asked Andy the vacuum man if he had a small engine repair recommendation, and as a fixture in the blue collar community, of course he did.  Ron was his name, and he was very willing to take on the project.  He lived in St Ann, which is convenient to Maryland Heights, so I took it over to him.  Ron is a self educated man that seems to be expert in electronics as well as combustion engines.  Now days, disciplines cross over a lot.  He was very talkative and interesting.  We’ll see what he can do with the chainsaw.  We’d like to get it running so we can donate it to the Greenwood Cemetery Restoration Assn.  I spent a portion of the afternoon studying Elder Dale Renlund’s address to mission presidents on making lifelong disciples of missionaries.  This is surely a chief objective of a mission president, right behind their safety.  Elder Renlund likened the application of the first four principles of the Gospel to a road up a mountain.  The path seems circular, but it is a gradual ascent.  Similarly, enduring to the end means applying faith, repentance, recommitment through the sacrament ordinance, and enlightenment by the Holy Ghost again and again, iteratively improving who we are.  This analogy is helpful to break through the notion that enduring to the end is merely gritting your teeth and waiting for the end.  

Tuesday, September 14th was zone conference in O’Fallon, Illinois.  I was anxious to be engaged in the spiritual feast of conferences this week, knowing that these would be my last in person zone conferences in this mission.  Pres Bell laid out for the missionaries his invitation to the nine stakes in the coordinating council that make up our mission to give a gift to Christ of two convert baptisms in each ward and branch before the end of the year.  The missionaries will not lead out with this invitation, but allow the priesthood leaders to embrace it and set their course with the assistance of the missionaries.  At the end of zone conference, plus the post conference picture (which I missed while on the phone), cleanup, distribution of materials, discussion with missionaries, planned and unplanned, we were famished.  But, there didn’t seem to be enough time for lunch, so we satisfied ourselves with a trip to the Dairy Haven for orange twist ice cream cones, probably for the last time.  I’m thinking about lots of things being “the last time” without being too sad about it.  But it is interesting to think about the singularity of so many life experiences.  I parted ways with Sis Hatfield who went back to the office, and the housing assistants and I went to Highland, IL to replace that alarm I was called about on Saturday, fix a closet door hanging so low it wouldn’t move, and then we were off to Champaign.  There we found the sister training leaders in good spirits, but Elder Dailami not.  It is hard to see him struggling after thriving as a housing assistant.  Pres Bell is counseling with him, and hopefully his optimism is on the rise.  We were home after 10 pm, which was too late for the young missionaries, but they are loyal and diligent about accomplishing our work.  

On Wednesday, September 15th, I hurried to the office to get some office work done and meet Sis Atkins.  She will go with us to zone conference in the South St Louis Stake.  We thought we might be late, but it turned out we had lots of time to set up the mail station, find our seats, and lots of other things, because Pres and Sis Bell went to the wrong building in Chesterfield.  In my rush to be on time, I had forgotten some mail and supplies, forgotten to leave instructions for the housing assistants, and was feeling the inexorable pull of office work.  So, I headed back in to spend another hour or two there before coming back for the end of zone conference and washing the trays from Sis Bell’s delicious cinnamon rolls.  Sis Hatfield didn’t come with me, but she was in the back of the chapel working away on her computer on mission business, all the same.  She is feeling overwhelmed with the prospects of training new senior missionaries while keeping up with the regular work, communicating critical information to the next batch of incoming missionaries, and working on itineraries for the departing.  When I returned, I heard Elder Everton give an inspiring message on US civil rights history, weaving in the local heroes of Dred and Harriet Scott, and Abraham Lincoln.  

Thursday, September 16th started early with a trip to the airport with Elder Elijah Aken-Mathewson, headed for his original assignment in Toronto.  We love sending the new spirit of St Louis around the world.  Sis Hatfield had spent a portion of her evening last night helping him prepare his travel documents, and things went smoothly.  But it was still worthwhile that I was there because his checked bags needed to be paid for.  Credit card carrying adults have a place in the mission field.  Today, Sis Hatfield hung back from zone conference in Lake St Louis for a while to work in the office.  I rode with the housing assistants because it was their turn for conference too.  Sis Hatfield finally came, and we enjoyed practicing Short-Powerful-Frequent lessons for members with some sister missionaries.  Noticeably, but not particularly surprisingly, Pres Bell had spent a fair amount of time out in the hall on his phone rather than in the conference.  I found out why when he tapped me on the shoulder to come visit.  We had a young elder who was suicidal and apparently had a plan to end his life.  That was of course an emergency, and the missionary department and mission travel were preparing to send him home immediately, and Pres Bell asked if I could accompany him to Salt Lake City.  The lateness of our arrival in SLC would not allow for a same day return flight, but Spencer said he would pick me up so I could spend the night with his family.  So we hurried back to the apartment where I packed a small bag and then headed over to St Charles to pick up the missionary and his luggage which he had quickly packed.  We had some frank but warm conversations while together.  I was relieved when his parents and siblings warmly greeted us with hugs and welcome home signs.  He is well loved.  Out at the curb, Spencer had kept up Abbi and Ezra way past their bedtimes to come with him to pick me up.  It was delightful to be greeted by them and read them a bedtime story once home.  I highly recommend The Day the Crayons Quit.

Friday, September 17th.  Changing places, Elisabeth drove me to the airport with Ezra and Millie coming along.  Ezra, who had refused his breakfast, vomited in the back seat, apparently not being over his stomach bug.  Fortunately, he had refused his breakfast!  Still, it was up to me to unbuckle and clean him up with diaper wipes, a must have for children, proven yet again.  Elisabeth won’t be able to do the shopping she had hoped to do on her way home.  After pulling myself away from Elisabeth, Ezra, and Millie, I headed in to find the security line in the airport wrapped entirely around the building, which must have a ¼ mile perimeter.  I was beginning to form plans in my mind of what to do when I missed my flight, because this was going to take more than an hour, and I didn’t have that long.  Fortunately for me, a Delta agent walking up the line invited everyone with departures in the next hour to skip to the head of the security line.  This day, it did not pay to be early--it only meant you had to stand in line longer than everyone else.  Meanwhile, Sis Hatfield was managing a difficult staff meeting back at the mission office.  The discussion included a very full calendar, office physical reorganization for the incoming senior missionaries, ordering needed cabinets, and computer peripherals.  Grandma Kay also arrived for a visit to St Louis late this afternoon.  She had been in the hospital a short week earlier, so the prospects for her travel were not looking good.  But she showed great courage and came, relying on airport wheelchairs more than she liked.  Sis Hatfield and I gave Kay a bit of a city tour, including the requisite bbq dinner which we enjoyed on the very pleasant sidewalk at Salt and Smoke, with street jazz serenading us.  We stayed up too late, catching up and visiting with Grandma Kay, but it was worth it.  

Saturday, September 18th included a trip to the Kirkwood farmers’ market with Kay.  We almost turned around when we saw we were driving into a parade, but we persevered and were rewarded with some fine Missouri and Illinois produce, including yummy peaches for our Sunday dinner.  Earlier than we expected, Elder and Sister Winsor arrived with their pickup and U-Haul trailer.  I called housing assistants and they met us at the storage unit to help offload the substantial Winsor belongings and set out the two king size beds we had found in the depths of our storage unit so they could pick one.  Then I sent the HAs to Columbia to take some sisters a replacement washing machine, stopping along the way in Wentzville to deliver pots and pans and in Oak Valley to check on their air conditioner which apparently has frozen.  Meanwhile, all the office staff, including the Winsors and Kay, and the Bells took the mission van to the Hill for Italian food at Zia’s.  While we waited for our table, we wandered down the block to the local Catholic church, where we met Father Jack, the priest who was more than happy to let us come in and show us around and take his picture.  The church itself has a fairly unremarkable but handsome brick exterior.  But inside, the saints statuary and predominantly green and blue stained glass is beautiful and, naturally, tell many scriptural stories that must be inspiring to the parishioners.  After consuming an overabundance of excellent food back at Zia’s, we left the Hill for Ted Drewes to finish our gluttony with frozen custard.  The Bells have been here for more than two years now without coming to this iconic ice cream stand, and there was no better finish to our introduction to St Louis for Grandma Kay and the Winsors.

Monday, September 20, 2021

5-11 September 2021 Missionary With a Chainsaw

On Sunday, September 5th, I looked out the glass doors of the church building to see some police cars circling.  Was there some trouble I was unaware of?  When an officer came to the locked front door, I answered, and let him in.  He was there to ask permission for the city to use our parking lot as a staging area for a community parade.  I found Pres Nehring and made the introduction.  Pres Nehring did not hesitate--of course, we would welcome the use of our parking lot for a community function.  And hopefully the missionaries can introduce themselves to some new contacts.  After church, Pres Nehring had the first missionary coordination meeting we had attended in our two years here.  The stake has called sufficient members to attend and support the Pagedale Branch and one is now our branch mission leader.  Hurray.  Back at the office, Sis Hatfield is again trying to work on departing missionary papers without magenta printer toner.  Did you know that the Delta logo is made with magenta toner?  We found some workarounds and kept things moving.  Later at the mission home we said our goodbyes to the young men and women who have completed their missions, including Elder Merrill and Sis Miner.  We will miss our associations with these young people.  Back at our apartment, we have dinner with the Jacobs and the housing assistants, afterwhich Sis Hatfield returns to the office and the balky printers to help Sis Ferney with her documentation to travel to Spain tomorrow.  Meanwhile, I’m fielding calls from the Elders, first from Tuscola, IL, and then from Paris, IL, both saying they have bedbugs.  As the story comes out, I learn that they have been on exchanges at each other's apartments.  How this started will probably not be known, but I talked them through the procedures for battling against bedbugs.  

Monday, September 6th.  You know that this is transfer week and we are working hard to be ready for a historic size group.  I told the housing assistants that they would have no preparation day this week.  It is part of the deal.  We met early, ready to cover five apartments in three zones.  Before we leave, we run into Elder Kimball, an AP, and he suggests we go to O’Fallon before we go to Sikeston, as we had planned.  We are obedient, and head out.  After we are done with our set up in O’Fallon, we turn the truck towards Arkansas, aiming to stop just short in Sikeston.  After driving by the Budweiser plant, Elder Kimball calls back and says that Sikeston is now off the list.  Well that is a relief.  But no, they have substituted the tri in Sikeston with a tri in Paris, Illinois, a golf shot from the Indiana border.  We turn the truck towards Indiana, and skip lunch to make up time.  The President texted me and warned of more possible changes.  It is hard to keep up with computer clicks for areas in the far corners of two states.  We set up a new area in a second bedroom in San Carlos.  I was disappointed to find the apartment poorly maintained.  I find a piece of door casing missing, and hunt around to find the pieces, which I will try to glue together.  My hunch is that it failed to support pullups, which it clearly was not built for.  Back at the office that night, I took a careful look at the transfer board and saw three more changes, including a tri in San Carlos, not a second bedroom.  So now we need to rearrange something we have just checked off the list.  Sis Hatfield spends the evening helping an elder prepare for his trip to Mexico tomorrow for a visa interview.  We are somewhat torn by the alternatives.  We want the elder to return to us, but on the other hand, if he is successful in going to Mexico, Pres Bell will be relieved of the elder’s pining for a sister that went home not long ago.  Such attractions are hard to completely avoid.  

Tuesday, September 7th.  I arrived at the office to two rent delinquency notices in my email box.  This is frustrating.  We work hard to keep accurate records and pay what is owed.  But there are few months when something doesn’t go wrong.  Lost or delayed mail, a missed adjustment, or software glitches.  I called and emailed the managers to try to find out what the problems are, but they won’t respond.  Double frustrating.  We are off to Jefferson City to set up a new Riverview Columbia area.  Sis Driver and Sis Limb received the news last night that Sis Driver is being transferred and they look numb.  The HAs and I literally made the decisions for them about what furniture to put where and cleaned the spaces while they watched.  One of the sisters had a blanket around her shoulders to cover her garment sleeves not close to covered by her top.  Poor girl needs some TLC.  I told her to call Sis Hatfield and I am sure she will.  We hurried back to St Louis to be ready to pick up the 34 arriving missionaries.  I was designated to meet two of those who were coming in at a separate terminal, 30 minutes apart.  I found some parking and went in.  It was not hard to spot the sister and then not long afterwards the elder as they walked through the arrivals gate.  Neither did they have any problem spotting me.  Suits, dresses, and nametags easily distinguish us from the crowds.  Sis Hatfield meets the missionaries at the mission home to train on phones.  That may sound simple, but with most having unfamiliar phones and downloading completely foreign internet protection software, the process is difficult, multiplied times 34.  Sis Hatfield then return to the office for another late night transfer planning session.

On Wednesday, September 8th I finish Pres Bell’s video led workout Wednesday, and then hustle out to make room for some of the new sisters to join Sis Hatfield for bathroom time.  Since I have plenty I can do at the office, I head there to print off transfer lists and prepare my new missionary orientation.  I focus on Mormon 1:1-5 and the verb “observe” used multiple times by Mormon.  Powers of observation and patterns of obedience--both meanings of the word observe--are talents we can nurture in our physical surroundings and in our spiritual natures.  Sis Hatfield unexpectedly comes in to print itineraries for two missionaries departing for medical care with flights departing in the middle of transfers.  The Evertons are assigned to peel out to take them to the airport.  

At transfers, I said goodbye to Elder Kamran Dailami.  He is a great man who has contributed much during his four months plus of service as a housing assistant.  He has had a few challenging experiences that have smoothed some rough edges, but I love his quiet, can do attitude.  I welcomed Elder Josiah Williams as the new housing assistant.  I am already pretty well acquainted with Elder Williams because he served in the Pagedale branch with us last winter.  He is a bit dazed as to what he has gotten himself into, but after I barked a few instructions to help sisters get their luggage across the parking lot and lifted into cars, he started fitting right into his new role.  Sis Hatfield hurries back to the office to help missionaries get loaner phones, tracts, Books of Mormons, and 100 other things that they have forgotten to ask for before transfers.  The HAs and I saddle up and head towards Jacksonville, Illinois, one of those late breaking area assignments.  We had tried to get everything done in the Springfield zone last Saturday, knowing that it is hard to get to the far out areas on transfer day, but my plan did not work, except that we have worked hard enough to get everything else done so that we can take the five plus hours round trip to get to Jacksonville, where we will set up Sis Driver’s bed.  So I have been to her apartment twice in two days in opposite corners of the mission.  Even after the late in the day long road trip, I head back to the office to make updates to the church data base to reflect some of the transfer changes we have been implementing.  Sis Hatfield, not surprisingly, is still at the office too, making appointments for new missionary interviews tomorrow.  The MTC has forbidden contact with the new missionaries before they arrive in the field, so with a group this big, we are trying set up video interviews between the President and the new missionaries from their new areas around the mission.

Thursday, September 9th started with a bizarre request.  It started out innocently, with a member asking Sis Hatfield for help from the missionaries to lift a piece of furniture.  The member was referred to us by the temple secretary.  Then as we tried to be helpful, the story unfolded in strange ways.  The member was not from here, she was in Kentucky.  She actually didn’t need the furniture lifted into her trailer, but stored overnight and then put in her trailer.  The furniture was a very heavy, oversized mahogany chest complete with mirror back.  The chest was a valuable antique.  Pres Bell finally heard what we were being asked to do and tracked down the bishop that had offered our assistance in the first place and extricated us from the project.  She didn’t need missionaries, she needed a moving and storage company!  Pres Bell is really trying to keep the missionary service focus on community service, and less on member service, so that we can better fulfill our missionary purpose.  If that weren’t enough, I fielded a call from a member in south St Louis with nothing good to say about her upstairs missionary neighbors--noisy, up late, sister visits, falling garbage, and on and on.  It was almost too much to believe.  The President decided he wanted to handle this one personally, and took the number of the member and the missionaries involved to try to get to the bottom of it.  

Fast on the heels of the member call, I got an eviction notice over a $15 balance, which I promptly hand carried to the apartment office, speaking politely to the office staff there who had no control over the corporate collections policies.  Then I got another delinquency notice of unpaid rent.  After calling the manager several times, he finally emailed me back to explain that the notice was computer glitch caused by a power surge.  Another apartment said we owed $715 including late fees.  Our system shows we paid September rent by electronic transfer 7 days early.  The manager said the notice was computer generated and should not have been sent; the accounting software had been slow to update the accounts.  Finally, another apartment sent out a deficiency notice with late fees, but when I arrived at the manager’s office for other business and to ask about the rent payment with my checkbook in hand just in case, the staff said the check had actually arrived timely and they were reversing the late fees.  No doubt the holiday and hurricane had used all the float we try to build into the check mailing schedule.  This has been a bad month for rent payments.  

Later the housing assistants and I drag out all the senior missionary mattresses we have been storing for two years now in hopes that seniors would sometime return.  I am not sure whether the mattresses are in decent shape and we need to know.  We fill up the storage alleyway setting up two kings and three queens, putting one queen in the discard pile for mildew stains.  We give Sis Hatfield a look on a video chat, and she calls one of the arriving senior couples and I call another to let them know what we have available.  I think we have what we need.  We learn that we have been put on Facebook ad probation because of so called “uncontacted” referrals in the church system.  They are deemed uncontacted no matter how many times a missionary has tried to contact, and no matter whether the referral lacks a name, phone number, or other contact information.  We need to delete them to avoid the penalty.  Here it is the day after transfers, and Sis Hatfield is working until 10 pm preparing for staff meeting tomorrow.  The late nights are supposed to be before transfers.

Friday, September 10th was memorable because Elder Chris Jacob shared his last spiritual thought in a staff meeting.  I will so miss his calm, cheerful influence, punctuated by faith steady as a rock.  He always has a story, and can name drop general authorities with the best.  Actually, his does more than drop names.  He was responsible for getting Elder Christofferson, his cousin by marriage, to give a devotional just to our mission earlier this summer.  I had persuaded Sis Hatfield to come with me to Washington, Missouri, to shop for the new sisters out there who had a list of household needs.  I thought we would finish with dinner, and then come home.  As it turned out, we (meaning, she) had to work a full day in the office first, so when we finally departed the office and drove the hour out there, we had to change the order of things.  I showed off the Washington Walmart to Sis Hatfield while we picked out a shower curtain, bathmats, cookie pans, and other gifts for the sisters.  Then we found a charming restaurant on the Missouri River waterfront in the historic part of town.  We had a table with a view of the river.  By now the sisters were done with their member visits, and so we met them at their apartment, gave them their goods, and took them out for ice cream.  The place we wanted to go was closed, so we went to someplace that seemed sketchy, Moe’s Restaurant.  There were Harleys parked outside, but having no options, we went in anyway.  The motorbike riders turned out to be harmless septuagenarians that were buddies of Moe, chatting around a table.  The server was interested in who we were so we had a good chat while we picked and ate our ice cream.  By then, Moe had wandered over and introduced himself too.  Maybe the ice cream wasn’t Washington’s best, but the new friends were keepers.  The sisters had asked Sis Hatfield what she might recommend they do for service in this area new to them, and she was impressed to tell them that they should go see Moe and get his ideas for community service.  I think we made a good connection tonight.

Saturday, September 11th.  We had been preparing for a 911 day of service for months at the Greenwood Cemetery, planning to reclaim a section of the abandoned burial grounds.   It was the first African-American cemetery in St Louis, started just after the Civil War, and the final resting place of such luminaries as Harriet Scott, wife of Dred Scott.  It was abandoned 50 years ago and not tended for a long time.  It was a complete jungle until Rafael Morris and his wife made it their personal mission to try to reclaim, in part because they suspected they had ancestors buried there.  The missionaries have been providing labor on and off once or twice a week for about 4-5 years.  Today, we had invited members and the community to join with the missionaries to make a major push.  With the help of hundreds of volunteers, including a strong showing of missionaries from four zones in two shifts, we filled an entire box car sized dumpster and a dump truck with chips, plus another cuttings pile to fill the next dumpster or two.  Gratefully, Elder Everton had successfully asked a member to donate his landscaping crew to operate the chipping equipment, tractor, and dump truck.  Another member had brought his chain saw, and I rented one.  Sis Hatfield kept the workforce organized and moving.  Together, we made a serious dent in the jungle, and cleaned up a good section of the park that had been cleared but needed some serious trimming and pruning.  Ironically, the young missionaries worked half day shifts, while the senior missionaries worked all day.  We were exhausted, dehydrated, and filthy, but satisfied.  It was a fit conclusion to our JustServe responsibilities in the mission.

On the way home, we invited Sherry Cullen, Dan Thomas, Marilyn Greene, and David Fingal to our apartment to dinner.  Dan had said that David had never accepted an invitation for dinner with a branch member, to his knowledge, so not to be disappointed if David declined.  He did not decline my invitation, to our delight.  But the night would not end early.  The Washington sisters, which we had just visited the day before, had locked themselves out of their apartment.  Fortunately, I was able to track down the manager, and the maintenance man was in town.  So I wasn’t obliged to drive out there again.  The sisters however, were obliged to tip the maintenance man, at my suggestion.  Then, the Highland, IL sisters had a carbon monoxide alarm going off.  We worked through the process of getting the fire fighters out there to test, and to disable the alarm, which I will replace next week.  

Saturday, September 11, 2021

29 August - 4 September 2021 Respectful Disagreement

Sunday, August 29th started with an interesting twist.  The missionaries called and asked if we could pick up JW Miller, a person they were teaching, and give him a ride to church.  The problem was that Sis Hatfield needed to coordinate with the chorister and organize her organ accompaniments for the day, and be early to play the prelude.  Our solution was to go early enough that I could drop Sis Hatfield off at the chapel to do her work and then go out to find JW.  As I approached the street address, I was going down an overgrown lane in north St Louis in the cemetery district.  I came to a massive brick archway and drove through, and I saw a large institutional building that had the appearance of an old psychiatric hospital, at least in my imagination.  Sited between two large nineteenth century cemeteries well away from any traffic, homes, or commerce, it had the ingredients for a Stephen King tale.  I went around the building and found that it was well maintained.  I called the number for JW, and sure enough, he was waiting for me in the circle drive.  I invited him to hop in and we were off.  Sure enough, the building was an old hospital repurposed into subsidized housing, handsome from the outside at least, and brimming with architectural character.  I’ve found that St Louis is pretty good at revitalizing old buildings that would be a shame to tear down.  

It was a fifth Sunday meeting, and Branch Pres Nehring was leading a lesson on faith crises.  It was raw, honest, and timely, it seems, with more than a few members either experiencing crisis or in a close relationship with someone that is.  My takeaway was that the best antidote, maybe the only antidote, is a personal relationship with God.  It was disappointing that after church, JW didn’t need to go home, a place I would like to have seen again, but instead needed to go to work at the downtown Sugar Fire, a favorite St Louis barbeque spot.  At least it smelled good.  Sis Hatfield and I stopped in to see Annie Stewart, who while home, is surely not at full physical or mental strength.  It has been hard to see her deteriorate these past two years, but I guess that is to be expected in your 10th decade of life.  Marcus, a greatgrandson we haven’t seen much until recently, seems to have brought some needed clear thinking care to Annie’s situation.  Sis Everton brought over some carrot cake cookies made partly from ingredients she had borrowed from us for a recipe from Sis Dellenbach, a delightful STL now in our neighborhood.  It seems that the missionaries are now collecting on Google Docs some simple, healthy recipes.  Now that sounds like a good idea.  We ended the day with departing missionary testimonies given mission-wide over Zoom.  This is one of the experiences we will miss the most when this mission is complete.  The young missionaries express such powerful, righteous thoughts and feelings that we have great hope for the future.  

Monday, September 30th was a difficult morning, with Sis Hatfield wrestling with Elder Holland’s shared metaphor of building the Kingdom with a trowel in one hand and a musket in the other. It is hurtful to many in the LGTB community, and on the other hand, completely unintended to hurt.  RaDene finds herself defending Elder Holland against his critics, and defending the tender feelings of the LGTB community.  I am proud of her balance and vision.  Sis Hatfield had a long talk with Pres Bell on the subject, and I think they are both constructively expanding each other’s views.  Coincidently, Elder Holland had a coordinating council priesthood leadership conference on Saturday so he is fresh in everyone’s thinking, even for those of us who are just getting second hand morsels.  

Sis Hatfield gazed at the new missionary cards assembled by Sis Atkins, a young part time service missionary, on the arrival board.  Yes, there are the 36 pictures of young missionaries, and the 4 senior couples . . .  .  Wait, FOUR senior couples?  We have only received notice of three.  What is going on here.  Sis Atkins had gone about her work of assembling pictures of arriving missionaries completely unaware that the missionary department had not notified us of another couple, the Stewarts, arriving in early October.  That is a big surprise.  Pres Bell tells us that maybe they can serve as member leadership support missionaries in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, a small city on the edge of the Ozarks near the Arkansas border.  I’m in a bit of a panic.  It is too late to be securing an apartment for a short eight weeks from now in a very tight housing market.  I quickly begin looking on apartment rental search engines.  I am finding nothing.  And I mean nothing in the required timeframe.  Not at any price, nor any configuration.  I moan out loud, and Sis Hatfield suggests I call our current landlord down there.  I dismiss the idea, believing the complex is completely full, but decide to call because maybe he knows of something not being advertised.  To my amazement, not only does he have something available in October, but it is in the same complex as the young elders, and fully furnished to boot.  Can this be possible?  He sends a homemade video of the place, and while Sis Hatfield and I watch it, we agree it looks perfect.  I call the landlord back and struggle to avoid saying “I’ll take it,” before I have even heard the rental rate.  It feels like a miracle.  

We end the day with office staff senior missionaries having FHE at the Everton apartment.  We feel so gratified that they would host us and the Jacobs.  More, they have thought of the activity.  We will all share three things we will miss about our mission, three things we won’t miss, and three things we will do when we get home.  I carried around a note card in my shirt pocket all day jotting down notes:  Not missed 1) suit coat and tie tradition in the Missouri summer, 2) hot Missouri nights, and 3) dirty missionary kitchen and bathrooms.  Missed 1) place to be each morning, 2) close association with young housing assistants, and 3) growth in relationship with RaDene.  What I’ll do:  1) take grandkids out for ice cream; 2) celebrate Sis Hatfield’s 60th with style, and 3) help my Mom clean out Dad’s things.  Good questions.  Then they treated us to fresh bread and jams.  Yum.  Great FHE Evertons!

Wednesday, September 1st.  We prepared lasagna, salad, and brownie sundaes for the 45+ mission leadership conference participants.  I is a particular joy to serve them, because many have been in the mission for many months and we have watched them grow into disciples of Christ.  Sis Hatfield had to hurry back to the office after the meal service because of pressing needs there.  The rest of us missed her of course, and we didn’t get the cleanup done as quickly as I had planned a couple days ago when I had made a 2 pm appointment.  But by 3 pm were were all done and I was back to the office.  I had adjusted my appointment and asked Sis Hatfield to go across the street with me to look at the Sonesta extended stay hotel, one last alternative for putting up senior missionaries arriving before office training was finished and apartments become available.  It costs about $20 a day more than our next choice, but I understand that the accommodations are easily worth the extra money.  It doesn’t take long to confirm that decision, and so I make the reservations.  Housing coordinator sometimes means hotel arranger.  Afterwards, I ask the housing assistants to go with me to Target to buy 36 pillows for the incoming missionaries.  It is still a few days away, but I have been burned by waiting too long a few times, assuming inventory would be adequate.  And 36 pillows is no small purchase.  In fact, we need the trailer to transport them.  Target came through, having a huge supply of $4 pillows.  I have thought that buying dozens of pillows is a decent missionary finding strategy.  I get more questions about who we are and what we are doing when we have shopping carts stuffed and piled with pillows than just about any other time.

Thursday, September 2nd.  Elder Grant Reader has been given eight leaf bags of clothing by a person who wondered if the Church could use them.  Elder Reader accepted the donations, but has since recruited me to actually deal with them.  It is hard to clothe missionaries from donated clothing--we have special needs.  So we will take them to St Vincent dePaul, our favorite local charity.  Today we have so much that I wonder if they are wincing at the bulk we are handing over.  Sis Kinneman from the Parkway 1st ward down in Chesterfield has responded to Sis Bell’s request to the stake to help find furniture for senior missionaries.  She has a table we went down to pick up.  She is single, living in a charming neighborhood, with a fairytale backyard, with huge oak trees, a waterfall, and beautiful flower beds.  She moved to St Louis to care for an ailing mother, but since her passing, she has been going it alone.  We couldn’t take her offering and immediately run out, so we visited with her for a while, feeling of her spirit.  

Next, we fulfilled Sis Bell’s request that we perform some service.  A well to do member in the Frontenac ward, Sis Peterson, had a son whose Eagle project was to collect coats and shoes for Guardian Angels, an organization providing inner city first line of assistance.  The son has passed away from cancer, but in his honor, Sis Peterson continues the charitable collections and donations to Guardian Angels every year.  This year, the goods fill a bay in her garage.  We stuff the mission trailer and truck full and head to south St Louis, wandering into some tough neighborhoods, following Sis Peterson’s Mercedes Benz convertible.  The contrast in means was a bit shocking to see side by side.  But we were happy for the education.  Sis Hatfield has been in deep discussion with Pres Bell about  LGBT+ policies and how the church’s language and position has shifted over the past 20 years.  I am convinced that Sis Hatfield’s views are an important education for Pres Bell, and vice versa.  Sis Hatfield and I drive downtown and pick up our brother in law Darryl Sheets, a Delta pilot who has a layover here tonight.  We take him out for St Louis BBQ, and give him a driving tour of Page Avenue, which can be an eye full, and end showing him our modest Pagedale chapel.  It went dark too quickly to show him much of Forest Park and its row of mansions, so I hope we haven’t damaged Darryl’s opinion of St Louis.  

Friday, September 3rd was a bit awkward because Pres Bell declared that he and Sis Hatfield “are not in alignment” vis a vis their understandings of LGBT matters, including Elder Holland’s recent use of the trowel and musket metaphor that has hurt many in the LGBT community.  Still, it is remarkable that Pres Bell and Sis Hatfield can not see eye to eye and maintain mutual respect.  Sis Hatfield gave a beautiful spiritual thought, perhaps her last, at the beginning of staff meeting.  She spoke of the qualities of each staff member and the important impact each has made on her as we have tumbled together in the river of our mission experience.  She expounded on 2 Ne 25:23, testifying that this is the Lord’s work, “after all we can do.”  Each of us has indeed given our all during this COVID mission, with all of its challenges.  Planning for transfers next week was particularly challenging because there are so many physical and spiritual illnesses among the missionaries that it is uncertain who will be here to serve next week.  After the staff meeting, Pres and Sis Bell closed themselves into the President’s office to seek inspiration to make area assignments so at least we can work our transfer preparations towards something.  We took a dinner break with the three sister missionaries from Webster Grove North, Sis Miner, Sis Cummings, and Sis Hall.  Sis Miner is a fountain of cheer and energy, and we are saying goodbye to her on Monday.  She has completed her assignment which began 18 months ago as a church history missionary in Palmyra, giving the MSLM a virtual tour.  It wasn’t our original plan, but we treated them to dinner at the local Thai restaurant, a setting that lent itself to talking about my first mission in Thailand and Sis Hatfield’s and my return visits since, following our love for that land.  The sisters’ message to us was Pres Nelson’s five steps to increase faith, challenging us to lengthen our stride with respect to one of the steps.  After dinner, we returned to the office for additional transfer planning until 10:30 pm.  At least we haven’t been well after midnight this summer, as was required multiple times last year when we were still learning how to cope with COVID.  

Saturday, September 4th was no P-day for us.  I met the housing assistants early in the morning and departed with beds and desks for the Springfield and Champaign zones.  We also took some bikes that would be needed by missionaries that would not have cars.  The drive was in a downpour, slowing our progress.  After setting up apartments in Springfield and Decatur, Pres Bell called, saying that he understood we were “out and about” in the Springfield zone, and that if it would help, he is considering another tri in Jacksonville, within the Springfield zone.  Not having brought extra furniture, and with Jacksonville hours to the west, while we were now headed to the east, I thanked him for the information.  My wheels started turning to figure out how we could possibly get back to Jacksonville in time for Sis Driver’s first night there, at least if the uncertain plan held.  After stopping in Champaign and Urbana, we head for home.  I have the feeling that the nice new bikes we dropped off for the arriving missionaries will never be theirs, because they are not here to claim them.  Instead, they will be stuck with whatever the existing missionaries leave for them, I’m pretty sure.  Nice things have a way of disappearing from empty areas.  We don’t get home until late, but find Sis Hatfield still at the office.  She is trying to finish the Harvester newsletter, but by some dumb luck, both production printers in the office have run out of magenta toner within a day of each other.  Worse, our spare magenta cartridge turned out to be defective.  She has had to resourcefully put the newsletter on a thumbdrive and take it to the print store.  This will work for the newsletter, but whether we will be able to get all the rest of the departing papers ready for Sunday night is uncertain.  

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

22-28 August 2021 Welcoming Reinforcements

Sunday, August 22nd began in ward council.  We are not quite sure why it starts at 8 am when our sacrament meeting doesn’t start until 10.  The topic was faith crises.  It seems that there are plenty to go around about now.  Sis Hatfield had some great input, discussing her pillars of faith that hold up her faith when many other questions don’t seem to have answers immediately available.  Pres Nehring says that he will lead the fifth Sunday next week on this topic.  Having time until our next meeting, we took notes and copies of the Liahona to Dee, one of our nearby aged sisters, and to Brenda, a friend that Sis Hatfield and the missionaries have been teaching.  Back at the church, Sis Hatfield was pressed into unexpected organ service.  Sis Gardner, or regular organist, has recently delivered a baby, her second since we have been in the Pagedale branch.  During the second hour, Sis Hatfield was in nursery, and I was with Silas in Primary.  Bro Fuller helped as the accompanist, but he plays the guitar, not the piano.  Silas was nearly mesmerized by the guitar.  After church we had our Pagedale missionary district over to our apartment for dinner.  Feeding 10 out of a galley kitchen is a bit of a trick, but feeding crowds is one of our skill sets.  It is so good to feel the love and spirit of these young missionaries.  

Tuesday, August 23rd was the great comeback.  I have started to play pickleball with Pres Bell and some of the young elders at a St Louis park with dedicated courts not too far from here.  In the rotations, I ended up as partner with Pres Bell.  And because the courts were filling up, we were playing two fellows that we did not know.  They were probably about my age, but they were serious players with the latest gear and a penchant for rules and strategy.  I am sure they thought they would make short work of us.  And they about did.  Pres Bell and I got down 10 to 1.  Pres Bell said that we should just see if we could a few points and go down in defeat gracefully.  But one point turned into another and another, and 9 straight points later, we had caught our opponents 10 to 10.  Four points later, we won, 13 to 11.  I hope we were graceful victors.  Anyway Pres Bell and I were able to rehearse the match a few times throughout the week with a little pride.  

I went to renew a lease at a nearby manager’s office.  We have enough apartments in this particular complex that I am well acquainted with this manager, Stephanie Larkin.  I enjoy seeing her, because she almost always has a story to relate about how one or another of the young missionaries living in her complex had done something helpful or kind for her or for another neighbor.  It has led to more than a few discussions about the church.  On this day, she related that she had sent off to kindergarten her youngest child this morning.  Coincidently, my oldest grandchild, Abbi, started kindergarten this morning.  Stephanie and I showed each other adorable pictures of the new students, both taken in front of garage doors before loading cars for the first day of school.  At another nearby complex, I spent time sorting out water and sewer bills with Summer Clark, manager.  It is a problem of four, soon to be five units with one renter--the mission.  Apartment software systems struggle to send bills and other communications for multiple units to a single email address.  The systems want to connect a single renter contact email for each apartment.  That doesn’t work for us.  But Ms Clark is well acquainted with us, and in good humor helped me sort it out, at least for this month.  That night, Sis Hatfield and the mission technology specialists helped Pres Bell figure out how a missionary’s Facebook was portal to inappropriate images so that protections can be put in place.  Thankfully, the missionary is asking for help, and help is on the way.  After that task, Sis Hatfield outfitted the technology specialists with test kits so that they can help go to multiple areas throughout the mission that have inadequate cell connectivity to do the work.  They will be busy young men this week.  For my part, I’ve been charting the senior missionary housing transition, which is tricky with two couples departing and four arriving over the next three months.

On Tuesday, August 24th Sis Hatfield and I had the blessing of serving in the baptistry for two consecutive sessions filled with elders and sisters either departing at the next transfer or brand new to the mission at the last transfer.  I served as recorder, and Sis Hatfield kept the missionaries rotating through the positions and handing out towels.  We were blessed to have Pres and Matron Hintze in the baptistry with us.  We have come to love Paul and Patti because of their kindness and friendship to us while her in St Louis.  They will be such good leaders of the Missouri St Louis temple.  Sis Brown and Sis Miner, who are leaving soon, found us outside to take pictures with us.  There is not much greater feeling than the love of the sweet sisters.  Afterwards, Sis Hatfield went with me to three extended stay hotels in the area of our mission office, knowing that will will need some places as we transition our senior missionaries.  That night, Sis Hatfield was on the phone with the TTTs who were in Decatur, Illinois testing cell services at an apartment there.  She is determined to complete the tests so that we either have workable cell service or can arrange for wi-fi where necessary at each missionary apartment.  She is also organizing for Elder Maughan’s travel to Brazil on Thursday, the travel of a missionary headed home because of a belated confession, and in cooperation with the assistants to the President, the local travel and other arrangements for the remaining missionary companions of the departing missionaries.  

Wednesday, August 25th.  Today Elder and Sis Alleman arrived.  These senior missionaries are the first to arrive in the mission in 20 months.  Meanwhile, we had long ago sent all but mission staff home.  Sis Hatfield and I accompanied them to Fairview Heights, Illinois, their new home for their missions.  We had Elder Buck and Elder Bilton meet us there to help carry possessions and to welcome them, because together, they will work together to build and strengthen the O’Fallon young single adult branch.  While over in that zone across the Mississippi River from St Louis, we went to three missionary apartments to continue the cell service testing.  The travel took longer than we had planned, and we were going to be late to provide the dinner we had been asked to serve to departing missionaries, their companions, and the APs.  Meanwhile, I was meeting the housing assistants to purchase a dining table set from someone in south St Louis.  We changed plans, stopping at a grocery store where we could buy sandwiches, etc at the deli, and the HAs met me in the parking lot to drive south.  Sis Hatfield and I are great problem solvers under stress.  Late that evening, the Lindell sisters called from outside their apartment.  They had evacuated because their carbon monoxide alarm was sounding.  After some discussion, I provided them the phone number of the Creve Coeur fire department for an emergency inspection.  Not long afterwards, they called me back and said that the tests were negative.  I took them a new alarm and installed it.  I wonder if fire fighters like modern alarms or consider them a nuisance.  We’ve called them out on many false alarms over the past couple of years all over the mission.  Sis Hatfield and I concluded the day with a difficult discussion of office staff responsibilities and the division of labor with the incoming seniors.  Mapping of responsibilities is not straightforward, and especially not for Sis Hatfield, who will probably be training three people to take her primary roles.  That says something about her work load this past 21 months.  

Thursday, August 26th.  We did not present, but we did watch today’s virtual zone conference.  The spirit was strong, and it was obvious that the mission will continue to move forward long after we are gone.  That is the nature of His work in the Kingdom, isn’t it?  Elder Wayne Winsor, who for a while was slated to be my replacement as housing coordinator, is now destined to be the vehicle coordinator.  He dropped by the office to introduce himself because he was on a car show multi city road tour that took him to East St Louis, Illinois, just across the river.  We were able to get a little better acquainted in staff meeting, which he joined, and listen to his enthusiasm to come on his mission.  Afterwards, Sis Hatfield gave him and Sis Winsor by video a tour of our apartment so they would know what to expect.  We returned to the office and worked until 9:30 pm.  So much for the last “slow” week of the transfer.

Friday, August 27th started with renting a third storage unit, at least for the next two months.  We are busy accumulating items to furnish a new senior apartment; making space for the Winsors to store their mission belongings when they drop them off before heading to the MTC in a couple of weeks; and needing all the space we have to hold beds collected from the corners of the mission to be ready to set them up where ever the Spirit leads Pres Bell to decide to put the incoming missionaries.  In other words, we are out of storage space.  The expected group is large enough to essentially add a whole new zone to our mission.  The idea of effectively opening a new zone on a single day after a few days prior planning and execution is a bit staggering.  That afternoon, Sis Hatfield and I headed out for four apartments in Lake St Louis and the Columbia zones in order to test cell services.  These tests are not as easy as it might be supposed.  SIM cards sometimes can’t be loaded and unloaded, phones are balky, connecting and reconnecting to services doesn’t always work, helpers on the other end of a call must have strong w-fi connectivity, and sometimes the results are ambiguous.  Surprisingly, two areas seemed to have decent internet connectivity through Verizon.  Sis Hatfield will try to get them Verizon SIMs with their area phone numbers ported to them for a longer term experiment.  Perche Creek and Highlands, MO clearly did not work with any of the cell carriers, and our previous decision to go maverick and put wi-fi in there ahead of permission we did not know we needed was the right one.  

Later than we planned, we headed to Lake of the Ozarks with the plan to meet the Jacobs for dinner and an overnight stay at their lake house.  It seems a pageant was going on in town, and it took some effort to find a restaurant that could accommodate us, but we did, and it was delightful.  Lake of the Ozarks is really a reservoir created by damming the Osage River in the northern Ozarks in central Missouri.  Its s-shaped main channel runs for 90 miles and creates thousands of miles of shoreline with its inlets.  Its principal purpose was the generation of hydroelectric power, but it has also created a huge recreation area surrounded by small summer homes, lake mansions, and huge condo complexes.  It is beautiful, and we were lucky that the Jacobs invited us for a visit.

Saturday, August 28th.  What a blessing to be with Chris and Carman Jacob at their lake house.  They are kind and generous, full of faith, stories, and wisdom.  Sis Jacob’s personality is infectious.  No one can get enough of her.  The combination of her diminutive stature, distinctive Guatemalan accent, self depreciation, ready laugh, penchant for hugging, and ability to make you feel like you are the only one she is concerned about is endearing to everyone.  We went on a boat ride, down the water slide, and floated in the quiet cove.  After lunch at Neon Tacos, we headed out.  We stopped in Jefferson City so Sis Hatfield could help celebrate Sis Driver’s birthday.  We tracked her down at a member’s home where Sis Driver was making her own birthday dinner.  She shared with us, which was more generous than the small gift we had for her.  We took the scenic route home, basically following the Lewis and Clark Trail along the Missouri River.  We stopped in the quaint town of Hermann, a frontier German settlement of 1837 designated by National Geographic as one of America’s best Adventure Towns.  It has lots of great window shopping and an ice cream parlor much to our liking.