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!