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.