We had been anticipating a letter from Church Headquarter for weeks. Upon returning from a trip to Bethel Island in California, we found the call had arrived: "You are assigned to labor in the South Africa Cape Town Mission. Your primary assignment is to labor with the Church Educational System as CES specialists and assist with the Perpetual Education Found country director in Port Elizabeth. It is anticipated that you will serve for a period of 23 months. You should report to the Provo Missionary Training Center on Monday, February 20, 2012. Your assignment may be modified according to the needs of the mission president. . . Sincerely, Thomas A. Monson"
We were excited to be called to Africa. I thought we might go to Western Samoa since Tom's mother is Samoan-Scottish. Tom lived there from age eleven through nineteen. He speaks Samoan to our friends in the Utah Polynesian Choir and often sings Island songs with Foalima, Dave Tanner and Paovali who he used to entertained with. Neither of us thought about going to Africa. But Dr. Brunch, who preformed Tom's heart ablation in July nailed it: "You will probably be called to Sub-Sarah Africa."
We were called to the pulpit to announce our mission call in Sacrament Meeting on October 31st. Tom instructed me to stand quietly at his side, to smile and say nothing. However, after he announced where we were going and described our assignment, I stepped up to the microphone, "We are happy to accept this call and look forward to serving in the South Africa, Cape Town Mission."
I thought we would be living in a cinderblock house with a dirt floor and a thatched roof until the call came from Elder LaPray who we will be replacing. This is the LaPray's second mission in the same location and assignment. Elder LaPray explained that we would be living in a three bedroom home with a washer and dryer in a gated community. Port Elizabeth is the 5th largest city in South Africa. Our home is close to an Elephant Reserve. Several safari's leave from this city. President Steven Wood, a retired judge from Alaska, likes his missionaries to get "the dust of Africa on their feet." He encourages senior couples to be out and about. Although crime is a problem, he assured us that we would have a wonderful and safe experience in Port Elizabeth.