Monday, January 30, 2012

November 5th a letter from President Mark I. Wood, arrived encouraging us to prayerfully study the Book of Mormon and become familiar with Preach My Gospel.  "South Africa is a beautiful place to serve and the spirituality of its people will bless your life. . .  Sweaters, a raincoat, and warm clothes are needed here in winter.  Layers seem to work well.  In the winter, surprisingly, you may add layers when you go indoors because there is no central heating . . .   This is a marvellous time to serve . . .  We await your arrival in Cape Town and extend a warm and hearty welcome!"   Port Elizabeth is called the windy city.  It has a climate similar to San Francisco.  We went on a city tour of San Francisco when we were in California in October.  It was foggy, windy and cold but at least the terminal was heated.

December 2nd.  Brother Khumbulani D. Mdletshe, our soon-to-be CES supervisor, called to welcome us to South Africa.  We will meet him in Johannesburg for two days of training before flying on to Cape Town to meet with President Wood.  When asked if Tom likes sports, I told him Tom had been announcing Skyline High football games for thirteen years.  Khumbalani suggested that Tom might want to follow South Africa's Springbox Rugby team.  "Good, then he won't have to go through withdrawl after we arrive," I replied.

From a follow up letter"Couple will teach institute and be responsible for the Seminary and the institute program in Port Elizabeth.  They will also be the PEF coordinators for the area."  After completing the Book of Mormon, D & C, Pearl of Great Price and Preach My Gospel we are now reading The Life and Teachings of Jesus & His Apostles.  I'm going to find the hand outs and notes from Judy Smith and LeAnn Mead's Bible Study class most helpful.

December 15th  Tom has been diligently reviewing and transcribing five PEF DVD's sent out from church headquarters. I've been attending Zumba classes with the ladies of our stake three times each week.  Leslie Egan's aunt established the Brockbank Education Fund for young women while serving as a senior missionary in South Africa ten years ago.  This foundation, administered from East London, South Africa, trains and educates young African women should you feel impressed to contribute see:

January 11th  I found this article on the front page of the New York Times rather disconserting: "Fatal Stampede in South Africa Points Up Crisis at Universities."  Evidently 85,000 students were competing for 11,000 openings at the University of Johannesburg.  "Those lined up at the gate were hoping to compete for a relative handful of last-minutes seasts that had opened up in order to escape the indignity of joblessness that afflicts more than a third of the nation.  As the gates were about to open at 7:45 a.m., thousands of students, many accompanied by  anxious parents, surged forward, desperate to obtain one of several hundred last chances places still open.  Amid shoving and screams, one woman was trampled to death and several others were badly injured. . ."  In summary:
1.  The inability of universities to admit the entirety of learners who are eligible has reached a crisis level.
2.  The jobless rate among youths in South Africa is nearly 70%.
3.  A college degree in South Africa does not guarantee a job. 
4.  There are 600,000 unemployeed college graduates.
5.  F.E.T. (Further Education and Training Colleges) are sitting on 50,000 vacancies with a diploma          program students can follow.  But such diplomas do not get much respect from perspective employers.

January 28 - Notes from Willow Creek Stake Education Day;  Theme:  "We are Women of Infinite Worth."  We each have a work to do on this earth.  We are here because we were deamed worthy and needed at this time.  Rise up and fulfill your destiny.   Use DAUGHTERS in My Kingdom, "The History and work of Relief Society," as a guide.  Listen to the questions women ask.  Write them down.  Ask the Lord in prayer for the answers.  The blue book cover resembles lace.  Relief Society is the oldest and largest women's organization in the world.  Like fabric, it weaves together six million LDS women living in 170 countries who speak 80 languages.  Any that cannot read will find inspiration in the beautiful photographs.  Just as the colored maid said to her white charge May Mobley, in The Help: "You is Kind!  You is smart!  You is important!"

January 29th - I penned an outline for sacrament service on the back of my Education Day program:  Our theme is taken from Matthew 5:16,  "Let you light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven."  Prelude music will be sung by the Utah Polynesian Choir,  "But By Me" and "Jesus the Name."  The opening Hymn will be "The Lord is My Light."
1st speaker, Diane Stokoe -  Children of Light -  followed by the Polynesian Choir singing, "Be Still My Soul."  Tom Stokoe, final speaker - P.E.F.  The closing hymn, "Praise to the Man," p. 27  will be sung by the Utah Polynesian Choir with the congragation coming in on the last verse.  At the end of the block Janice Maughn asked for the songs for Sacrament Meeting at 9:30 on February 19th so I handed her my notes.

January 30th - Several ladies asked if I plan to develop a mission blog?   I asked Cassandra Barber to help me develope one.  She spent over an hour demonstrating Skype and setting up my blog.  What a blessing to have a friend who understands technology and is willing to help me.  After the Women's Conference on Saturday, Jan Thorpe brought over two suitcases which we need.  It seems as if the things we need are magically appearing.  Many thanks to all those who are helping us prepare for our mission. 

Called to Serve

        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.


Simple Blessings

Looking forward to leaving for the Mission Training Center on February 20 and thinking about the simple gifts we all take for granite.  Love Jackie Evancho's, "To Believe" which says it all.