Our Mission – the Beginning


We were enjoying retirement immensely.  We were traveling, spending time at the beach, and enjoying hobbies that had gone neglected in our prior busier times.  We spent spring term of 2004 at Brigham Young University, so Jane could speed up the process of finishing her bachelor’s degree.  Maybe we were too comfortable.


On October 29, 2004 we received the first indication that we were being considered to preside over one of the missions of the Church.  We enjoyed Thanksgiving with most of our family in Provo and then on December 1st, we delivered Timothy to the Provo MTC to begin his mission to the California Riverside Mission. 


We came home the evening of December 8th, just a few days after returning from Provo, to find a message on our answering machine from a Church telephone operator saying that President Monson of the First Presidency would like to talk to us.


Once we were connected to President Monson, he called Jim to be President of a yet to be designated English-speaking mission and called Jane to be a full-time missionary to serve with Jim.  He offered wonderful counsel and guidance.


Even in the face of the responsibilities ahead of us and internal speculation of where we would be serving, we enjoyed a wonderful trip to Israel to visit our son Scott and his family.  With Scott and Tiffany as our guides we saw much of Israel and its great historic sites.  Spending Christmas in the Holy Land will always be one of our cherished memories.


On February 17, we returned home after about 10 days at the beach to find a FedEx envelope from the First Presidency of the Church.  Much to our surprise, the envelope contained a letter informing us that our assigned mission would be the South Africa Johannesburg Mission.


Since that time we have been fortunate to be able speak with President and Sister DeMordaunt who presided over the Johannesburg Mission from 1999 to 2002 and President and Sister Fitch who are currently presiding over the mission.  These discussions helped calm our fears and increase our enthusiasm for the task ahead of us.


The last few months have been filled with many details of preparation.  Getting physicals and the required shots, applying for visas, reading many instructional documents, viewing DVD’s and listening to numerous CD’s providing guidance to new mission presidents.  In addition, we have been in the process of selling our house, selling our cars and giving away or storing our furniture and belongings. 


In the midst of all of our preparations, we enjoyed some wonderful events.  On February 11, Cami gave birth to Owen James Walker, our fifth grandchild.  We traveled to Provo on February 23 to meet Owen.  From there we went on to Arizona where on March 5, our son Jeff was married to Augusta Webb in the Snowflake Arizona Temple.  We enjoyed two wonderful receptions in their honor – one in Show Low, Arizona and then one a week later in Charlotte.  A few weeks later, we returned to Provo for BYU graduation. On April 22nd, Jane finally received her college diploma 34 years after she started.  Cami’s husband Robby also received his master’s degree.


We spent May 15 through May 21 at the beach.  We were fortunate to have Julie, Craig and their girls, Cami, Robby and Owen and Jeff and Augusta with us at Ocean Isle.  We missed having Scott, Tiffany and their children and Timothy with us.   It was hard to believe it would be more than three years until we could gather at the beach again.


The sale of our house closed on June 3rd. It is the first time we have been "homeless" since 1974. Thankfully our friends the McGees and the Sears were willing to put us up until we left for Phoenix on our way to the MTC.  We enjoyed a memorable going away party at the Gilmartins hosted by the Voigts and Barringers.


We left Charlotte on June 13. After arriving in Phoenix, we went to have dinner and spend the evening with Kirk and his wife, Gail. We were very pleasantly surprised to see Kent and Chris there as well. It was a wonderful evening of reminiscing.


The next day was spent with Jane's parents and Janice and Von. Amy and her family were there as well. That evening we had a family dinner with all of Jane's siblings and their spouses, Jane's parents and some of Jane's nephews and nieces.  One of the most difficult aspects of our mission is leaving Jane’s parents as both suffer from the effects of age. We appreciate the care given to them by Janice and Von and other members of the family.


On June 15th we traveled to Salt Lake City. Cami and Owen arrived from Sacramento at about the same time. Julie picked us up at the SLC airport and drove us to her house in Provo.  We enjoyed the time with Julie and her family and with Cami and Owen.


Thursday the 16th we had an appointment with Elder Russell M. Nelson to be set apart for our callings.  Elder Nelson and Elder Didier provided us with wonderful advice.   They made a fuss over our grandchildren.  Both Maddy and Callie got hugs.  Elder Nelson said that Owen looked like a future Bishop. We took some pictures on Temple Square.


Sunday, after attending church with Julie and her family we checked into the mission training center.  That evening we attended a fireside with Sheri Dew as the speaker.  Afterwards, we ran into two young missionaries from the Charlotte South Stake – Sister Westbrook and Elder McKaskey.


Monday was mostly administrative. We received the last of our immunizations, got our visas and airline tickets, had our pictures taken, met with our In-Field Representative and attended a meeting on preventing Malaria.  The highlight of the day was being able to meet that evening with young elders and 1 young sister assigned to our mission.  They will arrive about a week after we do.


President Hinckley spoke to us first thing Tuesday morning which was, of course, wonderful.  Then Elder Ballard, Elder Scott and Elder Uchtdorf spoke followed by Elder Packer.  That was all before lunch!  Following some smaller group instruction on Preach My Gospel, we gathered back together and heard Elder Bednar speak about the Book of Mormon. That evening in a fireside all for mission presidents, their wives and all the missionaries in the MTC, Elder Holland gave a powerful talk on the Restoration.


Wednesday was another full day.  President Faust was the first speaker.  He spoke on the blessings to missionaries promised in the scriptures. We had a variety of meetings, including the opportunity to work with some of the young missionaries. We were blessed to have dinner in small groups.  Each group was hosted by one of the Apostles.  We actually had both Elder Scott and Elder Wirthlin.  Elder Bateman also joined us.


On Thursday we started with Elder Perry speaking on the international church.  Later in the day President Monson gave a great talk of encouragement and related many experiences he had as a mission president.  We ate dinner with some of the other mission presidents and their wives with assignments in Africa.


Friday we heard wonderful talks by Elder Scott, Elder Uchtdorf and Elder Ballard.  Elder Cook gave us advice on making the most of the first 100 days. The seminar ended after lunch.  We were sorry to leave many friends we had made among the 130 new mission presidents and their wives, but anxious to begin our mission in South Africa.


We leave tomorrow (Saturday) morning for Johannesburg.  We travel via JFK and Senegal and arrive in Johannesburg Sunday evening.  Our next update will be from South Africa.