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SAN FRANCISCO – After spending 34 years raising six children in Tallahassee and retiring as the executive director of the Florida Association of Post-Secondary Schools and Colleges, Curtis Austin and his wife Carol decided to go west to spend the next two years as missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
The Austins were called to serve as senior missionaries in the church’s California Oakland/San Francisco Mission where they teach the gospel, teach English to Mandarin and Cantonese speakers, work one day a week in a soup kitchen sponsored by the Catholic Church, volunteer at the public library, and help adults finish their educations in BYU’s Pathways Program, designed to help adult students better prepare for the workforce and earn a bachelor’s degree at reasonable prices.
For the Austins, who arrived in San Francisco last month, serving a mission was a life-altering decision.
“We sold our home and put our worldly possessions into two storage units and gave away anything that would not fit,” said Curtis Austin.
Carol Austin said fond memories of Tallahassee will always remain.
“We owe a huge debt to Tallahassee for those who have helped raise and guide our children. We left behind the best neighbors anyone could ask for and great families that we met through school and church activities and phenomenal friends,” said Carol Austin. “We have found the people of San Francisco to be open and welcoming. We anticipated missing the Southern hospitality and warmth of the Southern culture and have been pleasantly surprised at the welcoming attitude we have found here. Their drivers are polite and skilled,” she added.
The Austins spend 5-10 hours per week on language study for Mandarin and Cantonese and most evenings teaching the gospel to members and non-members of the church.
During an outing, the Austins came across a plaque commemorating the 1846 arrival of the ship Brooklyn, which sailed from New York City to San Francisco Bay via South America and Hawaii before arriving in San Francisco.
Passengers on that voyage included Curtis’ great grandparents and family members, along with other new converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
“We are excited to share the peace and happiness that we have known as we have attempted to follow the Savior’s instructions. We cherish the fact that we raised a family in a faith rich community, where friends and neighbors lived the values that create strong families. We are thankful for so many who helped us get to this point,” said Curtis Austin.
The Austins are part of a worldwide force of 65,137 missionaries serving in the church’s 399 missions around the globe.
Prior to going to their assigned area, missionaries spend a short period of time at one of 15 missionary training centers throughout the world. There they learn how to teach the gospel in an orderly and clear way and, if necessary, they begin to learn the language of the people they will be teaching.
The largest training center is in Provo, Utah, where the Austins went, with additional centers in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, England, Ghana, Guatemala, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, the Philippines, South Africa and Spain.