Monday, July 20, 2015

July 20, 2015-LAST WORDS!

Another swell week, topped off with every missionary's dream: a baptism! It's been a long wait for this little man (we set his date in the last week of March), but he finally got dunked. His grandparents from Idaho made the long trip to Illinois to make it; it was nice to meet them and spend a little bit of time with them. I think the best part of this event wasn't just that Mason was baptized, but that his whole family has made so much progress and grown so much in their faith along with him. I have truly seen the atonement at work in their lives. They've impressed me so much by the motivation and determination they've put into coming back to church. It was so exciting to have Rene baptize Mason- to see him become worthy and use the priesthood once again was a very special experience.
I also got to go to the St. Louis Temple on Thursday with the group of missionaries I will leave with as well as the missionaries who are half-way done with their missions. This included several dear friends I have made and served with. The whole day was a tremendously spiritual experience. I love the temple so much. After the session (of only missionaries) lunch was provided and we had a powerful testimony meeting. It was an incredible experience; one which I shall never forget.
Unfortunately it doesn't look like I'll get to enjoy another baptism before I leave. I know several are on there way for this area though. I'm extremely grateful for the blessings the Lord has afforded me here. He has truly hastened His work in this area (as well as throughout my entire mission); I'm grateful to have been a part of that process, which has changed my life and allowed the foundation of my testimony to solidify even more, all thanks to the atonement of Jesus Christ.
Where would we be without that atonement? It is a daunting and humbling thought; to be subject to an endless, awful state, bound by the evil chains of death to bind us in misery forever, having become devils consumed by the despairing darkness of our own condemnation- slaves of our own follies, afflicted with tumultuous pain and turmoil for eternity, No hope. No peace. No relief. No light. Just despairing darkness brought upon us by our own weaknesses.
Surely Christ has already saved us from that horrible fate, for we do have joy in this life. There is hope, peace, relief, light, joy, and love. I now realize just a little bit, how fortunately blessed we all are for a loving Father and an equally loving Brother, who went through all of that horrible stuff and triumphed over it all in order to satisfy the laws of justice which would condemn us to such a fate, and to allow us to overcome those very weaknesses that would put us there in the first place so that we too can receive joy and glory in the Kingdom of God forever. I'm glad I've been able to share this good news to a few of my brothers and sisters in the Mid-West, by the Spirit, and get them on that path of atonement, or at least closer to it. I know we are here to fulfill that purpose in our lives together until we stand before our Savior and give an accounting of our works and testimonies of Him. It's no wonder that missionary work is vitally important. "The end of all activity in the church is to see that a man and a woman with their children are happy at home, sealed together for time and all eternity." I'm excited to actively work on that "end" in a different mission field now, never forgetting the wonderful journey this mission has been for me. It has forever changed me, because I know Jesus is the living Christ- the Messiah and Redeemer of us all. Our precious Lord and Savior. Our devoted King. I know His grace is sufficient for all of us. He leads us in this church through prophets whom He has called. I know the importance of obedience to Him- it is the key to joy and happiness in this life and all the eternal blessings of exaltation. Guys, I just love the gospel of Jesus Christ so much! I love this gospel!! It's perfect and divine. I love my Savior, Jesus Christ. I love my Father above, and I'm so grateful to both of them for the bounteous blessings which I do now enjoy and will yet enjoy because of the atonement. I know these principles are true. I testify of them with all my heart in our Savior's Name, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Me, Rene, Elder Abbott, and Mason before the baptism.

Me and Elder Anderson, my former companion, at the temple.

Me and Elder Johnson, my second "son", at the temple.

​I will miss my mission so much. A huge portion of my heart will remain here forever. I love each person I've been blessed to serve. My heart will swell in gratitude towards God in every remembrance of my mission.

-Elder Curtis, signing off.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

July 13, 2015

This week was simply wonderful.
We went down to Coffeen IL, to meet with Kylee's family (her mom, Sarah, and her brother Devan). The Halleman's were there with us too. Sarah had many questions about the church, but all she could really say to start off was, "I just don't get it" meaning church in general.She never really went to church growing up. She has a belief in Christ but that's all that it seems she knows. Then she asked the classic question: "Why are there so many different churches?" We explained that we have a message to share with her that would more than likely answer quite a lot of her questions and asked if we could share it. Can you guess what message we shared? When we finished talking about the restoration of the gospel with them, Sarah started asking new questions concerning heaven and hell... So she is obviously prepared. We asked them if we could continue teaching them more about the church and our beliefs and they said yes. So tomorrow we're going to do just that, and possibly eat turtle as well. We will also be inviting them to church (which will be huge because Kylee's dad hasn't been to church since he was 17) and to be baptized. Should be good.
I spent Thursday up in Springfield IL, for district meeting and exchanges. That's pretty much that. I'm really going to miss fireflies. They're just so cool! They serve no purpose other than to look at how cool they are. Yes, we have a loving God who is very aware of the small things. That was really random but oh well. Fireflies are awesome.
Okay. So Saturday. Saturday was the BEST! Mike Dobelman was baptized!!!!! I still get this ridiculous, goofy grin every time I think about it. It just makes me so happy! This guy has been in our teaching pool since before I even got here. And at that time, and for the longest time he has been determined that he would never actually become a "Mormon". Yet the whole time we knew the Spirit's peaceful prompt to ignore that statement. I was certain he would join the church some day. I dreamed I would see that day but for the longest time I was sure I would be long gone by then. I wish you could have been there for those couple lessons with him where everything came together and he knew God wanted him to join the church; that he needed to join. Gosh, the Spirit is so key to all of this. Everything I've done as a missionary would be for naught without that Spirit. I am so grateful for it. I am so grateful to have been blessed to be here to see this incredible man enter such a sacred covenant with his Father. Mike was just glowing! And Elder Anderson (my previous companion) got to come to it as well! It was unforgettable. Mike was confirmed yesterday. We know he's going to be a great contribution to the church here and wherever he is led.
Two down, one to go, and that would be Mason. His date was set four and a half months ago and it's finally arrived! This kid could have been baptized four months ago if you ask me, but we wanted the whole family to be on track with him and they have done just that. I can't say how proud I am of that family. They have greatly impressed me. I am eager for Saturday to see Bro. Smith baptize Mason. I know in a few years Mason's younger siblings will follow his example. I'm excited for that.
This truly is the best work on earth.
I have loved my mission. I love it with all my soul. I love these people. I love my companion. I love my job. Leaving this will be the hardest thing in my life. I love the gospel with all my life. I love my Savior and my Heavenly Father. I love my dear, eternal family. I have been so abundantly blessed. I am so grateful.
I love you guys so much.
-Elder Curtis

July 6, 2015

This week flew by so fast. It was a busy and eventful one. We were constantly doing something. Sometimes lately we have been overloaded with things to do and not enough time to do so we have to cancel some things out, which is a little frustrating to me. Particularly in the evenings. That's when everything happens and everyone wants to meet with us or feed us. Speaking of feeding us, we have every single day in July filled up for members to feed us. That's quite impressive for this place.
I said it was an eventful week. It was probably the biggest week of Alisha Wells' life. On Tuesday, June 30, she and Akua Wells were married by President Bruce. That was super exciting! Elder Abbott and I got to be the two witnesses. Akua was so nervous before the wedding, just waiting at the church for everything to start, so we were there to help calm him down. The ceremony was quick and sweet. Since then, Akua literally has not stopped smiling. Alisha has been such a good influence on him.
Three days later Alisha was baptized!!! Two days after that she was confirmed!! It was so great! It has been so long since this place has seen a baptism. It almost feels unreal to me; that we actually had a baptism last weekend. I was so convinced I wouldn't see one here while still on my mission. But it happened! And there's another one this weekend! And another after that!! Goodness, I am so blessed to be serving here at this time. There have been a lot of experiences, events and instances throughout my mission that I feel were preparing me and leading me up to my time to serve here. I think that's super cool. Our all-knowing Father knew long before I even started my mission that I would come here, and He put me through what I needed and where I needed and who I needed in order to help me be ready. And I'm pretty sure He has been doing that for me my whole life and will continue doing so, just as He does for each of us. These are just things I've been pondering. It's hard to fully express these thoughts though. I just know God's perfect hand is in our life's.

I hope everyone had a safe and fun Independence Day! Elder Abbott and I enjoyed our evening with many of the branch members at one members home out in the country. There was tons of delicious food and many games to play, along with a terrific display of fireworks. It really was a marvelous time.
Brother and Sister Halleman have a young granddaughter named Kylee, who was baptized a few weeks ago. Her family is an inactive/part member family who haven't had anything to do with the church for years and they live way out in the middle of nowhere, but they invited us over for dinner on Friday night with Bro. and Sis. Halleman. They cooked us up a huge meal on the grill. It was a very pleasant time. Kylee's mom, who is not a member, had lot's of questions about life and certain aspects of it and our church, but since they were only a couple of hours late of getting started on dinner we weren't able to answer very many of them. However, we were able to have a decent visit with them and set up a time this Wednesday to come over and answer all (or many) of her questions. We have a very good feeling about this and all of us are surprised that she is so open to listening to us because of the anti-Mormon background she comes from. Seeds have definitely been planted and are beginning to grow. I think Kylee coming to church with her grandparents for over a year and getting baptized was key. Now, hopefully, we can bring the light of the gospel into Kylee's immediate family. So good things keep happening around here, and the work moves forward! I don't ever want to leave.
We look forward to another fantastic weekend. I hope you all have a great week too!
I love you guys!

-Elder Curtis

She usually has a great smile, there's just something about women in jumpsuits that doesn't make them look happy.

Monday, June 29, 2015

June 29, 2015

It's a good time to be in Litchfield, Illinois. I was looking back at when I first got here and the state things were in and the improvements that were needed. But it was easy to see that some time soon it would be so much better; that it was heading in the right direction toward progress. I never anticipated how fast it would get there though; I thought for sure I'd be long gone before it got to where it is now. The Lord has definitely hastened His work here and the rest of us are catching on. 

Alicia's baptism is a go for this Friday and we are all very excited about that. Get this though, she and Akua are getting married tomorrow!!! He officially popped the question like last week, and they're getting married TOMORROW. Obviously it's not going to be a huge ceremony. Only a few people know and are invited, including us, so we feel very privileged. President Bruce, the branch president, will be doing the ceremony. A wedding and a baptism- This is quite a big week for Alicia; we are so excited for her; she is so excited too! These are experiences I wish you could just be here to see for yourself because it's all so magical and you just have to be here to know how awesome this all is. 

Mike was at church again and he was finally able to stay all three hours. He was rocking all the classes, being the best participant in gospel principles and at the end of priesthood meeting he stood up and bore his testimony of sorts on eternal marriage, love and joy with his wife and that he never would have found the gospel without his wife joining the church and passing away and how he needs this to be with her forever. It was powerful. People love Mike and we are all excited for his baptism next week!

We all also love the Smiths. There was a moment in branch council meeting when we were talking about Mason's baptism coming up and President Bruce went on about how awesome the Smiths are and the amazing, genuine progress that they have made and continue making. I personally am very impressed with them and the faith they keep showing. Last week Mason was concerned that he wasn't getting answers to his prayers; that God wasn't talking back to him. Sister Smith was in the hospital earlier this week. While she was there Mason was feeling really worried about her. When he expressed this to Brother Smith, he said, "You know what you've got to do." Mason said, "Yeah, I need to pray."
The next morning Brother Smith asked Mason how he was feeling. Mason explained that he felt good because last night God had answered a lot of his questions. Brother Smith told him that's what happens when you open your heart to Him. In reflecting upon this I was so deeply touched by the love and care God has for every single one of us, shown by how He responds to a humble eleven year old boy who wanted to hear from Him in a time of concern. If an eleven year old can pray to an Almighty God and receive answers, full of peace and comfort then so can we. I know God is in every detail of our lives, watching over us and guiding us from the day we are born to the day we are welcomed back. I know He lives. Above all I know He loves us. I am so grateful for the faith a Mason to seek Him and follow the Savior's example in a couple weeks and be baptized. (Sister Smith is out of the hospital by the way). 

I had my last zone conference this week too. We traveled back to the old stomping grounds of Urbana to have it. It was very strange being there again. I just seems like yesterday I was serving there only everything was green this time. Unfortunately I wasn't able to stop and say hi to anyone while I was up there. I did however see a few of the sister in the ward who made us lunch.
 I can't believe how fast all of this has gone by. I am so indebted to the Lord for the time I've been given to serve Him. I love this work so much. I love my mission. I love these people. Oh how I love my Savior!
That's all for this week. I love you guys!

-Elder Curtis

Rolling in the back seat with my boys. On my right is my current companion, Elder Abbott. On my left is my former companion, Elder Ivey, the first of I trained back in St. Louis/Jefferson City.

​I caught a bird. :)

Monday, June 15, 2015

June 15, 2015

We're staying here!!!
Oh my goodness I am so thrilled that the Lord is allowing me and Elder Abbott to work here a little longer. I truly love these people. I really don't think I've loved an area as much as I do Litchfield. We're both staying but we decided to tell everyone we're both leaving to see how surprised they would be when they see that we aren't. Oh my gosh, I feel so terrible. The whole branch was so broken-hearted. Everyone kept hugging us and telling us how much they will miss us and how much they appreciated us, and there we were just blatantly and repeatedly lying. It was a stupid idea of a prank, I've learned my lesson.
I gave a talk yesterday and I finally got what I deserved and didn't get to finish my talk because the speaker before me went way over. So now I know how disappointing it is when you don't have enough time to portray the message you've prepared.
We had a great week with lessons. Seven member presents! That's pretty much a record breaker for this area.
We were teaching Mike last night and he was telling us that he was telling some family about his decision to be baptized and one aunt of his rudely asked "so you're a Mormon now?" And he defended our religion, bore his testimony and encouraged her to "be more Christian herself". He then went on about how the "Mormon" religion is so criticized, ridiculed, attacked and mocked for it's beliefs but then he went on about all the good things about "us" and how "we" believe true things that are all good. He was referring to Latter-day Saints with the words "us" and "we"! I wish you could understand just how amazing and how big of a difference that is for this guy! We are so excited for him!

Things are continuing to go super well for us. Thank you for your prayers and support. You guys are the best! Love you!

-Elder Curtis

June 8, 2015

If only you all could have been here to feel the joy and excitement I feel right now. This has been one of the greatest weeks ever! I've had the greatest lessons of my entire mission within the week and things have really picked up from them. We now have three solid baptismal dates!!! One with Mason, one with Mike, and one with our new investigator Alicia! All of them came to church yesterday too! We are so elated!

Alicia just moved up here from Tennessee last week to get away from some... problems. She and Akua Wells (a member here), have been dating online for some time now so she came up here to be with him and his family who are active members. She had never been to an LDS church or even heard of it until they started dating. When she got here they brought her to our Book of Mormon Study that we do each Wednesday evening. Though she was confused as to what exactly we were talking about she was very intrigued and amazed at the idea that there is another book testifying of Jesus Christ "just like the Bible does". She asked lots of questions, like "Who's Nephi?" and "What does hearken mean?" with such a longing in her tone. You can tell she has been thirsting for something more in her life. So a couple days later when we came over and taught her about the restoration she quickly and happily accepted the invitation to be baptized on June 27th. What's even better is though Akua has struggled in the past with worthiness he is doing everything he can to be worthy to baptize her. Their whole family is getting jacked about missionary work. It's so great!

The past two lessons with Mike have been remarkable. I am so grateful for the guidance of the Spirit, otherwise I know there would be no way he would have realized the truth of what we have been teaching him all this time and accept the invitation to be baptized. This guy is one person I will be eternally grateful for the opportunity I have had to share the gospel with. It has almost felt like a battle at times trying to get him to understand things to the point of conversion. Finally he has made the connections and is recognizing God's finger, pointing him where he needs to go. On Saturday we taught him about covenants and the plan of salvation once again. That was the best lesson I have ever taught, per se; I don't believe we were the one's actually teaching at all. At the end of the lesson Mike said "If only I had known this when the Sisters met with us in Washington. I would have jumped on this immediately." He want's to be sealed to his wife so bad. He loves her so much and he's dead set on being baptized now, so he can be with her and his girls for eternity. Our Heavenly Father has made such a perfect plan. I learned that even more from that lesson as well as the absolute necessity for covenants. Oh how I love the gospel!!!

Our visit with the Smith's was so wonderful. If only you could see the change that has taken place in their lives. They're still as quirky as ever, but the Spirit is in their lives again. They continue making sacrifices and are already receiving rich blessings for them. We don't have to point things out to them or teach them principles anymore because they are doing all of that themselves. They have become self-sufficient in the gospel. That for them is nothing short of a miracle. No doubt the atonement is real! We were about to begin our lesson when Rene and Barbara (Bro. and Sis. Smith) in a way began bearing their testimonies to us and pointing out the change that they can see in their lives as they've let the gospel into their hearts and put the Savior and His commandments first. It is marvelous!

We also had wonderful lessons with Brian, Haus, and Treya this week. We are eager to help them progress and get their families involved as well.

I love this area so much. I love these people with all my heart. Transfer calls come this Saturday; I am pleading with the Lord to let me stay and finish my mission here. I know I was sent here through inspiration. I hope with all my heart that I can stay a little longer.

Our water is clean now. Yay! We are grateful for that. But after it got clean we didn't have any hot water, only cold. Really cold. That went on for a couple of days. Yesterday evening we finally got it back so we enjoyed a nice, warm shower for the first time in a while this morning.

Well, I think that's the scoop for this week. I hope I have good news next week. I love you guys!

-Elder Curtis

June 2, 2015

Hey people. It has been such a wonderful week.
We had to most amazing lesson with Mike. While he was in California visiting some friends some "Mormons" sopped by unexpectedly and talked to him. He soon found out that these friends of his had joined the church a few months ago and he didn't even know. He was deeply moved by this information and he took it to mean that God was trying to point him in the direction He wanted him to go. (which is right). Things were finally clicking for Mike and it was so amazing to be there see it and talk about what God wants us to do. His views and beliefs have evolved so much and now they're taking huge leaps. It's marvelous.
When we were driving to church on Sunday we were stopped at a stop sign and we say Mike in his Durango drive pasts us and pull into the church! He came and he brought his daughters with him! He really is trying to follow God's directions! Normally the girls are pretty chaotic but they did surprisingly well and there were several branch members who helped out by sharing some snacks and giving them paper and crayons. Mike is going to come next week too and instead of us trying to set up the next time to meet with him, he asked us.
The Smiths also came to church! This is their second week in a row and they don't plan of cutting the streak there. They continue to make awesome progress. In our lesson with them on Friday they asked for blessings, which I know was a big expression of their faith and desire to keep making progress and doing what's right.
We were finally able to see Brian again too. We say him Sunday night. He is still so solid and he wants to come to church, he just struggles with high stress. But he explained how he hasn't been able to go a day without thinking about us and what we've taught him and how he sees a huge difference in his life because he's been praying every day and reading often. He really wants to get his wayward daughter to church and meeting with us too. We talked about the Priesthood in depth and answered many of his questions. It was a really great lesson and we began to see the desire swell within him as we talked about the atonement and its effect as we live the gospel.
Earlier in the week we picked up two more investigators, Trey-a (spelled phonetically), and Haus(that's like boss, but with and h instead of a b, and I think that such a great name. I can't get over it). Trey-a is an "ex-Jehovah's Witness, emphasis on the EX" They both thought our message was right and they believe it is something they should learn more about. I was on exchanges when we picked them up so I don't know the details, but it was a very good experience.
Speaking of very good experiences, yesterday we had the tremendous privilege of meeting together as a mission and hear from Elder D. Todd Christofferson!! It was glorious!! He is so wise, and also so funny! He said some amazing things. I'm still digesting the whole experience. I don't know how many of you already knew this but he grew up in Pleasant Grove, so he and I had a pretty great connection when we shook hands and he asked where I was from. I also had the opportunity to sing for him in a small choir. We sang the efy medley. I really can not convey the thrill and joy it was to be there, so just trust me when I say it was phenomenal, unforgettable, and I really wish you could have been there to experience it yourself.
One thing that is not so pleasing about this week is the fact that our water is contaminated with rust. It's so nasty. We can't use our water at all, so we've been showering and stuff with water bottles. It's pretty great. Not really.
This is kind of funny. I woke up in the middle of the night and shifted myself to a different position when I saw Elder Abbott sitting on his bed with his feet on the floor looking at me as if he were waiting on me. Confused but delirious I assumed I hadn't heard the alarm and it was time to get up, so I rolled out and knelt down and began to pray aloud. Elder Abbott followed suit and knelt down as well. Still rather confused after the prayer because it was so dark outside I checked the phone for the time. It was 2:31. Elder Abbott had already left the room but I went straight back to my bed, knowing he would figure it out soon enough. We still have no idea why he as sitting up and why we both assumed it was time to get up. We got a kick out of it though.
Okay, I think that's it for this week. Tune in next week for more. Have a great week, everyone!

-Elder Curtis

 Here is what our water looks like. Looks good, don't it?

In case you are really struggling to figure out who these people are, it's me and Elder Abbott