Monday, August 26, 2013

The Gospel is Better than Fried Chicken

Hello everybody! First off I just want to say how glad I am to hear that Sarah finally had her baby! I have been wondering if she has had it yet all week long. Congrats Sarah!! The pictures of him are awesome!... Andrew, you need a haircut, and I hear that you need to clean your room as well.
So I learned something interesting this week. My companion, Elder Vincent used to date Moriah Breeden before his mission. He was very surprised to hear that I knew who that was and that she lived in the same ward that I did. What a small world!
Speaking of Elder Vincent, he and I get along so well. I am actually very surprised at how well we get along with each other. He says that he hasn't been as comfortable with any other companion than he is with me. We have some very awesome spiritual discussions during companion study. The other day we were having an especially deep discussion which led to me giving him a blessing of comfort as well as healing (he has been feeling quite under the weather). I am so grateful for the blessing of having a good companion.
The members here are awesome! We have been fed by members almost every night. The best thing about the members in this ward is that they are so eager and willing to bring their friends and family to church and to meet with the missionaries. It's so great! We have had a member present at almost all of our lessons too! They are keeping us busy. On Saturday night we got a call from Brother Dobbs (second councilor in the bishopric). He asked if I could give a talk in sacrament meeting the next day. So I ended up spending the evening preparing a talk on repentance. It was so short notice but I got so many wonderful comments about it and I really think the spirit was felt, and it was a good opportunity to introduce myself to the ward as a whole. Oh, and you will be glad to know that I kept it at about 15 minutes instead of 30.
Our investigators are doing really well. Although we had an appointment with Larry last week and he never answered the door or answered his phone. He didn't come to church either. We were very disappointed by that. Hopefully we will be able to meet with him this week and help him more. We met with two specific investigators last week and they are ready to be baptized!! Their baptism will be this Saturday. I am so excited for them!! Their names are Sabrina and Zilha Suljic (they are sisters and are both from Bosnia). We picked up some new investigators as well! Two are referrals and we haven't able to meet yet but they said that they are interested in joining the church! We will probably contact them today. We were able to meet with two other new investigators as well. Percy and Stephanie. Although they did not even know each other at the time we were able to teach both of them at the same time because they were able to meet us at the house of the member who had referred them to us. That lesson went so well! I don't know if you've heard the stereotype of black people and how much they love fried chicken but it is so true! The member provided all of us with a fried chicken dinner and the two investigators (both black) had piled their plates high with the chicken and were really going to town on it. They invited us to begin teaching them as they ate, so we did. As the lesson went on they began paying more attention to us and less on their food. By the time we were done they were both just sitting on the couch with eyes the size of their plates. Literally, their eyes were HUGE!! And their chicken? Well, they didn't even get half way done with it because they felt the spirit so strong and were listening to our message so intently. Elder Vincent and I really had to leave so we gave them each a Book of Mormon and invited them to church. They quietly said thank you and continued staring into space with their giant eyes. It was honestly kind of awkward leaving them like that, but I was amazed at how strong they had felt the spirit. As we were leaving I heard Percy quietly say "That made sense." I with we could have stayed to get their feedback, but I look forward to meeting with them again. I wonder if they every finished their chicken.
Okay, I really need to get going. I know this church is the true church of Jesus Christ. I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior and that through Him we can be made clean and be forgiven of all of our sins. I know that by living by the principles of the gospel and by keeping the commandments we will be happy in this live and will find joy.
Thank you everyone for the blessing you have been in my life. Thank you for your prayers and support! Please write me letters. I love all of you so much! Keep God close!
with sincerest love, Elder Curtis.
P.S. Mom, for my birthday, next month I want everyone in the family to find someone to share the gospel with, and then do it, and then tell me about it. I know that might be hard in Utah, but it can be done. I know it will be uncomfortable, but it is our sacred responsibility as members of the church to share the gospel with others. God will help and bless us. Just open your mouth and share. If you guys could all do that then that would give me a happy birthday indeed!

Monday, August 19, 2013

First Week in Missouri

Hello everyone! Oh my goodness, isn't life just grand! Missionary work is the best!!!
Anyways, I made it safely to the mission field. On the plane ride over here I sat down next to a Catholic lady who immediately fell asleep for most of the ride but as soon as she woke up I started talking to her. I tried to give her a simple card but she just kind of chuckled and refused the card saying, "Oh no. I'm Catholic." as if that was all the information I needed to give up. I wanted to say, "Okay, that's cool I guess. But I'm a Mormon. Let me explain what we believe." but I didn't feel like that would be an appropriate approach. I told her if she ever wanted to know more about our church then she could just go to the web site. It's too bad she didn't want to listen to me. But I found out that one of the sister missionaries who was also on the plane with us was talking to this ladies son the whole time and he seemed extremely interested, so that's good! So we arrived in St Louis and met President and Sister Morgan. They are so great! They took us to the mission home and fed us a marvelous dinner. The evening was spent visiting with everyone, playing ping pong, eating, a testimony meeting and one-on-one interviews with President Morgan. It was very nice. There were 35 new missionaries that arrived so they couldn't house us all, so all the elders spent the night at a hotel while all of the sisters slept at the mission home. The next day was transfer meeting where we were introduced to our new companions! My new companion is Elder Vincent. He is from Orem and has been out here for about 15 months. He is very great! He is diligent and productive but also very patient. We get along very well. He seems like the perfect companion for me to start with. Our area is Carondelet 1. It is a small area situated just south-west of downtown St Louis, so I am in the busy city. We don't have a car, we just take the bus everywhere which I'm definitely not used to. There are so many black people here, it's so awesome!!!! I hope by the time I get home I will be able to speak jive fluently. Ha ha! The members here are awesome!! We've had a dinner appointment almost every single night I have been here and the only night that we haven't had a dinner appointment with a member we ended up having dinner with some very less-active members who we had been with all day helping them move. I love service!! We hoped that by having us around them all day that they might build a desire to come closer to Christ, and it just so happened that the next day they came to church!! How awesome is that!
We don't really have many investigators, but we have a bunch of potentials. One of the two investigators we have is named Larry Davis. We were able to meet with him on Friday to give him his second discussion (my first one out on the field). It went so well! I felt the spirit so strong as we taught him about the plan of salvation. I could tell that he was understanding it and really feeling the spirit with us. He committed himself to being baptized but we don't have a date for him because he has a hard time keeping commitments. He has told the missionaries that he would read The Book of Mormon and attend church but he hasn't been able to keep those because he has trouble reading and getting up early (our church starts at 9). Hopefully we can follow up with him more and get him to keep the commitments he makes. I haven't met our other real investigator yet. Her name is Sabrina and we'll meet with her on Wednesday. Those are our only two real investigators right now but we actually have an appointment with a promising potential investigator today so hopefully that goes well. There is one potential investigator that we have who we are thinking of dropping because we are pretty sure he is a drug dealer...
I am so happy to hear that you are all doing well and enjoying yourselves! I love you all so much and would absolutely love to receive written letters from any of you. ;) Oh, also, could I maybe get a picture of the family or something? I would really like that; besides, I think Elder Vincent thinks I'm making you all up and that I don't actually have 8 siblings. And please tell Grandma happy birthday for me and that I love her very much and that I hope that she has a wonderful day!
Sarah! Oh my goodness!! From the sounds of it that baby is going to pop out of you at any second! How exciting!!! Have you picked a name yet?? I would assume you haven't. Man, this kid is going to be two years old before it even has a name. Good luck this week! Say hi to me new nephew for me. I love you!
Alicia! I heard that you found out what you are having but neither mom or dad would tell me! That's not cool! It's either a boy or a girl, just tell me, please! The suspense is killing me. It's not like it's going to be too much of a surprise. It's either a boy or a girl. There's no other option. I mean, unless you're not even carrying an actual human and there's a hippo in you or something... Just tell me!
Okay, I should go. It takes me so long to write these emails because I get so distracted and I've taken too much time. Everyone, please write me! I love you all so much! Rest assured that I am in good hands and that I am enjoying myself greatly! Seriously, I love what I am doing!! I am so glad to be serving a mission! It is the best thing I could be doing right now and I know I was meant to do this. I know that God loves us and He watches over us. He wants us to be close to Him. One way to do that is through prayer. My testimony of prayer has been strengthened so much since I have arrived here because we constantly pray as companions. I can literally feel my relationship with Heavenly Father growing stronger and closer through prayer. I encourage everyone to pray more often then you do now. Prayer is a gift and we should use it as often as possible. Try praying right before you leave the house every day. Even if you get back and need leave again: Pray again. Pray constantly in your heart for the guidance of the Holy Ghost to be with you and guide you. I promise you will notice a significant difference in your life. And don't forget to thank Heavenly Father for everything through prayer! Study the scriptures diligently and daily and involve prayer in that! These are some good ways to get revelation from God. Who wouldn't want more advise or insight from somebody who knows everything?
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true church of Christ. God is our loving father in heaven. Jesus Christ is our savior and redeemer. Thomas S. Monson is truly a prophet of God. Remember who you are and who you can become. Keep God close! I love you!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Instruments in the Lord's hands

I don't know where to begin. Oh my gosh, there's so much I want to say. Okay, first, when I heard Andrew had tipped his canoe I had one thought: "Oh my goodness. He would." That sounds so much like Andrew, I wasn't surprised at all when I read that. I wish I could have seen that happen. Dad, good job fixing up the room. It sounds like it looks super good. I wish you had decided to do that a lot earlier. Andrew has no idea how lucky he is that he doesn't have to sleep on that mattress. I am still shocked at mom for trusting Andrew and Alex to be home on their own for the week. You're putting the entire house into the hands of a kid who can't even keep a canoe upright. Make sure to let me know what the new address is when we have to buy a new house. But mom, I hope you and Heather enjoy your trip out to Georgia. Brandon, I am sorry but I think it is hilarious that you have ended up back at KZ! I laughed so hard when I read your letter. The elders in my dorm are the coolest elders EVER!!!!!

Okay, let me talk a little bit about the MTC. I absolutely love it! I have never felt better in my life. I am learning so much about how to teach the gospel to people. I love the fact that our whole purpose is focused on other people. We are instructed by Gordon B. Hinkley to "forget ourselves and go to work" and that is exactly what we are learning to do. I love it because that is how The Savior taught. He forgot Himself and focused on the needs of those around Him. The teachers here are so great. My favorite in particular is Brother Corbitt. His enthusiasm for teaching us how to teach is contagious. He and I are quite similar in a lot of ways; we both noticed that. All the teachers are so great though. My district is so great too! I'm amazed at how close we have all gotten already. There's me, Elder Fenelius (my companion who is great!), Elder Krikava, Elder Caraway, Elder Thompson (he's the one from my school who got the same mission call I did), Elder Julian, Sister Huppi, Sister Sheppard, Sister Williams, and Sister Calton. We are all like a little family. I was called to be the district leader and for some reason everyone said that they saw that coming... Elder Fernelius and I get along so well. We probably get along better than any of the other companionships. We are definitely becoming great friends. He explained to me that before he got his mission call he wasn't very sure if he wanted to go on a mission or not so he prayed and pondered about if for a really long time and he came to the conclusion that he had to go. He then kinda bore his testimony to me that God answered his prayer as to why he needed go when he got here. He said he found his answer as soon as he met me and how my testimony has really strengthened him and helped him build a desire to serve people and share the gospel. I think he's just being nice. But we really work well together. He is usually pretty shy when it comes to talking to people he doesn't know (which we have to do a lot when we have practice discussions with teachers pretending to be investigators). But together, he does just fine. We were given the nick-name "The Power House".

So we do this thing called TRC. This is an opportunity for companions to go and give a discussion to someone who is either pretending to be an investigator or who is actually a real non-member and is willing to come to the MTC and see what we're all about. Elder Fernelius and I were assigned to a man named Jose Meza. He is a real investigator that moved here from Guatemala a couple years ago and was encouraged to go to the MTC by his friend Pedro to hear a message about Christ. So he did. When we were first introduced to him he straight up told us that he didn't want to hear about Joseph Smith or The Book of Mormon. So we got to know him a little better. He wasn't very comfortable opening up to us but eventually we got him to start sharing some of his experiences and soon he just kept going and going. He started to become upset because he grew up in poverty and he had to start working when he was seven years old and made 25 cents a month to help support his mom. He was upset because we didn't have to go through what he had to because we live in America. He explained a lot more about how life isn't fair and how people seem to have a natural inclination to be selfish and hurt other people. Well, this gave us the perfect opportunity to talk a little bit about the plan of salvation and the agency of man. We helped him understand that God loves us and wants us to have experience so we can become like Him and how if we keep His commandment then we can return to live with Him and have everlasting peace and happiness. This message prompted him to share an experience where he had said and done some not so good things to his mother before he had moved out of her house. A few years later, having felt really bad and guilty for saying those things, he got a feeling that then was the time to apologize to her. So he called her up and asked if she remembered what he had done. She said yes. He then asked if she would forgive him; she said "Of course I forgive you Jose. I love you." He explained to us that that was the happiest he had ever felt in his life. This whole experience was one of the most humbling experienced of my life. The spirit was so strong after he shared that story. We then explained that the feeling he had after he was forgiven was from the power of repentance and how it is possible to feel that happiness and freedom from our guilt from everything we have done wrong in our lives and how that feeling comes from The Holy Ghost. This is what Christ offers us. Remission of our sins and the pain associated with them. We had to leave, but we set up an appointment for Thursday with him and he seemed so excited! He said he really loved our message and he wanted to learn more. We explained a little about church and invited him to attend church with his friend Pedro and to start reading The Book of Mormon. He said he would do both!!

I can't wait to visit with him again!! The spirit was SO STRONG!!!!! Elder Fernelius and I were on a spiritual high the rest of the day! This work really is the work of Christ. I am so blessed to be here in His place to help God's children receive the message of the gospel. I really am an instrument in His hands and I am so happy about it. "How great shall be your joy" is kind of an understatement.

Okay, my companion is getting annoyed because I am taking so long so I need to go. Please write me letters!!!! I never realized just how great they really are. (I'm sorry Jen!!) And don't hesitate sending me any packages either. I love you all so much. Thank you for all your prayers in my behalf. Keep God close. Keep on missing me.