Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Feb. 17, 2015

Hey guys!

It was great hearing about the crazy weekend! Sounds like there was a lot of hectic things that happened yet everyone was still able to thoroughly enjoy the beautiful ceremony of Brandon and Jamie's wedding in the temple. I see some symbolism in everything that happened with what I've heard from Mom, Dad and Brandon. God truly is in our lives, teaching us in every moment.
I'm so happy for the happy, new couple! I love you guys!

I'm here in Litchfield now. This is a really small place and our area is very large, covering several other smaller towns. So far though things area going really well. We have a good sized teaching pool to work with right off and I think we could get some dates set here real soon (Currently our mission has 105 baptismal dates set!). I really like my new companion, Elder Anderson. I really think I'm going to enjoy this transfer with him; this new start is already such a relief from last transfer. He is from Laurel, Montana (which isn't far from Billings). He's so goofy and has a great sense of humor and an even better sense of hard work. So nice! We have been super busy and I love it! I still haven't even unpacked since I got here on Wednesday. I'll give you a run down of investigators as I get to know them and as things progress.

Because of Presidents Day we emailed today, but I don't have much time. I should have more time to do more on regular Mondays now since there's pretty much nothing at all to do here and we don't have enough miles to go to St Louis or Springfield (both of which are about the same distance from us). Oh, I also hear a rumor that my blog that I set up for these emails to get put on has not been updated in some time. I know things have been really busy lately but if someone could please remember to update that then there are a few people who tell me they would really appreciate that, especially since I'm told the last update was in July of last year... The blog is what's used to get my contact info such as new addresses and stuff. That's a little important because I think theirs letters and stuff waiting at previous apartments of mine.

I love you all so much! I hope this week is full of joy and rest for a lot of you.

-Elder Curtis

1122 N. Montgomery st.
Litchfield, IL 62056

Feb. 9, 2015

Okay, I feel like there's a lot to say, but there is not a lot of time to say it...

Transfer news came:Our mission is downsizing. We lost 20 missionaries and as a result at least one area in every zone of the mission has to close. Urbana 1 just so happens to be one of them so both me and Elder Anderson are leaving. I am going to Litchfield, Illinois, of which I know absolutely nothing about other than it's quite a ways south of Springfield, Illinois. My new companion is Elder Anderson, not the same Elder Anderson, a new Elder Anderson; that might be confusing in the future.
Closing an area is something mostly new to me. We have to get the apartment ready, the van, and transfer all of our information in our area book to the Urbana 2 Elders. We've been super busy but I feel like we haven't done much because there is still so much to do.
This week I have to say goodbye to all of the people I've met here. That is the hardest part. I've been greatly impacted by people here, such as Francisca and Virgina. They are such wonderful new members. The light of the gospel literally shines from their presence. They love this church! Deosha is doing well in the church too but she's nine so...
Francisca finally got a calling; she's on the ward relief society committee. I don't know what that implies, but I know she's excited about it and it will help her with her English. Both Francisca and Virginia are going to the temple in St. Louis to do baptisms for the dead this month. OH how I wish I could go and see them do that!
And OH how I wish I could witness another big event happening this weekend! (For those of you reading this that don't know, my super cool, older brother is getting married on Saturday!) I hope you guys (family) are able to get everything done to prep and the whole experience is unforgettably magical for everyone. I will be there with you in heart.
I'd also like to say happy valentines day to all of you. To my family, I am so blessed to have you. I've never been around to world, but I'm certain I have the best family in the world. I love all of you so much! I can feel your love and support in your words and by the Spirit. My life is overflowed with blessing just from you guys. I am so glad we will be with each other forever! Mom, I love you. You are beautiful and sweet. I am overwhelmed with the feelings of gratitude and joy within myself when I think of how wonderful you are. I will always be grateful for what you have done for me and the rest of the crew. You've sacrificed so much and I will forever be indebted to you. I love you!
To my friends, you guys rock! I know I have been divinely guided and blessed to seek and find the greatest friends out there. I thank each of you for all you have done for me. I wish I had time to tell you all personally. I love you guys. I really love you guys and will forever be grateful for your impact in my life. Happy Valentines day everyone!

I will give all the rest of the info needed about Litchfield next week. Good luck with everything, everybody! Sure love ya!

-Elder Curtis :)

Feb. 2, 2015

Hi folks!

It is a beautiful and blessed day and a wonderful time to be alive! This week was really hard, but I have felt the spirit teach, testify, guide, strengthen and correct so much this week. I feel so greatly blessed to be here and to learn how the spirit of the Lord works and to see the affect it has in my life. Lately there have been a lot of trying experiences; this has not been an easy transfer by any means. I am constantly surrounded by conflicting ideas and beliefs, even, or especially from people I did not expect it from. At times I have felt like breaking and giving up. There has been a lot of frustrating and irritating times. But I have been humbly blessed with strength. I am learning how to see things differently. God has been my support. I can't even tell you how much He has supported me, being my strength and my light, at times the only thing I could cleave to for support. Through this I have been greatly humbled, or at least realize how much I need to be humbled. I have been taught more about the gospel and I feel like I have a better understanding of it's principles. Man, I could go on about this for a few days so I'll stop. But I know the atonement is real and there is no limit to its power and and reach. I also know God loves us so much.

We had to drop our date with Sarad because we still weren't able to meet with him. Now that it's February we should be able to set something up with him, so pray for that!

We did get a wonderful surprise from one of the families in the ward we've been working with a lot: a referral! His name is Reggie and he's awesome! So promising! We are going to meet with him again this week. He couldn't come to church because he got called into work due to a storm we had here. Church was even almost canceled due to 3 inches of snow. Can you believe that?

I got to participate in a baby blessing yesterday. That was such a special experience. It opened my eyes up a little more about the priesthood as well as Gods hand in our lives. I also wonder how my own baby blessing went because of it.

Transfer calls are this weekend so don't send anything. If the pattern I've followed most my mission continues I'll be getting transferred. I'll let you know next week.

I have to go. I love all so much!

-Elder Curtis

Jan. 26, 2015

Hi everyone!

It's been another rather slow week, but a good one nonetheless. We had a final lesson with Tiago, Grazi before they went back to Brazil and it was just as wonderful as the first one. They are probably the coolest investigators I've ever had. I wish they weren't moving so bad! At the end of our lesson I asked if I could offer a closing prayer. After the prayer Tiago felt the Spirit and explained how he felt and then explained how he really needed that prayer and the things that were said. It was awesome. I'm really going to miss them.

We ended up dropping all of our teaching pool this week except for Sharad. Though we weren't able to meet with him this week we are hoping he will get progressing pretty soon. The gospel is just what he needs in his life right now. The problem is his work schedule and he doesn't feel like he has time. He does call us though to talk. I still have high hopes for him.

Right now we're just trying to find more people to teach. We are able to find people alright, but they usually live outside of our area or would go to the YSA, which has its own set of Elders, but at least these people are being taught by someone, right?

That's all I really have to say this week. Attached below are some lovely pictures I took. While they might be a little artsy, they may also give you a better idea of the area here.

I love all of you so much! Good luck with everything and may God be with you.

-Elder Curtis

Jan. 20, 2015

Hi guys!

Yesterday the library was closed, so we have a little bit of time to email today.

It was a better week with four new investigators and we set a date with one of them. His name is Sarad Sharma. He is from India, I think. He's in his 50's. When we taught him the restoration and he loved it and is very eager to learn more and find out for himself the truth of this. He is very focused on strengthening his spiritual strength through Jesus Christ and so our message for him was just what he wanted to hear. The date is for February 21. We're hoping all goes well with him.
The three other new investigators we found, Tiago, Grazi, and Rafeal, are from Brazil. We taught them the restoration as well and it was AMAZING!!! They are so golden! They were in awe at the first vision. We had Tiago read the account aloud and when he finished he looked at the picture in the pamphlet and whispered "Wow!" and then gave us a huge smile. The whole lesson we fantastic and they asked a lot of really wonderful questions and confidently accepted a baptismal invitation. The only problem is they are moving back to Brazil next week. Argh! But we will help them find the missionaries there. Tiago says that he saw Mormon missionaries in Brazil all the time in his home town and has always wanted to talk to them but never had the opportunity. I know they will join the church some day soon.

Virginia, Deosha, and Francisca are doing so well! They are solid recent converts and haven't missed a single week of church since their baptisms. Since Elder Lazaro is no longer here to speak Spanish for Francisca, she requested that we start teaching her and her husband English. So we started doing that last week and I have realized even more just how ridiculous the English language is. It's so hard to teach; there are so many rules and so many words that don't follow any of the rules! But it's been fun at the same time. I don't know how many of you remember the scene from the movie The Pink Panther where the inspector is trying to learn English and he is trying to say "I would like to buy a hamburger.", but just for fun we had them attempt saying the same thing. It was pretty much an exact reenactment of that scene except with Spanish accents instead of French and it was in person. It was so funny; we couldn't help but laugh hysterically.

Things are going well here. The weather was even more kind to us this week. We're looking forward to another good week. I love you all and I hope you all have a wonderful week!

-Elder Curtis

Jan. 12, 2015

Hi everybody!

What a cold week it has been! I don't think I've felt my toes for a few days now. The worst part is definitely the wind. I hope you're having more enjoyable weather where you are.
The weather seems to be the only thing there is to talk about this week. It's been another slow one. Though we saw some interesting things while tracting though. I'm not sure I'll share it with you now though...

Elder Anderson was sick for half the week which is always a drag. However, I was able to get a head start on our missions goal of completing the Book of Mormon by the next conference (A goal that I might suggest to all of you as well as I am sure it will prepare you very well for the messages that are coming to us from our inspired leaders).

We finally have a some set appointments for the coming week so it shouldn't be as slow and we're planning on picking up a couple new investigators from at least one of the appointments who appear to be very promising. I'm really excited for that!
Another highlight: We got 17 gallons of gas for only $4.18. I suppose they must have entered the prices per gallon in the computer incorrectly so instead of being $2.41(as it was posted) it was only $.24. When I went inside to try and fix the obvious mistake they frantically fixed it but there wasn't anything they could about my transaction so the church was spared a few dollars.
There's a brand new missionary in our district, a greenie if you will, from Hawaii. It's fun to serve around him as he witness his first experiences with the snow. We were also present for his first interaction with a squirrel. The guy is a hoot.

I love you guys! I hope you have a wonderful week! Don't hesitate to send an email or a letter even if it's just to say hi. It's always good to hear from any of you.

Love, Elder Curtis

Jan. 5, 2015

Happy new year everyone!

Sorry this email is coming late. Usually on Mondays here we go to the Laundromat first thing and do our studies there, then go shopping, then email, then lunch. But today we had an opportunity to do some service for a lady that some elders in our district were talking to. At 7:30 we went to pick everyone up and then cleaned and painted this ladies house before she had an inspection later that day. We finished around noon and then went and got some lunch then did laundry, then shopping, and by that time we were almost late to a dinner appointment. So now we are finally able to email.

Right now it's snowing pretty hard; it started a couple of hours ago and there's already half a foot of snow. What's dumb is it's only sticking to the road. Hardly any of it is staying on the grass at all. I don't get it. I still don't like snow at all.

In more important and more exciting and positive news Deosha was confirmed yesterday at church!! She and Virginia is doing very well. Virginia is soaking up her new scriptures and other reading material and Deosha loves her new CTR ring the primary gave her. Virginia helps clean the church building every week so far and is even going to go out with the other elders to teach one of their investigators. We are very pleased with how well they are doing with this new change in their lives. It is such a great joy to see.

Francisca is also doing superbly. She was so sad to see Elder Lazaro go though which is so understandable as he was pretty much the only one that taught her and introduced her to this gospel that she loves so much now. All I did was sit there and smile. She and I try an communicate with each other though I often make a silly mistake in my meager Spanish and she laughs.

I got my new companion this week. Elder Anderson is from Layton, Utah. He has fiery red hair and an extremely low voice. He is very kind and easy to get along with so far. He's almost been out a year. He's had a lot of really hard companions in his mission so I want to give him a good time with lots of work, and since we have lots of work to do and I certainly love to have a good time it shouldn't be too difficult to accomplish. We've already been rather open with each other and we're off to a good start as far as getting to know each other. He seems rather down on himself a lot which, gathering from past experiences that he's already told me, is understandable. I really want to help him boost his self-confidence.

It is so wonderful not being a district leader anymore. Haha I have certainly felt a mantle of responsibility leave me over the course of a week and it's helped me be able to welcome Elder Anderson in and focus on our area alone. There are definitely things I will miss about it and there will evidently need to be some adjusting. Elder Anderson had to laugh at me on Sunday night as I had nothing to do and was therefore very antsy. Typically on a Sunday night I would be calling my district and discussing the week with them and then reporting to the zone leaders but now I just receive one call. It's weird, but a nice weird.

I am excited for this year but I want to it go as slow as possible. However I realize the probable unlikely-hood of that. This is probably the first time I've taken the new year seriously which has caused me to have a lot of serious introspection. I am excited for the goals I have made and to look back and see how well I have accomplished them and how much closer I will have come to my ultimate goals. I definitely better understand the importance of goals now. I wish everyone good luck and God's help in accomplishing your goals this year.

I wish you all a wonderful week. Be safe. Make someone happy. Put Christ first.

Love, Elder Curtis :)

Dec. 29, 2014

Hi guys!

It's been a very bitter-sweet weekend. The exciting and happy news is that Virginia and Deosha were baptized!!! It was a wonderful, simple ceremony and the Spirit was so strong! Baptisms are the best! However, the next day (Sunday) was supposed to be their confirmation but only Virginia showed up. We were afraid that would happen since Deosha doesn't like to cooperate very much in the mornings and Virginia doesn't like to force her to do things. But Virginia assures us that Deosha is coming next week. What will help with that is our time for church will be changing to 11am instead of9am. Some depressing news about transfer calls: Elder Lazaro is leaving Urbana to serve in the Spanish area. I will be staying and will serve with an Elder Andersen. I don't know a thing about him other than he has red hair. I'm sure we'll get along quite well though. I will severely miss Elder Lazaro. These two transfers have been the fastest, and most enjoyable so far.
On the other hand, this transfer is bringing me the relief I've been hoping for; I am no longer a district leader! They made another one of the Elders in my district the DL. Now I can just focus on what I'm doing and worry about me and my companion. It will be such a nice change.

I have some really cool info. that some of you might be interested in. There is a rumor lingering around the world that George Lucas investigated the church. Well Elder Lazaro has an older brother who is serving in the Santa Rosa California Mission, which happens to be where George Lucas lives and his brother just so happens to be serving in the area that he lives in. Elder Lazaro asked his brother if they have a teaching record for George Lucas, and he confirmed that they do. He investigated back in the 90's and the most recent reason he was dropped was because his butler who answers the door all the time is really mean to them and wont let them in.
I just thought that was pretty cool so I thought I'd share.

I've been learning so much lately. Or at least gaining a greater understanding of many things. The downside to being a missionary is I don't have as much time to study what I want. I've gained such a desire to learn and keep learning more and more about the gospel and seeking more, new knowledge. All I want to do is keep studying and keep discussing it. Elder Lazaro, the other Elders in my district and I love to have doctrinal discussions all the time. I'd love to continue sharing with you things I am learning but there simply is no time. Again, the worst thing about being a missionary: the lack of time. But I hope all of you are engaged in daily, if not constant study and seeking greater understanding of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God. It is vitally important that you are. It is what we take with us after we die and it is what will help us be in a better position during and after this life.
I love the gospel and the knowledge that comes in it. I know it is true. There is no doubt in my mind of the things the gospel teaches for I know them from experience. They are true and they are of great importance and worth. It is of greatest worth to declare and share it with others that we all may gain a knowledge of Christ, that through Him we may gain eternal life. I can't wait for that. Let's all step up our game and try harder to learn and grow from our own efforts. No matter how much you think you know about the gospel you know next to nothing. There is still so much to learn personally. One of the great blessings of keeping the word of wisdom is we shall have treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures. But what's the point of keeping the word of wisdom if we're not going to use the blessings offered to us for obeying it? The blessing is the opportunity to gain knowledge and power from the absolute truths of God. But that's only available upon our seeking for it. So if you're not seeking it, get seeking now.

I love all of you very much! I hope you all have a very wonderful week and a happy new year!! I can't believe it's already 2015. Yikes!

-Elder Curtis

Dec. 22, 2014

Transfer calls come this week so there is the slight possibility that I get sent away from Urbana, so as a precaution don't send me anything.

Merry Christmas everyone!!!! I can't believe it's already the week of Christmas. I also can't believe this is my second and last Christmas on my mission. Time is really starting to pick up speed over here. This whole transfer seems to me but a week long. I have a pretty strong assurance that Elder Lazaro will be leaving and I will stay here at least one more transfer. Elder Lazaro is ready to leave. He's been here his whole mission and he really wants to go to the Spanish area already. I will be sad to be separated from him. Every day has been so enjoyable and full of lots and lots of laughter.
I was on exchanges with one of my zone leaders this week and we talked about the possibility of me being released from district leader which to be completely honest would be really nice. I don't know if I stand in need of repentance for that or not. I'm beyond grateful for the time I've had to serve in this position, for I have learned so much and the growth I've experienced because of it is irreplaceable, but I've been in this position for about ten months now which wouldn't be too bad, but I've had some very challenging districts in the past. It will be nice to worry only about my area and my companion again. Here's to hoping.

Last Monday I sprained my ankle pretty bad playing some basketball. It swelled up a large amount almost instantly. The mission nurse said I had to stay in for two days keeping it iced, compressed and elevated. But instead I found some crutches and walked around with those. Now I'm kind of thinking I should have listened to the nurse because even though I can walk on it right now, it's still swollen and hurts. With the break we have on Christmas and half of Christmas Eve I will need to make sure I ice it and stay off of it.

We have some very surprising rules for Christmas. We can spend the day with members playing board games, watching sports, and watching any movie rated G or PG. Last year we could only watch Disney movies so this was quite alarming to us. The other Elders in my district want to watch Nacho Libre... I'm thinking Star Wars. Haha!

Some members of the ward will be having us over for Christmas. I talked to them and they said it will be alright if I use their Skype account around11am or so. I hope the works out and I can see all of you.

We are anxiously awaiting next weekend for the baptism of Virginia and Deosha! Ever since their commitment to be baptized they've undergone some seriously hard trials. The opposition just keeps building up on them. This is the scary part of helping someone prepare for baptism, but I know they can get through anything that comes their way. The best part is that they do too. Virginia has shown such incredible faith. I am so impressed with her. She is one valiant soul and she loves her Savior so much. The quality of her faith is so unshakably pure, I know she could move mountains with it if she had to. I am so excited for the two of them. We will hopefully be getting Tommie and Regina back on track for the same step their family members are about to take.

I think this is all for this week. I hope you all have a very merry Christmas! Please remember why we are celebrating!!! We've been given more than we can comprehend. I love the gospel and I love the Savior! This is the best time of the year; we celebrate the birth of the Greatest Thing that ever happened in the history of our existence. Remember, He is the Gift!

-Elder Curtis

Dec. 8, 2014

Hello everyone!

Let's see, I haven't really predetermined what I was going to talk about today... There's not much to report. OH, other than setting two dates this week!! We have two investigators, Tommie and Virginia. They started coming to church because of another investigator Regina was invited to come, so she invited Tommie (her cousin) and Virginia (her aunt). We are planning on setting a date with Regina and her daughter this week, hopefully for the 20 of December because that's when Tommie and Virginia have their date. The only issue we have with Regina is she talks a LOT. I am so excited for them! I've been craving a baptism lately. That feeling of the Spirit when you witness someone enter the covenant waters of baptism and then receive the Holy Ghost is the best and it's contagious. We are also planning on setting a date with Regina's daughter. I can't remember her name though. She has a really hard black person name that's hard to remember. But she's nine and she has the biggest crush on me. No joke. No exaggeration. At church she goes out of her way to say hi and we often catch her staring at me from afar and then uncontrollably giggling when I wave at her. After our lesson with them... Okay, pause. Let me draw your attention this asterisk * ... continue. After our lesson with them on Tuesday we shook everyone's hands. After shaking the young girls hand she held it open and stared at it with a gaping grin on her face. All of us laughed and Virginia walked us to the door and told us her expectation that she is never going to wash her had again. Later at the ward Christmas party I was in the helping out in the kitchen when I turned and noticed her peeking at me from the other side of the serving counter. I gave her a cheerful wave and she girlishly shuffled away toward Regina and Virginia. The other elders in the ward, including my companion love to tease me about it but I think it's quite hilarious myself.

We are excited for them and we can't wait to see them make the needed steps to baptism.

The ward Christmas party, as previously mentioned, was this week. The Elders Quorum was in charge of providing the food, so the ward mission leader decided to take charge and volunteered to roast a pig for the event. It was so cool; I had never roasted a pig before. He asked for the help of us missionaries to get it started, but after we got the fire going a cop came up and asked us to move our van away from where we had parked, but also to check and see that we were doing everything legally. They took our ward mission leaders name and when they came back after running it through their system they had a warrant for his arrest. So they took him and left us to tending the fire. Our ward mission leader got arrested! We were so confused.
He later came back though and explained to whole thing. Just something about a failure to appear to court due to the court sending the summons to the wrong address a few years ago. Apparently this is not the first time this has happened to him. It was quite the day.

I can't remember if I had already told you this or not. A couple weeks ago we were at a friend of Francisca's (our recent convert) for lunch. Francisca's intentions were for us to start teaching her friends the discussions but they weren't interested. Everyone there was speaking Spanish so I was pretty much oblivious to what was going on. Francisca's husband came in and it was clear the they were offering him some of the food but he was refusing. In my efforts to participate in conversation I attempted to ask him if he wasn't hungry, but instead I mispronounced it and ended up asking him something along the translated lines of "Are you not a man?"
It was funny.

My time is running very short. I have to go. I love you all very much. Do your best to live the gospel to the fullest! Have a great week!

-Elder Curtis

*Here I am in the silent library writing this email when out of nowhere a lady on a different computer turns to the person next to her and very loudly in her slightly southern accent says "How do you spell chicken sandwich?" It was super loud. The entire floor could hear her; she was not being quiet at all. I don't even think she was trying to be quiet. I was doing such a good job keeping my composure but then I looked at my companion and I lost it. Unfortunately our combined, muffled fits of laughter forced others in the library into submission; you could hear the chuckles everywhere. I hope the lady isn't embarrassed. Too funny! I'm still dying.

Dec. 15, 2014

It's been a long week of tracting and other means of finding new investigators with no catch, and not much else happened this week other than getting chased by dogs, but every missionary has a dog story, so I think I'll use this time uploading pictures to send you.
I would like to tell you though that Virginia and Tommie's baptismal date was moved to the 27th of this month and Tommie is going to have to wait even longer as he needs to work through a few things. However, Deosha, the infatuated nine year-old will be getting baptized on the same day. They are now solid and eager and we can't wait!
I am still loving life and living it to the fullest! Being a missionary is the best. I am happy and well and I hope all of you are as well.

I really love you all so much!

Dec. 1, 2014

Hi everyone! I trust you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. On Thursday morning we played a lot of football, followed by a wonderful meal from the Johnson family. We were able to play some games and enjoy some friendly conversation. At the end of our visit with them I led out a spiritual thought for them. Everything was going very well and the Spirit was thickening up; everything I was saying was setting them up perfectly to feel the spirit and aggrandize their desires to participate in hastening the work as a family... until Elder Lazaro, my trusted companion farted... twice. Whatever lesson they might have learned was instantly lost as their focus and attention was driven away by the untimely and unruly, yet uncontrollably humorous sounds that Elder Lazaro was trying so hard to hold in. We all had a great laugh and later after we left we laughed even harder. Clearly missionaries are a great example of maturity and composure.
With the holiday season here, things such as finding and teaching become far more difficult as everyone insists that they are too busy and inform us that they will be out of town. But we are working hard and looking forward to this Christmas season to see and be a part of many miracles. We are working hard to make sure everyone remembers the reason behind all of this celebrating. I love what the church is doing to spread the word about the "Christmas Initiative" and all of the efforts to help as many people as they can see the video they came out with. I hope everyone will join with Christ in helping Him spread the good news of the Gift He is. If you don't know what I'm talking about then go to christmas.mormon.organd watch the video. Elder Lazaro and I are handing out cards like mad men. We've even gotten a few potential investigators out of it.

I wish there was something more to share with you about our week, but everything was so slow this week and none of our investigators that we were able to see made any progress.

I was able to have some fantastic studies this week. I love the scriptures and the words of modern day prophets! I came to a further realization of the seriously important responsibility it is of ours to search, study, ponder, heed and apply the words of our prophet today- our current prophet. "A living prophet is more important than a dead one."

I hope everyone has a great week and remembers how blessed they are. Remember the Gift that was given to you. And may I remind you that any mail needs to be sent directly to my address now, not the mission office address. I love you all so much!

-Elder Curtis

Nov. 24, 2014


Last week I ran out of time before I could put together a decent letter together, so for those of you who I was not able to tell, Tom did not get baptized due to his issue with tea and China's cultural pressures. I personally also feel that there is still a lack of understanding regarding the need for a restoration which is probably caused by the language barrier, but we are still working hard with him and he remains as golden as he can be at the moment. He took us to lunch at a very expensive Chinese restaurant where there were plates that cost nearly fifty dollars! And the way they do it in China is you order a bunch of different plates which are placed in the middle of the table for everyone to share, so I had a variety of authentic Chinese foods including duck, lamb, duck soup, tofu, really good asparagus and egg plant, rice, and I even tried (or was forced to try) the fish. The tricky part was using the chop sticks but I got the hang of it eventually. Tom brought a friend named Melinda and she is interested in learning more about our church and joining us at our services, so Tom drove her to stake conference yesterday, which was fantastic. (Elder Nathaniel R. Payne of the Seventy presided).

Last week we picked up several new investigators who seem very promising. It is such a joy to have so many people to teach. There's so many people to talk to you about that I don't even want to start. Lot's of people to teach means lots of hard work, deep emotional and spiritual involvement for each person, lots to be aware of, lots to remember, lots to study, lots of disappointments, lots of joys, lots of planning and lots of struggles. You could call it a burden but it's a burden I love carrying.

Last week was also transfer week. I am not being transferred but am staying in Urbana with Elder Lazaro which I am quite thrilled about.

This week was a very long week. Elder Lazaro was very sick and therefore spent about half of the week inside so he could rest, recover, and use the bathroom when needed, which was needed a lot. It's so hard staying inside when there's so much to do. I was going crazy by Wednesday. Due to him being so sick we had to cancel many of our appointments which I hated doing. He is doing a lot better this week and we are eager to make up for the time we lost. Extra time sitting in the apartment does however give you lots of time to pause and reflect on many things. Throughout my mission I have been a witness of so many miracles. Miracles are all around us and they happen every day. I believe it was President Monson who said "Miracles are to be found all around when the priesthood is understood..." The priesthood is Gods power. He uses it for the salvation of His children. It is by the priesthood that miracles are wrought. It is by His power, the priesthood, that He does all things, that all things were created and live. God is in the business of miracles; He is the business of miracles, both small and mighty. His power is matchless and it preserves us. As some of you have already heard, two Elders from my mission were in a very serious car accident this week. On the highway, a semi truck blew a tire, sending the truck and its load into the median and into oncoming traffic where the Elders were driving. When the truck left the median into oncoming traffic it went airborne over the Elders car. But the trailer it was carrying came down and ripped through the top of the car. The missionaries were literally smashed in the face with a flying semi truck trailer, both going over 60 miles an hour. They should have died on impact but miraculously they lived. Though the condition they were in after the crash was extremely critical they were released from the hospital just a couple of days later. They are recovering remarkably well, walking around and will soon return to their work.

What a miracle! Surly there is nothing more powerful than the priesthood. Nothing can match the power that God possesses and what a marvelous thing it is that He has given worthy men that same power! Like I said before, I have seen countless miracles throughout my mission and I know I will continue to witness more and more, for miracles have not ceased and they never will.

On a much less dramatic note the USPS is no longer forwarding letters or packages. Anything sent to the mission office will now be held until it can be distributed at a zone conference or transfer meeting. Instead of of using the mission office address please use my direct address and do not send anything the week prior to transfer week as that address is quite subject to change by the time it arrives. I will do my best to inform you when transfers are coming up in case anyone is planning on sending anything and I will of course provide my most current address when I know it, trusting that it will be shared and updated with everyone through facebook and my blog. For those of you who do not know what my current address is it is:

1026 E. Kerr st. apt. 301

Urbana, IL 61802

I love you all. I thank you for all of your love, support, prayers etc. I hope you all know that I love you very much and I am grateful for each of you in my life. I thank God upon every remembrance of each of you.

Have a fantastic week! Look for the miracles in your life; they're there.

-Elder Curtis

Nov. 10, 2014

Hi everyone!
This weeks email might be a little short, I don't know, but I'll explain why: about four weeks ago we were here emailing, doing our normal thing. A man probably in his mid-twenty's sat at the computer across from me. Looking at him you might think he is a thug or a punk. He wore big, baggy clothing with crazy designs and patterns with skulls surrounded by a sort of paisley and he sported a hat and had tattoos and piercings. I felt a strong impression to talk to him. So I did. Come to find out his name is Kurtis, so we had a connection (despite his being spelled with a K and he thought that was better, but it's cool). But in conversation I told him who I was and what I was doing there dressed up nicely and wearing a name tag. He explained that he had been looking for a new church; one that teaches truth and something new. Naturally I told him I thought he would enjoy our church services and invited him to come. He accepted. I then told him that we would love an opportunity to come visit him and teach him more. He accepted and went on to explain to me that he feels very harshly judged by pretty much everyone that sees him; like he's some thug on the street because of his style. But if they were to talk to him they would find out he is going to school, he has his own place, he is raising and supporting four children and he even just started his own business which is taking off with surprising success for the first two weeks of it being open. Admittedly I was guilty of what he accused others of doing. But God isn't, for He knows Kurtis, and I believe we were both guided there by Him so I would talk to him. And I'm glad I did. We set up a time to meet with him for Wednesday. I asked for his address which he didn't know, so he had to rummage through his bag until he found one that must have been familiar to him. I wrote it down and we departed.
We came to the address he gave us on Wednesday to discover that it was the address of the school's buildings he goes to, not his home address. We went in to see if he might be in there waiting or if we could get anymore information but we had no luck. To my own embarrassment and dismay I somehow neglected to get a phone number from him on Monday, so we had no way of finding him or contacting him. I felt so horrible for I thought my negligence had lost us a very willing soul, for Kurtis seemed so golden; I had such a good feeling about him and we even mostly shared the same name! I was certain we were meant to find him and I ruined it. I remembered him explaining that he lived near/behind a chase bank not too far from the library. We spent a lot of time knocking on doors trying to find Kurtis but did not have any luck. We moved on, I still felt guilty and earnestly kept an eye out for him whenever we were in the area he described. We thought we might find him at the library again but for many weeks he was a no show. Until now! Kurtis just walked in and we talked. We explained everything; he's still interested and he's free right now so once he is done checking his email we are going to find a corner of the library and teach him the restoration!
So that's why I might not be able to tell you everything I had planned on telling you today, and I realize I probably could have written it with the time I took writing what you've just read but I think Kurtis took priority. That, and I am just so thrilled we found him again that I had to tell you!

So Francisca is awesome! She brought her friend Mica to her home where we taught her and we ended up setting a date with her for the 22nd! I think it's fairly solid, but we'll have to see. She's a little uncertain of some things. I'm not too worried though, not when Francisca is her main fellowshipper. Then later this week she called us and asked if we'd be able to come over the next day to teach another friend of hers. This friend ended up flaking out so we weren't able to teach them but it is so wonderful to see Francisca inviting so many people! This little "Lamanite" woman has "[blossomed] as the rose".

Tom is scheduled for baptism this Friday but we need some prayers for him. He has some issues with the word of wisdom. Not that he's addicted to anything it teaches against, but when he goes back to China and keeps the word of wisdom it will ruin his social life. Apparently it is custom to drink alcohol as a social greeting and is very offensive if you don't and can therefore destroy your social reputation (and we're thinking he has a very high rep). He personally thinks drinking is ridiculous and prefers not to in the first place but he is not willing to give up the social and custom aspects of it. We asked him to pray about it and give it some thought. We don't think he quite understands commandments clearly. We need prayers on his behalf, that he'll understand and be willing to keep these commandments to receive the blessings.

We continue seeing all kinds of miracles each day. I'm loving each day and loving life. I have to go now! I love you all so very very much!

-Elder Curtis

Nov. 3, 2014

I still can't believe how fast time goes by. It's unreal. It seems not so long ago I was enjoying Halloween with my first companion and some wonderful members in St Louis. Now a year has gone by since then and I've experienced so much in what feels like so little time.

My mission seems to be flooded with miracles. Too many to count or recall. This week alone produced several miracles of all sizes, all of them witnessing to me that God is in this work, He loves us, He guides us and He provides everything for us. He truly is a God of miracles. He is definitely a God with a plan too.

We ended up picking up four new, solid investigators this week out of the blue. One of them we found through our own efforts. One was brought to church by francisca, our recent convert. And the last two showed up randomly to church. All of them have great desires to learn more and keep coming to church. It's so great! Tom is also going to get baptized next week on Friday, so we are very excited for that!

I rode a bike for the first time on my mission this week. I borrowed another Elder's bike and equipment that he wasn't using and we proselyted on those for a while to save miles. It was fun, but also cold and not quite as fast as driving. But I did feel more like a missionary according to what my idea of a missionary was before my mission. I am grateful for our van though and I am blessed to have had a car almost my entire mission. It saves so much time.

I had the opportunity of having a discussion with two Muslims on Saturday about our different religions. One was from Egypt, the other from Kuwait. They are going to school at the University of Illinois, which is here in Urbana. (Side note: the one from Kuwait is studying to become a pilot... I thought that was rather bold of him) They were very interested in understanding the difference between Mormons and what they called "mainstream Christianity". We were of course happy to oblige. The conversation soon came to our reason for worshiping Christ and the need for a Savior and stayed there for a while. With their background they simply did not understand the need for a Mediator. We did everything we could to explain it to them but eventually it all comes down to testifying. It was a very memorable experience and I now have a much deeper knowledge of the Muslims. I was very surprised to find many similarities between us. shortly before ending the conversation, Solom (the one from Kuwait), told us that he really respects Mormons and thinks that if everyone in the USA was a Mormon then the world would be a much better place. Solom is on to something there! ;)

I also left with a greater appreciation for my Savior and the knowledge and understanding I have of Him and His gospel. He's more than a prophet, He is Alpha and Omega, the Almighty, the Prince of Peace, the Savior and Redeemer of the world. He is the Way. I know that. I love Him and I love all of you. I hope you all have a great week

-Elder Curtis

Oct. 27, 2014

Dear family and friends,

I am still doing quite fantastic here in Urbana! This week felt very long and certainly had its reasons why, however, it was a great week. I love the gospel and the atonement that allows me to carry on in hope and optimism in slow weeks. I just love it! It also helps to have a really great companion who you can get along with so well. Even though the week was long and had a lot of disappointments we also witnessed a lot miracles, tender mercies and teach a good amount of lessons. I suppose the week felt long and dreary was because no one really kept their commitment. But God is so good, and He certainly puts a lot of things in our path just to show us He loves us. If we open our eyes to it, we'll find them. And if we do our part then it wont matter what happens, we will have peace, contentment and joy.

One great thing that came out of this week comes from one investigator named Clarence. Clarence was investigating before I got here but for a while they/we couldn't get a hold of him. He wouldn't answer phone calls of texts. Clarence is a pastor of a different church and when he was taught the restoration he didn't take the idea of priesthood authority very well and argued vehemently about it. We were thinking we would have to drop him if he didn't get an answer from him really soon. Just the other night we got a text from him that said he had been thinking a lot lately and that being baptized again might not be such a bad idea, but that he's still thinking about it. We set up a time where we could meet with him at a members house. He wanted to continue hearing the lessons we teach, so we began the plan of salvation with him and got to the point of the atonement before it got too late. He is a very good listener and certainly knows the bible well. But using the bible, The Book of Mormon and our own testimonies we explained the pre-earth life, the creation, the fall, our life on earth and the atonement. He asks such great questions! I love it because it assures me that we are teaching to his understanding because many of his questions are actually just him making connections with other true doctrine. He thought it was all very powerful and he especially was interested in the fact that we lived with God before we came here; were taught and led by Him with each other before this world was even created. I love the Book of Mormon and the clarity it brings to doctrine. We were reading the teachings of Nephi and after the lesson he explained how he really liked how Nephi "throws down on the doctrine, explaining it so simply."
We are excited for Clarence. He has a desire to truly know if our church is true. He had to humble himself to the possibility, and now he is earnestly seeking his answer. He will have to make some big sacrifices if he chooses to join when he finds out it's true.

Francisca is doing very well in the church. We went to see her this week to begin teaching her the new member lessons but she used much persuasion to get her husband, Juan to sit down with us and listen to our message instead. Juan, simply put, just doesn't want to change religions or take the time to find out truth, so when we began telling us what he believes and "always will believe", Francisca started telling him how wrong he was and pretty much began scripture bashing with her own husband, pulling out scriptures and things we taught her only days before to prove him wrong. However inappropriate bashing is, it was really remarkable to see her testimony and conversion displayed with such certainty, conviction and power and her desire for those she loves to have it too when she had only been a member of the church for two days! She learned that day however that bashing gets you nowhere so she won't do that anymore.

I'd love to go on and on about things that I did this week or things I noticed or loved but I am running very low on time. Just know I am loving life so much! And I love all of you very very much. I say that every week, but it couldn't be more true. I love you guys!!! I hope all of you are well. May the Lord bless you and may His love shine upon you!

-Elder Aaron Curtis

Oct. 20, 2014

Hi everyone!!

It has been a crazy week full of lot's of exciting things. We've had a ton of really good lessons this week which is really great considering the fact that we didn't have our van for half of the week because it was in the shop. Despite transportation we managed to get ourselves all around town and see most of our investigators. The most exciting thing is probably the baptism of Francisca Borja! Francisca had been investigating for a little over a month. When she first started taking the discussions she said that she would never ever join our church. Well now she's a member of the church!
She understands very little English, so for the past month or so Elder Lazaro has been the only one teaching in the discussions. Last week we saw her multiple times and she told us that she wanted to be baptized that week! We didn't even have a legitimate date set with her, but with a lot of last minute preparations we managed to get her baptized and confirmed this weekend. We were pleased with how everything went and the cooperation of the ward with everything.
The baptism itself was probably the most spiritual ceremony I have been to in my life. The spirit was so strong in everyone present, especially in Francisca. She was so touched by the spirit and so eagerly soaking in every single word spoken; you would look at her and you just knew that she knew what she was doing and she understood the significance of what was happening. Many times before, during, and after the ordinance we had to pause because she was so overwhelmed with the Spirit; huge tears constantly poured out of her eyes. It was such a joy just to be there and to feel the heavenly sweetness that filled that room. Another interesting thing, because she speaks mostly Spanish and the Urbana ward mostly speaks English we had a bilingual ceremony where there were Spanish speakers with English interpreters and English Speakers with Spanish interpreters. Francisca also asked me to offer the opening prayer in Spanish... so I did! But now the ward thinks I know Spanish because I said the prayer so well. Truth be told, I read Spanish fairly well, so I had cheat sheet that I had Elder Lazaro make for me. I have a picture to send but the computer isn't "compatible" with my camera... these are kind of old computers.
Like I've said, the work is going very well here and I absolutely love it! We are going to have another baptism in a couple of weeks. We set the date with this investigator, Tom from China, a couple of days ago. He is ready and was even eager to set the date. We taught him the Gospel of Jesus Christ (which is the third discussion typically) and when we had finished explaining the principle of baptism he stopped us, pointed and the word and said, "When can I do this?" How awesome it that!
So November 1 is his official date but it could be pushed back to be closer to his birthday if he is in town then. Tom is great. We love Tom.
Urbana reminds me a lot of Indiana. It's beautiful and full of trees and flat everywhere. There are also a lot of Indiana license plates here. I think we are almost an hour from the border. I really want to go back to Indiana.
I really enjoy serving with Elder Lazaro. He is really funny and we get along really well. We always have good time. He's easy to work and to teach with; he prepared well for his mission. He's also very humble which makes it easier to work with and be humble myself. Life for me couldn't really get any better. I'm having the time of my life! It's no wonder why Christ said, "whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall find it." (I think that's how it went). It is so true. By losing myself in the gospel of Jesus Christ I have gained more than I could ever give. I am happier than I could ever be.

-Elder Curtis :)

Oct. 14, 2014

Hello guys!
Boy, life is sure wonderful. I made it to Urbana, Illinois safe and sound and immediately went to work. We have over twenty people we are teaching right now which is so nice! We are also finding more and more. I love it! The ward here seems great as well. There are lot's of families with a vast variety of ages, so there a lot of children, often making it a little rowdy during sacrament meeting, but I love it. It reminds me of my ward back in Utah.
I think in my last email I spelled my new companions name wrong. His name is Elder Lazaro. He is from Spain and he does speak English very well and he is awesome! I love him a ton. In so many ways he reminds me of my Spencer Parkes which is great! We already work extremely well and hard together and at the same time it is a lot of fun.
Yesterday morning we got up at 4:30am to make the long drive to St Louis for a special mission conference. It was so incredible! Every single missionary in our mission was there which has never happened before, and we had a special visit from Elder Joseph Sitati of the first quorum of the seventy. The spirit of revelation was so strong there. It was an experience I will never forget. Elder Sitati and his wife were wonderful and gave us so many fantastic insights and things to ponder on. We also had a wonderful surprise: We got to watch the new movie, Meet the Mormons! It was great! Everyone should definitely see it. I am so pleased with the amount of success it has had all around the country.
So guess what? I drive a mini-van now. Yup, that's right. And many times I pick up other missionaries who don't have a vehicle to take them to church or district meeting or shopping or other various places, so the nick-name "Mama Curtis" is starting to stick to me. Yay.
Mom, I finally got that package. Thank you very much! And thank you to Grandmas as well! I loved it and everything was much appreciated.
I love being a missionary. I am so grateful for this experience and the growth and experiences I have gained. I know there is no more rewarding work than this.
I love all of you so much, I can't even tell you. I love to hear how each of you are doing. I am so blessed to have the best family and friends in the world. I love you guys!

-Elder Curtis

Oct. 6, 2014

Buenos Dias!

That was one of my favorite parts of conference, when Elder Christopherson said that. Hilarious!
This had to be one of the best conferences ever! My absolute favorite part was probably just the entire first session. It was so powerful and beautiful. What a wonderful blessing it is to have prophets and apostles on the earth today. I like to imagine us like the people of King Benjamin who all gathered together to hear the word of God through a prophet in their day. We have that same opportunity in our day! I just think that's so cool. God blesses us with prophets in every dispensation.
While my thoughts are still in the book of Mosiah I think I'll share something I learned in my studies earlier this week.
In Mosiah chapter 24, the people of Alma are under the authority Amulon, who is not a very friendly guy to Alma or his people but Amulon can't just destroy them because he is technically not in charge; Laman, king of the lamanites gave Amulon authority over them, nothing else. So Amulon begins exercising authority over them by putting tasks on them and task masters over them. "so great were their afflictions that they began to cry mightily to God" for help. Soon Amulon demanded that they stop doing that, and whoever wouldn't stop praying would be put to death.
So the people stopped praying out loud but instead they "did pour out their hearts to him; and he did know the thoughts of their hearts."
God did counsel them to be of good comfort because He would deliver them. He truly did help them; this is the account of what happened:
13 And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.
14 And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.
15 And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.
These people were in distress and under heavy persecution. Their faith was being tried. Because of their faith, God did visit them in their afflictions and they were given the strength to endure. They were not taken out of their afflictions; they were given the ability to persevere. This is the enabling power of the atonement. God will not take away the opportunities to grow spiritually and strengthen our testimonies and faith. Instead He will visit us in these times and show us what we are capable of doing in the hard times- what we are capable of doing despite the hard times, all possible of the power of the infinite atonement.
But notice that in the midst of persecution and heavy burdens, the people were blessed with this strength because they had such faith that they would "submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord." It was important to these people that God's will was done, not their own. They gave their own will up, having faith that whatever God's will would be it would be what is best for them.
I like what the Lord says to them in verse 14, "I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions." He said He visits us in afflictions, not takes us from afflictions. In His infinite wisdom and mercy, our Savior Jesus Christ, comes to us in difficult circumstances and offers us His help. Much like a home teacher will come for a visit and see if there is any need of ours in which he can be of help. Except the Lord knows exactly how to help us. He makes the visit, then if we are willing to give up our will and submit to His, He will give us the assistance we need and we will grow in strength as well as in our relationship with Him as we allow ourselves to work side by side with Him. Is this not a perfect example of the Lords plea to us to take His yoke upon us, for it is easy and His burden is light. He offers us rest from our afflictions as we take our load to Him and take what He has for us instead. By doing this we are given the strength to do things beyond our finite capabilities. He enables us to do what we normally would not be able to do. This is His grace in work. This is the truth of the atonement, that it changes people, not situations. I testify to that truth. As we faithfully and willingly give our hearts to Him, He builds us. He strengthens us. He enables us. I think we can all allow ourselves to be changed more by the grace of His atonement. We just received counsel from God's called and divinely chosen servants on how we can do this.

In other news, we got transfer calls:
I am going to Urbana, Illinois. That's way over by the Indiana border and not too far of a drive from Chicago. I will be followup training an Elder Logero. He is from Spain! I'm not entirely sure he knows English... It's fine. I will be a district leader up there as well. I will send the address in next weeks email.
I am really going to miss Waterloo. I think this will be the hardest area to leave. I love the people and the area so much!! Plus Urbana is really really cold; it gets wind from Lake Michigan in the winter. I know Brandon knows what that's like. I am really excited though too.
This week was a big testimony builder to me of the principle that the gospel blesses families. Allow me to share:
Back in July we baptized a young woman named Tiffany. Tiffany investigated for a very long time (about three and a half years) because she wasn't allowed to get baptized until she was 18. Through the process of Tiffany investigating the church, the missionaries invited her mom, Connie and Connie's boyfriend, Dwayne to investigate as well. They did for a few weeks but quickly turned it down. Just before Tiffany's baptism, Elder Bowen and I talked to Connie and Dwayne about why they turned it down when they could see how much it was blessing the life of her daughter. Basically what they told us is they didn't want to give up all the worldly things and socialites that he word of wisdom prohibits, and that was the end of that.
Well a few weeks ago Elder Johnson and I went on exchanges with the zone leaders. While Elder Johnson was in the zone leaders area they contacted a man who said he knew someone who just joined our church. Come to find out it was Tiffany and this man is her uncle, Connie's brother. He willingly let them in because he knew how happy his niece is because of her church and he flat out said he wanted to be happy like that and is ready for a change in his life.
A couple of days later we got a call from our branch mission leader inviting over to his house that evening. We arrived to find Connie and Dwayne there as well. They had come to the McCann's (our branch mission leader) in tears explaining to them that they were tired of the sorrow and grief, the drama and ignorance they were living in. They told us they were ready to make the change in their life to truly follow Christ and be free of all of the grief the lack of the gospel brings. They humbled themselves and talked about it together. They believe that this is the only true way to Christ and they want it. They have made a complete 180 and are so golden now. It is amazing to me to see this very dysfunctional and broken family come together through this gospel. The gospel truly does bless families. We are in the process of teaching Connie and Dwayne and they are progressing very well. Connie's brother has a baptismal date and is working hard to make it happen. What a marvelous work this is!
I am so grateful to have this gospel and to be sharing its truths to God's children here. I love having these experiences so much! I know this is the true church of Jesus Christ and that this gospel is our guide to lasting, true happiness and a fullness of it. May we all strive to live the gospel more fully, that we may experience the joy of the atonement and have God's spirit with us always. I pray that God will be with all of you. I love all of you so much; family, friends and all.

Love, Elder Aaron Curtis

Sep. 29, 2014

Hi everyone!
Okay, real quick, I have not bee transferred out of Waterloo YET. Next week is transfers, so this Saturday we'll find out where I'm going. I'm sure I am leaving because I will be done training Elder Johnson by the end of this week. That means I'm out of here. I will miss Waterloo so much! I love this place and its people.
I got the package from the ward/relief society/young women... I'm not entirely sure who exactly it was from because a lot of different people signed it. But I loved it and am so grateful to everyone who was a part of it! I brag about my home ward a lot. I can't believe how blessed I was to grow up in such an awesome ward. I am excited for the new bishopric. I know they will do an outstanding job.
We ended up dropping most of our teaching pool this week. That is always hard for me to do. But tonight we have an appointment with a couple who called some members of our branch and told them that they are ready to change their lives. We are going to have dinner with them tonight and give them the help the gospel brings. I can't wait!
I've got to go so that's all for this week. I love you guys so much!

Elder Curtis

Sep. 22, 2014

Hi everyone!

Although there is much to talk about I am going to leave this one short. Time is limited and we've got lots to do.
The week was slow, but this week should be better. Everyone is "so busy" that we haven't really been able to meet with too many people.
This week we had a family history fair at our church. It was open to the public and was advertised all over the county for weeks. We had a great turnout! People from all over came and learned more about family history and genealogy. There was even a man from Florida who showed up. It was so good to have so many people who are not members of the church or who don't know much about the church come into our building and learn more about us in an "nonthreatening" way. Planting seeds for days!
It has been a challenging week in many ways, but it has been a wonderful one. I am growing in Christ. I am learning so much. I am gaining so much. I surly know that Christ loves each and every one of us. I know that He is in our lives. I love Him so much and I am so grateful to have this short opportunity to represent Him. I know through Him our burdens can be lifted and all things will be for our good. You have a Savior. A real Savior who loves you. Look to Him in all that you do. Share His light.
I love all of you so much!

-Elder Curtis

Sep. 15, 2014

Well hi!
It's starting to get cold in my little portion of the Mid-West, and I'm not entirely thrilled about it. But while the temperatures have been dropping lower my spirit has been soaring higher! I have seen so many miracles this week; so many wonderful learning and teaching experiences and so many testimony building moments. We found four new investigators this week! Gean, Marlene, Moises, and Jerry.
Gean is an old, lonely man who just put his wife in a nursing home. We've stopped by a couple of times before to visit with him and do some service for him and gave him his own copy of the Book of Mormon. But one day he asked us to share a "thought" with him, which usually he declines. Alma chapter 7 came to mind and we shared some verses and thoughts on the atonement. He began to open up and he bore his own testimony of how important it is to follow Christ as much as possible. That was what we were looking for; it was time for him to eat his own words. We testified of the Book of Mormon being the word of God and being true and explained to him that if it really was the word of God, then he was not doing the his best to follow Christ and obey His teachings because he was not reading all of His word. He was slightly taken aback, but he thought a moment and agreed that he needed to read the book. He committed to read the Book of Mormon each morning when he reads the Bible.
Marlene is a Lutheran. She has been for 62 years, but in talking with her she is not sure what the nature of God is or her relationship with him, among other things that she still has not been able to find answers for in her 62 years of Lutheran worship. She also has been curious about our beliefs and the differences between them. We told her we could answer the questions she had and help her learn anything she wanted to know. Because time was short we had to end it with a prayer right there. We are seeing her again this Saturday.
Moises is a former investigator of the Sister missionaries. They handed him to us to teach but contacting him is hard, but we were finally able to meet him. He is pretty solid. He has been reading the Book of Mormon and has loved it. He loved the things the sisters taught him and is happy to meet again. We will see him next Monday.
Jerry is another elderly man. He was introduced to the church by his friend in Wyoming a couple years ago. After investigating it a little bit he and his wife decided they weren't ready for it. We stopped by and he boldly gave us the concerns he had. We cleared them up for him right there and bore testimony of the church. I guess he was impressed. His whole attitude changed. Three times after that he said he was very grateful we stopped by and he's been meaning to attend church but hasn't. But now that we stopped by and talked to him he is determined to come once he gets back from Alaska. He also said he would take his Book of Mormon with him and read it.
I have a lot of hope for these people! Beyond them, we were able to talk to lots of people and help them feel the spirit very strongly. The work is moving forward in Waterloo!

-Elder Curtis

P.S. Thank you for all the birthday wishes. I love you guys!

Sep. 8, 2014

This week wasn't filled with very much teaching, so it's a good thing I love service! We had many service opportunities and I greatly enjoyed it. However, we need people to teach, badly. Lately we've been finding people for the missionaries outside of our area to teach instead of ours, so we will be exerting extra effort on finding people for us to teach.
We had a unique experience this week. We got a call from an unfamilar number. It was member of the church who lives within our branch but hasn't been to church in over 30 years. He called us up to invite us to his house for dinner on Sunday. We arrived last night to meet him, his two sons and his niece. We had a nice meal and recieved fresh vegitables from their garden, then sat down to share a little message about the restoration. We didn't get very far into the lesson before it got too late and we had to go, but they committed to coming to church next Sunday and the sister missionaries are going to meet with them again to teach them about the restoration fully. It was the first time I've ever had someone call US to come to them and help them come closer to Christ. Seemingly out of nowhere this inactive member decided to have the missionaires over to meet his non-member family. We came to find out that all those years of inactivity didn't go by unnoticed. This man's faithful home-teacher has been over to his house every single month for over 30 years. 30 YEARS! That's 30 years of seemingly zero results. 30 years of effort for just one man who seemed as though he would never change. This faithful, aged and well experienced home-teacher showed all the excitement and thrill he had the energy for when he found out what was happening. Joy illuminated his eyes at hearing of the long-awaited results of his efforts. What a perfect example of the true principle that not one of our efforts is wasted! For 30 years he would stop by every month and would show up again if he didn't make contact. This is a huge testimony builder to me of home-teaching. The Lord has given us a very important and influential duty as home-teachers and visiting-teachers. It is but one of our calls to action and He takes it very seriously. It is a powerful way of reaching out to His beloved children, especially to those who are lost or wayward. I know home-teaching is important. Go and do the things which the Lord has commanded and do it with a perfect brightness of hope and love toward all men! We are the Lords search and rescue team. We cannot fail.
I know this is His work. This is the work of salvation. Not just the work of salvation for those that are lost, but even ourselves. I know God loves us. I know He blesses us and watches over us. I know all good things testify of Christ. I testify that He is our loving Savior and Redeemer and that He lives. I have seen Him in many ways. He goes before us. He is on our right and on our left. He guides us and constantly lifts us higher, making us better- making us Godly.
I love each of you so much! Shout out to Alex, Alicia, and McKenna: I hope you have wonderful birthdays this week! I love you and will be thinking of you.

-Elder Aaron Curtis

Sep. 2, 2014

Somehow a cricket got inside of our apartment a few nights ago and has been hiding somewhere (the kitchen, I think) and every night since it has made its loud, constant cricket noises inside our house in the middle of the night (usually about 3:30am) and doesn't sop until we get up at 6:30. As soon as it starts, I wake up and can't fall back asleep because of the noise. But last night at 11:30 there was a huge thunderstorm and a tornado, which I had no problem sleeping through. I can sleep soundly through a tornado, but not a silly cricket? I don't get it.

Anyways, we had a pretty slow week, as far as the work went, but it seems like the week itself flew by. We had a very spiritually uplifting experience at a dinner appointment with some members of our branch who invited two of their friends, Mike and Julie. Mike was just diagnosed with some sort of cancer in his jaw and these members asked us to share the plan of salvation with them in hopes to give them hope and comfort. The spirit was very strong in the room. We ended up giving blessings to both Mike and Julie and they both wanted to learn more about the gospel.

Matt continues to be as solid as ever. We began the new-member discussions with him. He retains everything so well and has and elite understanding of everything for how new he is to all of it. I love being able to teach someone like that. We are focusing on finding more investigators, as we do not have any solid ones anymore. But they're out there somewhere, and we will find them.

Yesterday I took Elder Johnson up to St. Louis to see the arch. It is such a cool building, but I have no idea why they built it. However, it served very useful to us missionaries: To transport us to the top they cram five people into these tiny capsules and those hoist you up to the top. The trip takes about five minutes. That is five whole minutes of very good seed planting. We met a lady from Minneapolis, and a young man from Chicago and got to explain what missionaries are. Both were very receptive.

This is all I can really think of sharing. I've had some really awesome insights from my studies this week, but I don't have time to start on that.
I hope you all are doing well! I love you!

-Elder Curtis

Aug. 25, 2014

Dearest people,
how great is my joy at this moment! This week I have witnessed the Lords hand and seen His blessings which are ever so abundant, the highlight of course being Matt's baptism. I can't tell you how wonderful it was! It is hard to write to you about the best parts of my missionary experience such as baptisms or temple trips. It's just gotta be experienced. When you think about it, that is the case with every gospel principle. One perfect example: To know the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, one must read it, ponder it, and ask God if it is true, having real intent. To know that paying tithing will bring blessing, one must first pay the tithe.
I can't explain to you the joy I feel for being an instrument in the Lord's hands to bring a precious soul unto Him. I can encourage you to try it for yourself though. We all know someone who could benefit from the gospel. Go, help them receive it. How great will be your joy!
That's all I can share with you today; otherwise I would share the experience of Matt's baptism with you, but people are waiting for my computer.
I love you all! Be good. Do good.

Elder Curtis

Aug. 18, 2014

Right now we're sitting in the quiet library, emailing. Before we got here I switched our text-tone on our phone to "cat" and turned it up all the way before handing it off to Elder Johnson to hold. It just went off three times with a loud cat meow. He is so embarrassed right now. People are giving him the weirdest looks and the librarians are giggling. Poor guy. Haha! He's so fun to tease.

Things are so great! We are anxiously awaiting this Saturday for the baptism of Matt Adele. That guy is solid as a diamond and cannot wait to be baptized! It was so easy to teach him; he was so receptive and so prepared it blows my mind. The Lords hand has been SO evident in this whole process. This is exactly what Matt, his grandpa, the branch, Elder Johnson, and I needed and the Lord made it happen. I love Him!

The beginning of last week showed me that God would like to bring back down a little on the pride scale. We were driving to "zone p-day" to play some softball with the rest of the missionaries in the zone. While driving up there my mind was racing, going through a lot of things that I don't even remember anymore. In essence I was very distracted. I rounded an abrupt turn on the highway when I noticed a giant ketchup bottle clear at the other end of the road about a quarter mile away, but it was huge, so it was hard not to see it. Well I now even more distracted than I was before and I ran right through a red light. I didn't even realized what I had done until one of the missionaries in the car with us jokingly said something like "Okay, well I guess red aren't that important to stop at." Luckily there weren't a whole lot of cars going through, otherwise that would have been a lot worse, but it was thoroughly embarrassing.
When we got to the game they put me in center field. I was facing the sun almost directly. One ball was hit directly at me, but I could not see it at all. It hit me square in the eye. Instantly I felt my face swelling and the blood vessels underneath my eye popping. I had a big shiner within a minute. There was no use being upset about anything, so I picked up the ball and threw it back to another player and continued to play.
Later I was up to bat. The ball was thrown and I swung. I don't know how it happened, but when I swung I popped my shoulder out of place. It was just hanging there out of it's joint and I couldn't move it at all. I hit the ball though so I ran to first base where I jerked my arm, attempting to put it back in place. It popped back in, so I think I did it right. It was sore for quite some time after that.
It just was not the best day for me. I was struggling, but it brought me back to remembrance of a talk that I really love by Joseph B. Worthlin titled "Come What May and Love It". In that talk he gives his insight on how adversity can be used to grow, learn and make us happy. The first skill he suggests we develop is learning to laugh. I know this principle works. Through my mission I have seen so much disappointment and misfortune. It would be easy to be mad or discouraged at times, but instead I have laughed. I can see the difference it makes in my life. It is easier to find solutions and to receive joy in your adversity if you can find humor in it. It has become easier as I have continued to practice. Trust in the Lord and our Heavenly Father is still so key. Keeping an eternal perspective on things and recognizing the eternal value of whatever situation or adversity you may find yourself in will always make it easier and will allow you to learn, grow, and be happier so much more than any other way. Perhaps instead of enduring to the end we could try enjoying to the end.

We had the opportunity to go on exchanged again this week. On exchanges we taught the restoration to Ketrick. He is the one I think I wrote about who read one chapter of The Book of Mormon and knew it was true. The Holy Ghost confirmed it to him so strongly that he called his friend who gave it to him and told him he wanted to be baptized.
Ketrick accepted the message of the restoration so well and desires only to learn more and be baptized. But there is one big road block in his way: His mother is very opposed to Mormons and would only let him come to church one time and one time only. She does not approve of him meeting with us. Ketrick is only 16 so he would need her permission to pursue this and be baptized. He fears his mom and does not want to go against her secretly, so he has determined that he will wait as long as he needs to in order to be baptized. He will continue reading The Book of Mormon, try to meet with us weekly, and continue this until he is 18 and will then be allowed to make the decision for himself. He shows such tremendous faith. He knows what he felt and he knows it is true and he will not deny it. This kid blows me away. We are earnestly praying for his mothers heart to be softened.

I am so grateful for the miracles and the blessing I have been able to witness and be a part of on this mission. There is no greater thing I could do than this and there is no other thing I'd rather do. These experiences are irreplaceable. The memories are priceless. The joy is immeasurable. I am so grateful to my Lord and Savior for allowing me a chance every day to try again where I have failed and to pick me up when I do. We owe Him everything. I am so glad I can be His representative for this short and precious time.
I love you all so dearly.

Elder Curtis

Aug. 11, 2014

This week I had the unforgettably wonderful experience of going to the temple! What added to the joy was a member from Poplar Bluff, where I served, that I got very close to, came up and received his endowment and I got to be there to witness it. I can't express how happy I was to be there and to see that.
I love the temple. I remember going there often before my mission and loving it so much. It had been so long since the last time I was there, it was almost all new to me again. I vowed a long time ago that when I get home I will go to the temple at least once a week, more if possible. I think the privilege of temples is taken for granted. It is one of the greatest blessings we have on earth to have something so holy and sacred. If you're not already, then I would encourage everyone to go to the temple this week. But don't feel justified in just attending this week; go more. \

Things in Waterloo continue to look up. Matt continues to progress toward his baptism date. We are working well with the branch and we are doing great.
Sorry this one is short. I love you all so much.

Elder Curtis

Aug. 8, 2014

Where did the year go? I woke up on the 31st and it hit me pretty hard how little time I have left now that I've been a year. My companion decided he would try to taunt me about it but he learned quickly that that was a mistake...
Waterloo continues to grow on me. This is the most missionary-minded area I've served in and I love it so much. Yesterday we met up with our branch president to teach a lovely elderly woman named Diana who has been taught everything by the missionaries before but just hadn't made the commitment to join or come to the conclusion that all she had been taught is true. By the convincing power of the Holy Ghost she walk out of that lesson knowing the truth of the gospel for herself and knew she wanted to be baptized. The only thing we're waiting for now is to find a date for her to be baptized. The problem is she lives in Iowa and doesn't know anyone in the church up there. We're going to get her the connections she needs and then she'll have the support she needs whether she is home or taking one of her regular visits down here in Illinois. We are excited for her. It was a spiritually thrilling lesson guided 100% by the spirit.
We have seen many people's minds come to a greater realization of God's love and the truth of the gospel this week and it has been truly remarkable to be a part of it. Elder Johnson and I are on fire! Guys, I love this gospel so much! I love sharing it! I have obtained a state of happiness that only exists in those who commit themselves to serving God and His children. I can't describe this joy I feel, I can only encourage you to seek it out yourself. There is no greater joy than this! I'm going to do this forever. I know the importance of this work; it is of utmost priority: "After all that has been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the gospel." -Joseph Smith. That is true. I testify of that! I am so grateful to have this very short but very special opportunity to serve my Savior and King.

Elder Curtis

July 28, 2014

What a week!

On Monday we we met up with a family from my very first area and spent some time with them, which I absolutely loved! They took us to a place called Jefferson Barack's, which is a huge military cemetery near St. Louis with thousands and thousands of graves lined up so perfectly. It was really neat. There were also a whole bunch of deer there that would come right up to your car and you can feed them. So I fed deer. That was pretty cool.
On Tuesday we went to the Cardinals baseball game vs the Tampa Bay Rays. The Cards played terribly, losing 7-2 or something like that, but it was still a really fun time. There were so many missionaries there and it was so great to see them! There were also a whole lot of people from my first area in St Louis there, most of which I haven't seen in almost a year, so it was absolutely wonderful to see so many people I had grown to love all in one place again. It was a great night indeed.
The next day we set up an appointment with a semi-less-active for later that evening. We went over there at 5:00, chatted for a while, then he took us out to eat with his grandson, Matt, who he had just taken under his wing. We ate at the best Mexican restaurant I've been to on my mission yet! Then we went back to their house to have a spiritual thought. Well, we were not expecting Matt to be there; apparently he had been "hoboing" for the past couple of months because he couldn't stand his real home any longer of something, but this week he made contact with his grandpa here in Waterloo and they were able to resolve the conflict that existed there before and now there is an abiding love for each other that is just really neat to see. But back to where we came in, we sat down in their living room and began teaching the message of the restoration to Matt. The spirit was so strong. Tears filled Matt's eyes as we explained Joseph Smith's first vision. His grandpa bore testimony of the things we had said and we asked Matt if he would be baptized by someone holding the authority of Christ, and straightway he said "yes".
It was literally the perfect, ideal lesson. Lessons like these are the things you will never forget as a missionary. Matt is now preparing for baptism on the 23rd of August. The Lords hand has been so evident through all of this. This is exactly was Matt needed right now, exactly what his grandpa needed, exactly what the branch needs, exactly what Elder Johnson needed to experience... All around, this is exactly what needed to happen. Matt came to church yesterday and loved it. We are meeting with him again tonight.
On Thursday we got up early to meet with our new investigator, Pat at 7:30am because with his weird schedule and our busy day that was the only time we could arrange a meeting. Pat invited a few other friends to join us. We were meeting at their friend's house, Ben, who is the member that invited Pat to meet with us in the first place. At 7:30am two of those friends showed up and we shared the message of the restoration with them. They both have zero religious background (very rare around here) but were very interested and eager to find out for themselves if what we taught them is true. Pat didn't show up until an hour later, but we couldn't talk to him because we had to get going to make it to a zone conference in O'fallon. But we set up a time to meet with him again, which is this Thursday. The other two friends, Eli and Brian, are planning on attending that as well as 6+ more friends that Ben and Pat both invited. It is going to be awesome!!
The members here are really starting to take the work seriously and it is so awesome to be a part of it.
Another youth in our branch, Casey, has been inviting his friend Ketrick to activities each week. Casey's family even brought Ketrick to Nauvoo to see the pageant there. According to Casey, Ketrick felt the spirit so strongly when they spoke of Joseph Smith that it brought him to tears. Casey later gave him a Book of Mormon. By the time Ketrick had finished the first chapter he knew it was true and he called Casey to tell him he wanted to be baptized.
We are so blessed to be a part of the most marvelous work that there is! I know this work really is marvelous. I had this feeling, and I just knew great things were in store for us here. The Lord has truly been preparing this area and those He has prepared are popping up like daisies. I LOVE IT!!
I know this is God's work. I know God loves and is aware of each of His children. We are precious to Him.
I love each and every one of you. I hope you have an amazing week!

-Elder Aaron Curtis