Monday, June 29, 2015

June 29, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

-Elder Curtis

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

​I caught a bird. :)

Monday, June 15, 2015

June 15, 2015

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

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

-Elder Curtis

June 8, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Elder Curtis

June 2, 2015

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

-Elder Curtis

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

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

Wednesday, June 3, 2015


This is Mason and his younger brother, Zack at church all dressed up.

​This is how we are used to seeing Zack. We call him Mowgli though. Never have I ever seen him in anything other than a slightly to big pair of hand-me-down underwear until he came to church.

​This is me and our branch mission leader, Jim Kinney, when he took us golfing. I love Jim!

​Benefits of being senior companion.

​This is the alley way behind our house. It's super green and I like it.

May 26, 2015

Hello there!

It was a swell week. Particularly Sunday. Sunday was super great. I'll get to that later though.

Exciting news! We finally found another investigator! His name is Jim Walker. Man, it sure has been a while since we've been able to find. We were tracting here in Litchfield and nobody was answering their door. Finally one opened. This guy knew about our church; he explained how he has a sister who is a member in Danville, IL. We tried to talk to him more but he insisted he wasn't interested. He was also rather intoxicated, but we may try him at a later, perhaps more sober date. The next door we knocked opened; it was Jim. Elder Abbott was doing the approach, explaining that our message is one of hope and happiness. Well this guy, Jim, looked at us from his wheel chair and said pitifully (as he started to shut the door) "Well I don't have any of that in my life, so no thanks." Elder Abbott quickly explained that our message is what brings the hope and happiness he was talking about, but Jim still wasn't bought. Seeing and hearing this nearly broke my heart; I knew we were supposed to talk to him and that our message would change his life. Before he was able to completely shut his door I asked him if he had ever heard of The Book of Mormon. He said he had not and I said I would like to give him one, to which he admitted he would likely never look at it. I asked if I could give it to him anyway and he reluctantly agreed. I then pulled out a '#BecauseHelives' card and used the opportunity to explain what it was which led so easily back to hope and happiness which we had promised. Following the Spirit, I bore my own testimony of the Savior and the Book of Mormon and the message we have and once again asked him if we could share our message with him. There suddenly was a change in him and he said, "Okay, come on in."

We were able to talk about him and his background and then tell him about his loving Father in heaven, his Savior and His gospel, the apostasy, and the restoration of the gospel. It was remarkable to see him gradually change his attitude towards life. As we discussed these things he began sharing experiences in his own life to relate to them and he soon was able to recall several amazing experiences in his life where God provided miracles for him and his family. We saw him go from gloomy and hopeless, to humble and grateful and aware that there is still hope. What's amazing to me is he realized these things seemingly on his own. As we shared the good news he felt the Spirit, and the Spirit brought back to his mind the miracles and blessings in his life and reminded him of the happiness, hope and love he used to know a little about, but had lost over time and negligence. When we left, he was eager to ready The Book of Mormon every day and to discover its truth for himself, whereas before he didn't even want to take it.

We are going to come back next week and talk to him more, but I will never forget that first experience with Jim Walker. Seeing him change from the gospel as he felt the Spirit was truly inspiring and enlightening.

More Exciting news! Sister Smith got a wheel chair!! Woot woot! We saw them on Friday and when we walked in their home we were surprised to see her sitting in her wheel chair smiling at us. This is such a blessing! Now they will be able to come to church and Mason can be baptized! The Smith's are so ready and eager to make changes in their life, and they are making lots of changes on their own now. When we were with them on Friday they told us that they won't be at church this Sunday because they don't have money for gas, but they'll be there next Sunday and they are going to budget so that they can keep coming each week. So that's what we expected. When we pulled into the church parking lot on Sunday morning we were surprised to see the Smith's truck parked outside. They were all there, dressed up so nicely and they looked so happy to be there. Oh I wish you could have seen how good they looked. If you knew the Smiths and the condition they live in you would be shocked at how nice they looked at church. We were so thrilled! A member gave Mason his own set of scriptures to keep which just about thrilled him to death.

Later when talking to the Branch President we found out that Brother and Sister Smith had reached out to him during the weekend expressing their desire to come to church and meet with him that Sunday. Well due to the Smith's past he was a little reluctant but prayed about it and said he would help them that week and meet with them. So they were able to come to church and afterward met with President Bruce to tell him that they had made some changes in order to afford coming to church every week and how they were going to pay their tithing and how Brother Smith wanted to prepare to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and so forth. They were making all these changes on their own and this showed sincerity. I'm so excited about this because we've been working with the Smith's for quite a while now. Just after I first got here we met them and picked Mason up as an investigator. We were excited then because it was a less-active, part-member family who was eager and willing to come back to church/be baptized. But when we announced to the branch counsel that we were working with the Smiths, most of them jumped down our throats and strongly doubted and discouraged us about them, talking about how in the past they just used the system. No one wanted to help them. When we asked for people to go with us to teach them they would actually suggest we go see someone else instead or would grudgingly go with us but would continue to doubt them and discourage us.

Well while we've been meeting with the Smith's we saw the light of Christ re-enter their lives and we saw the changes they were making, physical/temporal and spiritually. We did not lose hope in them and they continued to improve. Well suddenly they are making big changes, and they're humbly doing it for all the branch to see. I am so proud of them.

Still in church: Elder Abbott gave a talk in sacrament meeting as well as the branch's only missionary who just returned home from her mission in Texas. There were also tons of other less-active members there who we have been working with for some time now. It was marvelous! And guess what we sang for the intermediate hymn?... 'As Sisters In Zion'! Yep! As Sisters In Zion! It was grand. There's no way I could keep a straight face while singing it. And what was also great is Elder Abbott lost his cool up on the stand when he looked down at me and saw me half laughing/half singing and I believe many other people saw him suddenly do the same and there was a chain reaction. I just don't know why they chose that hymn.

They also reorganized the Elder Quorum Presidency this week so that we actually have an active president. Again, we are thrilled!

Robert and Jinnifer were sick again this week so they were unable to come to church or meet with us. Hopefully next week!

About a month ago we had a spontaneous mission conference with Elder Quentin L. Cook, Elder Soares, and Bishop Stevenson which was absolutely superb. We all knew we were extremely fortunate and that something like that was surly never to happen again. Well the other night we got a call from our leaders who have informed us that we will be having yet another mission conference on June 1 with Elder D. Todd Christofferson!!!! That's right, Elder D. Todd Christofferson!! AHHHHHHH!!!!!!!! I AM SO EXCITED!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He has quickly become one of my favorites (if one was to choose favorites) and he's coming here and I get to meet him and hear from him directly and take a picture with him!!! I'm so pumped!!! It's going to be the BEST! The 1st is a Monday, so our P-day will be switched to Tuesday, so that's when you should expect next weeks email. I'm so excited!!!!

I'm going to try sending some pictures now.

-Elder Curtis

May 18, 2015

So this week was sort of uneventful. Only two of our investigators kept their appointments and we weren't able to find anyone either. On the plus side we got eight referrals! Three of them came from a member we went on team-ups with who returned from his mission about a year and a half ago. The others came a less-active member who showed up at church. He made a point to talk to us and tell us he has some family and some friends that would like probably like to talk to us. So hopefully we will be able to pull out something solid from all of those!
We haven't been able to meet with Brian/Samantha, Mike, Tanya, or Lori/Keenan, in a while but we will hopefully get in with them soon. Mike sent us some interesting texts over the week. He was in California, visiting a friend and the "Mormons" happened to knock on the door while he was there. He took that to mean that God was reaching out to him... So yay! Later he sent us a text how he's been really busy lately but he's looking forward to meeting soon because he's been greatly moved this week... Not one hundred percent sure what that means buts it's hard not to be optimistic about it.
Mason and his family might be able to come to church very soon! The only thing that was holding them back is that his mom couldn't walk into the building, but they talked to her doctor and he is trying to prescribe her a wheelchair. Once the insurance approves that they will ship it out to them and they can come to church!! (Prayers please?)
We were unable to see Robert this week and we don't know why they didn't come to church but they are having us over for dinner tonight so we will find out then and probably be teaching him about the plan of salvation. I hope things work out with Robert. So far the only big thing for him would be smoking, but we can get that taken care of easily. I have a lot of hope for that guy.
Elder Abbott and I were invited into primary to talk about baptism and show the kids the font. Oh my goodness, primary is the best! Kids are adorable. And we sang out of the children's song book. I think I want to be a primary teacher forever.
Okay, the college is kicking us out because they close early this week? (We went golfing again so that's why we came later.)

Bye! I love you all!

-Elder Curtis