Monday, July 20, 2015

July 20, 2015-LAST WORDS!

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

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

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

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

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

-Elder Curtis, signing off.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

July 13, 2015

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

July 6, 2015

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

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

-Elder Curtis

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