What a lovely past week we had. Three of the days were spent in the Birmingham Temple with our missionaries. We say “our” as we truly do love each as our own and being in the temple with them was a special privilege. When Elder Koelliker was here for the mission tour, he brought instructions that the missionaries be given more opportunities to attend the temple. The Brethren have realized that, when possible, those young missionaries who are given the chance to attend the temple regularly remained committed to temple attendance when completing their missions. In the past the mission has had each Zone take turns attending over and five week period. This took place twice a year. In order to follow the direction from Salt Lake, this time they had a morning and an afternoon session so that all six Zones could attend in a three day period. All but one of the sessions were private sessions held during times when the temple is normally not opened. We so appreciate the workers that willingly gave of their time to come in and make this possible. There was a special feeling knowing that the missionaries had the temple all to their self. It was so quiet and reverent with a very sweet spirit among all there, workers and patrons. The temple is beautiful, much like the Gila Valley temple. The detail work, especially in the carpets, is stunning. Sis Van Kampen, the Matron, said the carpet here is the most detailed of any.
The temple has a small garden area. This time of year all over Alabama you see yellow butterflies that have migrated here. They don’t fly in large groups, but can be seen with threes and fours together any place there are flowers. This garden was full of them, but they were much too fast for me to catch on camera. In the other picture you can see the beginnings of Fall on the temple grounds. Beautiful.
Spending this much time at the temple left us with projects to take care of back at the office. It seemed that Elder C’s phone never stopped ringing. Of course, he had to take care of the issues, but we had other things on our minds as we had been asked by the President to speak in a small branch in the southwest part of the mission on Sunday. He was supposed to speak, but had something come up so we were being sent in his place….now, how is that for a way to disappoint the congregation? Anyway, we have had this in the back of our minds ever since he asked us nearly three weeks ago, but now needed to put the finishing touches on our talks and hadn’t left ourselves much time to do it. We had decided that since we were traveling that far, three hours, and needed to be there at 9:00 a.m. Sunday, we would leave Saturday and take in a few historical sites then spend the night. The only problem, the place we were going had no motels within fifty miles. Selma was the closest town. We called the Elders serving there to get an idea of what we could find and they insisted that they contact a couple they stay with in Magnolia where the church is located. They didn’t really give us a chance to say “no” and next thing we knew they had made the arrangements with Butch and Brenda Martin for us to spend the night. It turned out to be a nice thing, but I’ll write more about that later.
Even though it was out of our way, we drove to Montgomery first to try and see a few things in that area. We did see some beautiful churches and antebellum homes. One of the homes had been built by the AL Governor who served during the Civil War. There were many other places we had planned to visit, but our AC on the car wasn’t working for some reason and it was a warm day. Also, the phone just kept ringing and we were spending more time on the side of the road talking to missionaries than looking at things so finally gave up on Montgomery. A good thing that came out of this side trip, however, was that we had to take the road to Selma where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led the freedom march in 1965. Over 800 people, black and white, marched from Selma to Montgomery to stand up for the rights of the blacks to vote. Once we reached Selma we stopped at the bridge where “Bloody Sunday” took place on March 7th, 1965. The march had begun with a much smaller group and when they reached the bridge over the Alabama River that leads out of town, the group was met by a patrol on horseback that beat them back with clubs. While we were looking at the memorials to those who had been there, four black women came up. Two of them had marched with the group and when we showed an interest they were eager to share their experience with us. They said “Bloody Sunday” was a terrible, terrible day. There were people bleeding and beaten and they were driven back. We asked what happened next and were told that Dr King met the people at Brown’s Baptist Church where they re-grouped and with an even larger crowd began the march to the State Capitol once again. More and more people joined along the way. There are historical markers on the highway showing where they stopped to camp. They said it was terrible as they were met with opposition all along the way. I know some, including Martin L King, were put in jail. It made us want to go back and read about the event in more detail. It was so interesting hearing these women tell of the terrible things that the blacks faced during this period of history. We were so happy we got to visit with them and left each with a big hug. There is a museum near by, but it was closed when we arrived.
From here we drove to the Brown (not sure that’s the full name) church and saw the memorial there. It is right in the middle of a large section of project housing. We were told later that this is not a safe place to go. Selma is a very poor city and many places are not safe, but not knowing, we spent a couple hours driving through the back roads taking in as much as we could. In the south, people sit out on their front porches or yards and we were waving and smiling at everyone. I did refrain from taking pictures, although, I really wanted to. We did find some neighborhoods where the home were well kept and even found some beautiful, large houses. We can’t help wondering what kind of chance some of those we saw have. Our missionaries say it is a hard place to work, but they have found some success.
We told the Martin’s not to worry about dinner for us so we made the hour drive to their place arriving around 7:00. These were pure country roads with only a few houses spotted along the way. There are fewer trees and more open land in that part of the state. We saw some nice homes and wondered what would bring people out there. It turns out this area is known for its paper mills. Everyone we met at church either works at or are retired from one of the three mills there. The Martins live on a large section of acreage and of all things, raise goats. He was an engineer for the Georgia Pacific Mill but is now retired and has a herd of several hundred goats. He sells them at auction and said most of them are shipped north and sold to the Muslims for religious use. They were very gracious and interesting hosts.
They live in a large log cabin that they built with the help of their seven children who are now all grown. His family goes way back in that area. In fact, we learned that most of the members of the small branch are related. They made us feel very comfortable and welcome and we had a good night’s sleep.
Speaking of the branch, one of just three buildings still standing from the early 1900s is located here. It was here that some of the first members of the church in AL lived and for a long time it was the District of the whole Montgomery region. His mother had kept a book with pictures of missionaries that had been there dating back to the time the church was built. I looked through it hoping to find my father among them, but with no luck. I’m anxious to get out his journals when I get home and see if I recognize some of the places he served here in the south. We were blessed once again to learn the history from those who lived or had loved ones who lived it. The area was beautiful and the people kind.
The members raised money to build a new chapel back in the 1970s and this building was bought and is kept as a historical site by the States Cemetery Society as there is a lovely cemetery behind it. We felt we were going back in time as we toured the inside. Paul had to pound the pulpit and the young Elders rang the bell….it has a ‘real’ church bell.
As for the Sunday meeting, there were about 27 in attendance, including us and two Elders. The members were strong and devoted to their small branch. We were told they usually have only one speaker and that sacrament meeting is over when the speaker finishes his or her talk. For the first time ever, Paul had enough time to give his WHOLE talk. It takes about ten minutes for announcements, song and sacrament and the rest of the time was ours. I think it went well, but we were no replacement for President Holzapfel. The members welcomed us with warmth and kindness, but when they invited us to stay for a pot luck dinner they had planned for the Pres. we knew there had to be some disappointment that he was unable to come. If that was the case, they didn’t show it to us, though. We ate our share of the delicious food which we finished off with the best pee-can pie we’ve ever tasted. Having this experience gave us one more side of Alabama to add to our many good memories. Again, the country is beautiful and the people are friendly and loving. How blessed we are to be here.
We send our love and best wishes for a wonderful week. You are in our thoughts and prayers always.
I've had lots of requests for updates on what it's like for us in China. I have finally had a moment to start a blog. I'm not familiar with blogging, so it's pretty simple and plain, but I promise fun pictures which is what most people want! If you'd like to take a look, here's the link:
As promised, this
is a continuation of the letter I sent just a few days ago. We have had so many
wonderful experiences, but first I want to go back to the transfers. I
mentioned the new missionaries coming in and said briefly that we were losing
many of those who have been here since we arrived. We have become close to them
and it was an emotional goodbye. We had
ten leave; among them Elder Burdette, our first trainer, Elder Bowles, who
taught me how to use the phone in referrals, Elder Fisher, who lives in our old
Sunny Mesa Ward back home, Elder Ruff who ordered more media from me than any
other missionary. He reminds us of our son Jarad….a hard worker and so
caring. Also, Elder Klabacka, who has
been an assistant to the Pres. much of the time we’ve been in the office so we
have worked closely with him and Elder Hawks, who is another hard working
missionary and has become a dear friend. He and Elder Curtis have a fishing
date set up for when we get home. I
could share something special about each one and am holding back tears as I
mention them. A few of them admitted to
being on the verge of tears that day as well. When we dropped them off at the
hotel they wanted to just keep hanging around. They weren’t ready for their
mission experience to close. We love and
demands of Transfers become even more urgent once the actual day is over as I
then would update IMOS on the computer with all the new information and would
have people calling immediately for a roster with all the changes. This was
always time consuming and a challenge.For several months, however, Salt Lake has been asking all the Mission
Presidents to take over this responsibility.Pres. H tried it once soon after I started in the office and it ended up
being such a mess that it took us weeks to get it back in order.I’m not saying it was Pres’ doing; IMOS has
made a lot of improvements since then.In fact, the last transfer went quite smoothly for me.Now, I don’t do any of it….none.I have to admit I felt a little left out and
I also have to admit, I was a little pleased to see that even the Pres. and
assistants took several tries before they got all the kinks out of the
roster.Another issue this brings is
that while they are working on transfer scenarios the weeks before the actual
transfers many of the programs that the rest of us in the office use are
blocked from us. It’s all a process and is for the good.Everyone, including Salt Lake, will learn and
continue to improve.This means nothing
to most of you, but Sis Sessions, who I took over for, may find it interesting.
My job definition has definitely changed, but there seem to be new things
coming up to still keep me on my toes and Elder Curtis can always use more of
my help.There are changes being made on
IMOS for car care as well.Changes can
be and are good!
Stake was holding a 9:00 to 3:00 Family History Fair the Saturday after
transfers and I was asked to get a group of missionaries together to help with
the day’s activities. We had Elder C and me as well as two Elders and two
Sisters who serve in that building. We helped put together and serve the lunch
and then were asked to just mingle and make our presence known. Out of the 175 or so in attendance, about a
third were non-members and four of the class presenters were also not members.
We were very impressed with how well everything was arranged and how lovely the
building and displays were set up. They had two or three classes going on each
hour throughout the day. From the few that we were able to listen in on they
were very professionally done. A lot of
good information. Sis Anne Norris from
our Branch had made the whole thing happen and on all accounts, it was a
successful day. We were glad we could help and be a part of it. Our young
missionaries represented the mission well.
People stayed the full day which is always a good sign that things are going
As soon as we
walked in the door after finishing with the Family History Fair, Pres.
Holzapfel called and asked if I would be in charge of the food for another
event coming up the next Wed. The former
Governor of Alabama had called and asked if the Mission would host an open
house for a group of youth from one of the mega Baptist Churches in
Birmingham. His brother is Pastor of the
church and with the political climate these days; he wanted his congregation to
know something about these ‘Mormons’.
This isn’t the first time that President has met with other churches,
but it was the first time a BAPTIST church had requested to come to one of our
buildings. I didn’t have a lot of time
or resources to plan with. They expected
around 30 youth between 14 and 18 years of age plus their leaders. I was warned that nothing I did would measure
up to the grand events of their church (we’re told it looks like a small
college campus) so just don’t have cookies and punch, but also not to
worry….????? Ummmmm We already had plans to be away from the office
much of Monday and Tuesday so I had to rely on Costco – good old Costco chocolate
mousse cake. It was a success and so was the evening.
There was a good
turnout. We met in the RS room where our
Branch Pres. explained how he was called and how all of our leaders and
teachers are regular members of the church who have been called to that
position for a season and serve without pay while carrying on their lives with
normal responsibilities (work, school, parenting etc) Next, two Seminary
students explained how they meet each morning at 6:00 for scripture study. They then showed clips of outstanding youth
that are known nationally and are members of the church. President also talked and explained some of
the similarities of our church and theirs as well as some of the differences. He is so good at this with his great
knowledge of religion and the scriptures. The group was then taken on a quick
tour of the building (as I said, theirs is mega so this wasn’t expected to be
too impressive) They ended in the chapel where the young missionaries sang a
beautiful Christian hymn and then a question and answer time was opened. We had expected the whole evening to last
only an hour, but there was a good interest and many questions were asked. Again, Pres. Holzapfel is the perfect one for
this type of exchange. We were all impressed.
Refreshments followed along with mingling with youth from the two wards
meeting there for YW/YM and Institute.
because of helping the Sat before I knew where to borrow a table cloth and some
decorations. Taking pictures of the
group didn’t seem appropriate. Chocolate is always a way to win people over.
Paul and the missionaries were great help
We have a Branch
baptism on Saturday morning. I’ll write
about that next time. We’ve had some other good things going on this week, but
this is enough for now. Paul says if he
were writing he would just share spiritual thoughts and events, but for me,
these things are spiritual and have brought joy to our missionary service. God bless each of you. We send our love, Elder and Sister Curtis Mom/Dad
were several displays of well known people who came from Alabama…..didn’t know
there were so many in all fields, sports, history, music, government, and so
We have just finished our two grueling weeks of training for the China Teachers Program at BYU. We learned so much, but still feel intimidated about the idea of going to China as English Professors to teach graduate and PhD students at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China in Chengdu. We know the Lord will magnify our efforts and we are ready to get started! We leave in 10 days!
We had a busy summer. My mother passed away in May, then my husband's mother passed in June. We are happy that their suffering is over, and feel blessed that we were able to serve them in their final years. It's hard to say goodbye, but we feel them with us still. We then had two new grandbabies born! I wish I could bring you all treats to help celebrate! Liam Kirk Mosley was 8lbs. 9 oz., and Cecily Weed was 5 lbs. 12 oz. Cecily was so small that the doctors worried about her and warned us she may have issues, but she is 100% healthy and whole and we feel extremely blessed and grateful for all the prayers in her behalf. We were able to gather all of our children and grandchildren in Washington for a reunion in July. It was a great chance to say goodbye and get filled up with memories before we leave.
China is an amazing place. We have learned so much and look forward to our chance to meet some of the Lord's 'lost sheep'. We have been cautioned to warn our friends not to speak of our service as being missionaries. We are NOT preaching the gospel, and we are NOT set-apart missionaries. There are no missionaries in mainland China, and if the government hears through rumors that the Church is sending missionaries there, we could encounter problems. So please don't tell anyone that the Mosleys are "on a mission" to China. We are going over to make friends and set examples and help educate those who we hope will seek truth and find it when that door is open to them.
We certainly miss our special time serving as ordinance workers. May you all be blessed in your service and know our hearts are with you.
To begin this
week’s news, I want to report that for the month of July the Mission had the
largest number of baptisms ever recorded since the mission was created in 1979.
I’ve already sent you pictures from some that we attended. Last Saturday we were involved with the
baptism of a new member in our own branch.
She has been attending ever since we were assigned to the branch and we
have helped teach during the Sunday Gospel Principals class. She has gained a strong knowledge of the
teachings and truthfulness of the gospel and it has been a pleasure to see her
progress. We were able to pick her up the morning of her baptism and be there
for her that day. There was a nice
Branch turnout. After her baptism Regina
bore a sweet and heartfelt testimony.
Now we need to follow through by mentoring her reading in the Book of
Mormon and encouraging others to continue fellowshipping her. Was a nice day.
This is the kind
of news that we most enjoy sharing and remembering from our mission. In the first two years that President
Holzapfel has been here, the baptism numbers have been higher for the mission
than years past. As he began his third year as Pres. in July it looks like that
growth will continue. There is an urgency throughout the church to reach out to
those who have been and are being prepared to receive God’s word. The
missionaries were told by Elder Gonzales that no matter how many times they
have gone to an area, there are still those being prepared to accept God’s
message. The work is there.
This has been a
busy time of travel for us and the mission as the individual Zone Training
meetings were held for Aug. It seems
that we had just attended them for July.
This time they weren’t all held on the same day so we were able to go to
three of the five. We learned while in Huntsville that the two stakes that make
up that Zone have been asked to separate and each stake will become a Zone as
is requested by Salt Lake. As of next week the mission will have six Zones to
cover. I have to admit, with all the changes that are being requested by
Mission Headquarters, things do finally seem to be running more smoothly and
the work gets done faster and more efficiently.
I guess all the beta testing and having our computers bringing
frustrations to our lives, is now paying off. I know the person that will
replace me will have it much easier and even Paul’s responsibilities are a
little less hectic, although, there are STILL issues with tiwis and then just
human error (accidents, lost reports, etc) that will probably always be there
to some degree.
attended the Birmingham Zone on Wed, then Huntsville on Thursday and Elder
Curtis went to Tupelo on Friday. I had a
dentist appointment for a rootcanel so was unable to go that day. As always, it was great to be with the young
Elders and Sisters. We have some
fantastic Leaders and they are the ones that did the training based on what
they had been instructed by the President.
to the different areas for the training meetings we took one day to deliver a
new car to our Sisters serving in Tuscaloosa (over an hour from the office) and
then took their car South East to
Tuskegee (past Montgomery) so that we could retire the car from there. All of
this was necessary because there had been a wreck and one of our 50 cars was in
the repair shop. I won’t even go into
the headaches that caused Elder C. The mission is only allowed 50 cars so this
left six missionaries with just one car in an area where a car was badly
needed. It took some juggling, but for
now everyone is getting by the best they can with a little help from Elder
C. On the day we made this exchange we
ended up being on the road for nearly eight hours…..whew! There had been a bad
accident on the freeway and we took all back roads. We saw some beautiful country and went places
we’ve never been, but after a long day, the slow driving was not what you would
call pleasant. Oh well, looking back we
remember the good…like meeting Elders Withers and LaCour in Tuskegee. They were
just WALKING up to their place when we arrived. It was well over a hundred that
day and they were out there working hard. We call Elder Withers the “hundred
door a day man”. He never stops and
Elder LaCour is right there at his side. They were both dripping with sweat and
we thought we would melt just standing there talking to them. We didn’t spend
much time as they had to head out (walking) to another appointment. Good, good Elders.
I’ll close by
writing about more mission “Hellos and Goodbyes”. We had a luncheon at the mission home as a
welcome party for Elder and Sister Specht, who arrived in July and are serving
in MS, and a farewell party for Elder and Sister Halley who have completed
their 18 month mission. We will miss the
Halleys. Besides their great missionary
efforts, Sister Halley was in charge of planning our Couples’ outings and she
did a super job giving us opportunities we probably would have missed if not
for her. We were pleased to meet Elder and Sister Specht. They are lively and outgoing and will be a
nice addition to the mission.
Goodbye….. Our fun, friendly, much loved and highly successful missionary Elder
Pili was given an early release (30 days) so he can return for football
training at BYU.He played before his
mission and has been promised a spot on his return.We considered him a friend, but then,
everyone did.He has a permanent ‘smile’
on his face.I don’t think he could look
mean or mad if he wanted to. Everywhere he has served the wards and people have
loved having him.He is a great teacher
behind that impish smile.
We will miss him
along with so many others. Already we
are preparing for the next group to come in and the next ones to leave. That’s mission life and we love it!
“For ye shall go out with joy, and be led
forth with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into
singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”Isaiah 55:12
This seemed like a good scripture to end with. It is so beautiful here in Alabama and as we
take in the beauty of the countryside and even more so, the people, we feel to clap
our hands with joy for the blessing of serving here and the work we see being
Blessings and Love to each of you,Elder and Sister CurtisMom/Dad
another transfer last week, but before I get into that I want to write about
the baptism or baptisms, six of them, that we attended in Ensley Branch a week
ago Saturday. Ensley is a suburb of
Birmingham and might be compared in some ways to Harlem of New York. The Branch
there is all black from the surrounding neighborhoods, however, there are
several families from other wards around AL that have been assigned to serve
there. With so many baptisms, there was
a large turnout. We have gone to the
town of Ensley many times as there is a shop where we have the hitches for our
bike racks put on the new cars and we use them for other needs as well. Nice people. Several times in Columbiana ward
we had a former African Am. Branch Pres and his wife from there visit and
developed a friendship. For these and
many other reasons we have planned to visit the ward. This occasion seemed to
be the right timing; not only for the baptisms, but our dear Elder Burdette has
been serving there and this was his last baptism before finishing his
mission. All in all, it was a great
experience. Two of the girls taking part
were the twin daughters of a member that Elder Burdette and his companion
tracked into. The mother had become
inactive so not only were her daughters brought into the church, but she was
re-activated. It was sweet to watch her tender tears of joy. Among the others
being baptized were the husband and daughter of a member, very sweet, and the
older daughter of another branch member.
There was also a young man from the branch who is just now old enough to
turn in his mission papers. He was
baptizing the ‘seventh’ of his friends that night. Here he has had SEVEN baptisms before he even
reached the mission field. There was a joyful and sweet spirit there and we
were blessed to witness it. We visited with the Branch Pres afterwards and he
said this is a rough part of town. There have been shootings and robberies all
around the church and several families in the branch have faced heartache, but
still remain faithful. We met many delightful people. The missionaries love
serving in this area.
As is always the
case on transfer week our days were long and full. On Monday we took five of our visa Elders to
the airport to head for their various destinations. One of them was Elder McRae from Thatcher and
in visiting I’m sure we have some family connections somewhere along the
line. My Mother’s sister Hazel married a
McRae. He was a good missionary. They all were and will continue to be.
Tuesday we were to
pick up sixteen new missionaries at 2:00 p.m.
First we heard their flight in Salt Lake had been cancelled. All morning we waited for an update. Finally plans were in place to meet them at
3:00, but then we heard the plane was arriving early. Pres and Sister Holzapfel actually greet them
as they come off the plane and we stay with the van in a waiting area until
they call to tell us they are ready to be picked up. Two thirty came and went, three thirty came
and went, (we were getting updates all along) At four thirty we finally got the
call that they were at the curb. There were only 14 as two visa waiters missed
the connecting flight and were stranded in Atlanta. Still, it took the van and two other cars to
get them all loaded and on our way. Twelve of them are fulltime assigned to
Alabama and four are visa missionaries. As you can see from the picture, there
is only one Sister. A side note here, Sister Palmer was called and trained as
English speaking, but the mission needed another Spanish speaking Sister. Pres
H had ordered all the materials, including a Sp nametag, and when he did his
interview with her he asked to see her MTC nametag then handed her back the
Spanish one he had for her. She was more
than a little surprised, but is a sharp girl and accepted the challenge and we
know she will do well. We have already enjoyed spending time with them all.
They have some big shoes to fill as so many of our choice missionaries are
completing their missions over the summer months. This time we had an Elder from the Ivory
Coast in Africa and one of the visa Elders is from Joe and Wyndi’s ward back home.
Joe was his home teacher. That was a
fun connection. New missionaries to
There were many
changes taking place in the way transfers were handled this time around. One that we thought worked really well was
taking all the new missionaries straight to the Mission Home. Usually we go to the office where the
President takes each one in his office for an interview and Elder Curtis meets
with them about their driving records, etc. This meant a lot of sitting around
time for the missionaries in a crowded office after an already long day. Following this we went to the Mission Home
for a formal sit down dinner and then rushed off to their hotels. The plan this time was to have a serve
yourself buffet dinner while Pres did his individual interviews and Elder C
gathered the information he needed. When the missionaries finished eating they
gathered in the living room and were able to visit in a relaxed way. We had four, or at least there were four that
night, that play the piano…all very well.
They kept us entertained by taking turns playing from classical to
ragtime and all in-between. Yes, there
were some nice hymns mixed in as well.
Elder Dalo from Africa plays beautifully. He said a friend of his began
teaching him and he found he had a natural gift and love for music. Spending the evening this way took a lot of
stress off everyone and the missionaries were able to have an earlier bedtime
We were to pick up
the missionaries at the hotel early the next morning for the transfer
meeting. A call from the President woke
us up saying that we needed to be even earlier. About half of the luggage had
not come in with the plane and around 1:30 that morning it had been delivered
to the mission home and needed to be picked up. That was good news…whew and
whew! Poor Pres seems to never get to sleep.
with transfers was the presentation of information for just the new
missionaries. Usually they gather AFTER
the general meeting which has never worked well. All they were interested in
was what was this new companion going to be like, and where were they headed.
Now they had them arrive an hour before the others for the training and the
meeting was laid out so each person stayed on schedule and everyone was able to
present their part. For the first time
in months Elder C was able to go over the driving and car care information from
Salt Lake. It seemed to go well. All of
transfers went well. We did have a man
sent from Salt Lake to audit all the tiwis, but he had been working on it since
Monday and had already met with Elder C several times so for once we weren’t
tied up in the parking lot and were actually able to sit through all of
transfers, including listening to Pres Holzapfel remarks.
We had taken all
of the bikes for the new missionaries to the Stake Building the day
before. We have done that the last few
transfers and it makes it much easier so handing out bikes even went smoothly
for us. All in all, it was the best
organized and most relaxing transfer day we have experienced. That’s not to say there weren’t issues, but
all ended well even though we did worry watching some of the Elders drive away
with their cars stuffed to overflowing with luggage (is that even safe?)
Well, it is now
bedtime on Tuesday and I have only covered half of what went on since our last
letter. There is much more that I want to record for my own records, but it has
been a long day (we drove for over eight hours taking care of different issues)
Tomorrow we have another special event that we are helping with so it will be
busy and exciting as well.This letter
is going to have to be sent in segments, which is probably okay with you. There
is plenty enough for now anyway. I’m too tired to even proof read it. …headed
for bed – yawn! Hope you each have a goodnight and a great day tomorrow.We love you-
Elder Curtis is spending the day at the Mission Home bike work area getting ready for the 17 missionaries that will arrive on Tue. He has been so thankful for the help of Elder Smith in this as well as many of our other responsibilities. The Smiths have been our right hand helpers, but they just learned this week that they will be transferred from Bessemer to the Huntsville area (two hours away) Not only are they both a great help to us, but as you can see from past letters, they have also become good friends. I don’t know how we will manage without them around. It will definitely mean more work for Elder C. and we’ll miss their company. We have two new couples coming in soon; however, both are being assigned to areas far from the office. It all seems to work out one way or another, though. We picked up a brand new car yesterday and that should be the last one for a while so if we can keep accidents down, maybe there won’t be as much movement with that. Speaking of accidents, two of our Elders in Hamilton (NE almost to MS /TN state lines) were hit by another car that turned from a side street right into them. Thankfully no one was hurt, but anytime there is an accident it takes time away from getting the regular work done. Besides my office work, a lot of my time is spent helping and working with Elder Curtis.
We have been doing much more traveling the last month. We have visited several District Meetings, most an hour to two hour drive from the office. We have been doing various trainings and also inspecting their cars with them right there so they can see for themselves how to care for their vehicle. It’s surprising to us how many young men and women just haven’t had experience with how to care for a car. We have to remind ourselves they are still young and not all have HAD a car or been responsible for one. We received a call from an Elder the other day saying that his tire was flat and he needed to buy a new one. “Well”, asked Elder Curtis, “Did you take it in and try having it fixed?” The repair was $10. Even though these are temporal lessons, hopefully they will be blessed throughout their lives for having learned them. We loved being able to meet with the missionaries in smaller groups and spend that one on one time with them. We get to know and love them even more. We also made several trips to apts of Elders to help them through issues and again, it is nice to not only get closer to them, but see the areas where they work. Alabama really is a beautiful place. The more we see, the more we appreciate this.
The 4th of July was another workday for us in the mission; only it was spent filling a new assignment that has come down from Salt Lake. Each Zone has been asked to hold ‘monthly’ zone training in their area with all in attendance. The Zone Leaders plan and oversee these meetings. Obviously, the Pres. can’t be in all the meetings (they are hundreds of miles apart) and isn’t required to attend any of them. The Zone Leaders go through a day of training with the Pres. Holzapfel and then take that information and train their area missionaries. My guess is that with his love for teaching, it is probably hard for President not to step in. They will still have the quarterly Multi Zone Conferences where he will preside.
Anyway, the announcement for the 4th of July conferences was last minute, but Elder C saw it as an opportunity to cover a lot of the monthly car inspection. He asked the Smiths to do the inspections in Bessemer Zone and the Caudles to cover Huntsville. We drove to Montgomery and got all of theirs done. That was one of the 106 days and we experienced our first real discomfort with the Alabama heat. Like many other areas of the country, we have had unusually warm days, but for the most part, we haven’t had complaints. It cools off in the evenings and we have had some nice rain and overcast days. This was a good way to spend Independence Day doing our work and being around the fine missionaries. Elder Withers, our first District Leader, is now Zone Leader in Montgomery. He is a wonderful teacher and the missionaries were rewarded for being there. On our way back we stopped in Clanton which holds the claim to the best peaches in the country. Everyone talks about Clanton peaches.
We also finished up the last of the temple days with two Zones this week. We were able to attend all five temple trips. How wonderful it was seeing all our Elders and Sister dressed in white and feeling of their spirits. There was a Zone in the morning session that day then another at the 1:00 session so it was a full and spiritual day. That evening we had planned to go out to dinner with Elder and Sister Callister. His brother is a member of the Presidency of the Quorum of Seventy and our Callisters are just as great. They travel the mission working one on one with companions giving direction and training to improve their teaching. They had been teaching all day and needed to get a few things at Costco so we decided to just eat there (our kind of people). We were having such a nice visit…..they are not only spiritual, interesting, but fun, that we didn’t notice until we got up to leave that the store had closed. The doors were locked and shoppers gone. We told them we were so sorry, but they just laughed and said if we’d been much longer they would have given us a mop to help the cleaning crew. We all had a good laugh too.
We have been trying to get more involved in our ward missionary work, but with our unpredictable schedules, it hasn’t been easy. We have met with the ward mission leader and one week we gave a ride to a member who doesn’t have a car. He lives in the projects and hasn’t had an easy life, but has been active in the church for 16 years. Our only problem with helping him is that it ends up being over a ninety mile trip for us to drive him on Sundays. Even in the city there are long distances in the ward boundaries.
We were asked to speak in church last week. The subject was “Freedom from sin”. Just a few quotes from my talk, “Obedience leads to truefreedom. The more we obey revealed truth, the more we become liberated.” And, “When obedience becomes our goal, it is no longer an irritation;instead of a stumbling block, it becomes a building block”. These are both from Pres. James E Faust. Part of being obedient is giving of our time and service. Quote from Elder Ballard: “We should be committed to a lifetime of service in the kingdom of God”, and quoting Pres. Marion G Romney; “Service is not something we endure on this earth so we can earn the right to live in the celestial kingdom. Service is the very fiber of which an exalted life in the celestial kingdom is made. There is no retirement from service in the church.”
I don’t have a copy of Elder Curtis’ talk to give you quotes, but he did a wonderful job as usual. This will probably be our last sacrament meeting talks of this mission.
For not even planning to write a letter, I’ve ended up giving you a lot to read, or skim, or delete, or just not open at all. This is a little taste of our life here in Alabama. If we hadn’t extended we would be coming home in three weeks. We’re not ready for that so we’re glad we have more time, but even with that our release date is approaching at a much faster pace than seems possible. It is good to stay busy and feel needed. Other than loving on our grandkids and children, we aren’t sure what we’ll do at home.
Blessings and love from Alabama, Elder and Sister Curtis Mom/Dad
change. It seems the world is full of changes lately and that includes the
Alabama Mission and our mission assignments, or at least the way we carry them
out. We have a General Authority visiting in Aug. The week after we arrived last Aug. we
attended a multi-zone conference with Elder Clarke as the visiting
Authority. It was wonderful. For that, all we had to do was show up and be
spiritually fed. This time there are all
kinds of preparations being made for the occasion and working in the office, we
are right in the middle of it. Pres. Holzapfel wants the
office, records, houses and cars to be in perfect compliance for the
inspections. It’s not that this is such a hard thing to ask, it’s just that
there are so many changes coming out of Salt Lake so as we were feeling
somewhat comfortable performing or assignments, things are on the move
again. Our mission has been in a beta
testing program for IMOS the last month or so and it seems that weekly if not
daily we are finding that there are changes in this area as well as other areas
. Poor Elder and Sister May, who just
arrived six weeks ago, were met with the assignment to bring the mission
housing up to the “new” standards. This involves closing some apartments and
opening others. It also involves removing any sofas, lounge chairs, anything on
the walls as well as other items such as fishing pools, yes, there were fishing
pools, weight sets and so forth. Each
apartment is supposed to have one working desk or table per companionship and a
dining table plus a chair for each missionary. Of course they have beds and
storage for personal items, but no more missionaries sitting around getting too
comfy in their apt instead of out doing the work. Actually, there have been few
if any complaints from the missionaries. As for the Mays, they have been all
over the mission in the short time they’ve been here. I think they have loaded
and unloaded more furniture than most people do in a lifetime and it’s only
just begun. And we thought we worked hard. Thankfully, the same rules don’t
apply to sr missionaries. We have a very comfortable and even ‘pretty’ home
away from home. Much nicer than we would have expected as missionaries.
All the windows open right onto the edge
of the woods giving us a beautiful and peaceful view.
Some of the
changes with housing involve me in the way we identify and keep track of them
on IMOS and our mission rosters. We have
met a couple of times now with Pres H deciding how best to comply with the way
Salt Lake has it set up and yet having it workable for Alabama where you can
find twenty or more different towns making up just one ward and covering large
areas.. To identify a house by simply
calling it “Logan” just doesn’t work here.
We have a phone conference set up next week with Salt Lake to address
these issues. I don’t want to sound like I’m against all this. We’ll work
through it and in the end it will all be good.
We have seen some helpful changes already.
Besides the beta testing with IMOS, our
mission has been asked to pilot a Book of Mormon Mentoring program. Members and missionaries are asked to READ
the Book of Mormon with investigators or new converts. Some read daily and
others a few times a week, but the success stories have been inspiring. Many
new members never read all of the Book of Mormon. This helps them to follow through, better
understand it (ask questions) and to build a relationship with a ward member.
An experience that was shared by one of our favorite missionaries, Elder Ruff,
told of a lady whose husband is a member.
She has met with numerous missionaries over a thirteen year period. She
took part in this program which resulted in her consenting to baptism. When
asked why after all those years, she said that it was from reading the Book of
Mormon and gaining a testimony of it for the first time. The Book of Mormon,
when properly presented and applied, is a powerful tool toward conversion. The
mentoring program is working.
have been doing some traveling around the mission ourselves…..some for business
(mixed with pleasure) and some for pure pleasure. Two weeks ago when we went to Boaz to pick up
another car we drove about twenty minutes further to Guntersville. We have
missionaries there and had heard about the beautiful lake that the town is
built around. It was a ‘big’ lake. Another one of Alabama’s sweet
surprises. We’d always thought of
Guntersville as being in the middle of nowhere. Were we wrong!
Our trip last
Friday and Saturday was purely for pleasure.
Did you know that Helen Keller was born in Tuscumbia, AL? Her childhood home and the setting for the
film “The Miracle Worker” is now open to the public. The home and gardens are a
tribute to this lady of courage. Each
June a live performance of The Miracle Worker is presented in an outdoor
theater on the grounds. Several of the missionary couples attended. The play was very well done and it was
touching to watch it right there on the grounds where these events took
place. There is also a school for the
blind nearby and some of the minor actors in the performance were from
there. Helen Keller was truly a
remarkable woman who dedicated her life to improving conditions for the
blind/deafblind around the world. It was
an inspiring experience for me.
Helen Keller: “I
am convinced that despite the barriers any of us face, we can achieve much more
if we look to the abilities in each one of us rather than dwell on our
perceived “disabilities.” If you let
yourself embrace life as Helen did and absorb all that it has to give, in the
end, we will all come through to the other side and the personal rewards will
Blessings and love to each of you, Elder and Sister Curtis Mom/Dad
It’s Saturday and
I’ve decided to stay home while Elder C finishes up his reports at the office.This was Transfer week and as expected, we
were kept running.Monday morning began
with us meeting two Elders in Tuscaloosa.The church and the mission have come up with a new policy on the bicycle
program.Mission funds can no longer be
used in any way to purchase or repair bikes. Even more of a setback, we are not
longer able to purchase bikes from missionaries completing their mission to
sell to incoming missionaries or to help incoming missionaries connect with a
missionary going home to make their own arrangements. It has been hard to let
go of the bikes as Elder Curtis had a pretty good thing going.There were usually several missionaries
willing to sell their bikes for a reasonable price.We would buy them then spend another hundred
or so having them gone over at the bike shop we work with. The final cost to
the missionary was around $250, which was a big savings, paid us back and they
ended up with a good bike.Now any
missionary going home can either donate their bike or pay to have it shipped
home. We were told “We are out of the bike business!”In time it will probably come together, but
for now that is easier said than done.We have missionaries coming from other countries that have no funds and
even in the US there are families that just can’t afford the high cost of the
heavy duty bikes that are needed here.We also have the visa waiters who the mission provides bikes for and
these bikes constantly need repairs or at times we don’t even get back the same
bike we sent out.Hmmmmm
We got a good
laugh over this visa bike that was returned….notice, no handle bars, seat, back
wheel or chain then look to the next picture where it clearly states on the
bike, “Do not add or REMOVE anything from Mission Bike”.
We had quite a go
round this time making sure each of the 11 fulltime missionaries coming in had
a bike, that the five unexpected visa missionaries were taken care as well as
the two Temple Sq Sisters coming. You would think the Temple and visa
missionaries would just be an easy trade with the ones leaving, but you can see
from the picture above – that isn’t always the case. We have learned more about
bicycles than we even knew there was to learn.
Like the fact they have to be fitted to size. You can’t give a bike that
a 5’7” Elder has been using to a 6’5” Elder, or one that fits a 140 lbs to
someone 300 lbs. We had three bikes
“smashed” by a 320 lb Tongan. He’s a great Elder, but we were glad when his
visa came in.
We have had some
happy experiences through all this, though.
A few months ago an Elder arrived from Samoa and literally had
nothing. The MTC had supplied him with
ALL his clothes and even a suitcase. We
gave him the best bike we could find at the time, but knew it wasn’t the right
fit. Just a few weeks ago we were able to use donated funds to purchase him a
brand new bike and boy, was he pleased. He is quite shy, but his face showed it
all. These times are priceless in our
That brings me
back to why we traveled to Tuscaloosa early Monday morning. The two Elders above told us they would donate
their bikes if we would take them out to dinner (this arrangement was made back
when we were still in the bike buying business) We could never make dinner
(they live over an hour from the office) but being down to the last minute they
settled for breakfast and we picked up the bikes. A good trade. The bikes are already in use.
To our surprise, three other Elders ended up donating theirs; that helps in the
mission cause. Hopefully, this will
catch on and we’ll end up with a good supply. Most of the others leaving either
sold or gave to members, or shipped them home. That’s the bike story for now.
We had to hurry
back from our breakfast date Monday to take three visa missionaries to the
airport where they boarded a plane headed to Argentina. Just a few munities later I met five new visa
waiters coming in. The following day we
arrived at the airport to transport the eleven new Alabama missionaries that
Pres. and Sister Holzapfel had met there. Great young missionaries. Elder
Jarvis is from north Mesa. It’s always fun to find connections. That was a full day…interviews at the mission
office and then dinner at the mission home and finally dropping them off at a
hotel where I’m sure they fell asleep as soon as they hit the bed. It had been a long, exciting day for them as
missionaries where they need to be is only part of the Transfer planning. I didn’t get the final list of changes until
the day before and with the office full of people wasn’t able to even think of
working on IMOS. There were also large orders for media to be sorted out and
packaged to take to Transfers on Wed. Once again, Elder C was dealing with Tiwi
issues and had been making arrangements to have an installer as well as all the
cars with issues be at the Stake Center.
Will this problem ever go away?
We got there early Wed. to be ready.
It is so nice to only have to drive 15 min instead of 45.
I was able to sit
in on most of the Transfer meeting. With Elder Mancera leaving we got a new
Assistant, Elder Jardine. We work quite
closely with the assistants and are pleased with that choice. After the changes
are announced and the new companions join each other, the President then talks
for an hour or more. All of the
missionaries we picked up this week had heard good things about Pres Holzapfel
and if they had any doubt about it, that was taken away after listening to him.
Among other things, he spoke on the choices we make and how it is easy to blame
other people or circumstances to why we are the way we are. “I have a temper because my dad had a temper,
my family never supported me, I didn’t have a family, I just did what my
friends did, we were always poor so I didn’t have a chance and so forth.” Pres used his own life as an example. I’ve told you before his father left when he
was two weeks old. He had a step-father that was hard on him and has never
joined the church. His mother wasn’t
active so Pres. was mostly inactive growing up.
When he left for college his mother took him aside and said, “Richard,
you grew up in a dysfunctional family.
You can leave and spend the rest of your life going nowhere because of
your past, or you can decide to be a man and make your life better…..you can be
a better father, a better husband, make better choices.” You can see he listened to his mother and we
and the church are blessed because of that choice. I think he uses his own life
as an example so often because there are so many of the missionaries that come
from difficult backgrounds and it is easy for them to become discouraged. We
know how much he cares not only about the work, but the growth and happiness of
the missionaries – young and old. He also presented some great doctrinal
material that day. You’ll have to read
one of his 35 books…..he has given us several and they are very good and
beautiful as well. He has a love for art
and carefully designs all his covers. He
designed the cover for Pres. Packer’s new book showing his artwork. He has also done others.
As I wrote last
week, many of our favorite missionaries left this time including our Sister
Narduzzi from Temple Sq. She is from
Italy and has been telling Elder C that when she leaves she WILL give him a big
hug….and she kept her word. Pres said
just don’t let him see it. Ha…she hugged
him too. Love her!
Just a little on
the Tiwi’s. We had nine repaired that
day and as you know, this isn’t the first time we’ve had to have them worked
on. That night there was already one of
the newly replaced ones that had fallen down again. Groan!
The program is working…driving habits have improved, but keeping the
tiwi working is the issue and even Salt Lake is starting to look at other
options. It’s a process
With that note we
will close for this week.Transfers are
all in place on IMOS and reports should be in Salt Lake for Paul by the end of
the day.We’ll see how long before new
changes are made.This is a mission of
being able to adapt as each day goes on, but we enjoy the challenge.We have a nice surprise planned for next
week.I’ll write about it in our next
letter. God bless and watch over you.
Dear loved ones…. We are almost at a point where we can take a deep breath again before starting on the next assignment which will be ten new missionaries arriving and near the same number leaving. This also means getting ready for transfers. Actually, Elder Curtis has already started with so many new ones coming. The end of the school year brings out missionaries. We have had to fit preparations in between other busy activities so haven’t done much sitting around.
First: Five Zone Conferences in five different locations from the top of Alabama to Montgomery as well as east and west of the state and then one conference in north Miss. These were early morning starts and long days, but enjoyable. As I’ve mentioned, we are only able to catch small sections of training from each conference, but we learned from what we did hear. One thought Pres H. shared was directed to the young missionaries on the importance of their taking advantage of study time, but it could apply to all of us. He said this is the time when we become the investigator and the Lord is our teacher. Interesting thought. He asked the missionaries how they feel when they have a teaching appointment arranged, but arrive to find no one there. Pretty bad. How does Heavenly Father feel when he has asked us to meet with him to study the scriptures or other assigned materials and as He waits for that chance to teach us, we don’t keep our appointment with Him? And even more, what are WE missing? There were many other subjects covered and the missionaries were well instructed.
Second: The Friday following our last Zone Conference my son Lynn and his family arrived for a short visit as they were passing through Alabama. Lynn is enrolled in an on line course to get his nurse practitioner license. Before he has to start his clinical they are traveling via camper throughout the US and parts of Canada. He can do his studies and also made arrangements to pick up work as a traveling nurse along the way. They got here late Friday which was good as it gave us a chance to do some catching up at the office after being gone so much. Paul also had five cars to get ready for a broker that was coming for them. That meant a quick trip to Boaz with the Smiths to bring back four that were finished being repaired and being sold.
We had such a nice time with Lynn, Cameo and their four children, Cora, Granger, Jonah and Ezra. They are good grandkids and love to travel as much as their parents. While here we spent time at Orr Park (the one with the tree carvings) where they had fun finding the carved trees then spent ALL afternoon playing in the creek. Sunday they attended church with us and we enjoyed being able to show them off and also have them meet some of the members that we have come to love. The Primary leaders were quick to give compliments on how sweet they were. The following day was spent seeing some Civil War and Civil Rights sites in Montgomery. They also liked spending time in our apartment pool (we had never even walked over to it in the nine months we’ve been here) and Lynn used the internet center to do his homework.
They had planned to only stay four days but had some problems come up with their camper and ended up being here a full week. Elder C and I had to get back to work on Tuesday so we didn’t see a lot of them the rest of the week. They were busy during that time taking care of their issues which included buying a whole new camper and leaving their old one here to sell. I won’t go into all the details. It was stressful for them, but in the end they had a better camper which insurance helped pay for and were very thankful for us giving them a place to stay while working through it all. We loved seeing them and wish them well with the rest of their travels. If you want to follow along check out their facebook or blog at:Vagabondgenes.blogspot.com
Third: We attended our last Sunday as part of Columbiana Ward. As we were introducing our family we were also saying our “goodbyes”. This has been a wonderful ward and we have made many dear friends. We will miss them and I think we will be missed. Changes aren’t as easy at our age, but we see this as an adventure and opportunity to serve and meet new friends in the Cahaba Heights Branch.It will also be a big help not having to drive that hour a day to the office.
Forth: The move….. With all that was going on, there was a Sister’s training and also the office was packed all week with the Pres. doing interviews, we hadn’t had a chance to even start packing. We left a little earlier on Thurs. Paul drove the van and trailer so we’d have it the next day and I stopped by our new apt. to see Lynn’s new camper and visit a minute. It worked out for them to stay there while figuring things out. By the time I got to Calera Paul had already loaded the heavy couch and several other items by himself and was ready to head for our new area. We were expecting help the following day, but he was anxious to get the job done even if it meant breaking his back. Anyway, to make a long story short, Lynn helped carry these heavy items to the new place and then Paul and I were back to Calera emptying cupboards and closets, etc. The mission has a newly arrived couple that has been assigned to housing, which includes helping with moves. They had told us they would be at our place on Friday morning with some Elders to help. By the time we got a call from them at 9:30 Paul had already been up for hours and loaded the van once again with heavy furniture. (The apt is being closed so has to be emptied.) They didn’t get to our place until 10:30 – without any missionaries – and said they had to be back in Birmingham at 11:30 for their District Meeting which, by the way, was our meeting as well. Goodness. The travel time is at least that long. I think being new; they haven’t realized how long it takes just to get from one place to another. Then to top it off, some Elders from the District in Birmingham called and asked them for a ride. “Ooops….sorry, we have to leave.” We were limited on time ourselves and needed to get the job done that day so there was no waiting. First we unloaded all the furniture we weren’t using at the storage at the Mission Home and then tackled getting things into our place by ourselves. Have you ever moved a washing machine down stairs? Paul was bearing the weight and I was trying to keep it steady so as to not crush him. We did finally get everything we needed into the apt, but not without a lot of groaning and sweating (it was the hottest day of this year) and walking probably three or four miles making trips from the car including up and down the stairs. Paul counted them. Seventeen. If he had his way every missionary would live on the bottom floor. Whew! It didn’t help that he has a bone spur on one heel and an ingrown toenail on the other foot. All is well, though. We’ve spent the night here now and think it will be a good place. It isn’t as big or new as our last one and sits way in the back on the bottom of what would be a day light basement with three apartments overhead. You kind of feel like you’re going into a cave, but once inside it is nice and we look right out into the forest without other apartments blocking our view. If we can get past the long walkway and steps leading to it, it is quiet and private and stays cooler. This will be our home for the rest of the mission. Monday we will make one last trip to Calera to pick up what is left there and to clean the apartment. It will feel good to have this over and hand the keys to the new housing couple to close it up. By the way, we do like them a lot and think we’ll be good friends. This was their first move and they are learning. They also don’t know Elder C and that he likes to just get in and do the job NOW. He is a hard worker and I’m thankful for this characteristic in him. It will be good to be settled and on to the next assignment. (I guess that really wasn’t making a long story short was it?)
We don’t have our Internet set up here yet so I’m not sure when I’ll get this sent. We hope you have a nice weekend and Memorial Day. We did have two other wonderful events take place this week. On Wed night Larisa’s step daughter, Sarah Cummins, graduated from Sahuaro High School in Tucson and tonight Jeanette’s oldest daughter, Marlee, is graduating from Snowflake High. These are some of the special occasions we miss out on being away, but we are so proud of them and wish them all the best as they move forward.
Blessings and love, Elder and Sister Curtis Mom/Dad