Wednesday, June 20, 2012
June 16, 2012
After last week’s letter telling of the business revolving around transfers, this letter will sound like a
week of partying. It began last Saturday with a wedding for a friend in the Columbiana ward. I had sent
pictures of her surprise proposal on Christmas Eve when we had dinner at her parent’s home. The
Averetts are about as southern as you can get, full of southern hospitality and just a lot of fun. They
have three very talented daughters who also live in the ward with their families. Teresa, the bride,
served a mission at Temple Sq, later married in the temple and still later ended the marriage when her
husband became heavily involved in drugs. Now in her mid thirties, she and Wes, who isn’t a member, are
beginning their life together. He works as a civilian for the military in Afghanistan and is only home a
few weeks here and there. He attends church while here and we have visited with him about the gospel.
We wish them well. The wedding was held in a beautiful wooded park and was followed by a Cajun Shrimp
Boil with all the fixings. It was a small gathering for family and close friends so we were surprised to be
invited, but certainly enjoyed the evening. The family has always been very gracious to us.
Our next adventure began Monday morning. Actually, it began a couple of months ago when a new car
arrived for Pres. Holzapfel. A few weeks later we learned that there had been a double order out of
Salt Lake and another Avalon, just like the one we had received, was waiting for us to pick up. Greg,
our supervisor from Salt Lake, was a little red in the face, but in the end it worked out well for us. The
decision was made to give it to the Atlanta North Mission Pres. and guess who got to deliver it? We
didn’t mind that assignment at all! It helped Greg out, and gave us permission to leave our mission which
gave us the chance to see some of our friends in Atlanta. A win, win wouldn’t you say? We spent the
night and visited the Employment Center, which was the highlight seeing Sister Findlay and Bro Blount as
well as others. We met the new missionaries serving in our positions. One Sis is good friends with Pres
and Sis Holzapfel so that was fun. We also had quick visits to a couple of our favorite spots near where
we had lived and then finished up our stay by attending the newly remodeled Atlanta Temple with Karen
Finlay before heading back to our mission. The temple was beautiful. Pres Black of the Temple also took
us for a tour of the newly built missionary apts. What a change from when we were there. Many good
memories came to surface as we saw friends and places we had learned to love. It’s nice to remember
and to be remembered. We drove the Atlanta Pres’ car back. It is a hybrid and interesting to try out. It
got great mileage and was soooo quiet. It will be Paul’s job now to sell it.
We had plenty of work waiting for us when we returned, but there was still one more activity before
the week was over. On Friday all the senior couples got together at the Mission Home for a going away
luncheon for Elder and Sister Johnson. They were the first “six month” missionaries to serve here
in Alabama. The time went by fast. They were assigned to Mississippi so we only saw them for Zone
meetings or couples activities. They are very enjoyable to be with and always generous. They bought
and repaired a bike to donate to the mission and even provided their own going away dinner. They
drove from MS early and spent the morning cooking up a Cajun Boil (twice in one week for us) which was
delicious. The rest of us brought side dishes and then sat around talking about how we are all gaining
weight. But it was oh so good. They will be missed. We are told it won’t be long before another six
month couple will arrive. We also learned this morning that Elder and Sister Beckstead, who have been
here several months while waiting for their visa to New Zealand, have received their papers and will be
leaving soon. Life moves on. We are moving up the list of those who will leave next and we are already
receiving bicycles for the group of young missionaries coming in July. Days and weeks roll on.
Love and blessings, Elder and Sister Curtis
P.S. We returned from Atlanta about 11:30 p.m. only to realize we had lost our car keys somewhere along
the way. This meant we had no way to get into our apartment. Yikes! Sweet Sister Dunbar from the
office bailed us out AGAIN by letting us come over at that late hour and spend the night in her spare
room. We had to show up to work in our travel clothes, but we had a hot shower, a nice bed and she
fed us breakfast. No wonder all the missionaries, young and old, love her. She will have served THREE
years by the time she goes back to her home in St Louis. Special lady. No one in Atlanta had seen our
keys, but we got a call a few days later and they had been kicked under a desk at the Mission Office
there…..whew! We had checked the replacement cost at nearly $200. What a relief.
Saturday, June 9, 2012
May 9, 2012
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 mission memories.
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 well.
Getting the 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.
We love you all, Sister and Elder Curtis Mom /Dad
May 26, 2012
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