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Curtis' Mission

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Leaving My Mark On Brazil


This is a copy of Curtis' last email that he sent from Brazil. He has grown so much since entering the mission field. He should be very proud of his accomplishments. I know that I am very proud of him.

"...gonna free fall out into nothing, gonna leave this world for awhile..."

Hey Everyone,

Yesterday we had interviews in my zone of Ipiranga. Of course I was last to be interviewed in our Zone. President Wilkins said something pretty interesting to me. He said, "There are some missionaries who run through the forest of missionary work with moccasins on, not leaving a single mark anywhere. Sure they get through and done and with honor, but sadly no marks are left. Then there are others, sure they may have moccasins, but they also have machetes and everywhere they go they leave their mark, on members, investigators, other missionaries, entire zones and sometimes the whole mission. And people don't forget them. Elder Tonks, you are one of these missionaries." He then explained why and it made me feel so good. I am not trying to brag or anything, it was really awesome what he said.

More and more as people say stuff like that to me I really feel like it is time to come home and start up with my other pursuits in life. I am sad to leave Brasil, but at the same time I am happy. I am happy that I did what I wanted to, that is, coming down here and serving a mission and not looking back no matter what happened. I had tests and trials, and made some of the best friends I will ever have among Brazilian and Americans alike.

I learned a lot about the Savior and the importance of living what you believe and how that is the only way that a person can be truly happy. I have learned to love and learned to learn and teach, some qualities that I hope are with me for the rest of my life. I have made it a pursuit to follow the spirit and know that when I do that I can make it over the tallest mountains and over the deepest seas. I have a new language under my belt and hundreds upon hundreds of the craziest and most spiritual stories that a man could put together in two years.

I look forward to the future with trembling and a little bit of fear, but more with great hope and faith in what will happen. I just have to do what is right, pray like crazy and follow through with my plans and goals. I know what I want in life, and I know how to get it, and hopefully I will apply the principles I have learned (sometimes the hard way) down here in Brasil.

I am grateful for all of my companions. I never thought I could survive 24/7 with the same person, but here I am, a living example. Elder Hirschi, Elder Walker, Elder Carvalho and Elder Dias all taught me patience in very specific and sometimes painful ways. Elder Pieper, Elder Stoddard and Elder Staley taught me the importance of loving those whom I teach. Elder Martins and Elder Silveira taught me how to have fun and still work hard, and with those two, how to work smart. Elder Costa taught me how to be humble and prayerful and to let the Lord guide us in all we do. Elder Hicks and Elder Jones taught me how to listen and be concerned with those around me and to think nothing but how to help them and love them and show them the way to salvation.

I have been in six areas in the Sao Paulo East Mission, not including the two months of crazy training before I got out here to the field. I am going to miss walking hundreds of flights of stairs in the MTC, riding the big comfortable air conditioned bus out to Cruzeiro, the walk through the circular park to Bom Clima, the climb up the hills to Taubate, the graffiti ridden walls on the way to the mission office in Belem, the sweaty train rides to Jardim Camargo Novo, and the underground Metro rides to the urban jungles of Vila Mariana.

I feel like I am writing either my autobiography or my eulogy right now, but I know that the future holds many challenges and much happiness for me.

Coming home is going to be awesome, there is so much I want to do but on the other hand so much I am going to miss and long for down here in Sao Paulo. Being a missionary, wearing the nametag, teaching really spiritual lessons, talking to at least one insanely crazy person everyday, zone conferences, seeing people accept the gospel and change every aspect of their lives because you taught them a few simple discussions, putting into practice the advice received from President Urry and seeing the blessings, and then hearing a little more advice, which is always needed, from President Wilkins and putting it into practice as well. And the blessings continue as they were always promised to.

I am grateful for my testimony which has exploded during my time here as a representative of the Church and the Lord. I realize how weak and little I was spiritually before I came on the mission, and how the mission looked me straight in the eye and told me, "Now its time to grow up, to shape up, and to stand up for what you believe and make sure that other people know it." I don't know where I'd be today if I wasn't a member of the church or if I didn't have a family who supported me and friends who showed me the way. I can never truly thank people for that.

I have realized that you can't get through life unscathed without the cuts and bruises that life always throws at me, but with the right attitude we only get stronger, better and if we play our cards right, closer to the Lord. I know that this is the Lord's Church. I know that we have the one thing that can bring happiness to any person in this life and especially in the life to come. I am grateful for the programs of the church, especially missionary work which has helped me to grow up, spiritually and mentally.

I know that families can be together forever. It is really strange that the Lord would give us families in the first place if He would just take them away when life ends. That doesn't make any sense and that's why it's not true. Families are forever. I know that today we have prophets and apostles, that President Hinckley is the Lord's mouthpiece on the earth today. Some of my best mission memories were watching General Conference and "sticking with the Bretheren" as an Apostle of old has said. When we follow them, we are blessed, simply, and when we don't, we suffer the consequences of our actions. Thank goodness for our free agency and I know when we give it to the Lord, he gives us everything he has.

Most of all, I know that Jesus is the Christ, that he gave his life for us that we might live again in the Celestial Kingdom of our Father. We can never really comprehend even a little bit of the pain and the agony suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane, but as we go through our lives filled with trouble and letdown, we grow up unto the Lord and understand why he did it for us and what our new found potential is. The price was paid and the demands were met on all levels, and all we need to do now is keep the commandments and make covenants and stay true to them and we will get the blessings that were always intended for us even before the foundation of the world when we first spoke up and said we would gladly follow Jesus Christ and the great plan of redemption.

I am glad I served a mission and I love those whom I have served and have helped me every step of the way. I look forward to the future and I hope that life goes on being the blessing that it has for me these last two years. I love you all for the support you have given me. I hope that you can all help me come back into the fold easily and comfortably. Well, next time you hear from me you'll be talking face to face with me. Thanks again, and I will see you all on the other side. Much love, for the last time, from Sao Paulo, Brasil...

Your Favorite Missionary Ever, Elder Curtis S. Tonks

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