By JOE SUTTER
Aidan Curtis hadn't thought of the Midwest as his mission field; he had hopes of going to Ireland or Taiwan. But, he said, he believes God sent him to where he was needed most.
Aidan Curtis sorts donated clothes at the Village General Store. Curtis and Kendrick Horkley, in the background, are Mormon missionaries serving in Fort Dodge.
"You can put in a recommendation, but the point is it's where the Heavenly Father wants you to go," Curtis said.
Curtis is one of the missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints serving part of his two-year mission in Fort Dodge.
Curtis and Kendrick Horkley can be found during the week working at the Village General Store, but they also serve in other ways, such as shoveling snow or cleaning out basements.
"Our second duty is to serve, whenever someone asks or whenever we see the need," Horkley said.
"Anyone can ask us for service," said Curtis.
More experienced missionaries are paired with new people to help them learn. Curtis has been on his mission for about a year, and is training Horkley, who is now three months in.
Young Mormon men are strongly recommended, but not required, to give missionary service, Horkley said.
"Women in our church aren't under the same obligation to go, but their service is encouraged," said Curtis.
Curtis and Horkley were joined in Fort Dodge mid-March by Andrea Robinson and Shannon Hunter.
"(Robinson)'s been out (in the mission field) for a year, and I've only been out for a few days," said Hunter.
"It's small," she said of Fort Dodge. "I grew up in a bigger city, but I like it here. I think the sunsets are beautiful."
Robinson wanted to serve because she thought it would be exciting.
"I think my motivations have changed a lot, from having an adventure to loving the people," she said. "You really get to know people and care about them."
Missionaries are trained in Utah for three months before being sent out, Horkley said. He came directly from there to Fort Dodge.
"They train you how to teach, and basically how to give service and how to be kind to people," he said.
Curtis has served at Reiman Gardens in Ames and at a Methodist Soup Kitchen in Peoria, Ill.
Curtis never had any question whether he wanted to serve or not.
"My other brothers had served on missions, and I had seen them come back different," Curtis said. "I had known it changes you."
The mission experience teaches you skills you need to survive as an adult, said Horkley, like setting goals, living on your own, and coping with a roommate.
"I am actually seeing myself change hugely from what I was," Horkley said. "My habits have gotten better, my spending has gotten better, because I learned to budget my money.
"It helps me personally get closer to my Heavenly Father, because I'm doing his work."
Missionaries have to pay their own way, Curtis said. Here in Fort Dodge, Curtis and Horkley live in a local LDS member's basement.
"Our primary purpose," said Curtis, "is to help others receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ."
Mormons believe Jesus came to earth, was baptized, was crucified for the sins of the world, and rose again, like mainstream Christians, Curtis said.
"We believe that after the apostles were also killed, that priesthood authority that Christ had given them was taken from the Earth. It didn't continue and it didn't pass down," he said.
While reformers like Martin Luther were great men, Curtis said, they didn't go far enough - the church needed a restoration, not a reformation.
In 1820, Joseph Smith prayed about which church was the true church, Horkley said.
"He got a vision from the Holy Father and Jesus Christ. In that vision, Jesus Christ said none of the churches were true, and he said that through him, he would restore the gospel."
Serving and teaching others strengthens their own faith, said Curtis and Robinson.
"We get to see the changes in people's lives," said Horkley. "People quit smoking, quit drinking. We see that their families are strengthened, and it's because they come closer to their heavenly father."