TMCNet:  A new beginning [The Pueblo Chieftain, Colo.]

[April 16, 2011]

A new beginning [The Pueblo Chieftain, Colo.]

(Pueblo Chieftain (CO) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) April 16--For Pastor Dave Curtiss, life and faith are all about second chances and what people do with them.

Curtiss, 68, remembers feeling the call to the pulpit as an adolescent. But when he was 15, he turned away from his faith, seeking solace instead in the fog of alcohol and the thrill of rebellion.

"My parents had gotten divorced and back then there was a real stigma. I ran around with a chip on my shoulder for a long time," he said, recounting the dozens of good jobs he walked away from, and many moves over the next 40 years. None of those changes provided the escape he was looking for, or satisfied the longing he could no longer name.


"Everywhere I went, I was hanging out in the bars more, drinking more, sometimes going to work drunk," he said.

A couple of times, he tried to reconnect with God by trying different churches early in his 20s, but the void remained.

"At 53, I realized I had more addresses to my name than years in my age," he said. "At 54, I realized that alcohol wasn't working anymore, and I decided maybe I should stop for a little bit, maybe for a couple of weeks." He hadn't been to church since he was 23, and had just quit a managerial position with a national bakery company in Amarillo, Texas. His next job was selling RVs, and it was another new employee who invited him to the Pentecostal church that finally filled his heart again.

It felt "like home," he recalled, "And that very Sunday, I got saved. Two weeks later I was baptized, and I've never had another drink." Although he felt the whisper of his earlier calling again, "I figured I had already wasted that opportunity, so I ignored it again." But he was wrong.

By 1998, Curtiss was with Walmart and the company moved him to Pueblo to help open the North Side store. That led to an offer to join the management team, but the offer would mean another move.

Because he had fallen in love with a woman he hoped to marry, and because he didn't want to uproot her three teenagers, he turned down the offer and stayed at the Pueblo store. He had no idea then that the job would lead to another in a series of life-changing events that culminated in his opening a new church last month in Pueblo West.

During the ensuing 11 years, Curtiss married Valerie Scott and the teenagers grew up and started their own families as the couple grew in their shared faith. It was while they were members of Rocky Mountain Family Church that Curtiss signed on as a mentor at the Colorado Department of Corrections through its Friends in Transition program.

Curtiss said the experience fanned the spark that still burned in his heart.

"It came to me that I needed to check into what it would take to be a chaplain because there was a great need, and I found that I could reach the inmates," he said.

While completing the 33-course pastoral education program offered by the national Assemblies of God Church, Curtiss worked as chaplain at the San Carlos women's prison here. His wife ran the prison library and helped with Bible studies. They continued in those positions for about three years, until Curtiss was switched to the graveyard shift at Walmart and had to cut the full-time chaplaincy work. They stayed on as Bible study teachers and spiritual mentors for another two years after Curtiss was ordained through the Full Gospel Evangelical Association and licensed as a pastor by the state.

Curtiss was in the midst of a two-year stint as associate pastor at Living Faith Foursquare Church when a trio of young men battered him nearly to death during an early morning robbery in the electronics department at Walmart.

It was during his long months of recovery and healing that he came to forgive the men who had nearly killed him for eight iPods. And it was in that forgiveness that his determination to open his own church took root and flourished.

A plan to open a Pueblo West branch of Living Faith Foursquare didn't pan out because the national organization had no funds for the idea and insisted upon owning the church if Curtiss eventually succeeded in buying or building one.

So last month, he launched the independent Friends of God Church in rented space at the Liberty Point Estates recreation center, 971 S. Tolstoi Dr. So far, Sunday services include 10 to 15 people, he said. Child care is available and youth services are planned in the future.

For now, the church welcomes new members and invites anyone who can sing or play an instrument to help form a praise band.

"We're just getting started, but I have no doubt we'll grow," Curtiss said. "We're a church for people who want Jesus in their lives -- people who aren't perfect and don't claim to be perfect. We're all about second chances and building a relationship with the Lord." To see more of The Pueblo Chieftain, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.chieftain.com.

Copyright (c) 2011, The Pueblo Chieftain, Colo.

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