Rev. Joseph and Mrs. Evelyn Curtiss
By Cora Jackson-FossettSentinel Religion Editor
Godly commitment and business savvy have kept Word of Life Christian Bookstores operating for decades in South Los Angeles. Currently in its 50th year, the owners, Rev. Joseph and Mrs. Evelyn Curtiss, are celebrating the company's continuing success.
"I love books and always wanted to have a full time store. I worked in the Post Office about 14 years and anticipated the day I could go full-time in Christian service," said Rev. Curtiss.
"Our family business has been in operation since 1961. Our three sons, Jonathan, Joseph and Phillip, now manage the two Christian bookstores and this year, 2011, marks the 50th Anniversary of celebrating God's Faithfulness. To God be the Glory!"
His dedication to Christ began with Rev. Curtiss' conversion while serving in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War. As he grew in the Word, his love of God intensified and steered him to witness to others, distribute Christian literature, and purchase books about the Lord. Also, during this time, Rev. Curtiss accepted his call to the ministry and was later licensed, ordained and earned a bachelor's degree in Christian Education.
"When I was converted in Germany, it was like a lifetime dream. Actually, it was miraculous because I was always a quiet person most of my life, so this was different, meeting people and talking to them about Jesus," he said.
His gift for witnessing touched more people with the opening of his first store at 8404 South Hoover that has survived two uprisings - the Watts Riot and 1992 civil unrest.
Rev. Curtiss recalled, "We were miraculously saved because I had disciples, some young men in high school who stopped the crowd from bothering the bookstore. They said, ‘Hey man, don't bother it, that's my church.'
"We purchased the property at 6321 West Boulevard in 1986. It was a Lutheran store and wasn't doing too well. But, that was the best investment ever because it's a good location."
The desire to spread the Word led him and Mrs. Curtiss to establish United Gospel Outreach (UGO) in 1968 and through the ministry they have become worldwide evangelists. They have ministered in the U.S., West Africa, Haiti and Europe on various mission trips. In 2008, Rev. and Mrs. Curtiss traveled to Nigeria with a team from Prosperity Baptist Church where they are members under Rev. Terrance Phillips. The group provided six bore-hole wells for clean drinking water for the village people.
"UGO was born for the purpose of reaching out to the total man, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Over the years, many souls have been won to Christ and discipled through UGO's various outreach ministries. Also, UGO has brought various leaders and denominations together through Christian Education training and outreach," said Rev. Curtiss who has served more than 42 years as UGO Director. In addition, he and his wife have been Los Angeles inner-city missionaries on staff with the American Missionary Fellowship for 28 years.
Looking back over his ministry, Rev. Curtiss says he has no regrets or plans to slow down. "I want to use the God-given talent He has inserted in me. Across the years, I've been more of a catalyst. Our evangelistic trips have resulted in hundreds of decisions for Christ and more than 12 young men called into ministry. Helping people seems to be one of my gifts."