Hung Wo Loi: Finding Truth on the China-Macau Border

The tin shack was crowded with dark-eyed people intently listening to Hung Wo Loi’s powerful testimony of Jesus Christ. Through the open window, lights flickered along the China-Macau border.

Brother Hung, who spoke easily in both Mandarin and Indonesian, often acted as interpreter for the Cantonese-speaking American missionaries in the tiny Portuguese colony of Macau—six square miles packed with hundreds of thousands of people.

Only a year before, Brother Hung had never heard of the Book of Mormon and had only limited knowledge of Christ. In their search for answers about life and religion, he and his wife, So Kam Wah, had welcomed missionaries of all faiths into their home, but hadn’t found the answers they sought.

For Wo Loi, the quest had its roots in Indonesia, where he was raised by a mother who instilled faith in God in each of her ten children. “We were also taught to work hard and be honest in our dealings,” says Brother Hung. “On three separate occasions my father found watches while he was herding cows, but he always turned them in to local authorities.”

When Wo Loi was twelve years old, his family moved back to China. Every day after school he trekked into the hills near their home in Canton gathering vegetation to feed the family’s four pigs. It was during those school years that he met pretty, dimpled So Kam Wah.

“I was impressed by her optimism and cheerfulness. She was always so willing to help me with school service projects. High school students were not allowed to date, so we became good friends.” Kam Wah’s family soon moved more than a hundred miles away and the pair corresponded for the next eight years.

After their marriage, Brother and Sister Hung worked hard; he was the leader of two thousand workers trying to discover how to save rubber trees from being uprooted by hurricanes, and she arose at 4 A.M. each day to drill holes in rubber trees to extract the sap.

In July 1979 the Hung family—which then included two daughters and has since added a son—left China to begin a new life in Macau, on the south border of China forty miles west of Hong Kong. The Hungs began a fabric weaving business in their small apartment.

Three years later, Wo Loi heard a knock above the clatter of the weaving machines and opened his door to two LDS elders. Welcoming them, he directed his hired workers to stop weaving and give full attention to these emissaries from an unknown religion.

Soon the Hungs were convinced this religion was the one they had been searching for. But one obstacle blocked Wo Loi’s baptism—he had smoked since the age of nine, not only cigarettes, but the huge Chinese bamboo bong (a giant pipe which rests on the ground).

When the missionaries challenged him to quit smoking, he began avoiding them, leaving home before their arrival. But they did not give up; they sometimes waited hours for his return. Touched by their concern, Wo Loi determined to overcome the habit and began sticking a piece of hot ginger root in his mouth every time he got the urge to smoke. In four days he had licked the habit.

On 25 April 1982, a little more than a month after first meeting the missionaries, Brother and Sister Hung were baptized.

Brother Hung was determined to keep all of the commandments—including tithing—despite financial difficulties. “The most difficult trial of my faith after I was baptized came when school was ready to start. There was simply not enough money to send our two daughters to school,” he says.

“Then one night in a dream I saw Jesus Christ with outstretched arms. He said to me, ‘Yearn not, worry not. If you keep my commandments I will bless you.’”

A few days later, an acquaintance from Hong Kong called with an offer to finance his children’s education.

Eighteen months after joining the Church, Brother Hung was called as branch president, the first Macau resident to hold the calling. “Branch members are touched by Brother Hung’s deep humility and his Christ-like love,” says Elder Leland Chan, a missionary in the Macau branch.

Visitors climbing the ladder-type steps to the Hung family’s one-room home are welcomed by Brother Hung’s huge grin and his wife’s softer, serene one. This feeling of warmth, as well as his ability to speak several languages, attracts refugees and other newcomers. The Hungs frequently serve as translators for investigators. On more than one occasion, Brother Hung has helped missionaries teach in a tiny packed room in a tin building, while many other investigators have clustered around the doorway listening. His example and stirring testimony have already led several families to join the Church.

“Through continual study of the scriptures I have received of the great goodness of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit,” states Brother Hung. “I have obtained a source of unextinguishable truth.”

Nanette Larsen, a writer, teaches Relief Society in the Capitol Hill Second Ward in Salt Lake City.

Lucy Legg: Learning and Teaching the Healer’s Art

As one of Lucy Legg’s former students says, “She is a true example of love, and that’s helped me to think of my patients as people rather than just something to take care of.”

Sister Legg’s example has influenced countless students and patients during her thirty-year career as a nurse and instructor of nursing at Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho. She has always loved caring for people. But she chose to teach because she believes that through teaching she can have a broader impact on nursing through the students she trains.

“It is exciting to teach young people the art of nursing,” she says. “I’ve always felt that showing love for patients and being concerned about their emotional needs is very important.

“It’s hard when you’re sick,” she adds. “Your defenses are down, and you don’t feel as confident about yourself. You need extra support then.”

Sister Legg’s concern for others has helped to shape the nursing program at Ricks College. The program emphasizes the “nursing diagnosis,” in which students learn to identify patients’ responses to their illnesses and to respond to patients’ needs in the best possible way.

In 1952, Sister Legg graduated as a registered nurse from the nursing school at LDS Hospital in Logan, Utah. She went on to attend Utah State University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

She then moved to Washington, D.C., and worked in several hospitals in that area. Washington was a long way from home for Sister Legg, who was raised on a farm on the outskirts of Rexburg, Idaho. But she says, “I find that if the Church is where you go, then you don’t feel that far from home.”

While in Washington, she married and had two children, Mike and Jeff. In 1957, she accepted a teaching position in the newly formed nursing program at Ricks College, and the Leggs moved to Rexburg, where she has taught since, except for a leave of absence she took in order to receive a master’s degree from the University of Oregon.

During the next six years, Sister Legg had two more sons, Tim and Scott. Not long after the birth of their fourth son, Sister Legg and her husband were divorced, and she became responsible for raising four sons on her own.

When asked how she has managed as a single parent, Sister Legg says, “I’d say I’m an optimist. I try to look on the bright side of life. I find that I need to do that to keep enthusiastic. Our energy level is dictated a great deal by our mental attitude, and that’s why it’s so important to be positive.”

Her oldest son, Mike, says his mother showed her sons what love was all about. “Mother taught us how to play baseball, and she took us fishing,” he says. “And I’ll never forget the Fourth of July she cooked chicken for us, made a picnic lunch, then decorated the bike I rode in the parade,” he says. “Two hours later, she went to the hospital and had my last little brother, Scotty.”

For Tim, Sister Legg’s third son, his mother’s attendance at sporting events he participated in was a highlight of his growing-up years. “I remember when I was eighteen or nineteen years old, I was playing on our ward’s Young Adult basketball team. Mom had always supported us and had come to our games, and I was used to that. She wasn’t there at the start of one game, and I couldn’t seem to play up to my normal abilities at all. Then she arrived, and as soon as she did, I settled down and went on to have a great game.”

In 1974, tragedy struck the Legg family when ten-year-old Scotty was hit by a truck while riding a friend’s motorbike. Although he was flown to the Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City, his injuries were so severe that he died forty-eight hours later.

Lucy was depressed for a year after Scotty’s death. During that difficult time, she sought the comfort of the Holy Ghost. “I began praying more and reading about the spirit world,” she says. “Gradually, the Spirit comforted me.”

The experience helped her gain a greater understanding of the grieving process, which has helped her to comfort others in times of loss. “I often wonder how people who don’t have a belief in God make it through those experiences. If they don’t believe there’s a life after death, how can they cope?” she wonders. “These experiences reinforce the importance of helping patients and understanding their need for belonging and for having someone who cares.”

Sister Legg expects to retire within the next ten years. She wants to go on “a mission or two,” take some classes, work in her garden and on her genealogy, and perhaps learn a language. But in the meantime, she is enjoying every minute helping nursing students learn the art of loving and caring for others.

[photo] Photo by Dana Johnson

Mary Alice Campbell, a free-lance writer, serves as a counselor in the Primary presidency of the BYU 139th Ward.

Igor and Vesna Groupman: Sharing Love and the Gospel through Music

Theirs is a love story: love of music, love of each other, love of freedom, and love of the gospel of Jesus Christ. For Igor and Vesna Groupman, love has become a motivational force that has changed their lives.

The couple met in 1971 while they were both studying violin at the Moscow Central Music School for Outstanding Young Musicians. In 1967, at the age of eleven, Igor won first prize in the National Youth Competition in his hometown, Kiev. At fifteen, he won a scholarship to the Moscow Central Music School.

Vesna, born in Nish, Yugoslavia, was a soloist with the Belgrade Chamber Orchestra by the age of ten. In 1969, she won the International Violin Competition for Young People in Czechoslovakia. As her talent and fame grew, she won a scholarship to one of the best music conservatories in the world—the Moscow Central Music School. Thus Igor and Vesna became classmates, and eventually sweethearts. But they could not marry in Russia.

“A Russian who married a foreigner was looked on as a potential refugee,” Igor explains. “Although my talent was considered a ‘national treasure,’ if we had married I would not have been trusted and my chances for an international career would have been over.”

Both graduated from the music school and were accepted into Moscow’s famous Tchaikovsky Conservatory for postgraduate studies. In 1979, Igor’s family, who were Jewish, applied for permission to leave Russia during a period of liberal Jewish emigration. Igor decided to go with them. But as soon as his intentions were known—just months before graduation—he was expelled from the conservatory.

Permission for the Groupman family to leave Russia was granted, and they arrived in the United States on 15 July 1979. Igor and Vesna had agreed that Vesna would remain in Russia to finish her studies and then meet Igor in the United States in July 1980.

It was a lonely year of struggle for both of them. Settling in Los Angeles, Igor won a scholarship to study under famed violinist Jascha Heifetz; he also worked at studio recording engagements. Meanwhile, Vesna completed her studies, playing recitals throughout Europe and performing solos with the Belgrade and Munich symphonies. Immediately after graduation she came to the United States, and she and Igor were married.

Vesna felt a need for direction and for a firm foundation of faith. She had always believed in God and had been interested in scripture. Igor had not been brought up as an orthodox Jew, but he, too, knew there was a God. “I had a very strong feeling that someday I would see the truth and recognize it,” he says.

“I remember sitting with Igor and telling him how wonderful it would be to find a church exactly like the church in the Bible,” Vesna recalls. One day a neighbor told them that she had found such a church. Three days later, two lady missionaries knocked on the Groupmans’ door and taught them the gospel.

In April 1982, after a month of prayer and study, Vesna was baptized. “I was a member of the Russian Orthodox Church, but when I heard the truth I recognized it and joined the Lord’s true church,” she says. Igor studied and attended church with her. He had not yet made up his mind to be baptized, but Vesna’s example helped him.

“I saw what happened to Vesna during the next few months,” he remembers. “She had been feeling depressed and insecure, and in front of my eyes, incredibly quickly, she became strong.”

Still, he didn’t feel ready. “I thought I had to know everything about the Church and become perfect before I could be baptized,” he says. He was particularly worried about giving up smoking, a habit he had had since age thirteen.

Then the Groupmans moved to San Diego and became active in the Seventh Ward of the San Diego North Stake. Igor quit smoking, and in August 1983 he was baptized.

They attribute much of their conversion to the power good music. Both Igor and Vesna feel that music can speak to the spirit of those who listen reverently, and that it can prepare the way for the Holy Ghost.

Igor and Vesna both play for the San Diego Symphony in addition to giving private lessons and playing recitals. Igor is concertmaster of the San Diego Chamber Orchestra, and Vesna is concertmaster of the San Diego Opera. For the past two years they have served in an unusual Church calling: teaching music to the Hmong and Laotian children of the Southeast Asian Branch in their stake.

“Because we are teaching children with so many different natural languages, we have a great need for the Spirit to help us communicate with each other, and it really does,” Vesna says. “Miracles happen in our classes.”

The Groupmans also serve as stake missionaries by giving concert firesides in which they play their instruments and talk about music and the gospel.

“We believe that music is one of those unspeakable gifts in which the Spirit is manifest in beauty and power,” Vesna says. “It can often reach deeper into the soul than words alone can, and it can open up communication with the Spirit on a higher level.”

The Groupmans feel that one of the best means members have for drawing close to the Lord is their talents. “We consider talent to be a certain aspect of the intelligence, or light, that we brought with us from the premortal existence,” Vesna explains. “When we use this light, we receive more light. Our talents can become a channel through which we can grasp spiritual knowledge and truth faster. They can literally become conductors of light between us and heaven.” (See D&C 88:40.)

With their professional and Church commitments, the Groupmans have little leisure time. On a rare holiday in February 1985, they traveled to Utah, where they performed in the Temple Square Concert Series, taught a master class, and played a recital at Brigham Young University.

The Groupmans are currently working on an album.

Despite their busy schedule, Igor and Vesna enjoy using their talents to further the Lord’s work. “It is more exciting to use a talent in the service of the Lord than to play in Carnegie Hall,” says Igor. Why? “Because the people are there to learn truth and to worship the Lord.”

[photo] Photo by Quentin Gardner, Jr.

DeLynn Decker, an editor, is a Gospel Doctrine teacher in the San Diego Seventh Ward, San Diego California North Stake.