Newsmaker: Returned Missionaries Recognized

Michael Scott Peppler of Fruit Heights, Utah, and Kurt Forsberg of West Jordan, Utah, were presented a prestigious award recently by German ambassador Jürgen Chrobog. The ceremony, held in Salt Lake City, was attended by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

The award, the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, is typically given to individuals who have made political contributions to Germany. In this case, however, the award was given for bravery.

In August 1995 the two men were companions serving in the Germany Leipzig Mission. While driving on the Autobahn, they caught sight of a car that had lost control, overturned, and crashed into a field near the highway.

“Although there was plenty of traffic on the highway, only one car stopped,” explained Ambassador Chrobog. The missionaries helped the semiconscious driver out of the car just moments before it exploded into flames. No one else was in the car at the time.

The young men’s response had been immediate. “We didn’t think about the danger involved,” Kurt said. “At least, not until the cops said, ‘You guys saved his life.’”

The driver, a businessman from Dresden and the father of two daughters, has fully recovered and remains in contact with the two former missionaries.

[photo] Left to right: German ambassador Jürgen Chrobog and his wife, Magda, with former missionaries Kurt Forsberg and Michael Scott Peppler.

Touching Lives with Music

Known as Hawaii’s Lady of Song, Genoa Keawe has sung at many entertainment spots throughout her state and in many foreign countries.

Genoa has enjoyed performing since she was a young girl, when she sang popular music with a dance band. “I used to listen to music at night on the radio,” she recalls. “Every other night there was a program where several of the singers were also members of the Church. I loved the music so much. After the program was over and before I went to sleep, I would kneel down and pray. I would tell Heavenly Father that if he would give me the chance, I would try to touch lives with my singing. And he has blessed me so abundantly.”

In 1946 Genoa started to develop her own unique style of traditional Hawaiian music. For several years in the early 1950s she appeared regularly on a local television program, and since 1969 she has recorded 10 albums. She is still recognized by many for her contributions to Hawaiian music. The Rotary Club of Honolulu honored her in 1993 for her contributions to Hawaiian culture, and in 1995 she received the Na Hoku Hanohano Award for Female Vocalist of the Year. She has performed in Russia, Switzerland, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and Korea.

Genoa continues to perform and share her testimony in wards and at firesides. She also sings at hospitals and performs at a hotel each week.

“Everything I have and everything I am today is the result of God’s gifts to me,” says Genoa. “I’m so grateful for his love, for his care, and for his guidance.”

Genoa is the compassionate service leader in the Awaiolimu Ward Relief Society, Honolulu Hawaii Stake.Marlene Keawe, Honolulu, Hawaii

Serving Through Signing

On Easter Sunday in 1991, the bishop of Tracine Parkinson’s ward had an important message for her. “He told me I was supposed to be using my sign language skills in some way,” she recalls. “But he wasn’t sure how.”

Tracine, however, had an idea. Prior to her marriage and the births of her three children, she had served a mission to the deaf in Washington, D.C., and afterward had signed professionally for a time. During the several months prior to the bishop’s announcement, some acquaintances had asked her to teach them sign language. She recognized that there might be a need for a community sign language class.

Tracine was somewhat reluctant at first. “I knew sign language, but I didn’t know how to teach it,” she says. Arrangements were made and soon she was preparing to teach her first class. She set up 12 chairs, thinking that few people would attend, and prayed that at least 12 people would come. “That night we had 57 people!”

Tracine’s single class has since mushroomed into 11 classes, all free of charge, with 30 volunteer teachers and at least 200 people attending each week. Other classes in locations scattered across the United States have been patterned after the one Tracine has spearheaded. However, she doesn’t take any credit for its success, attributing that to the Lord.

Members of the deaf community participate actively in the program. “They make sure everyone is being taught accurately,” Tracine says. “Elsewhere they often have to accept help from others. In our classes, they are the authority.”

Students’ reasons for attending the classes are varied. “Some are here to learn sign language because they have relatives or neighbors who are deaf, and some are here because they are fascinated with the art,” Tracine explains. A signing choir, with approximately 150 members, practices after each class, and many who have witnessed this choir can testify of its spiritual power. Several years ago the choir performed for Jerold D. Ottley, director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Tracine says she has learned a great deal from the experience. “We often tend to think our unique qualities are negative,” she says. “But in class we learn to appreciate the unique qualities of others, and then we begin to view our own uniqueness in a positive light.”

Tracine is a nursery leader in the San Diego Seventh Ward, San Diego North Stake.

Valiant Saints

Kirby and Cathy Parse of Loveland, Colorado, have learned that service in the Church depends more on willing spirits than on willing bodies. Both have multiple sclerosis and are confined to wheelchairs, but what they don’t accomplish by ordinary means they accomplish in extraordinary ways.

For example, they do their home teaching in their own home. For more than 12 years Brett and Cathy Howe and their children have gone regularly to the Parse home, where they enjoy lessons on the gospel. In the process, a rich friendship has developed. “The Howe children have become like our own grandchildren,” says Cathy.

Kirby discovered that he had MS about 20 years ago. Cathy’s diagnosis occurred a short time later. Multiple sclerosis, a disorder of the nervous system, attacks the brain and the spinal cord, often leaving its victims with paralysis or tremors.

Cathy joined the Church in 1975. She met Kirby at an MS function, and they married in 1982. A month later, Kirby was baptized, and in 1984 they were sealed in the Ogden Temple.

“The gospel has given me a much greater perspective,” says Kirby. “I have realized that there is more to life than just mortality. I’ve also learned the importance of enjoying life along the way, especially the little things.”

The Parses are magazine representatives in the Big Thompson Ward, Greeley Colorado Stake.Jane McBride Choate, Loveland, Colorado