Area Authority Seventy in the Philippines
Elder Henry Ferrer Acebedo has been administering to the needs of people for more than 25 years both as a Church leader and medical doctor. He graduated from medical school in 1963 and married Lucita Ojeda Custodio-Acebedo, who is also a physician.
In May 1975 he received a visit at his clinic from two missionaries, who gave him a short introduction to the Church and made a return appointment. “My wife and I took the lessons religiously, asking questions along the way about principles and doctrines which were not clear to us,” Elder Acebedo says. “We took the challenge of praying and reading the scriptures. I wanted to find out if Joseph Smith was really a prophet, so I asked for books about him.” Elder Acebedo read many books, including The History of Joseph Smith by His Mother and Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, all before his baptism. He and his wife were baptized in August 1975.
“When my parents found out about our baptism, they got mad at us. But I reminded my father, an attorney and justice of the peace, what he told me as a boy: ‘Son, before I make any judgment, I get all the facts from both sides. I listen to all the arguments presented in court. Then, I pray to our Heavenly Father for guidance. And putting aside all personal and material considerations, I pen my final decision.’” Elder Acebedo then challenged his parents to take the lessons. Three months later, they were baptized. And within a year Elder Acebedo was called as president of the Surigao Branch.
Elder Acebedo attributes the strength of his testimony to reading the scriptures and other good books, holding family home evening, and joining the ward choir. Doctrine and Covenants 4:2–7 [D&C 4:2–7] has been a guide and inspiration to him. “In my personal and family life,” he says, “I have submitted myself to the will of God. I have always said yes to the Lord because I know He will help me succeed. Magnifying my callings and keeping the Lord’s commandments has strengthened my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Fulfilling His Dreams
Luciano Duarte, who has served in a branch presidency or bishopric for more than half a century, has also been a popular disc jockey, making him perhaps one of the best-known Latter-day Saints in Laredo, Texas. His radio career spanned 37 years, and although there were several Spanish radio stations in the area, his program at times attracted more than 50 percent of the listening audience.
Born in 1922, Luciano was a small child when his family joined the Church. As a young man during World War II, he fought in Europe and was awarded a Bronze Star. After the war, Luciano organized a Latin band and began performing on the radio, reawakening a childhood dream that had begun at age 14 while he worked the controls in a radio station.
In 1949 Luciano—or “Chano,” as his friends call him—married Consuelo Martinez. Soon afterward Luciano received his first call to serve as president of Laredo’s Spanish-speaking branch, making him at 27 the youngest branch president in the Spanish-American Mission. Over the years he continued to pursue his interest in radio.
While in his 40s he returned to school to fulfill yet another lifelong dream: to become a teacher. A counselor at the university asked, “Aren’t you too old for that?” Nevertheless, Brother Duarte persisted. After receiving his degree at age 50, he began a 21-year career teaching English as a second language during the day while entertaining the people of Laredo by night.
In 1985 the mayor of Laredo declared 12 December to be Luciano Duarte Day in honor of his musical contribution. Thirteen years later he was inducted into the Tejano Music Hall of Fame. But for Brother Duarte, who, 50 years later, is still serving as president of a Spanish-speaking branch in Laredo, the time he spends in service to his family, branch members, and the Lord gives him his greatest satisfaction.—, Provo 13th Ward, Provo Utah East Stake
One of the earliest members of the Church in Hungary, Horváthné Peller Erzsébet grew up under the communist regime in Budapest. As a teenager during the early 1960s, Erzsébet (in Hungary, given names are listed last) had the opportunity to spend several months developing her English skills in the United States. Thirty years later, this ability would prove providential.
In early 1990 Erzsébet’s cousin, who had lived in the United States for several years and there joined the Church, returned to Hungary. When he came to see Erzsébet and her family, he brought two missionaries with him. The elders, who were serving in the Austria Vienna East Mission, were some of the first missionaries assigned to labor in Hungary. Erzsébet met with them for the next five months and was baptized in June 1990, just a few weeks before the Hungary Budapest Mission opened.
With her fluency in English, Erzsébet was an immense help to the new mission. James L. Wilde, who served as mission president until 1994, said: “We met her the day after we arrived in Hungary. We thought she had probably been a member for many years because she had a sense of vision of the Church that many people who have lived in it their entire lives don’t have. We were absolutely floored when we found out she had been baptized only two weeks earlier.”
Because of her language skills and solid gospel knowledge, Erzsébet was asked to be on the Translation Committee for the Hungarian edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, published in 1995. She has also been asked to translate other Church materials into Hungarian.
Erzsébet has served as the Young Women and Relief Society president in her newly organized branch. With the help of her three sons, Gergö, Imre, and Péter, all of whom have joined the Church, she continues to help build the Lord’s kingdom in Hungary.—, Brighton 11th Ward, Salt Lake Brighton Stake
Touching Hearts through Song
Music has played an important role in Margie J. Kersey’s family. Fifteen years ago, when they moved to Tucson, Arizona, Sister Kersey discovered that the local public school music programs were insufficient due to lack of funding. And while the county sponsored a chorus for boys, no similar organization existed for girls.
Sister Kersey—the mother of five daughters who all love to sing—decided something must be done. Her proposal for starting a chorus for girls was accepted by the county, and a few girls started meeting in her home. From those humble beginnings, the Tucson Girls Chorus has expanded to more than 300 students and has garnered national and international recognition.
The nonprofit organization attracts girls from all walks of life. “While they come from very different backgrounds, they learn to love each other and to work toward goals together,” says Sister Kersey, a member of the Rolling Hills Ward, Tucson Arizona Rincon Stake. The group regularly performs at benefit concerts, influenced by Sister Kersey’s conviction that “if you have a talent, you should use it to help other people.” An advanced section of the choir has also toured the United States and recently began traveling internationally, performing in the United Kingdom and Canada. Money collected from these tours goes to a fund for homeless children.
Much of the reward for Sister Kersey comes from her experiences with girls who have disabilities or who are physically, financially, or emotionally disadvantaged: a fourth-grade girl with cerebral palsy who never felt she had a talent began to shine in concerts and joined a drama group; a fifth-grade girl who was terrified to sing ended up singing a solo in a school program; a sixth-grade girl, hospitalized for emotional problems, used the chorus as her motivation for earning a one-day weekly pass to attend rehearsals. Girls with family problems have sent letters to Sister Kersey saying that singing has helped them feel better about themselves. “That’s what makes our work so worthwhile,” Sister Kersey says. “Youth are our future, and I feel we are helping them.”—, Rolling Hills Ward, Tucson Arizona Rincon Stake