Area Authority in Peru
“Everything I do or don’t do affects my family relationship enormously,” says Elder Willy F. Zuzunaga Cavero, a member of the fourth Quorum of the Seventy from Lima, Peru. “Living the gospel is the key to being happy. I know this because I am experiencing it.”
Elder Zuzunaga, whose parents died when he was a boy, was introduced to the Church at age 23, when a friend invited him to church. “Never has a meeting impressed me as much as that sacrament meeting. I was in church for five hours and didn’t want it to end. I could feel the warmth and love of the members, and I felt important. The Spirit testified to me that the Church was true, but I didn’t understand.”
When the missionaries came to visit he resisted their teachings at first, but they urged him to pray. “After they left I went to my room and pleaded with the Lord: ‘I just want to know if Joseph Smith was a prophet.’” The Holy Ghost then spoke powerfully to Elder Zuzunaga’s mind and heart, replacing all doubt with peace. “As I remember this experience now, I feel as if it had happened yesterday.”
Soon after baptism the bishop encouraged him to think of serving a full-time mission. Nearly a year later Brother Zuzunaga invited his relatives to hear him speak in sacrament meeting prior to his departure to a mission. Thirty of them came and were all later baptized.
Since 1980 Elder Zuzunaga has been a branch, stake, and mission president. He was a regional representative when called as an Area Authority Seventy in 1998.
“When I was a boy,” Elder Zuzunaga says, “the death of my parents affected me deeply. I missed them and prayed to God for peace and consolation. Sometimes I thought He had forgotten me. I’m grateful to the Lord for sending His missionaries. I know He has not forgotten me.”
Missionaries from Indonesia
As Edward Adolf Meulemans of Jakarta, Indonesia, was contemplating his life one evening two years ago, he realized that he had received many blessings from the Lord. He wondered, “What can I give back to Him for everything He has given me?” A prompting came to serve a mission. He and his wife, Ritschy Adelina Meulemans, discussed and prayed about the idea and received the answer to serve. Now they are serving a two-year proselyting mission among their own people in the Indonesia Jakarta Mission.
Brother Meulemans was baptized in December 1994, and Sister Meulemans followed soon thereafter. The story of their conversion begins when his parents and sister joined the Church about 30 years ago in Pasadena, California, and invited the Meulemans to investigate the Church. They declined for many years until in 1994 Brother Meulemans traveled to the United States for a family reunion, where he felt touched by the Spirit and decided to learn more. When he returned to Indonesia, he went to the mission home and asked to be taught the gospel. He met with the mission president for three hours every morning for six days. At first Sister Meulemans did not join the meetings, but by the time he was finished with the discussions she too was ready to study.
Brother and Sister Meulemans are members of the South Jakarta Branch, Jakarta District, where he has served in the branch presidency and she has served in the Relief Society presidency. They are fluent in the Javanese language as well as Indonesian, Dutch, English, and German. They have one daughter and five grandchildren. “Our Heavenly Father is never too late, never too early, but was on time in 1994,” says Brother Meulemans.
Now it is time for serving a mission.—, Jakarta English Branch, Jakarta Indonesia District
Korean Opera Singer
Korean-born baritone Hans Choi was only 12 years old when he decided he wanted to be a professional singer. At that time, Western music wasn’t readily available in Korea, but after he happened to listen to a couple of old Enrico Caruso records, he knew he wanted to sing opera. Now, over 30 years later, he has gained international acclaim singing in opera houses and recital halls in Europe, Asia, and the United States.
Brother Choi received his first vocal training while a student at Yon Sei University in Seoul. In 1981, though not a Church member, he was invited to be soloist for a Christmas concert with the Korean Mormon Choir. Although he sang regularly for another church, “I was looking for a church and a doctrine I could relate to. When I met the members of the Korean Mormon Choir I felt welcome. Everyone was very kind. Not only did I sing with the choir, I eventually became its director,” he said. The assistant director was a young lady named Kyung Shin, who had joined the Church 10 years earlier. With her encouragement, Brother Choi accepted the missionary discussions and a copy of the Book of Mormon. His commitment to the Church—and to Kyung Shin—deepened, and he was baptized and married in 1982.
Two years later the Korean and Italian governments awarded scholarships to Brother Choi, and the Chois moved to Milan, Italy, where he spent the next few years studying at the Osimo Academy, the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory, and La Scala Theater Academy. Brother Choi then took first place in the prestigious Verdi Music Competition in Busseto, Italy. “For me, winning the Verdi Competition marked the beginning of my professional career. … The day of the competition I was very nervous. I was afraid. I asked my bishop for a blessing. He told me to have faith in my ability and to have faith in the gift Heavenly Father had given me. I have always tried to follow that counsel. I feel grateful to the Lord every time I sing.”
In 1988 Brother Choi accepted an invitation to sing with the Philadelphia Opera Company, and the Choi family moved to the United States. Then in 1990 he entered the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. “I don’t think I would have entered the competition without my wife’s encouragement. … I was the first Korean ever to sing in the competition. I felt proud to be representing my country, and I wanted to do well. I sang four songs in Russian and then others in English, German, French, Spanish, and Korean. As I sang, a feeling of patriotism welled within me and gave me greater confidence.” Brother Choi not only won the competition, he became the first to be awarded two gold medals.
His career has included recitals at the Washington D.C. Temple Visitors’ Center and the Assembly Hall on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah. He has also been a guest soloist with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. “It was a great honor to be invited to sing with the Tabernacle Choir. It’s a memory I shall always cherish.”
Intertwined with his professional career is Church service. “My Church membership has never been in conflict with my professional career. People within the music community know and respect the fact that I am a Latter-day Saint.”—, Manhattan Second Ward, New York New York Stake