Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Church In Papua New Guinea

View Stakes and Districts of the Pacific in a larger map

I realized the other day that I have not written very much about the Church in Papua New Guinea. Unlike many countries where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is established, most members do not know about the Church's presence in Papua New Guinea. I have had a hard time finding information about missionary work currently occurring in the country and most of the information I have gathered comes from the Church's official websites and the LDS Church News.

The first congregation of the Church in Papua New Guinea was created in 1979. The Church was recognized by the government two years later and was dedicated for the preaching of the Gospel in 1983 by Elder L. Tom Perry. In 1992 the Papua New Guinea Port Moresby Mission was created from the Australia Brisbane Mission and three years later the first and only stake was created in Port Moresby when there were around 4,000 members in the entire country. When the Port Moresby Papua New Guinea Stake was created, Elder Merrell challenged the members to do what they needed to create a second stake the following year (which did not happen). Since then membership has grown to about 16,600 members organized in one stake, seven districts and 53 congregations. Some of the greatest factors limiting growth of the Church in Papua New Guinea include high unemployment, poverty and illiteracy. Nearly all the missionaries serving in the country are natives and most mission presidents who have served in the country are Polynesian.

Papua New Guinea is currently the country with the most members with only one stake (the country with the second most members with one stake is Thailand). This is likely due to growth in the past 10 years in remote areas of the country as well as inactivity around the capital. The most recent district was created last year in Rigo, which is about 50 miles southeast of the capital. In a recent article in the Church News on the Daru Papua New Guinea District, the mission president reported that the district is preparing to become a stake after the Isumo District was combined with it last year. Daru has been an example of rapid growth in remote areas of the country. Located on a small island near the border with the Indonesian side of the island, the Church was first organized there back in 1991. A city in the country which I believe is most likely to see a new district in the future is Angoram, located in the northern portion of the island. I do not think we will see a temple announced for Papua New Guinea until several more stakes are organized.

This is all the information I have about the Church in Papua New Guinea. If you have current information about the Church in this country not mentioned above, please leave your comments.


Gnesileah said...

Good article. I too read the recent article on Papua New Guinea in the LDS Church News yesterday, and was interested to hear that missionary work is now taking place in the Solomon Islands. I was aware that a branch has been operating in Honiara for some time, but am curious if you know more about the status of the Church in the Solomon Islands? Is the country part of the Papua New Guinea Port Moresby Mission?

Matt said...

The Solomon Islands are part of the Papua New Guinea Port Moresby Mission. Young proselyting missionaries were first assigned to the islands back in 2000 and only stayed for six months because the government was overthrown (although missionaries did visit the islands or were temporarily assigned before that). I had a friend of mine who was among the half a dozen or so elders that opened the country in 2000 to missionary work. He did not say much about how missionary work went there, except that they learned the local Pidgin English dialect from children on the streets.

The country was dedicated for missionary work in 1987 by Elder Faust and as far as I know only one branch exists in Honiara. I would not be surprised if a second branch is created considering 50 of the 250 some members in the Solomon Islands joined the Church between 2007 and 2009. Missionaries have since returned to the country according to the Pacific Area Presidency (see the Australia country website).

I am curious to see how the Church grows in the islands, especially because the Solomon Islands have the third largest population among Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia (Papua New Guinea is #1, Fiji is # 2). I believe that once more converts join the Church and more missionaries serve in the country, the growth experienced will be comparable to what we have seen in Vanuatu.

Gnesileah said...

Thanks for the info! It's neat that you actually know one of the missionaries that helped reopen the country to missionary work in 2000. I thought I read the quote about missionary work in the Solomon Islands in the Church News, but realized it was from the New Zealand Church Website last week, when I was checking to see if other pacific island nations have received personalized country websites, like French Polynesia has. I guess old age is finally settling in now (well, I'm only 27, but I feel like 127 sometimes).

At any rate, it is truly exciting to see the growth of the church in these lesser-discussed nations of the Pacific, namely Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Nauru, and so forth.

Elenev said...

Hi there! My father is currently the Mission President in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, President Meliula M. Fata; They have been so busy since they first got into the field last year July 2009. We keep in contact a lot via email and phonecalls every now and then. They are really busy with the work and hope to create more branches and districts before the year ends. He mentioned that they will be visiting the Solomon Islands with the Pacific area president in a few weeks time. But the church in Papua New Guinea is growing a he did mention of a stake being created before the end of the year. Good blog page :) I will visit it often...