Thursday, September 3, 2009

Visas Problems and Missionaries Around The World


Missionaries in the Mozambique Maputo Mission reported that missionaries were withdrawn from the country of Angola. Angola was first opened for the preaching of the Gospel a year ago and currently has two branches with about 650 members of the Church. The reason for the missionaries being withdrawn from the country was due to visa problems. The Church has struggled to gain visas for missionaries serving in Angola, particularly for North American missionaries. It is unclear as to why visas for missionaries are so difficult to obtain, but likely the result of a lack of missionaries from other religions serving in the country or misunderstandings about the Church's purpose in sending missionaries to the country.


The Deseret News reported concerning the possible removal of missionaries serving in the country of Guyana, which can be found here. According to missionaries serving in the country, the immigration officer for the country is seeking to remove some 38 missionaries, many of whom are from the United States, from the country, claiming that their visas expired and were never renewed. The Church is currently working with the government in Guyana to resolve the issue. News reports of the situation have stated that there are around 100 missionaries serving in the country. It is unclear whether mission leadership was unaware of updating missionary visas for the country for whether a couple government officials are try to harass the Church. The Church has maintained a positive relationship with the government in Guyana, both on local and national levels.

According to my parents, the Salt Lake Tribute attempted to contact me by phone at my parents' home (how they got the phone number I'm not sure) about the situation. I was unable to talk with the Tribune about the situation because I currently reside in South Korea. However I will provide some analysis of the situation here for those interested.

First of all, I have not been to the country before and all the information I have comes from missionaries who have served or are serving in the country or Church publications. The former Mission President's wife reported that there were 50 Elders serving in Guyana as of June 2009. There are five zones in Guyana, which typically have 10-20 missionaries. Two of these zones are located in the capital of Georgetown (Diamond and LaGrange), two are in New Amsterdam (Berbice and Canje), and one is in Linden. There are 15 branches in the country with at least two more groups meeting as well. Membership has typically grown by around 100-300 members of the Church a year between 2000 and 2007. In 2007 membership grew by 500 members to about 2,600. Last year Guyana saw the largest number of baptisms ever, with membership increasing by about 1,400 to almost 4,000. Currently Church members and missionaries are working on reactivation and retention of recent converts as well as preparing for the first stake to be established in Georgetown, likely before the end of the year.

The current visa situation with American missionaries appears serious primarily because the Church always wants to maintain good relations with governments in different countries around the world. There are large numbers of missionaries serving in the West Indies Mission (which Guyana is a part of) from other nations in the world and if those missionaries alleged of violating visa regulations were withdrawn from the country, the mission would likely be able to take missionaries serving in other countries in the mission and transfer them to Guyana quickly, making sure they comply with all visa regulations. Other countries and territories within the West Indies Mission with larger amounts of missionaries include Guadeloupe, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.

It is important to remember that problems with visas and missionaries often are the result of misunderstandings and miscommunications. These are usually quickly resolved and missionary work continues on as before.


Tod Robbins said...

Hmm, I hadn't read about Angola. That's unfortunate. My friend's dad is living/working there right now with an oil firm.

andrew said...

By the way, Did you hear that another stake was created in DRCongo?