City Opens For Missionary Work in Mongolia
Missionaries report that the city of Bulgan just received its first full-time missionaries. Located southwest of Erdenet and 200 miles northwest of Ulaanbaatar, Bulgan has over 17,000 inhabitants and was the fifth largest city without mission outreach. This is a significant development for the Church in Mongolia as there have been no new cities opened for missionary work in Mongolia for nearly a decade. Members and missionaries in Bulgan meet as a group for Sunday meetings under the Mongolia Ulaanbaatar Mission Branch. Bulgan also becomes the smallest city full-time missionaries are assigned to in Mongolia.
New Branches in Papua New Guinea
Three new branches have been created in the Eastern Highlands and Western Highlands Provinces. The Bilu, Mount Hagen, and Nomba Branches were organized under the Goroka Papua New Guinea District and bring the total number of branches in the district to nine. Mount Hagen was formerly the second largest city without a congregation in the country. The Bilu and Nomba Branches are located in small villages. Until the creation of the new branches, there had been no increase in the number of congregations in the country since 2003. In 2002, the number of congregations in the country nearly doubled in one year.
Congregational Growth in the United States
By my count, there have been nearly 60 new congregations created so far in 2010 in the United States. If congregational growth rates continue at the same rate for the rest of the year, wards and branches will increase by approximately 150 in the United States. Growth rates are higher than last year, but remain lower than most years in the 2000s. We should expect to see an increase in congregational growth this year or next as only half as many congregations were created in 2009 compared to most years. No greater increase in congregation growth may indicate lower retention for convert baptisms and lower activity rates or a Church administrative decision to allow congregations to grow larger in membership before creating new units. Considering the economic challenges and uncertainties over the past two years, the latter case appears the primary contributor to the reduction in new congregations organized.
Opportunities for Growth
Although there has been a greater effort by the Church to expand its outreach in Africa over the past couple years, most of the inhabitants in African countries with a Church presence are unreached by mission outreach. I've been following the development of the Church in the city of Kanye, Botswana and six months after the first missionaries were assigned in late 2009, sacrament meeting attendance has just reached 100. Similar stories from Botswana, the DR Congo, Kenya, Madagascar, Brazil, and other nations illustrate that greater growth may be achieved with proper vision and with surprisingly few resources. Mission resources in many nations are stretched and unable to meet current needs due to an inadequate number of missionaries and local members sometimes relying on full-time missionaries for church leadership. There remains a greater need for member involvement in this process as seldom do new cities open to missionary work without local Church members coordinating between interested individuals and mission or regional Church leadership. Pray for greater interest among members of the Church in their role preaching the Gospel and for mission leaders to have the foresight and vision required to increase the scope and reach of LDS mission efforts.