Sunday, November 28, 2010

New Stakes in Brazil and North Carolina


A new stake was created in Brazil last week in the Sao Paulo area. The Alvarenga Brazil Stake was created from the Diadema Brazil and São Paulo Brazil Piratininga Stakes and includes five wards (Jardim Apura, Jardim Selma, Parque Doroteia, Parque Primavera, and Sao Jorge Wards). The new stake becomes the 38th stake in the Sao Paulo metropolitan area; the 37th stake was created last month in Alphaville. There are now 233 stakes and 50 districts in Brazil. Several stakes appear close to splitting in Brazil in the near future (such as in Belem, Fortaleza, Hortolandia, and Santa Maria), but none in the Sao Paulo metropolitan area.

Members report that next weekend, the Macae Brazil District will become a stake. More details will be provided when available.

North Carolina

The Church created its first new stake in North Carolina since 2006 last Sunday. The High Point North Carolina Stake was created from the Greensboro North Carolina Stake and includes seven wards and one branch. There are now 16 stakes in North Carolina.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

LDS Church Planting in Ghana

The growth of the LDS Church often lags behind other missionary-minded Christian denominations in most countries for several reasons, including greater pre-baptismal preparation and more effective member-missionary programs exhibited by other churches. Evangelicals, Seventh-day Adventists, and Jehovah's Witnesses each have been much more effective than Latter-day Saints in beginning new congregations, expanding national outreach, and developing self-sustaining local leadership. Latter-day Saints have traditionally relied on full-time missionaries from countries with a strong LDS presence like the United States and Peru to perform these tasks, resulting in limited LDS resources in fledgling countries with a small or inadequate native full-time missionary force. The failure of many countries to develop self-sustaining LDS leadership, a full-time missionary force, and effective member-missionary programs has greatly contributed to the slowdown in LDS growth experienced over the past decade.

In the past year, there have been several positive developments which indicate that the LDS Church is beginning to be more flexible and dynamic with the allocation of full-time missionaries and opening of new areas to the Church. To illustrate this recent finding, full-time missionaries report that the Africa West Area Presidency, the two Ghana mission presidencies, and local Priesthood leaders have approved and are carrying out an aggressive church planting paradigm in Ghana. In 2009 alone, 21 new wards and branches were created; a 21% increase. In 2010 however, the LDS Church has only organized one new independent congregation, but has increased and will greatly increase the number of dependent branches and groups.

The Church placed full-time missionaries Sunyani in the early fall of 2010 - the most northern city in Ghana to ever have a Church presence - but there remains no independent ward or branch in the area. Six full-time missionaries and one senior couple serve in Sunyani, where three LDS congregations meet as groups, worshiping in large missionary apartments where church meetings are held. The church-planting approach has been so successful in Sunyani that it will be applied in Kumasi - the second largest metropolitan area in Ghana. At present Kumasi has 10 LDS congregations meeting in eight meetinghouses. Over the six months, the Church will open an additional 14 meetinghouses in large missionary apartments in the Kumasi area that will meet as dependent branches or groups, bringing the total of mission outreach centers in Kumasi to 22. With so many meetinghouse locations, most the population will be able to walk to church without traveling inordinate distances.

As a researcher of the growth of the LDS Church for several years, I applaud the decision by area and mission leaders to use these church planting paradigms as they often increase member activity rates, expand national outreach, and oftentimes lead to self-sustainable growth. Similar approaches have been recently implemented in Mozambique, Madagascar, and Burundi. However, full-time missionaries remain central to LDS Church planting approaches, which restricts the vision and application of church planting due to the plateauing numbers of full-time missionaries serving worldwide over the past decade. Nonetheless, careful planning in the assignment of limited full-time missionaries combined with strong local member involvement may reduce the stagnant growth of full-time missionary numbers and boaster indigenous full-time missionary forces internationally.

New Districts in Guatemala and Madagscar; District Discontinued in the Dominican Republic

New District in Guatemala

The Church created its first new district in Guatemala in 15 years a few weeks ago in the Guatemalan Highlands. The Paxajtup Guatemala District was created from the Momostenango Guatemala Stake and includes three branches in small villages: The Choqui, Paxajtup, and Pueblo Viejo Branches. The Momostenango Guatemala Stake now has five wards and six branches. There are now 39 stakes and 19 districts in Guatemala.

District discontinued in the Dominican Republic

Created in 2007, the Monte Plata Dominican Republic District was discontinued and four of the original five branches in the former district now pertain to the Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Hainamosa Stake, which at present as six wards and four branches. One of the branches - the Gonzalo Branch - was discontinued. Full-time missionaries serving in the branches affected by this consolidation report that limited local Priesthood members and low member activity rates were major problems. These factors likely significantly contributed to the district's discontinuation. However, now that the branches are part of a stake, local Dominican church leaders can help mentor these branches which over time may become wards once activity rates improve. There are now 18 stakes and 10 districts in the country.

New district to be created in Madagascar

What will be the second LDS district ever organized outside of Antananarivo in Madagascar, full-time missionaries report that the Church will create a district in Antsirabe at the end of November, which will likely include the Ambohimena, Antsirabe, Mahazoarivo, and Manandona Branches, and the Sarodroa Group. Church growth has been rapid and strong local leadership has been developed. The first district to be created outside the capital was organized just a month ago in Toamasina (Tamatave) with five branches.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Church Growth News

New Stake in Honduras

Missionaries serving in Tegucigalpa, Honduras report that one of the stakes in the city will divide to create a new stake in early November. I will provide more specifics once they become a available. The creation of new stake in Honduras is a major development as there have been no new stakes created in Honduras since 1997. Unlike many Latin American nations, Honduras has never had a stake discontinued however. Once the new stake is organized, there will be 21 stakes. No additional stakes appear close to dividing, but several stakes have gained additional congregations in the past couple years and may divide in the foreseeable future, such as the Fesitranh Honduras and San Pedro Honduras El Progreso Stakes.

Cities Open for Missionary Work In Paraguay

Full-time missionaries serving in both Paraguay missions report that several cities have opened to missionary work and new LDS groups have been organized. Some of the cities recently opened for missionary work include Katuete, Curuguaty, and Tobati. Strong nominal membership growth continues, but little to no increase in the number of congregations year to year likely indicate major convert retention issues.

The Church in Gabon

In a recent Mormon Channel interview with the past mission president of the Democratic Republic of Congo Mission, specifics on the Church in Gabon were discussed. The Church is not officially recognized in the country, resulting in no reported LDS presence. There do not appear to be any legal restrictions preventing a Church establishment however. There are 10-12 members living in the country who meet in humble circumstances for LDS services in Libreville.

New District in Brazil

A Brazilian member reported that a new district was created in Porto Seguro Brazil. I will provide additional information on the new district once it becomes available.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

New Mission in Zambia in 2011

Missionaries serving in the Zimbabwe Harare Mission report that LDS apostle Elder Christofferson announced that next summer the mission will divide to create the Zambia Lusaka Mission. The new mission will likely be organized on July 1st and will include Zambia and Malawi. Zimbabwe is the least populated of the three countries current part of the Zimbabwe Harare Mission and has one of the highest percentages of Latter-day Saints in the population among continental African nations at around 0.15%, or one member per 661, whereas Zambia and Malawi have some of the lower percentages of Latter-day Saints in continental Africa (one member per 5,620 in Zambia and one member per 19,358 in Malawi). Zimbabwe currently experiences some of the most penetrating outreach by Latter-day Saints in Africa as most large cities have a church presence. There are 11.7 million people and 17,632 Latter-day Saints in Zimbabwe.

The Church in Zambia experienced rapid growth during the first half of the 2000s as membership grew from 725 in 2000 to 1,648 in 2005 and the number of congregations increased from four to 10. Missionary work began outside Lusaka for the first time in decades in the Copperbelt region along the DR Congo border. Branches were established in three cities (Kitwe, Luanshya, and Ndola). During the latter-half of the 2000s, membership grew to 2,395 in 2009 but there was no increase in the number of congregations during this period likely due to poor convert retention and a lack of trained leadership. The creation of the new mission will allow for greater mentoring from the mission president for local Priesthood leadership and increase the likelihood of additional areas opening for missionary work. The Lusaka Zambia District has been preparing to become a stake for several years now. At present the Church is only established in Lusaka and three cities of the Copperbelt region. Zambia has 13.5 million people.

The Church has experienced some of the poorest convert retention and member activity rates in Africa in Malawi, which has 15.5 million people. Missionaries report little progress over the past few years despite missionaries recently opening Lilongwe to missionary work and consistently working in Blantyre for several years. In 2009, there were almost 800 members in Malawi organized in three branches.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

New District in Nicaragua

Two Sundays ago, the Church created its seventh district in Nicaragua in Puerto Cabezas. The Puerto Cabezas Nicaragua District consists of four branches (Bilwi, El Caminante, Loma Verde, and Puerto Cabezas), three of which have been created over the past two years. Convert retention appears modest to high in most of the branches as active church membership has grown to around four or five hundred. Many of the recent convert baptisms has resulted from significant breakthroughs with the Miskito Amerindian population, a group which has had very few Latter-day Saints in the past. Full-time missionaries are beginning to learn Miskito and some of the congregations are designated Miskito-speaking, albeit there are no LDS materials translated in this language. Earlier this year, full-time missionaries reported that as many as 40 local members in the Puerto Cabezas area were preparing to serve full-time missions in the immediate future; a significant achievement for ensuring long-term growth and self-sustainability considering only a couple native members in the region had served a full-time missions in the past.