Sunday, February 20, 2011

Benin Cotonou Mission

For the first time in two decades, the Church will organize a mission in a nation that at present does not have a stake or district.  The Benin Cotonou Mission will include both Benin and Togo which were formerly assigned to the Cote d'Ivoire Abidjan Mission and will administer a population of 15.5 million.  The Church was first established in Togo in 1997 whereas the first full-time missionaries were assigned to Benin in 1998.  Steady membership growth has occurred over the past decade as church membership increased from 117 in 2000 to 1,034 in 2009 in Togo and from 11 in 2000 to 253 in 2008 in Benin.  The Lome Togo District was organized in late 2009 and today includes five branches.  There are three mission branches in Benin in the Cotonou area.  Currently there is only an LDS presence in Cotonou and Lome.  Prospects appear high for a future district in Benin within the next year.

Rapid membership growth will likely continue following the organization of the new mission and additional congregations may be organized in the Lome, Togo and Cotonou, Benin areas.  With the exception of nearby cities on the coast, no additional cities will likely open for missionary work for another year or two as the mission is organized and being staffed.  Cities which may be among the first to open to missionary work include Abomey (Benin), Godomey (Benin), Ouidah (Benin), Porto-Novo (Benin), and Tsevie (Togo) due to their large populations and close proximity to currently established branches.  Based on growth patterns and mission policies in other West African nations, the largest cities in central and northern areas of Benin and Togo may not open for missionary work for decades due to distance, poor living conditions, and differing ethno-linguistic groups.

The announcement of the new mission was rumored for months, but it came as a surprise that the mission will be based in Benin rather than Togo considering Togo has more members and LDS congregations.  The decision to base the new mission in Benin was likely due to Benin supporting a larger population than Togo (9 million versus 6.5 million).  Leadership development and member activity rates have ranged from moderate to high in both countries.

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