Sunday, March 13, 2011

Unprecedented LDS Church Growth in Western Papua New Guinea

The Church has entered a phase of rapid congregational growth in the Sogere area of the Western Province of Papua New Guinea as demonstrated by the number of LDS branches increasing from one to nine in a matter of a few months.  In late 2010, the Church operated one LDS branch, the Sogere Branch, in a rural, sparsely populated area which formerly pertained to the Daru Papua New Guinea District.  The Sogere Papua New Guinea District was organized before the end of 2010 when four additional branches were formed nearby Sogere (Bimaramio, Miruwo, Oropai, and Sisiami).  Since the creation of the new district, four additional branches have also been organized (Bina, Bunigi, Kamusi, and Torobina).  Notwithstanding the Sogere Papua New Guinea District is the newest LDS district in the country, it currently has the most congregations.  Each of the aforementioned branches in the Sogere area appear to function in villages with only a few hundred inhabitants.

The successive organization of so many branches in a sparsely populated area with a minimal past LDS presence is an amazing feat considering all nine branches appear to have native branch presidents.  It is unclear what sparked the rapid expansion of the Church in the area.  Some branches likely operated as dependent branches or groups until greater self-sufficiency was achieved to merit the organization of independent congregations.  The rapid expansion in the number of LDS congregations in Sogere is of paramount importance to LDS mission leaders and planners as it illustrates that success in rapid national outreach expansion in rural areas has potential to produce impressive results  I do not believe there has been any comparable breakthrough for the LDS Church in any other sparsely populated rural area of any country with over one million people to date as manifest by rapid congregational growth occurring in a matter of months.  Time will tell whether these newly organized congregations will continue to operate, whether additional congregations will continue to be organized in the area, and whether the Church can produce similar results in other areas of Papua New Guinea or other nations.


Tom said...

I remember reading a long time ago that the church hadn't been growing too fast in Papua New Guinea.

Since 2010, membership and congregational growth has sped up at an enormous pace.

What a great thing to see happening.

taniwha said...

I was very interested in your report on the rapid growth of the Church in the Western province (actually SW of the New Guinea portion of Papua New Guinea). And thank you for getting the island and nation correctly reported.

I taught Pacific Island geography for 35 years at BYU-Hawaii and was the co-directors of the Pacific Islands Studies program. To my dismay, have noticed that many media sources (unfortunately, even in Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii)have begun to report the name of the whole island as PNG--thus obscuring the fact that approximately the whole western portion of the island of New Guinea is a possession of Indoneasia and that the nation of PNG includes many other islands (eg. the Bismark archipelago, the D'Entrecasteaux and Louisaide groups--and, the disputed NW Solomon Islands of Bougainville and Buka).

I will forward this article to some of my former students who have a close affiliation with PNG.

Also, in a related subject. Is there any way to find out the names of the wards and branches throughout the Church that are designated specifically for Pacific Islanders? This would include such designations as "Polynesian", "Tongan", "Samoan", "Niuan", "Tahitian", "Micronesian". etc.