Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Unprecedented LDS Meetinghouse Construction Program Launched in the DR Congo

Missionaries serving in the Democratic Republic of the Congo report that the Church has initiated a new meetinghouse construction program to meet the urgent need for additional LDS chapels for the increasing numbers of convert baptisms in the country.  In recent months, the two missions in the DR Congo together report approximately 500 convert baptisms a month with 95% convert retention over the past year.  Most wards and branches have higher sacrament meeting attendance than the number of church members on ward or branch records.  Increasing numbers of isolated members and investigators have also petitioned mission leaders to establish the Church in additional areas, resulting in accelerated growth.

To meet these new and exciting opportunities for rapid growth and high self-sufficiency local church administration and missionary work, the Church has recently decided to train groups of returned missionaries in various construction skills to build additional meetinghouses.  This program is designed to meet the immediate need for building additional meetinghouses and to provide skills to unemployed returned missionaries, not to provide long-term employment to participants.  At present, there have been only a few groups of returned missionaries who have been trained and are working on two new meetinghouses in the Kinshasa area.  Missionaries report that there are about 20 meetinghouses in the planning stages in other locations in the DR Congo.  It appears that at present there are dozens of large wards and branches that are in need to be divided into smaller congregations, but current meetinghouses lack sufficient space to hold church services for additional units.

As a church growth researcher, I applaud the decision for the Church to implement this program which will provide more economic solutions to spur church growth, build meetinghouses that are more culturally-appropriate to local conditions, and rapidly capitalize on high receptivity.  Additional meetinghouse will likely reduce travel times and increase the feeling of community in wards and branches.  The Church instituted a similar meetinghouse construction program in the South Pacific in the mid-twentieth century, resulting in accelerated growth that has resulted in the LDS Church numbering among the largest denominations in some nations like Tonga and Samoa.


Judd said...

Matt, sorry if off topic but I saw this a month or so ago and wanted to send it over but only had internet access on my phone and for whatever reason wouldn't let me copy/paste

Just curious if you happen to have heard anything about this.

Judd said...

I googled a little and found this blog under 3/7/2012

alien236 said...

No idea if it's true but the native Dominicans thing sounds about right. There's no way Americans would be going there in the foreseeable future.

Matt said...

As for Cuba opening for missionary work, the missionary department began officially evaluating the possibility of sending missionaries in late 2009. Over the past couple years, the Jamaica Kingston Mission President has visited members in the sole LDS congregation in Havanna.

I came across several reports about prospects for opening Cuba in relation to Elder Bednar's recent visit to the Dominican Republic. Senior missionaries have reported that the Church has considered sending Latin American missionaries for the past couple years to Cuba to serve missions. Some recent reports indicate that Elder Bednar may have dedicated Cuba for missionary work, I have not been able to confirm this.

Just like the four previously unreached countries in Southeastern Europe, the opening of Cuba to LDS missionary work is long overdue. For example, other missionary-focused Christian groups based in the United States have a significant presence in Cuba. Seventh Day Adventists report 31,915 members and 297 congregations and Jehovah's Witnesses report 91,651 members and 1,250. This finding suggests that the Church has been at times inflexible to opening additional countries to missionary work with non-North American missionaries. Otherwise we would expect to see these and other countries have an LDS missionary presence today.

Lastly, the first Latter-day Saint to serve a mission from Cuba just began his mission recently in the United States.

Bryce said...

Wondering why more countries haven't had a stronger non-North American missionary presence. I agree this is long overdue! Other countries seem like obvious candidates for the same thing, for example sending non-North American missionaries to Vietnam and Laos from countries friendly to both. I'm sure there are several other examples. Several years ago I took an Arabic class and one of my classmates was an LDS return missionary from Singapore who had served his mission in Pakistan and had said that missionaries had been present there for several years from various Asian countries, so it's not exactly a new idea. Seems like a very reasonable strategy and I hope it opens a lot of new doors.

James W. Anderson said...

Unrelated to this story, but could not find another post to put it under, but it looks like a stake is gone in the Phoenix metro area. Ward person reporting this is named for a nearby freeway in the area a/k/a I-17.

Black Canyon Ward, Glendale, AZ stake, used to be Phoenix West stake
before they disbanded it and folded it into the Glendale Stake and a
couple others. I was in two wards that were disbanded because there
weren't enough active members in the area and all the young people
were moving out.

Gnesileah said...

The Phoenix Arizona West Stake was organized in 1963 and discontinued in 2006. The I-17 is named the Black Canyon Freeway from the northern end of the Phoenix-Metro area, until it ends in downtown Phoenix. Presently, the Glendale Arizona Stake contains the Black Canyon Ward, as well as eight additional wards. Currently, no other stakes in the Phoenix-Metro area appear close to being consolidated, except perhaps the smallest stake in the vicinity, the Mesa Arizona West Stake, which currently has only five wards, and is generally seeing continued migration of members to other parts of the Valley.

John Pack Lambert said...

This reminds me of the building missionary program, but with a twist. The building missionaries in Latin America and the Pacific (and elsewhere) where full-time missionaries. These men here are returned missionaries in need of skills. The building missionaires often went on to succesful careers in the building trades, and hopefully that can be repeated in the Congo. This might also be a worthwhile program to implement in other developing countries.

John Pack Lambert said...

One problem that people seem to be ignoring in countries that have no open relations with the US being operned for missionary work is that it is not just a question of American missionaries.

With the entire quorum of the 12 being Americans and the majority of general authorities being Americans, the Church is reluctant to open work in places where senior church leaders would find it hard to go. With the increase in the number of non-American general authorities in the last decade, including the recent call of a Frenchman to the Presiding Bishopric and a German man in the 1st Presidency, this situation may be changing. The Dominican Republic is possibly the best jumping off point for Cuba, but it should be remembered that the church had no presence there until after 1978.