The Church announced yesterday that full-time missionaries will return to Liberia and Sierra Leone this summer. Missionaries were removed from these two nations in August 2014 as a result of the Ebola outbreak that claimed over 8,500 lives and infected approximately 22,000 people in the region. It appears that mission presidents and young full-time missionaries will restart formal proselytism efforts in July.
It was initially unclear as to whether the Church in these two nations would continue to sustain rapid membership and congregational growth following the removal of full-time missionaries and mission presidents. The Church in these two nations has historically struggled with local leadership development, member-missionary participation, member activity, and convert retention. However, the Church has appeared to experience steady "real growth" in these two nations during this period, particularly in Sierra Leone. The Church in Sierra Leone has organized seven new branches since full-time missionaries were removed. Reports from members in the nation indicate that local members have been effective at continuing missionary work despite the absence of full-time missionaries. Some congregations have continued to baptize new converts on almost a weekly basis within the past nine months.
Although it will become more clear within the next six month as to what progress the Church has achieved in these two nations since full-time missionaries were removed, membership and congregational growth trends have been encouraging and suggest that the Church may have turned a corner in developing a self-sufficient Church led by indigenous members. The advancement of districts into stakes within the next couple years will be a key indicator to assess real growth, the maturation in local leadership development, and the self-sufficiency of members and church leaders.
The Church currently reports one stake and five districts in Sierra Leone and three districts in Liberia. See below for links to statistical profiles for these two nations.