Monday, January 30, 2017

Significant Developments in West Africa

There are a couple significant developments in West Africa in regards to the expansion of the Church in minimally reached or previously unreached areas.

Senegal
For the first time ever, the Church has assigned Senegal to a proselytizing mission. Senegal now pertains to the Cote d'Ivoire Abidjan West Mission. Currently there is only one branch in Senegal located in Dakar. Only one senior missionary couple serves in Dakar although there have been several convert baptisms in the city within the past nine months. The Church lacking legal status appears to be the primary obstacle that has prevented the assignment of young, proselytizing missionaries. Senegal is inhabited by 14.3 million people and is 95% Muslim, 4% Christian, and 1% followers of other religions. There are likely less than 40 members in Senegal at present. Other proselytizing Christian faiths operate in Senegal without interference from the government or Muslim majority.

New Branches to be Created
Senior missionaries serving in the Africa West Area report that the area presidency plans to organize the Church's first branches in two additional nations within the Africa West Area during the next month. The Church appears to operate member groups in three nations in the Africa West Area where no official branches operate. I have confirmed the operation of a member group in Mali and it is likely that the member group in Ouelessebougou, Mali may be one of the new branches organized in the near future. The other country that may have a branch organized is unclear, but likely candidates include Burkina Faso, the Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau.

22 comments:

Gnesileah said...

Hooray! I am so excited for the continued growth and progress in Africa. I'm can't wait to learn which two countries will receive their first branches. Wasn't there some chatter a while back about an exploratory visit to Sao Tome and Principe by mission leaders? Could that be one of the new countries? Wait, that country falls under the Africa Southeast Area. Silly me. Someone in my Elder's Quorum once told me that he knew of a prince from Chad who was baptized in the United States, and was very eager to return to his home country to spread the gospel. I wasn't aware that Chad had royalty (they are a republic), but perhaps he was a member of a traditional tribal royal family.

I can confirm (as of 03/22/2015) that there is a special branch that administers Eritrea, and another that administers Somalia. They report directly to the Africa Southeast Area. Officially, they are named the Africa Southeast Area - Eritrea Branch and likewise the same format for Somalia. I imagine these function similar to mission or district branches, and are composed of one or more groups of isolated members meeting throughout the country. I have met several wonderful people (all refugees) from Eritrea in my previous job, and I even had the chance to give the Book of Mormon and Gospel Principles to one of them, who graciously accepted it, and even excitedly said her next door neighbor was a member of our Church, and this neighbor was a motherly figure to my friend.

Are there other LDS members who are members of royal families? I understood that the youngest son of the current King of Tonga was recently baptized. And I vaguely recall reading an article years ago about a Thai (or maybe Cambodian?) princess who was baptized, but I could be wrong.

Gnesileah said...

Actually, now that I think about it, I've also worked with several Somalians too, but they were mostly from Somaliland, a region claimed by Somalia but in actuality governed by a separatist government which proclaimed independence from Somalia in 1991, yet lacks any international recognition. For the most part, Somaliland has enjoyed seasons of relative peace and stability, at least compared to Mogadishu, and has even had a robust tourist industry. Unfortunately, some of this stability has waned in recent years, with some extremist groups growing in influence and control. However, I personally support an independent Somaliland, and even an independent Puntland next door, even though they only view themselves as an autonomous constituent of greater Somalia.

I am not aware of any LDS members living in Somaliland or Puntland, but I imagine there are ex-pats who have been baptized elsewhere. I look forward to the day when the Church will have a greater presence in these countries.

Ryan Searcy said...

Interesting that you tag Chad and Mali. Are those your guesses for the 2 branches? I would agree with both of them. However, Chad has been part of the Africa West Area for quite some time. I try to maintain a map, and I have done the map for Chad nearly a year ago, it's been shown on LDS Maps at least since then to have been in the West Area. It seems like it was an odd boundary for the area, considering it would be geographical sense to be in the Southeast Area.

Eduardo Clinch said...

Hallelujah!

Bryan Dorman said...

I am thinking Mali and Burkina right now. Though Chad could be a distinct possibility, it would be far away from Abidjan or Brazzaville to effectively house branches. Gambia I see as a no go as it declared itself an Islamic Republic.

Guinea Bissau is another possiblity but unless Cabo Verde is transferred to the AWA (it is in Europe) I doubt it, despite the relative geographical closeness.

Guinea is possible as you do have Church presence in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Ivory Coast.

My guesses are Mali and Burkina.

John Pack Lambert said...

I had no clue Chad was so heavily Christian. I hope that Chad isopened soon most likely from the Nigeria Enugu Mission.

John Pack Lambert said...

While hopefully Sao Tome and Princip will recieve a branch soon, that is in the Africa South east area and so would not be one of the branches spoken of here.

John Pack Lambert said...

Previous to the baptism of the son of the current king of Tonga another member of the royal family had been baptized. She was a cousin to one of the kings I think butclearly royal. In the early days of the Church some Native American political leaders such as Chief Tuba of the Hopi and Chief Sagowitz of the Shoshone were baptized.

John Pack Lambert said...

I dont think the dustance from Chad to Abijan is prohibitive. The mission president would pretty much have to come in by plane unless Chad were its own mission. The Togo/Benin mission might be a candidate to oversee Chad.

Still I expect Burkina Faso as well. Then Burkina Faso could be put in the Ivory Coast Abijan Mission and Mali could be added to the Ivory Coast Abijan West Mission.

Eduardo Clinch said...

There might be a daughter of the Tongan king who was baptized a while ago. Not sure how many kids they have.
Sports and LDS note: with Kilani Sitake as new head coach of BYU football in Provo it looks as though more Polynesian recruits than ever are ready to sign tomorrow for the national day of commitments. Some of the players I have read are highly talented and highly rated. I believe the football team generates a lot of positive attention and press, I know LDS converts come directly and indirectly from it. The better the team does the better it is for our faith, so I wish Sitake and (convert) Ty Detmer the best. Go Cougars!
I watched them lose a close one at Fedex Field in Landover MD last September. Some WV fans walking in to the stadium were asking what or where BYU was, and the East Coast and Midwest and South generate a lot of interest.
Incidentally, one of the best return missionary players was Darrell Bevell at Wisconsin, who is still remembered fondly in the Cheese State. Being from Indiana we read articles about him knocking doors in Cleveland OH before his success in Madison. And that was in the sports pages.
And also, I think Jimmer Freddette, the Loneliness Master or Lonely God (high praise or respect in Chinese culture) is making quite an impression in China. Basketball, of course. I think it helps that he plays in the Shanghai market.

John Pack Lambert said...

I have to say Sitake's stated intrntion to recruit faithful LDS with potential football skills even if they lack football experience is a wise move. The other option is to see a repeat of the problems seen under Crowton partially as a result of recruiting players while not emphasizing the honor code enough. Baylor has seen some problems for its football team in part as a result of valuing football success over getting students that hold to its core religious values.

John Pack Lambert said...

I have to say Sitake's stated intrntion to recruit faithful LDS with potential football skills even if they lack football experience is a wise move. The other option is to see a repeat of the problems seen under Crowton partially as a result of recruiting players while not emphasizing the honor code enough. Baylor has seen some problems for its football team in part as a result of valuing football success over getting students that hold to its core religious values.

James said...

What an interesting topic of conversation! I am most grateful to have heard of these wonderful developments. In light of how the country of Chad has been passed from the Africa Southeast to the Africa West Area, a change will be needed on the Area (LDS Church) Wikipedia page. John, I don't know if I mentioned this, but in view of the fact that I have had to let some less important things slide lately, I have not been on Wikipedia for about a month or more. If you are still actively editing there, would you mind adding this information? I do believe that this blog has been deemed an adequate and accurate reliable source by Wikipedia's standards. If, for whatever reason, you are not able to, I can take care of it myself when I have more time, which may not be until the weekend at earliest. Getting back to the topic of this blog post, what magnificent milestones! I was overjoyed to have been able to read of these things. The Lord never ceases to amaze me in terms of how mindful He is of the work going on in His Church. It has been amazing and awe-inspiring to behold. I look forward to hearing of more developments worldwide as they happen. Great report, Matt! Thank you so very much!

James Anderson said...


was looking for something totally different and I turned up this Facebook page run by Church public affairs, for Malawi, some other pages are linked to via posts.

https://www.facebook.com/Malawi-Mormon-Newsroom-871795742879783/

James Anderson said...

I also just found a possible rendering for the Zimbabwe Temple on the
zimbabwe Mormon Newsroom FB page, it looks a lot like a cross between Accra and Kinshasa, will have an Angel Moroni statue, be one story, and be somewhat square with a single tower. Go to that page and you just may see it. Appears to have been with a news story a month ago but the image was not on their news site.

James said...

That does look like an interesting image, but it's difficult to say if that is actually a rendering of the Harare Zimbabwe Temple. That is not explicitly stated. All that's indicated with the image is that the accompanying post is shared from the South Africa Mormon Newsroom post. But if it is an actual rendering of that temple, you can be sure that this will subsequently be verified on the LDS Church Temples website. Until it is verified there or on any official Church website, I remain cautiously optimistic. Thanks for sharing. Another thought: If it is that small, it may go up more quickly than other temples that are currently under construction. Time will tell. Thanks again.

Johnathan Whiting said...

I couldn't find the image you're referring to of the Harare Temple. Would one of you mind posting the link?

James Anderson said...

It is on the Zimbabwe Mormon Newsroom Facebook page, showed by chance as part of a totally unrelated post and as noted, it was a reshare.

Johnathan Whiting said...

Gotcha. Thanks.

James said...

It would be most intriguing if it turns out that this is an official rendering of the Harare temple. That would be a clear indication that we will be more likely to see a site announcement (and subsequent groundbreaking) very soon. For what it's worth, it seems that the next temple that will have a groundbreaking set is the Arequipa Peru temple. This would leave the Urdaneta Philippines temple as the one and only temple not announced within the last two years that has not had a groundbreaking. But there is a very real possibility that we could see the groundbreaking in Harare within a year from its announcement, which would be amazing and a first for Church history. That would also mean that for the first time in Church history, we would have three temples simultaneously under construction in Africa. We have seen widespread progress on temples already this year, and we are still in the relatively early days of 2017, so more is definitely likely to happen. If the photo posted is of the Harare temple, it might only meant to be constructed to initially just serve a handful of stakes or less. That is by no means uncommon. As for me myself, I am keeping a close eye open for all developments on this front as I can learn of them, and I do my best to keep those who are interested informed through my blog. I will also do my best to mention some of these developments as I can on this blog, but my time on the computer has been restricted lately in view of instructions from my doctor and because my workday involves staring at computer screens all day. So that will make it harder to report things as I hear of them, but I will be trying to keep everyone interested in such things as I am able to. Thanks, James, for pointing this out to us all. It will be very interesting and most exciting to see things continue to unfold this year.

James said...

For any who are interested, I post the link to the image referenced above. I am awaiting what confirmation I might be able to get that this is going to be the official artist's rendering of that temple. If it is, it is going to be very quickly built, as it may only serve less than a handful of stakes. It will be interesting to see what happens with how long it takes for a site announcement and groundbreaking to happen, and also how long construction will be anticipated to take. More to come on that as I might hear of it. As for the photo, while it is not officially attributed to be the artist's rendering of that temple, is down the page about three or four posts. That said, here's the link, for what it might be worth.

https://www.facebook.com/ZimbabweMormonNewsroom/posts/1383562668337627?comment_id=1383566058337288&comment_tracking=%7B%22tn%22%3A%22R0%22%7D

James said...

Well, I feel officially stupid. I found out from an unimpeachable source that the image found at the link above is not an official arist's rendering of the Harare temple, but rather the already operating temple in Accra Ghana. I wish I had done my research before accepting that this image was for Harare. But we have our answer now, at least. Which, in retrospect, makes total sense. Why would they release such a rendering for a temple that has not yet had a site announced. Oh, well. Knowledge is power, and, armed with this knowledge, we can move forward.

But that does not in any way diminish or negate the wonderful milestones that are happening in Africa, and this is especially true for Harare. I have very much enjoyed reading about the latest Church growth developments in Africa as they have been reported by this post and within the various comments of this thread. I have a feeling that we will see many more wonderful expansions of and extensions to the work of the Church in Africa. And I can't wait for such developments as they unfold. The nation of Africa will always and forever hold a special place in my heart. As I may have mentioned before, my mother is a native South African who came here on a "short vacation" almost 40 years ago. She has never made it back. She is intimately familiar with Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Durban, having lived in all three cities at various times. It was her report of the work ethic of South African construction workers that led me to conclude that the Durban temple would take longer than anyone was anticipating to finish. But I have been happy to discover that, by all accounts, that construction appears to be well on track to be completed by the middle part of next year. I will definitely look forward to the continuing and ongoing news of Church growth in Africa, to say nothing of the same everywhere else in the world. Thanks to you all for this wonderful discussion!