Tuesday, June 22, 2010

District Created in Honduras

A new district was created earlier this month in Honduras. The Monjarás Honduras District was created from a mission branch and at least three branches from the San Lorenzo Honduras District. The district based in San Lorenzo was one of the largest in the Church with 14 branches in 2009. The Monjarás Honduras District becomes the first new district or stake to be organized in Honduras in about 12 years. Last year, several districts were consolidated or had their branches become mission branches. The creation of the new district may indicate greater self-sustainability with local leadership in southern Honduras. There are now 20 stakes and six districts in the country.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Church Growth News

New branch in Mongolia

A new branch was created in southern Mongolia. The Oyu-Tolgoi Branch reports directly to the Mongolia Ulaanbaatar Mission and serves members who work at the Oyu-Tolgoi Mine which extracts precious gold and copper deposits. Members have met as a group for at least a year or so and are now officially organized as their own branch.

Growth in Likasi, Democratic Republic of Congo

Two new branches were created in Likasi, bringing the total number of branches in the city to six. Missionaries were introduced for the first time just a year and a half ago to this city in the southern DR Congo. In just a couple weeks, Likasi and the eastern half of the DR Congo will become part of the new Democratic Republic of Congo Lubumbashi Mission. Only African missionaries serve in this region, with the exception of some senior missionary couples.

Three new branches for India

Missionaries report that three new branches will be organized in Southern India in the coming month. Additional branches will be organized in Coimbatore, Hyderabad, and Rajahmundry. Two of these branches have already been organized. This brings the total number of congregations to 33 in India. Missionaries also report that the Hyderabad India District is the closest to becoming a stake, which may occur in the next year or two.

Districts consolidate in Moscow, Russia in preparation for future stake

In 2006, the Moscow Russia District reached the standards to qualify to become a stake. However, mission and local leaders decided to divide the district to work towards two stakes being established in the city. It appears that these ambitious have been abandoned for the time being as the districts were combined about a month ago. Missionaries report that the district is functioning just like a stake currently and should officially become a stake very soon.

Rapid growth in Nicaragua

Missionaries in Nicaragua report that the mission has experienced rapid membership growth over the past six months. During the month of May, over 600 converts were baptized, including many family members and potential Priesthood holders. Several areas are setting new records for church attendance, a welcome sign in a nation which has experienced poor convert retention over the past two decades. The mission is preparing to divide in a couple weeks and has also received more missionaries. Growth appears not to be limited to one specific area of the country.

One exciting development has occurred along the Atlantic coast in the city of Puerto Cabezas where last year the branch divided into three new congregations. For the first time, it appears the Church has experienced a breakthrough in working with the Miskito Amerindians. Missionaries report around 40 members are about to submit their mission papers; a significant achievement as only one member has served a mission from this region.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

New District in Nigeria

Something that I forgot to mention in my previous post about Benin City and Edo State, Nigeria is that a few years ago a couple mission branches sprouted 35 miles to the northeast of Benin City in a series of small cities. Two branches functioned in this region, called the Iruekpen and Ozalla Branches, and where the only congregations outside of Benin City in Edo State. In the past six months, both of these branches have been divided to create the Iruekpen 2nd and Ozalla 2nd Branches and a fifth branch was also created called the Ekpoma Branch. Last Sunday, the Ekpoma Nigeria District was created from these five branches. Recent growth in the Ekpoma Nigeria District indicates that high receptivity and strong growth also occur elsewhere in Edo State.

Nigeria now has 16 stakes and 18 districts, five of which districts were organized since late 2007. The creation of additional districts remains likely in Nigeria. Potential new districts may be organized in Ogwashi-Uku, Ohafia, and Afikpo as additional congregations continue to be organized.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Rapid Growth in Edo State, Nigeria

Benin City is the largest city in Edo State, Nigeria and perhaps the location where the most rapid, self-sustaining growth The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has experienced over the past two years. To meet the needs of growing active membership, wards have grown from around 22 at the end of 2007 to 36 currently. The most recently organized of the three stakes in Benin City, the Benin City Nigeria New Benin Stake, had just six wards when it was created in late 2007. Today there are 15 wards in the stake. The other two stakes - the Benin City Nigeria Ihogbe and Benin City Nigeria Ikpokpan Stakes - have grown from around half a dozen wards in late 2007 to 11 and 10, respectively. Stakes typically divide outside the United States once they exceed 10 wards, so Church leadership could potentially create three new stakes simultaneously with six wards each from the three preexisting stakes.

So what has led to this acceleration of LDS Church growth in Benin City? I will first provide a short historical background about the Church in Benin City and then offer some explanations.

With the exception of the past couple years, congregations grew at an annual rate of one to two new congregations over the past two decades. The Benin City Nigeria District was created before 1989 and was part of the Nigeria Lagos Mission. The Benin City Nigeria Stake was organized in 1993 with five wards and five branches, some of which were to the south in Warri. In 1997, a second stake was organized with five wards and three branches. Following the creation of the Warri Nigeria District in 1999, all congregations in the two stakes met in Benin City. Sometime in the mid-2000s or later, the Nigeria Enugu Mission began administering Benin City.

One of the important principles concerning LDS Church growth often neglected in its study and discussion is that a critical mass of active membership is often reached prior to large increases in membership and congregations. This appears a major component driving the recent growth in Benin City. Many nations in Latin America illustrate this principle as there was relatively little success attracting large numbers of converts during the first decades missionaries labored in Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, and Mexico. In the late 1960s and 1970s, membership in these nations reached a level which allowed for expanding national outreach. This appears to be the result of developing local leadership and increasing the number of native missionaries. For example, in 1970, Mexico had one stake and Brazil had two stakes. A decade later Mexico had 53 stakes and Brazil had 18 stakes. In the past decade, growth has slowed substantially in these nations possibly due to a slow down in expanding national outreach, lower receptivity to the Church's teachings, and decades of poor convert retention failing to produce greater numbers of active full member families, missionaries, and leaders.

Nigeria and Ghana have been uniquely receptive to the Church and its teachings among African nations. Unlike most African nations, initial mission efforts in Nigeria focused among groups of individuals who primarily lived in rural communities. Wards and stakes today function in small villages in rural areas in the southeast, but require a greater number of congregations to reach a larger geographic area, resulting in a limitation toward reaching the critical mass required for greater, consistent growth. Many of the largest cities in non-Islamic areas have a congregation today, but have been unable to develop a critical mass of membership to reproduce the rapid growth the Church experienced in Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s. Nigeria has also depended on African missionaries to staff its full-time missionary force, increasing self-sufficiency and providing leadership for future growth.

It appears that after years of adding one or two congregations annually, a critical mas has been finally reached in Benin City. Benin City now appears to have the highest density of congregations out of any Nigerian city. Edo States carries its own unique traditions and history, which may have contributed to greater receptivity to LDS Church teachings and mission outreach. Time will only tell whether this recent trend of accelerated congregational growth in Benin City will continue. Some other cities in Africa have also appeared to have reached or will soon reach a critical mass in active membership to allow for greater, consistent growth which include Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Antananarivo, Accra, and Abidjan.