Sunday, May 29, 2011

Significant Developments for the LDS Church in Africa

Cities open for missionary work in Ethiopia

In an unprecedented move, LDS missionaries serving in Awasa, Ethiopia report that three additional cities in the Awasa area have had their first LDS congregations organized, doubling the number of cities in Ethiopia which receive LDS outreach from three to six.  LDS missionaries were assigned to Shashemene and a group was established a few weeks ago whereas groups were recently organized in the cities of Ch'iko and Wendo.  Missionaries report that dozens are currently investigating the church in these cities and that baptisms occur weekly.  Once newly organized groups in Shashemene, Ch'iko, and Wendo mature into independent branches prospects appear favorable for a district to be organized.  Awasa was opened to missionary work in 2010 and the Awasa Branch was organized in 2008 with less than two dozen members.  At present over 100 attend church meetings in the four cities in the region.  LDS missionaries have served in Addis Ababa and Debre Zeit for many years, where three branches and a group for Nuer-speakers operate.  There are now four branches and four groups in Ethiopia organized into one district.  There has been no recent word on whether an unofficial group continues to operate in Gambella.

First LDS branch outside of Angolan capital organized

The first independent LDS branch outside of Luanda was recently organized in the southern Angolan city of Lubango.  A group was organized in Lubango about a year ago and operated under the Mozambique Maputo Mission Branch.  The LDS Church in Angola also recently had its first district organized for the three branches in Luanda.  A group was also recently organized in the Viana, a suburb of Luanda.  There are now four branches and approximately four groups in Angola.  Prospects appear highly likely for Angola to become its own mission due to high rates of receptivity to the LDS Church, administrative demands on the Mozambique Maputo Mission, distance from Angola to Mozambique, and a large, relatively unreached population in Angola that has received very few LDS missionary resources.  The first LDS missionaries were assigned to Angola only a few years ago.

First LDS stake organized in the central interior of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Kananga Democratic Republic of Congo District recently became a stake, becoming the first stake in the country to be organized outside of Kinshasa and Lubumbashi.  The new stake includes five wards and three branches.  Enormous growth potential exists in the region and a third mission for the DR Congo based in Kananga, Mbuji-Mayi, or Luputa appears highly likely in the near future.  Missionaries report that missions based in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi are currently baptizing around 300 converts a month, with over 90% of converts being retained at least over the short term.  At this rate of growth, LDS membership may increase by between 7,000 and 9,000 in 2011 alone.  In late 2010, there were approximately 27,000 members in the DR Congo.

New branch organized in Uganda
A new branch was organized in the Jinja Uganda District named the Njeru Branch.  There are now six branches in the district.

New stake in Nigeria
The first new stake in Nigeria since 2007 was organized in Lagos.  The Lagos Nigeria South Stake includes five wards and two branches in the southern portion of the city.  The first stake in Lagos was organized in 1997 and a second stake was organized in 2005.  Several additional Nigerian stakes are close to splitting as all three stakes in Benin City have between 10 and 15 wards and the Port Harcourt Nigeria West Stake has 11 wards at present.  Nigeria has experienced recent growth in the number of districts as eight new districts were organized from late 2008 to mid-2010.  There are now 17 stakes and 21 districts in Nigeria.  Based on recent membership growth trends, LDS membership should number over 100,000 by mid-2011, becoming the first African country to have over 100,000 members.


Craig said...

Ethiopia and Angola are typical of the Church's strategy of building from points of strength.

Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa after Nigeria with 85 million people

Angola is now the third largest Portuguese-speaking country in the world with nearly 13 million people--behind only Brazil and Mozambique--more people than Portugal itself.

From one branch in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Luanda, Angola, to multiple branches in each city, to the first district in Addis Ababa in November 2009 and in Luanda in April 2011. Now in other Ethiopia and Angola cities, groups become branches and become future centers of stength.

Kinshasa and Lubumbashi have been centers of strength for years in D.R. Congo--each with a mission now. Kananga is the fourth D.R. Congo city with a stake.

Tom said...

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is gaining unstoppable momentum in terms of Church growth. There are NO issues at all, hence we just have to sit back and enjoy this.

*Strong membership growth
*Retention is extremely high
*Congregational Growth is rapid
*Stake Growth is high
*Branches are quickly becoming wards

It's clear this country needs a temple now in order to progress further. It has 8 stakes and 103 congregations. Surely this is the nation with the lowest membership and the highest number of congregations?

But it is clear this nation will lead the entire world in the growth of the church. Imagine how big this will be in 30 years time? By then it will have overtook Ghana, South Africa and Nigeria with all its statistics.

We are witnessing a miracle in this country.

Erik said...

Tom, always the optimist :) I agree that there is huge potential for continued growth in the Democratic Republic of Congo. If growth is sustained and a third mission created we could reach as many as 150,000 members here by the end of the decade and a million members in the country 30 years from now. I do hope a temple will be announced for the country within the next few years or we may end up with more than a hundred thousand active members without easy access to a temple!

Tom said...

A new stake has been created in Papua New Guinea. The 2nd in that country.

5 branches have been upgraded into wards in the process.

Nellie said...

How can we manage DRC better than we did Chile and the Phillippines?

Matt said...

Great conversation everyone! Sorry I have not commented sooner; I've been pretty busy...

Craig - I agree with you that Ethiopia and Angola are following the typical LDS strategy for growth, but we are seeing a more aggressive expansion of national outreach approach than in the past couple decades in Africa. We've seen this in Madagascar, Mozambique, and Kenya lately as branches have been organized in villages which are so small that I have difficulty finding them. One correction though, there are three cities in the DR Congo with stakes now (Kinshasa with five, Lubumbashi with two, and Kananga with one).

Tom - Growth in the DR Congo is indeed impressive and exciting, but there have been issues which have delayed growth and slow growth

-some branches experience convert retention and activity challenges, such as the Kipushi Branch

-trained, qualified leadership is sparse in cities with groups or recently organized congregations

-poverty is very challenging for members to serve missions and to sustain themselves economically

-the amount of LDS resources dedicated to the DR Congo remains very limited.

I have been excited trying to visualize and imagine what the Church will look like in the DR Congo in a decade, but past experience has demonstrated that growth rates often do not remain stable and generally decline over time. I believe that maintaining the current pace of growth for the Church in the DR Congo will require a steady opening of additional cities to missionary work on at least a yearly basis. Membership growth has also picked up in Ghana and South Africa recently by the way...

Erik - based on recent membership growth trends, I'd bet that membership in the DR Congo reaches 50,000 before 2015 and perhaps 100,000 by 2010. We may have 15 stakes in the DR Congo within the next few years as nearly all stakes appear posed to divide into new stakes with only a couple exceptions. A senior missionary couple stated that several additional stakes will soon be organized in the country.

2.5 - LDS Church growth in the DR Congo is very different than how it occurred in Chile and the Philippines as foreign, full-time missionaries were behind most of the rapid growth in those nations whereas in the DR Congo local members serving missions supply nearly the entire full-time missionary force (and the remainder of the young elder missionaries come from other African nations). Emphasis on church attendance is high in the DR Congo, providing a cultural advantage for the LDS Church in retention and member activity. Also male involvement in religious affairs is very high and most congregations report more active men than women, another stark contrast with Latin America and the Philippines. North American missionaries do not appear likely to be assigned in the near future due to instability, low standards of living, and high sustainability of the local missionary force, but potential challenges may arise if an overemphasis is placed on local full-time missionaries fulfilling administrative duties or assigning too many missionary companionships to a single congregation.

Derrill Watson said...

I just discovered your wonderful blog today. This is an excellent resource. Thank you for your dedication, commitment, and thoroughness. My family and I are moving to Jimeta/Yola, Nigeria and will be the first members of the Church there.

Matt said...

Good luck moving to Jimeta! Perhaps you will be coordinating with mission leadership in establishing a group and introducing investigators and less-active members to the Church there.