Tuesday, February 24, 2009

M. Russell Ballard Foretold Dramatic Growth in West Indies Mission that Brings About New Stake

This weekend will be a momentous occasion for the West Indies Mission. During the past two years the West Indies Mission has had dramatic growth under current mission president Reid Robision baptizing over three thousand members. This growth has put them in line for the creation of the first Trinidad stake on 1 March 2009.

The earliest records about Trinidad indicated that missionaries from the Venezuela Caracas Mission came to take care of a few referrals in March 1975 and November 1976 and finally January 1977. The first two missionaries actually stay in Trinidad came at the request of Liz Rogers Dopson to then President Spencer W. Kimball from the Venezuela Caracas Mission. In November 1976 a set of missionaries came but were deported. Then in January 1977 Elders K. Don Bigalow and La Mae Olds came and got started as full-time missionaries on site staying a few months at a time. Interestingly the first baptism on 22 June 1977 Lucy Josphine Payne, an Afro-Caribbean member, was confirmed by Hartman Rector's son Daniel Rector, a missionary in the Caracas Mission.

In 1983 the West Indies Mission was created and included Jamaica, the Bahamas, part of Haiti, the Lesser Antilles, Barbados, Trinidad, and Tobago with headquarters in Barbados. In 1991 the West Indies Mission was realigned with headquarters in Trinidad. The West Indies Mission includes the remaining islands in the Lesser Antilles and the neighboring South American countries of Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.

In 2007 the Ensign reported the mission would revert to the Trinidad and Tobago Mission but it was decided to retain the name West Indies Mission in the end.

The current West Indies Mission will remain headquartered in Trinidad and will be renamed the Trinidad and Tobago Mission. It will cover French- and Dutch-speaking countries and islands in the Caribbean Area and will continue to oversee English-speaking Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Grenada, St. Lucia and St. Vincent, and the Grenadines.

The French-speaking areas are Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana, and St. Martin. The Dutch-speaking areas include Suriname and the northern islands of the Netherlands Antilles, including St. Maarten, St. Eustatius, and Saba.

In 1980 a missionary couple Elder and Sister Richardson came and lived to try to get official recognition for the church but were unsuccessful. It almost a decade to get official recognition and entailed the efforts of many men.

The first chapel in Trinidad was built in 1995 in the Port of Spain Branch on the very spot of the dedication. It is interesting to note that M. Russell Ballard dedicated the region for the preaching of the gospel on 22 February 1990 and later in 2005 as executive director of the missionary committee called President Robison from Ontario, Canada the very mission Elder Ballard presided over as mission president. So there is a Toronto Canada Mission connection at work in the Caribbean. The people of the region are very deserving of to have a stake in their midst.

In the Ensign in 1990 recorded the events of the dedication by Elder M. Russell Ballard at Port of Spain, Trinidad:

Late in February, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve dedicated Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, and the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago for the preaching of the gospel. The first three countries are on the north coast of South America, and the two-island republic of Trinidad and Tobago is located just off the north coast of the continent.

Elder Ballard was accompanied by Elder Charles Didier of the Seventy, President of the South America North Area.

Trinidad and Tobago was dedicated February 22 at the proposed site of a meetinghouse in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Guyana was dedicated February 23 in Georgetown. Suriname was dedicated February 24 in the city of Paramaribo. French Guiana was dedicated on February 27 at a spot about five miles from Kourou; Elder Didier translated Elder Ballard’s prayer into French for the members present.

In the dedicatory prayers he offered, Elder Ballard asked the Lord to bless the leaders of governments in the countries involved. Members were promised that the Church would grow steadily, that there would be wards and stakes presided over by local leaders in their areas, and that their countries would help in the work of the Lord by sending missionaries to other nations. The Church has been established for less than two years in each of the four countries.

Noting that his grandfather, Elder Melvin J. Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve, had dedicated South America for the preaching of the gospel sixty-five years earlier—in 1925—Elder Ballard commented that it was a “warm and beautiful experience” to take part in the four dedications.

The actual words of Elder Ballard's prayer are recorded here:
Our beloved Heavenly Father, we thy children, meet here in the name of thy Beloved Son Jesus Christ, and humbly present ourselves before thee for the purpose of dedicating the land of Trinidad and Tobago to the building of the kingdom of God among these good people, thy sons and daughters. We count it a great privilege, Holy Father, to be assigned by the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles, to fulfill such a sacred responsiblity.

In the name of thy Beloved Son, we ask thee to stay the influence of the evil one, that he may not have power over the honest in heart that dwell here upon this land. Bless thy children as they come in contact with the missionaries and the members of the Church, that they may be nurtured and cradled by the spirit as they are taught the saving doctrines and receive the ordinances of thy church and kingdom here upon the earth.

We pray, Heavenly Father, for a blessing to be poured out upon the heads of the national leaders, those who preside in important offices in this country, that thy spirit might touch their hearts and enlighten their minds, that they may know that we come in the name of thy Son and that this is thy Church as it has been restored to the earth in these latter days. We pray for the Prime Minister and for the parliament and for others who have responsibility at local levels, any who make decisions for permits or clearances that thy church may require. May they be blessed to give governmental approvals. We ask thee to walk before the face of those who have responsibility within the Church that they may be inspired to know what to say and what to do to bring about the legal recognition to carry on the affairs of thy church and kingdom.

We invoke, Heavenly Father, a blessing upon the people, the fathers and the mothers, the children, the boys and girls. Wherever they may be living in Trinidad and Tobago, may they be blessed with a desire kindled in their hearts to know the truth. May the missionaries, particularly, be inspired and enlightened of thee to know how to approach them and teach them so that the spirit and power of the Holy Ghost may abide in the teaching process and truth might be transferred by those who are blessed to hold it to those who are seeking to know the truth.

We pray, Heavenly Father, for the local leadership of the Church. We ask thee to watch over the branch presidencies, the leaders in the branch, the mission presidency, and particularly President Jeffs and his wife. We invoke a special blessing upon them of protection as they travel among these islands for which they are responsible.

Now, Holy Father, in the name of thy Beloved Son, and by the power of the Holy Apostleship vested in me, I turn the key and unlock the door and open this land to an increased outpouring of thy spirit for the enhancement and development of the church and kingdom, that by thy spirit, Holy Father, the work will progress. We ask thee to watch over these lands, keep them safe from untoward natural disaster, calm the winds, calm the storms, give them what they need, Holy Father, in the way of rain to raise their crops, but stay anything that would devastate the land or harm the land. Bless the people, Holy Father, as we have asked, with every blessing they desire in righteousness. Cause thy spirit to fall upon thousands of thy sons and daughters who are honest in heart and seek to know the truth. Open up opportunities, Holy Father, for exposure of those who are honest in heart to the members of the church and the missionaries.

Now, we are grateful for the priesthood that we bear, that has been restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith, and we acknowledge, Heavenly Father, that this priesthood has the power to perform miracles in these lands. Bless the leaders and the missionaries that they will raise up local men, that they will teach them, and magnify them to honorably and powerfully use their priesthood to the blessings of thy sons and daughters. Bless them that they may heal the sick, that they may grant blessings of health and strength, of counsel, of direction, in the lives of they sons and daughters.

This is our prayer, Heavenly Father, as we dedicate this land unto thee, placing a priesthood blessing upon the land at the direction of the President of thy Church, the Prophet of God. We do this in deep gratitude and in humility and all in the sacred and beloved name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.
The words of Elder Ballard have realized prophetic fulfillment after a nineteen year period as the four countries membership has grown steadily particularly the last five years. It is fascinating that he predicted thousands would have their hearts open to the gospel.

The first President to visit Trinidad was Gordon B. Hinckley who stopped over in May 2002 after dedicating temples in Brazil and Paraguay when he met with the prime minister Patrick Manning.

On Saturday, 14 February 2009 Dr. Diane Robison, wife of the mission president wrote:
Conference for the Creation of the Trinidad Stake

That is so nice to type!

Here are the details on the creation of the first stake in Trinidad (and in the entire West Indies Mission):

Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Presidency of the Seventy will create the stake on March 1, 2009 in Port of Spain Trinidad. He will be accompanied by Elder Francisco J. Vinas, second counselor in the Area Presidency.

There will be a Priesthood meeting from 3:00-5:00 p.m. and an adult general session from 6:00-8:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 28. The Sunday session will be from 10:00-12:00 a.m. on March 1. The meetings will be held in the chapel in Port of Spain.

We are looking forward to that momentous weekend.
It approximately nineteen years since the country was dedicated and brings to fruition the first stake in the mission. Her husband Reid Robison is ecstatic when the announcement was first made to him on 12 February 2009 as his missionaries realized a goal of 2008 baptisms in 2008 which gives them the necessary members and leadership to support a stake. Just as Elder Ballard predicted thousands of people have been blessed at the hands of the missionaries with the creation of this new stake this weekend.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You seem particularly interested in people's ethnicities. Sister Payne is not Afro-Caribbean descendant but East Indian descendant.