Sunday, February 15, 2009

Replicating Results From One Mission Field to Another

Last week I read the newly called mission president from the Church News. One of the newly called mission presidents Claude Remy Gamiette is a counselor in the West Indies Mission under Reid Robison. I am sure the 2008 baptisms accomplished in 2008 would bring the mission and its mission officers to the attention of the LDS general authorities. Probably the fact that Brother Gamiette has worked closely with the mission president and there has been some dramatic growth has he been chosen. I don't doubt he was called by revelation nor that he has been involved in some very successful mission work. I am also sure that in a time of declining numbers that some see calling someone with his background as a way to test what he has been involved with for the last year.

The mission has realized unprecedented growth under this mission presidency as reported on the LDS Church Growth blog by Sister Diane Robison wife of the mission president:

Sister Robison of the West Indies Mission reported that approval for the first stake in the West Indies Mission was given and the stake will be created the weekend of February 28th. In addition to strengthening the existing branches in the country for the past year to prepare for stakehood, a new branch was created last Fall in Port Fortin. Converts are joining the Church more than ever before in Trinidad and Tobago and missionaries are doing their best to keep them active. Last year the West Indies Mission baptized over 2,000 converts, most of whom were in Guyana.
I tried to see how much influence or what things Brother Gamiette or his wife might have done by examining the West Indies Mission blog but I couldn't find much. The only post I could find on Wednesday, October 1, 2008 was one in which the mission president's wife compared Sister Gamiette to Sarah Palin and mentioned that "The last picture is of Sarah Palin - the US vice presidential candidate and the first three are of Sister Gamiette, wife of the first counselor in the Mission Presidency (her husband was just released last Sunday as the French District President and replaced by President Eclar)." I assumed that Brother Gamiette must have been both the district president and first counselor in the mission presidency but I couldn't determine that. I also thought but couldn't prove whether he lived in Guyana where all the growth was but couldn't determine that from his Church News bio.

The atmosphere in the mission has been one of exuberance as hundreds of Afro-Carribbean people have joined the church. Success has been feeding on success as people bring friends and family to their baptisms in a bus. I checked Brother Gamiette's picture to see if he was of the same ethnic background but he appears to be of French descent as does his wife. (I have since learned that he and his wife are of Afro-Caribbean descent which makes me more confident in his ability to relate to other diverse groups.) It would have been cool if a minority person had been called. I noticed that both of the Gamiette's were returned missionaries. He served in Florida Jacksonville and she in Washington Seattle Mission about 20 years ago. He works for the CES which means he has been trained in working with youth and church bureaucracy. I am sure as a mission counselor he has been involved in the process that President Robison used for about a year. I suspect he will try to duplicate it whereever he is called. There are a lot of factors that might make it so that may or may not be possible.

I am very interested in his calling as a mission president and wonder if a pattern exists from previous successes that he will carry to his new assignment. Have the counselors of men like Richard G. Scott, William Bradford, Hartman Rector, Carlos Asay been called as mission presidents and did their success in terms of baptisms mirror their mentors. I am going to go back and check the Church News and see if any residual success happened.

The West Indies success I have been following closely and I believe that the background of the people involved from mission president to missionaries to members to new members has something to do with the mass success in baptizing so many. I am not discounting the superb job the mission president and his wife have done to prepare the missionaries but I have seen a charismatic process that is very effective. It is really quite a contagious process and feeds on itself as members are bringing in their family and friends in large numbers. I have argued for a long time that results are mission specific and depend on the mission president, the missionaries and the receptivity of the investigators.

My question is can you replicate charismatic programs throughout the world if conditions are different. I have yet to see where Brother Gamiette being called will lead but it will be interesting if in a more subdued atmosphere with a different demography of people if the West Indies model can be internationalized and used by him to achieve similar results. I suspect he is a different person than Reid Robison with different skill sets. I also think he will feel a lot of pressure to produce which can be a barrier to his success. I am not a doomsayer and would be excited to see him succeed but with a doctorate in adult education I realize there are many factors involved from the ability to the mission president to put forward his mission and vision to the missionaries ability to translate that in to their teaching to investigators even wanting to be baptized. I believe the success of the West Indies is a great deal influenced by the socialization factor or families and friends joining each other. Most are homogeneously the same background which creates different challenges for former members.

I am not discounting Brother Gamiette's background the CES is a good place to train men to relate to young men and women. I think we need a little more excitement in the training of missionaries. Reid and Diana Robison are master trainers as they have come up with slogans like Hurray for Israel or Band of Brothers. I hope Brother Gamiette can replicate the results but I am a doubting Thomas. I am sure of one thing that his missionaries will think he is the greatest mission president of all mission presidents.

I have a few concerns: Can you really transfer one approach from one field to another? Will a different set of missionaries operate the same as the those in the West Indies Mission? Can a mission president create in a different place the same excitement and reception by the members and potential investigators? Just because you witnessed something can you really replicate it?

I will be watching Brother Gamiette for the next three years to see if in the one short year he worked with President Robison if he can accomplish even a fraction of the results. I might become converted to the Hurray for Isreal movement but I suspect it will pan out like the Rector Harvesting the Lord's Way or the baseball baptisms. Where will these members be in twenty years will we have 18% retention. I am certain Reid Robison will join the ranks of the Quorum of Seventy or some other general authority calling. I wonder if Brother Gamiette will go on to to similar achievement.


Anonymous said...

Hello. About you comment of minority, Brother Gamiette is an Afro- descendant so is his wife whose grandmother is a typical Afro-Caribbean woman. Most people from the West Indies have African heritage.

Dr. B said...

Thanks for the clarification. I am glad to know that a person of Afro Caribbean descent has been called. We need more persons called from international places that can contribute to building the kingdom.

Stephen Dunn said...

I served as a senior missionary in the West Indies and know President Robison and President Gamiette well.
I'm not sure what was meant or intended with the phrase "revivalistic process" or any suggestion that the wonderful progress that has occurred in this mission can be properly characterized as getting "carried away."
The reality is that there has simply been a diligent effort to carry the message of the Gospel into the lives and hearts of the Caribbean people and that has resulted in an increasing number of baptisms. Both President Robison and President Gamiette are soft spoken, kind and caring men, dedicated servants of the Lord, and their efforts to lead the work in the way the Lord directs will be consistent. To suggest that there will be a more "subdued atmosphere" at least implies that the atmosphere of the last three years in the West Indies has been less than appropriate, which would be completely inaccurate. To use inspiring words and motivating encouragement is what every mission president does, and is what I am sure President Gamiette will continue to do. As always, the continued activity level of those who are baptized is a product of agency and commitment of those who were baptized.

Dr. B said...

I never implied they were carried away at all. What I have viewed is a very enthusiastic process. I have seen countless pictures of baptisms with the signature being pumping their hands in the area. In addition I have viewed the Hurray for Israel vehicles etc. I don't particularly have a problem with a enthusiastic approach it is actually refreshing. As to the mission president and his wife being less than the best that is not implied I am actually excited to see 2008 baptisms. I feel the man is general authority caliber and is in a league with men like Carlos Asay, Hartman Rector etc. I wouldn't characterize them as being staid nor would I characterize the Robison's as being staid. As to Brother Gamiette I don't know much about him I hope he is just as charismatic as President Robison for whom I have the highest respect. Reid Robison is an awesome missionary. Mission presidents by nature have to fire up young elders. I have read all he and his wife have posted. Maybe he is firey writer but I maintain in order to produce it is not a bad thing to have a charismatic leader. Hurray for Israel.

Jan Myers said...

My husband and I currently serve in the West Indies Mission and consider it a privilege to serve with both President Robison and President Gamiette. They are gentle men and spiritual giants.

In reading this article, I took offense at the description of our work here as a "revivalistic process used as the participants cheer, chant and sing." We neither cheer nor chant, but we do sing the same LDS hymns sung the world over.

The great progress being made in this mission is a direct result of the efforts of 142 devoted Elders and 24 couples who diligently serve the Lord to share the gospel with the humble and believing-hearted Caribbean people.

As senior couples we teach our branch leaders how to conduct their meetings with reverence and solemnity with no semblance of revivalistic activities. The only hymns sung are those from the standard hymnal.

The living conditions are difficult in many parts of our mission and the missionary work physically taxing, but the humble, loving hearts of the people make it a great place to serve a mission!

We love both President Robison and President Gamiette and are so thrilled to be a part of the wonderful progress of the Church in the West Indies that we have already asked the head of the mission department if we could be allowed to serve a second 23-month mission here.

Dr. B said...

I am glad to see you are going to serve another mission. That is a testament to your good mission president. I will tame down my description a little but I have read every couple's blog and missionary blog. I draw my conclusions from reading them. It is nice to see you sing the traditional songs of Zion. I guess you can be both quiet and dignified and charismatic both they are not mutual in disparity. In addition I enjoy your blog which has motivated several couples to go on missions. I have seen a great deal of service provided from when you started until today. Thanks for setting me straight. I could go back and find what I am referring to but that is neither here nor there. As to retention I am not opposed to the methods used in baptizing which are varied and well conducted. I have seen pictures of many of your couples and read their descriptions. I can say all of them are some of the finest missionary couples I have ever seen. I would also say they are not a timid lot of people but are dynamic and go-getters.

Dr. B said...

BTW: I think it is a brilliant move on the part of the Church to call Brother Gamiette as mission president. Someone unfamiliar with the members and the missionaries might have had a let down in the phenomenal results you are getting. I am thrilled to see him called. I hope he builds on the success of President Robison. I guess you can be dignified and charismatic. This has been a good post we are getting some discussion going.

Anonymous said...

I read your whole article and I don't see why anyone should be offended (maybe as LDS people we tend to be a bit over sensitive?)

I understood perfectly what you tried to say and I think you was quite accurate in a lot of your descriptions about the work in the West Indies.