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Thursday, June 7, 2012

New Caledonia celebrates Church growth

Elder Hamula creates first stake for the Pacific nation
Published: Saturday, June 2, 2012
Before organizing the Church's first stake in New Caledonia on May 27, Elder James J. Hamula noted that the day "marks the coming of age of the Church in New Caledonia."
New Caledonia, a territory of France, is part of Melanesia, an area of the South Pacific stretching from New Guinea to Fiji, and is more than 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) east of Australia. "Latter-day Saints and all of New Caledonia will be blessed as the gospel of Jesus Christ is taught and embraced by more and more people," said Elder Hamula of the Seventy and president of the Church's Pacific Area.

James A. Tatton and Lyle W. Parker, the first young elders to serve in New Caledonia 40 years ago, visit with Yo-Min and Maria Ngkwaig-Chow.

During his remarks Elder Hamula noted that President Thomas S. Monson, then Elder Monson of the Quorum of the Twelve, visited New Caledonia on May 2, 1968.
"On a hill not far from here looking out across the bay and upon the city of Noumea," Elder Hamula said, "President Monson stood with a few others. He offered a prayer unto heaven, and invoked the blessings of heaven upon this great land, and dedicated this land to the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
"Here we are, these many years later, and we see the fruit of that prayer. I know the Lord loves you and He loves this land as well, and I know this is just the beginning."
The new stake, the Noumea New Caledonia Stake, includes 2,000 members and eight meetinghouses.
Church leaders called Georgie Guidi to be the first president of the stake, with Marc Mocellin and Thierry Gorodey as his counselors.

Elder James Hamula of the Seventy and president of the Church Pacific Area creates the first stake the New Caledonia.
"The organization of this new stake is not only for members of the Church, it is for all people of New Caledonia," President Guidi said. "Our most important mission will be to preach the gospel and all its principles to the people of New Caledonia, which will bring happiness for them, for their families, and in their work environments and communities."

Some 800 members gather in Noumea, New Caledonia, where Elder James J. Hamula created a stake May 27.
The conference was attended by 800 Church members. In addition, Philippe Gomes, the former president of New Caledonia; Sonia Lagarde, a member of Congress; and Helene Iekawe, a member of government, also attended the stake creation, which was covered by local television and newspaper reporters.

Elder James J. Hamula meets a new member, Edmond Doumai. He is the chief of the island of Ouvea.Elder James J. Hamula meets a new member, Edmond Doumai. He is the chief of the island of Ouvea.
The stake was created more than 50 years after the first small congregation was organized in New Caledonia in October 1961; the first chapel was built on the island 11 years later.
In 1969, James A. Tatton and Lyle W. Parker became the first young missionaries to labor in New Caledonia. They traveled to the country for the creation of the first stake.
Now returning after 40 years, the returned missionaries were amazed at the growth of the Church and were grateful to be reunited with Church members and friends.
Church members, Yo-Min and Maria Ngkwaig-Chow, were especially eager to visit with Brother Tatton and Brother Parker. The Ngkwaig-Chows remembered meeting the men many years ago while they were serving as missionaries. The couple visited with the missionaries on the street and the elders gave them a historical book about the Mormons. But, at that time, the law restricted missionaries from preaching the gospel, so after visiting for a few minutes the missionaries and the Ngkwaig-Chows went their separate ways.
But Brother and Sister Ngkwaig-Chow were impressed with the young elders and a seed was planted. Six years later, the law changed and two other missionaries knocked on their door. They felt the Spirit, welcomed the teachings of the gospel, and were soon baptized.
During the conference session, Elder Hamula lauded the early missionaries and compared them to the young missionaries of today.
"You will see a difference in age, but you will not see a difference in dedication," he said. "These missionaries represent the commitment of the Lord to New Caledonia. They represent all the missionaries who have come and made sacrifices in their lives to bring the gospel to the people of New Caledonia."
 President Georgie Guidi

 Sister Rachel Guidi

 Elder Hamula, President Guidi, Elder Tarati


Reception Following Conference with opinion leaders and media, including former President Gomes of New Caledonia, (on left).

Following is a brief history of Church growth in New Caledonia.
1943-1946 — First members in New Caledonia were servicemen stationed there during WWII.
1946-1950s — No known Church activity until the 1950s, when a few Tahitian members migrated there to work in the nickel smelter.
Oct. 21, 1961 — Noumea Branch organized with Teahumanu Manoi called as president. The branch became part of the French Polynesian Mission.
1960s Missionary work was delayed for many years because of visa restrictions and opposition.
May 2, 1968 — Elder Thomas S. Monson stood on a hill, (Mount Coffyn), overlooking the city of Noumea and the ocean and dedicated the land of New Caledonia for the preaching of the gospel. Among those present were the French Polynesian Mission President Karl M. Richards and Noumea Branch President Teahu Manoi.
July 15, 1968 — The first missionaries, a married couple, Harold and Jeannine Richards, arrived along with their daughter.
Nov. 16, 1968 — First baptism in New Caledonia, Etienne Sun, then 13.
Jan. 20, 1969 — Elders James A. Tatton and Lyle W. Parker became the first young missionaries to enter New Caledonia.
Dec. 24, 1972 — Noumea Branch meetinghouse was dedicated.
June 1975 — New Caledonia and the Noumea Branch were transferred to the Fiji Suva Mission.
May 1976 — Noumea Branch was divided and the meetinghouse was enlarged.
1977 — Creation of the District of New Caledonia. District includes the two branches of Noumea, and the branch of Tontouta.
February 1982 — The government lifted its quota on the number of French missionaries and granted permission for four non-French missionaries to enter. Church membership doubled by 1992.
2002 - Membership reached 1,631.
January 2011 Church membership was 1,949, with 8 branches and 1 district.
May 27, 2012 — Announcement of first stake with Georgie Guidi called as first stake president.

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