New Caledonia Celebrates Church Growth
Contributed By By Elder Jeffrey Larsen and Sister Karen Larsen, Pacific Area Public Affairs Missionaries
Before organizing the Church’s first stake in New Caledonia on May 27, 2012, Elder James J. Hamula of the Seventy, Pacific Area President, noted that the day “marks the coming of age of the Church in New Caledonia.”
“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.
New Caledonia, a territory of France, is part of Melanesia, an area of the South Pacific stretching from New Guinea to Fiji some 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) east of Australia.
During his remarks Elder Hamula noted that President Thomas S. Monson, then Elder Monson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, 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.
“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.”
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. Local television and newspaper reporters covered the event.
The stake was created more than 50 years after the first small congregation was organized in New Caledonia in October 1961. The first meetinghouse was built on the island in 1972.
In 1969, James A. Tatton and Lyle W. Parker became the first young missionaries to labor in New Caledonia. They both traveled to the country for the creation of the first stake.
Now returning after 40 years, the former 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. At that time the couple visited with the missionaries on the street, and the elders gave them a historical book about the Mormons. But the law at the time 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. Brother and Sister Ngkwaig-Chow 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.”
The Church in New Caledonia
- 1943–1946: The first members in New Caledonia were servicemen stationed there during World War II.
- 1946–1950s: There was no known Church activity until the 1950s, when a few Tahitian members migrated there to work in the nickel smelter.
- October 21, 1961: The Noumea Branch was organized with Teahumanu Manoi called as president. The branch became part of the French Polynesia Mission.
- 1960s: Missionary work was delayed for many years because of visa restrictions and opposition.
- May 2, 1968: Then-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 Polynesia Mission president, Karl M. Richards, and the Noumea Branch president, Teahu Manoi.
- July 15, 1968: The first missionaries were a married couple, Harold and Jeannine Richards, who arrived along with their daughter.
- November 16, 1968: The first person baptized in New Caledonia was Etienne Sun, then 13 years old.
- January 20, 1969: Elders James A. Tatton and Lyle W. Parker became the first young missionaries to enter New Caledonia.
- December 24, 1972: The Noumea Branch meetinghouse was dedicated.
- June 1975: New Caledonia and the Noumea Branch were transferred to the Fiji Suva Mission.
- May 1976: The Noumea Branch was divided and the meetinghouse was enlarged.
- 1977: The District of New Caledonia was created. It included the two Noumea branches and the Tontouta Branch.
- February 1982: The government lifted its quota on the number of French missionaries and granted permission for four non-French missionaries to enter.
- 1992: Church membership doubled from 1982.
- 2002: Membership reached 1,631.
- 2012: The Noumea New Caledonia Stake is organized on May 27 by Elder James J. Hamula of the Seventy, President of the Pacific Area.