The first meetinghouses in Sri Lanka, Serbia, and India have recently been dedicated, blessing the faithful Saints in these countries.
Sri Lanka’s first meetinghouse was dedicated on 2 December 2001 in Colombo by Elder John B. Dickson of the Seventy, Second Counselor in the Asia Area Presidency. More than 300 members of the Colombo Sri Lanka District and neighboring branches attended the dedication.
The Church has been in Sri Lanka for 24 years. The Colombo district was formed on 22 October 2000, and the groundbreaking for the meetinghouse took place that same day. There are two branches in Colombo.
“I am delighted with the culmination of this long-prayed-for event,” says Colombo district president Sunil Arsecularatne. “We will look for a stake here in the future.”
The first meetinghouse in Serbia was dedicated on 19 January 2002 in Beograd. Elder Douglas L. Callister of the Seventy, Europe East Area President, gave the dedicatory prayer. Approximately 150 Church members, government officials, and community members attended the meeting.
Members of the community were also invited to an open house preceding the dedication and provided information about the Church.
Missionaries arrived in what is now Serbia during the 1980s. Because of ongoing civil conflict, the presence of full-time missionaries in Serbia has been sporadic. But local members have faithfully upheld the Church throughout the country’s turbulent times.
“For the Saints of Serbia this was a reward for all they have lived through and endured during the last 10 years,” says Sladjan Mihajlovic, president of the Beograd Branch, speaking of his branch’s new building.
The new meetinghouse is a remodeled villa built in the early 1930s. It is located in the center of the city and is surrounded by several foreign embassies.
“This building houses the Lord’s embassy,” says Dragomir Savic, Beograd district president.
Elder H. Bryan Richards of the Seventy, President of the Asia Area, dedicated India’s first meetinghouse on 2 February 2002. The new building serves the Rajahmundry Branch of the Hyderabad India District. More than 400 members, many from as far as Bangalore, a 10-hour train ride, attended the dedication.
The local community also welcomed the new meetinghouse. More than 2,300 people attended an open house held prior to the dedication. Hosted by Karl E. Nelson, president of the India Bangalore Mission, visitors in groups of 10 to 20 were escorted by the full-time missionaries and branch members through classrooms and the chapel. By the end of the tour, the visitors had heard the first two missionary discussions, learned the role of Church auxiliary programs, and received an invitation to sign up for a copy of the Book of Mormon.
On the first Sunday after the open house, 50 children attended Primary. Not even 10 of them were Church members; most were visitors from the surrounding area. Several adults visited as well.
“The people are astonished at this miracle from Heavenly Father,” said Padmanandam Chalanti, president of the Rajahmundry Branch.
The Rajahmundry Branch was formed nearly two decades ago with 38 members. The branch now numbers more than 400.