I spend my vacation time in Uganda, and when not on vacation, I think a lot about eastern Africa. A recent article by Josh Kron in the nytimes (13 Apr 2012) discusses Mormon missionaries in Uganda:
Last summer, Jared Dangerfield was simply 19, skateboarding the streets of suburban Salt Lake City, plugged into the Jewish reggae singer Matisyahu. He had just wrapped up his year at Utah State University, where there was a girl he liked to make laugh.
. . . Gone are his friends. Gone is his given name. The next time he will see his mother’s face is 2013. Until then, he is Elder Dangerfield, as it say on his name tag.
Each day he rises with the African sun to say his prayers before venturing into the urban wilderness of Kampala, Uganda, a churning kaleidoscope of motorcycles, street urchins, vegetable carts and pterodactyl-like storks that circle office towers and lampposts. They orbit above him as he makes his way up and down the muddy hills of the capital city, careful to keep his black pants and white shirt clean, scanning faces in search of those who will listen to him speak of his faith. His Mormon faith.
As one of the fastest-growing religions in the United States; with a hit Broadway musical about two 19-year-old Utahns in Uganda; and with a member, Mitt Romney, poised to challenge Barack Obama for presidency, Mormonism is basking in the mainstream spotlight. . .
Later in the article, Kron describes the LDS Church’s progress in Uganda:
Currently, there are only about 5,000 Mormons in Uganda, less than 1 percent of the population. What is noteworthy, however, is that a third of those were converted last year. The number of missionaries stationed in Uganda has also grown, to 120 from 70 two years ago. The missionaries say they can net a dozen new contacts from the street in a couple of hours, and visit five homes in a day. They estimate each is responsible for around 40 baptisms by the time service is up.
The article is extremely positive toward the LDS Church and it’s missionary efforts in Uganda. I highly recommend it.
For me, the missionary effort in Uganda raises two questions:
- First, the expansion highlights the point that soon the church will have more members in developing countries than in the developed countries. How will we (the institution and the members) deal with this extraordinary number of new members (and their neighbors), many living in poverty?
- Second, will the the Church’s missionary effort in Africa begin to plateau out? Africans, as a whole, are very demonstrative. Will staid Mormonism be able to compete with the more enthusiastic Pentacostals and Evangelicals?