Asia area: Welcome mat is out in several countries

A welcome mat is being put out in several Asian countries for Church representatives where previously the Church has not had easy access, said Elder Monte J. Brough of the Seventy, Asia Area president.

In a Church News interview, Elder Brough and his counselors - Elder John K. Carmack and Elder Kwok Yuen Tai - talked about Church growth in the Asia Area."We see this part of the world as very complex, diverse and challenging, but we feel the hand of the Lord opening doors with more speed than anything we've ever observed," Elder Brough said. "We are finding a welcome in countries that previously have been closed to the Church and it's a warm, sincere welcome."

Of particular interest is an increased Church presence in Mongolia and Vietnam, Elder Brough noted. Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Council of the Twelve recently dedicated Mongolia for the preaching of the gospel. (See separate story on this page.)

The Asia Area, which covers half the world's population, includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

Church members are living in 19 of the 21countries, and Church units are organized in 15 of them. Full-time missionaries are serving in 12 countries of the area. Total Church membership is more than 52,600, with the majority in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

The Church is moving forward throughout the area. Some of the highlights are:

Vietnam - Two couples are currently serving humanitarian missions. They have been so successful that government leaders have requested more missionaries be sent, Elder Brough said.

He explained: "In a meeting with high level government officials, they made an appeal for additional couples to come to Vietnam to teach English. We responded that we couldn't find more couples, but would they accept younger volunteers. They have enthusiastically requested more of them to come. They have offered to provide housing and other things necessary for them to come."

The couples have been teaching English to doctors, high government officials and their families, and teachers and students at the Hanoi Children's Palace, an after-school enrichment program in Vietnam.

"The couples have made a great impact in the country," Elder Carmack said. "They are well regarded. There is a waiting list for their English classes."

Elder Brough noted that the Traditional Hall, a memorial hall in Hanoi, includes a display dedicated to the Church and the service that has been given by members. "This reflects the kind of feeling the Vietnamese people have for those representing the Church.

"The greatest pleasure I have ever had is to listen to leaders in Mongolia and Vietnam express their deepest gratitude to the Church for what we are doing to help them solve some significant problems they are having," Elder Brough remarked. "It is great to represent such a church."

Nepal - Elder Carmack and Elder Tai made an exploratory trip into the country in February. While here they organized the first Church group, to their knowledge, in the capital city of Kathmandu.

There are 17 known members here, some of whom are Nepalese and some are expatriates, who have been holding sacrament meetings regularly. The area presidency is looking at ways to establish the Church more fully in the country, Elder Brough said.

Pakistan - Two missionary couples are laboring here among Pakistanis who are already Christians. The first missionaries were sent here last February, he explained. One couple is working in Karachi and the other in Lahore. Approximately 130 members live in the country in three branches.

"The missionary couples are proselyting missionaries," Elder Brough said. "They are working among the Christians in the country and have had wonderful success."

Bangladesh - No missionaries are serving here, but the area presidency is looking at the possibility of sending a missionary couple to the country. A branch in Dacka, consisting mainly of expatriates, meets regularly, and Elder Brough expects the Church to grow in the country. Currently, there are about 30 members here.

India - The creation of a new mission, the India Bangalore Mission, is indicative of Church growth in the country. Pres. Gurchuran Singh Gill, a native of India, is the mission president.

"One of his major roles will be to find legal ways to expand the Church presence and a corps of missionaries in the country," Elder Carmack explained.

About 30 missionaries from India and other countries serve in the mission, including couples and elders. India has 1,150 members and 13 branches.

"Things are going very well here," Elder Brough said. "The members are excited to have missionaries. India is the second most populated country on the earth. That is tremendous."

Indonesia - About 10 years ago the government decided not to allow North American missionaries in the country, and since then members have carried the load themselves, Elder Brough said.

A year ago, Dr. Dean and Sister Elan Belnap were granted long-term visas by the medical school in Jakarta. They have been serving a humanitarian mission in the country and have had dramatic success, Elder Carmack said.

"They are training local leaders, increasing the visibility of the Church and assisting with the missionary program," he noted. "I have never seen a missionary couple have greater impact, both with Church and national leaders."

About 4,500 members live in Indonesia in 20 Church units.

Elder Carmack noted that doors have been opened in the Asia Area because of the work of missionary couples. "We have had great success with couples because they are viewed as more acceptable in the country. We could use more couples. There aren't enough for us."

Singapore - There are 1,750 members in the country, which also has a mission, the Singapore Mission, headquartered here. Members attend seven units in the country.

Malaysia - About 500 members attend five units. "Members are under restricted conditions here and are not allowed to proselyte," Elder Brough said. "All missionary work is done by member referral. The members and leaders are very devoted to the Church."

China - The Church currently has three branches in China composed only of expatriates.

Asia Area countries where the Church has its strongest foundations include Hong Kong, Taiwan and Thailand.

Hong Kong - The "saints are thrilled with the announcement of the new temple," Elder Brough explained. The Hong Kong Temple was announced Oct. 3, 1992, at general conference. There are almost 18,000 members in Hong Kong in four stakes and 43 units. A mission, the Hong Kong Mission, is also headquartered here.

Macau - There are 640 members and one unit, which is part of the Hong Kong Mission.

Taiwan - Some 20,300 members are in the island nation, in 57 units, three stakes and three districts, and two missions, the Taiwan Taichung Mission and the Taiwan Taipei Mission. The only temple in the Asia Area is located in Taiwan.

"The Church is doing wonderfully well in Taiwan and Hong Kong," Elder Brough said. "The members are well-established and we really feel their strength. Leadership is very mature here."

Thailand - About 5,000 members live in four districts, 24 units and a mission, the Thailand Bangkok Mission.

"We are gratified that the government of Thailand has extended to us long-term visas and increased the number of missionaries it will allow into the country," Elder Brough said.

Elder Tai, a native of Hong Kong, remarked: "It is exciting to see a change practically every day and see doors open to these countries throughout the area. We have been well received by the people. We see that the Lord is paving the way for us.

"It is really gratifying to see miracles happening. The Lord is preparing the governments of different countries for doors to open. There is an eagerness among members in various countries to see what they can do to help move the Church along. It is very exciting for the local people to see the changes at this time in our part of the world."

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