First meetinghouse on Christmas Island

KIRITIMATI ATOLL — After three years of local labor, the first Church meetinghouse has been dedicated on Kiritimati Atoll, also known as Christmas Island, a 248 square-mile coral atoll in the Pacific Ocean some 1,330 miles south of Honolulu and about 145 miles north of the equator.

Part of the Republic of Kiribati, it is not be confused with the Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean that is a territory of Australia. Kiritimati is the largest atoll in the world. President Gordon B. Hinckley visited the island briefly June 19, 2003, during a trip to the South Pacific.

Government leaders and ministers of other faiths attended the building's dedication on Nov. 12. District President Norman Sorenson dedicated the building.

When construction started on the building there was no electricity or running water. Recently, the government installed generators so there is now electricity. Water on still comes from a well.

All the labor for the building was performed by hand, including mixing the cement. The building includes a chapel, classrooms and a wing for recreation.

"The young people use the recreation area during the week for fun activities, including Ping-Pong, dancing and other social events. It is good for them to have somewhere to go. It is a great blessing in their lives," said Branch President Aboro Henry.

The atoll has no televisions, newspapers or magazines, and only one airline flight a week. There are few telephones, and no e-mail, on Kiritimati.

With the completion of the new meetinghouse, the Church now gives the young people a place to enjoy wholesome and fun activities.

There are 280 Church members, two missionaries, and a senior missionary couple on Christmas (Kiritimati) Island. Its population of some 5,000 inhabitants is comprised mainly of Mirconesians from the Kiribati Archipelago, Polynesians from Tuvalu and some expatriates.

Christmas Island was named by Captain James Cook, who discovered the atoll on Dec. 24, 1777.

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