Members and missionaries in northern South America are growing in strength and spirituality, the work is going forward, and the gospel continues to flourish, said Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Council of the Twelve, who recently returned from a week-long tour of the area.
Elder Ballard and Elder Dean L. Larsen of the Presidency of the Seventy were in Bolivia, Peru and Colombia during October, meeting with missionaries, members and their leaders in conferences and firesides, and found that despite the political turmoil and drug cartels, the saints in these countries are doing well, and are committed to carrying on the work."The Spirit of the Lord is really hovering over the northern South America countries," said Elder Ballard. "We've never before experienced such a momentum of people looking to the Church as we are now."
Since last year, baptisms in the area have risen 60 percent, and the number of ordinances performed in the Lima Peru Temple has doubled.
"There's a real challenge to manage the Church in that kind of environment," explained Elder Ballard, referring to the economic and political unrest. "Local leaders are doing magnificent work, however, and are going forward carefully and wisely, using good judgment."
Members in the area, he said, have taken an increased interest in the welfare and safety of the missionaries, and have extended their assistance in finding potential investigators for them to teach.
"It's very encouraging," said Elder Larsen. "I was tremendously impressed with both the number of members in attendance at the conferencesT, and their enthusiasm and spirit. They're having excellent progress in terms of retention of those baptized, and in the development of leadership."
In Bolivia, Elder Ballard and Elder Larsen held a missionary conference and two member meetings, attended by a total of nearly 3,500 people.
In addition to a city-wide missionary conference in Lima, Peru, a two-day mission presidents seminar was held there. Dr. Quenton Harris, chairman of the missionary department's medical committee, instructed the leaders and their wives on health issues, and Elder Ballard said that the missionaries in these countries have been "wise and prudent," following given guidelines to maintain good health.
In Colombia, Elder Ballard and Elder Larsen held an area training meeting, with attendance of stake presidents, regional representatives and mission presidents from Venezuela, Ecuador, and Colombia; a regional conference with 450 priesthood leaders from four stakes throughout Bogota; and a regional conference with some 4,000 members and investigators.
In each of these conferences, Elder Ballard encouraged missionaries to devote a portion of their time to community service, and reaffirmed basic principles to help the members and missionaries "live as safely as they can in a world of terrorism."
The Church leaders also made courtesy calls to the U.S. embassies in each of the countries.