We have frozen this blog as a historical, yet informational view at what life is like in the West Indies Mission for all those called to serve. This blog was designed for the families and friends of those missionaries serving in the West Indies Mission from July 2006 to July 2009. Every six weeks, photos taken at zone conference as well as a new slide show including every person baptized were posted on the blog. All of the slide shows are also available on our You Tube channel. The current West Indies Mission blog can be found here. Posts on our missionary experience can be found here and earlier. And finally, if you are a returned missionary who served in the West Indies, there is a current blog for you. Click here or visit westindiesrm@blogspot.com

Sunday, March 22, 2009

First District Created in French Guiana

On Monday, March 9, 2009, the first district in the history of the country of French Guiana was created. There are over 250 members who live in French Guiana and currently it has three branches: Cayenne, Matoury, and Kourou.

Pictured here are (from left to right) President Robison, Andre Litampha, first counselor Jean Magny, and the President of the Cayenne Branch, Dabreau Guy.

On hand to witness the historic event were the elders in the French Guiana District: Elders Silvester, Taerea, Pahio, Lines, Tevero, Kempenaars. Formerly, the French Guiana District was part of the Guadeloupe District which includes two branches in St. Maarten, two branches in Martinique in addition to the branches in Guadeloupe.

Many parents of the missionaries do not hear much about this country which lies the furthest away of our South American countries in the mission. Here is a brief summary that I found online about its history:

"French Guiana was discovered by the Spanish in 1496, who established a few settlements in 1503 and 1504. The French first moved in a century later. Under the 1667 Treaty of Breda, the Dutch, who had also shown an interest in the area, were forced out. Numerous changes in control followed over the next 200 years, alternating between France, Britain, the Netherlands and Portugal, until the territory was finally confirmed as French in 1817. The colony enjoyed a brief period of prosperity in the 1850s when gold was discovered, but afterwards went into a decline from which it has never fully recovered.

French Guiana was finally given French Overseas Department status in 1946, under which the territory effectively became an integral part of the French nation. However, the territory was largely neglected by Paris and continued to deteriorate until civil unrest broke out in the 1970s. After a security crackdown, the central government promised various improvements. These failed to materialize until the Mitterrand presidency, under which a series of reforms was introduced in 1982-83. Some decentralization also took place: local affairs are now dealt with by the Regional Council.

The President of the Regional Council since March 1992, Antoine Karam, is French Guiana’s single representative in the French Senate. Karam is a member of the Parti Socialiste Guyanais (PSG), which has long been the strongest political party and is allied to its French namesake. The Socialists’ principal rivals are the Forces Démocratiques Guyanaises (FDG). The PSG is the largest party on the Regional Council following the most recent election in March 1998 but, lacking an overall majority, relies on the support of other left-wing parties. A new non-aligned party, the Walwaries, has made something of an impact on French Guianese politics in recent years; the Gaullist Rassemblement pour la République (RPR) also has a small presence.

The political complexion of the territory was last tested at the 2002 French presidential election, where Jacques Chirac won a handsome majority (see France section). The domestic political agenda has been generally dominated by peated complaints over the territory’s relatively poor social and economic conditions compared to those in France. The alternatives to being an integral part of the French state are self-government and independence. However, enthusiasm for either is lacking and the small independence movement has made little headway in recent years. Paris has also made it clear that it will not countenance any change in French Guiana’s status for the time being."

French Guiana is home to six missionaries. We do not have a couple serving there, although we would like one. To come to zone conference, these six have the greatest adventure every six weeks of all the missionaries. They generally leave after Church on Sunday and pile into the van which is owned by the mission. They travel from Cayenne to Kourou to gather the remaining two elders and then have a two hour trip to the border with Suriname. There they leave the van and board a motorized canoe, that often leaks, and take a one-half hour ride across the river at St. Laurent du Maroni in order to enter Suriname. (Ever wonder where the name Maroni came from?) After entering Suriname, the elders then take a taxi for another two hour ride into Paramaribo where they stay with Suriname elders overnight in anticipation of the zone conference the next day.

1 comment:

marie-jo.v said...

A stake in Trinidad, now a district in French Guiana.
Hurrah for Israel !
Hurrah for the West Indies !