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, June 28, 2009

Country by Country - Suriname

For a long time, I have been wanting to put information about each country up on the West Indies Mission Blog. Now that I am home, I have found some time to do so. I know newly called missionaries still look at this blog because I occasionally get e-mails from them just full of questions.

I want to thank Brother Jones (Elder Ben Jones' Dad) for suggesting I do this and gathering most of the information.

So here is the first ever country information segment


I used to love to ask the new elders, when they were having their first dinner in the mission home, "What did you think when you first read your missionary call letter?" Very few had any idea what it meant to be called to the West Indies (western India???).

By far the most unusual call is to the West Indies - Dutch speaking (they speak Dutch in India???)

Can you imagine the confusion?

First they must figure out that West Indies = Caribbean, but then how does Dutch fit in? It's not until they take a good look at the mission map that they discover the West Indies Mission includes the only Dutch, French and English speaking countries in South America.

Here are a few facts about Suriname:
  • Suriname, found in the northern part of South America, is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world.
  • Major population groups include East Indians (originally from India), Creoles (originally from Africa), Javanese (from Indonesia), Maroons (descendants of escaped slaves), Native Americans (many from the Carib tribe), and Chinese.
  • The people speak Dutch (the official language), English, Sranan Tongo (a Creole language), Hindustani, Javanese, and some other dialects.
  • Suriname became independent in 1975. Before that it was Dutch, and before that it was British.
  • It has a population of about 480,000 with 90% of them living on the coast.
  • Suriname is the only Dutch-speaking region in the Western Hemisphere which is not a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
  • By percentage, Muslims constitute 20% of Suriname which the highest percentage of Muslims in any country in the Western Hemisphere.
  • It is the smallest independent country in South America (French Guyana is smaller but it is not independent)
  • Industry and agriculture are its chief sources of the economy

The Church in Suriname (as of June 2009):

There are nearly 1000 members

There are seven branches:
  1. Blauwgrond
  2. Nickerie
  3. Paramaribo
  4. Tamenga
  5. Uitkijk
  6. Wanica
  7. Koewarsang

Missionary work in Suriname:

There were 16 elders, one proselyting couple and two local couples serving in Suriname in June 2009 when we left.

There are usually 18-20 Dutch speaking elders serving in the mission at any one time so the mission president has the option of assigning a few of them to serve in an English speaking area for a while. This allows Dutch speaking elders to serve in other parts of the mission - which is a great experience for them.

History of the Church in Suriname:

The Jay and Shirley Bills family lived in Suriname from 1969 to 1972 and held their own Church services. Their daughter Lisa Bills was baptized at age 8 in August 1967 in a river outside Paramaribo, the first known baptism in the country.

Former Netherlands Amsterdam Mission President John Limburg and his wife, Beverly, were called to begin missionary work in Suriname. The Limburgs arrived in Paramaribo in October 1988. By the beginning of 1989, approximately 16 people were attending services. On Easter Sunday, March 26, 1989, August Marengo and two sisters, Eleni and Maudi Treonosimitoe, became the first converts baptized.

A month later Iwan Nathaniel and Philly Denswel were baptized. Denswel’s extended family lived in Lelydorp, which led the Limburgs to begin holding worship services there in December 1989. Membership had increased in Paramaribo so that in November 1989 a branch (a small congregation) was formally organized. By 1990, attendance at the branch averaged about 100 people.

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve (the second highest governing body of the Church) visited in February 1990. Four men saw in the newspaper an announcement of Elder Ballard’s coming to Suriname and attended the meeting. All four joined the Church, including Stanley Cooman, who became the first native branch president. In 1990, Don and Lorna Rapier received copies of pre-recorded radio broadcasts about gospel principles from missionaries in Holland and arranged for broadcasts on a local Dutch-speaking radio program. Irena Manakavera heard one of the broadcasts and was later baptized. She was influential in bringing 28 people into the Church, including several members from a local Carib Indian tribe.

In 2001, there were 495 members in Suriname. The Paramaribo chapel was dedicated in July 2001 and, due to membership growth, the Paramaribo Branch was divided in September 2002 to form the Wanica Branch.

Church Magazine Articles

Brother Romney from the church magazines visiting Suriname last year. His visit led to two recent articles about Saints in Suriname

June 2009 New Era article

Also look at the August 2009 Friend, pp 20-22

You can read more blog posts referring to Suriname here

Pictures of Suriname

I have hundreds of wonderful pictures of Suriname

Here are a few favorites:

Tamenga Chapel - the only Church built chapel in the country

Zone Conference in the Tamenga Chapel

The best Zone Conference lunch in the mission (created by Sister Saljio)

Yes it rains in Suriname (lots)

Darling children

Interesting wildlife

Fabulous missionaries

Great Senior couples (Elder and Sister Dirkmaat)

Downtown Parimaribo building (rented)

Downtown Parimaribo

Palm Garden Park in Parimaribo

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