Church News - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Country information: Suriname

Published: Monday, Feb. 1, 2010

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Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 481,000; Members, 1,057; Districts, 1; Branches, 7;Percent LDS, .22, or one in 455; Caribbean Area; West Indies Mission.

Located on the Atlantic Coast at the top of South America, the Republic of Suriname has a population that speaks Dutch, Creole, and English. They are Hindu, 27 percent; Muslim, 23 percent; and Christian, 25 percent.

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 on 26 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 by the South America North Area Presidency to begin missionary work in Suriname. Limburg's ties to the country reach to his ancestors, who had been early Dutch colonizers of Suriname. The Limburgs arrived in Paramaribo in October 1988. By the beginning of 1989, approximately 16 people were attending services. On Easter Sunday, 26 March 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 group meetings there and then sacrament meeting in December 1989. Membership had increased in Paramaribo so that on 22 November 1989 a branch was formally organized. By 1990, attendance at the branch averaged about 100 people. Members' ethnic backgrounds include East Indian, African, Javanese, Creolie, and Amerindian.

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve visited in February 1990 and offered a blessing for the country. 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 on 8 July 2001 and, due to membership growth, the Paramaribo Branch was divided on 1 September 2002 to form the Wanica Branch.

Sources: Jay and Shirley Bills interview, 8 February 2003, Church Archives; Don W. and Lorna N. Rapier interview, 14 August 2003, Church Archives.