The morning newspaper headline was large:
“MORMONS TOLD TO LEAVE GUYANA”
We were unsure what to make of this and were a bit concerned ourselves when we saw the lengthy article in Guyana’s top newspaper. Was this a government crackdown on religion in general or something specific to the Mormons?
A thorough reading showed that the Mormons were alleged to be in ongoing violation of Guyana’s immigration laws and had overstayed their work permits after extensions were denied. All foreign nationals working with the Mormons were first given a week to leave and then that was extended to a month.
Our concern was that the although our doctrines are poles apart and although there is not nor ever has been any relationship between the churches of Christ and the Mormons (the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints), there could be confusion because of the slight similarity of the name. A quick letter was dispatched to Guyana President Bharrat Jagdeo to assure no confusion followed.
To this moment our concerns seem unnecessary and no problem has arisen. However it offered a fine opportunity to remind the students that the day could come when Americans were no longer in Guyana and the church here would be in their hands. I believe this thought impacted the students in a positive way.
It has been our desire all along to help Guyanese brethren plant and build a Guyanese church headed only by Jesus. To date, every congregation here is autonomous as the Bible shows. Americans are supportive financially, physically and spiritually but each congregation makes its own decisions. We pray that our relationship with the brethren across this beautiful country will flourish until the Lord appears but we also pray for the growth and strength of the native brethren.
(Update: As of today, September 12, 2009 there is still no generally accepted reason why the Mormons are being expelled. Guyanese newspapers are full of speculation but the Mormons, the Guyanese Government and the American Embassy in Georgetown are all very silent. – JBE)