Kourou Branch, French Guiana: Submitted by Elder John McAdam
In 1981 in French Guiana two older members of the church, Charles Fortin and Rosiette Fauvette, both previously baptized in France, began to hold meetings periodically in either Cayenne, the capital, or in Kourou, a smaller city an hour's drive away. Soon two member families moved to Kourou from France to help form the nucleus of the church in French Guiana. The group met in one of the member homes. Then another family came from France. By 1988 Elder Charles Didier of the Seventy came and assisted in establishing the church in French Guiana.
The Kourou Branch was officially orgaized that year with Bro. Pratique as president of the little branch. Later that year the Bonniot family of four were baptized as the first converts in French Guiana. The first missionaries, a senior couple, Elder and Sis. Wortham, stationed in Cayenne, served in Kourou. Sis. Jacqueline Wortham was herself a convert years before in Belgium.
The first meeting in Cayenne was held in July, l989, splitting off from the branch in Kourou. In November of that year Elders Hammond, Rector, and Didier of the Seventy established the branch in Cayenne.
In Kourou more convert baptisms followed. In February 1990, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Twelve officially dedicated French Guiana for the spreading of the gospel. The first young missionaries, Elders Richards and Hooker, were assigned to Kourou.
By then meetings were being held in a special room constructed by the Fauvette family, but the branch moved to a rented house in 1991.
More baptisms, more missionaries came and left, and the little branch in Kourou was thriving. After Bro. Pratique left a succession of young elders and senior couples served as branch presidents. The Sunday School, Relief Society, and Primary were orgaized, though they had few members in each. Regular visits by the mission presidents helped sustain the little branch. District meetings of the branches at Cayenne and Kourou were held in Cayenne periodically.
The branch at Kourou then began to have difficulty surviving because a number of active families moved away. There were enough baptims to keep the branch going, but even some of them dropped into inactivity. There were few Melchizedek Priesthood holders, and sometimes only one. The branch continued to rent one house after another, never having enough members to warrant bulding their own chapel. During the same period the branch in Cayenne prospered and soon had their own building.
In 2001 mission Pres. Don Van Noy considered closing the branch in Kourou, but sent a senior couple, the McAdams, as a last effort to sustain and build the branch. In April,2002, in spite of a few baptisms, the numbers were reduced by several excommunications. Pres. Van Noy checked with Elder Gene R. Cook of the area presidency about closing the branch. Elder Cook then gave him a challenge. If they could find, convert, baptize, and ordain an adult male to become the branch president all within 60 days, then the branch could remain. Otherwise the branch would be closed and the members would attend the branch in Cayenne. This challenge was passed on to the McAdams, the young elders, and to the branch members.
The young elders went into acction and persuaded a longtime investigator, the middle-aged son of Sis. Fauvette, to make a decision. He did, and was baptized, ordained, and made a counselor to Pres. McAdam of the branch presidency, all within two weeks of the challenge. The branch was saved.