“Winnipeg: Diversity of Cultures,” Ensign, Feb. 1999, 78–79
There is a great diversity among Church membership in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Included in the 1,952 members in the city—which has a population over 637,000—are members from Germany, France, Italy, the British Isles, Central and South America, the Philippines, Ethiopia, China, Australia, and the East Indies.
The name Winnipeg was formed from two Cree Indian words, win and nipee, meaning “muddy water.” Located 60 miles (100 km) north of North Dakota and Minnesota, this capital city of the province of Manitoba has been called the crossroads of Canada. Among the many immigrants who have made their homes here are Gordon and Sheila Mears of the Dalhousie Ward. They joined the Church in 1955 in their native England before moving to Canada two years later—first to Toronto, then Montreal, and finally Winnipeg in 1959.
“Winnipeg has been really good to us,” says Sheila, who serves as director of the stake’s Family History Center™. “We have found it to be friendly. You can live on the street with Germans, Italians, Scots, and so on. We have a Ukrainian next door. There are a lot of different nationalities in our ward, and everyone accepts others for who they are.”
The Church was introduced in Manitoba as early as 1884, when Theodore Brandley, a 34-year-old Swiss convert, traveled there from Utah as a missionary. A few years later, Icelandic convert Jacob Johnson taught the gospel to fellow Icelanders in the area. At the turn of the century, eight missionaries proselyted, sold a few hundred copies of the Book of Mormon, and baptized persons who then immigrated to Alberta and LDS centers in other areas. By 1910 there were 37 members in the Winnipeg Sunday School, and in 1914 the first meetinghouse in Winnipeg was dedicated. In 1976 the Canada Winnipeg Mission was created with about 4,200 members.
Today, due to the combined efforts of members and the approximately 50 full-time missionaries serving in Winnipeg (out of a total 124 in the Canada Winnipeg Mission), the Church in the area is growing. According to John Moore, second counselor in the Winnipeg Manitoba Stake presidency, there were 212 baptisms in the stake during a recent 18-month period, and convert retention has risen from 45 percent to 70 percent. “We’ve been working hard on that,” President Moore says.
One convert is Tony Wong, a native of Hong Kong now serving as Young Men president in the Waverley Ward. His wife, May, also from Hong Kong, introduced him to the Church before they were married, while both were attending the University of Manitoba.
May’s family had joined the Church in Hong Kong in 1958. “My father, Kon Yi Chan, was one of the translators when General Authorities would come,” May explains. The couple’s oldest child, Darren, served a mission in Hong Kong from 1995 to 1997, meeting many of the people his parents had known while living there. Currently May serves as first counselor in the Waverley Ward Primary presidency.
The faith and enthusiasm of members like the Wongs and the Mearses helps the Church in Winnipeg move forward with zeal. The undaunted spirit of immigrating members in each ward spurs the Church to even greater growth. These members have come to Winnipeg willing to build new lives, possibly learn a new language, and accept the frequent dropping of the mercury on bitterly cold winter days. They are not afraid of hard work and numerous challenges, for they have discovered a unifying strength in the gospel they have all come to embrace.