On April 22, the groundbreaking ceremony officially started the construction of the Port Moresby Temple — the first in the island nation of Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea is home to 35,000 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 87 congregations, per the church website. It’s one of the largest island nations in the world, located just west of Indonesia and north of Australia.

According to a church press release, local government leaders attended the ceremony, including the governor-general of the country, Sir Bab Dadae, the solicitor general, Tauvasa Tanuvasa Chou-Lee, and Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. embassy there, Joe Zadrozny.

“It’s a great pleasure to come here and see that the church is still going strong ... as well as being a beacon of light to the rest of Papua New Guinea,” said the solicitor general, who broke the ground with a shovel, alongside the governor-general.

Also present were church leaders, including Elder Robert Gordon, who is an Area Seventy, and Elder Peter F. Meurs, who is a General Authority Seventy and first counselor in the Pacific Area Presidency, along with with his wife, Sister Maxine Meurs.

Elder Meurs gave the dedicatory prayer and presided at the event. He said he felt “touched by the joy in the faces of the saints” who attended the event and described them as “excited and delighted to have a house of the Lord.”

“I think it’s such a great season of preparation, helping everyone get ready for a house of the Lord and be worthy to enter it,” Elder Meurs said. “What a blessing it’s going to be to the church and I think to the whole nation of Papua New Guinea.”

Local church leader Sasa Zibe said that he never thought he’d see a temple built in the country in his lifetime.

Other local congregants said they felt “blessed” and “grateful” to have a temple being built on their own land.

“There’s a huge measure of happiness that just washed over myself as well as everyone who attended,” said Ouhdin Lagaia, a local churchgoer who attended the groundbreaking.

Related
A complete list of all Latter-day Saint temples under construction