From Chip Southerland: I thought you might be interested in some insights into Haitian and Cuban activity here in Miami, Florida. Miami has always served as a staging area from which the Gospel has been taken into the Caribbean. In March of 1976, 2 weeks after returning home from my own mission in Central California, President Spencer W. Kimball visited the Miami Stake to conduct a Solemn Assembly. During his visit, he interviewed all Stake Leaders and Bishops. At the time, we had one single Spanish Branch. The President was Joseph Lowery. President Kimball took time to interview every Spanish Leader in that Branch. He sat in what would later be my own Bishop's office and conducted the interviews with Brother Joseph Lopez translating. As Brother Lopez later related to me, between interviews, President Kimball looked up at a map on the wall which covered most of the Dade Country Area. He said to Bro. Lopez: "I see a day when the Gospel will grow among the People of Cuba as rapidly as we are seeing growth today in Central and South America, except that they will have to receive the Gospel here, in South Florida. They will make faithful Saints who will spread the message of the Gospel and the Church will grow very rapidly within this community. That growth will only be limited by our capacity to train leadership which is worthy to manage it."

Twenty years later, the Hialeah Chapel in which that conversation took place, was transitioned over to two large Wards with all Spanish speaking members. The Miami area now has two complete Spanish Stakes and there may be a third before the century ends.

I was thinking you might also be interested in some further insights into the development of Haiti with respect to missionaries. In the mid 80's, a number of Creole missionaries were recalled back to the Fort Lauderdale Florida Mission during the reign of Papa Doc Duvale. Aristide, who was the elected President of Haiti in exile, was very supportive of Catholicism and expressed reservations about having LDS missionaries back when things calmed down. While in South Florida, a group of these Creole Speaking missionaries who were unable to return to Haiti actively proselyted the Haitian community here. They organized the first Creole speaking dependent branch on U.S. soil in Miami's "Little Haiti" district. It was a dependent branch which was within Ward boundaries in which I served as Bishop from 1983 through 1987. A small rental space was purchased over an auto parts store around 52nd Avenue. We used to meet with the Missionaries and members conducting services in Creole and saw the tiny branch grow very quickly over the course of a few months. Today, there is a large Haitian community here in South Florida with about half as many total members as are in the country of Haiti.

The first independent Branch, called the Morningside Branch, was organized around 1987. The first President of that Branch was President Joel Timo, who was also the first Native Creole Speaking missionary called to serve from the Miami Stake. He served in the California Sacramento Mission from 1984 through 1986.