Sunday, March 19, 2017

Lights, Camera, Action!

This week we assisted in the filming of Self-Reliance success stories in Cape Verde.  This was a change in pace to our normal missionary work.  In this process we found great joy in the individual stories of the members that were highlighted.  We are always humbled by the great faith and sacrifice of these members of the Church.  We are full of hope and joy for the progress the the Church is making in Cape Verde, especially in the lives of so many individuals.

In Front of the Beach in Praia, Cape Verde where some of the filming occurred

We spent Monday and Tuesday morning finishing our monthly video conferences with SR missionary couples and preparing for our trip to Cape Verde.  On Tuesday morning we left for the airport and our next adventure.  We flew to Lisbon, Portugal and after a 5 hour lay over, we continued on to Praia, Cape Verde, off of the coast of West Africa.  These are islands in the Atlantic Ocean, Portuguese speaking.  Our primary role on this trip was to translate for the Publishing Services film crew, while assisting in any way possible.

As always, this flight arrives at about 1:00 am.  When we arrive we wait in a line to obtain a short term visa for Sister Rueckert.  I had a five year visa previous to our mission.  The following is the line to obtain the visa.  Since they only process one person at a time, it takes a while.

As it finally became our turn, they decided to change the visa officer, so we had to wait for them to count the money, balance their records, etc.  When the new officer got started the printer that prints the receipts was not working.  We waited while they rebooted the printer and the computer several times.  Finally with a strong push on the paper tray, the printer started working and we were able to move through the process.

As we got our luggage, a man asked us if we wanted a taxi.  We said yes and followed him to a different location outside.  He asked us to wait while he went to get his taxi.  Soon he arrived in a big hurry and put our bags in his trunk and asked us to get in quickly.  As we got into the car, two other taxis were arriving, chasing our taxi driver.  Apparently he had got out of the taxi line and got us as passengers ahead of the others.  We took off quickly to avoid the others who were after him.  Finally we arrived at the hotel and he asked for the taxi fee of 2,000 escudos.  We knew that it should have only been 1,000 escudos (about $10).  Finally he accepted the $10 and was quickly on his way.

Not the best start to our trip, but we finally were able to check in and get to sleep a little after 3:00 am.  We didn't need to get started until 10:00 am that same morning, so we got a little bit of sleep.  The rest of the blog will concentrate on the different individuals that were being filmed with some photos of the filming effort.

Wednesday - Emmanuel

Our filming started that Wednesday with Emmanuel.  Emmanuel is a relatively new member of the Church who was unemployed.  His bishop invited him to a Self-Reliance group "My Job Search".  He saw the video about a young man who had found a job in 6 days and decided that he could do the same.  Sure enough after diligently following the steps, he also found a job in 6 days.  He convinced a company that they should hire him even though they didn't have an opening at that time. They let him start in the warehouse temporarily.  His work ethic made such an impression on them that he was offered a full-time job. 

That was a few months ago, he is now being promoted to a better position in the company and has also since been called as a branch president in a new branch that has been created in the Praia Stake.  The film crew's goal is to tell this story in a two minute clip.  They spend most of a day taking several video clips and then return to Germany where it is edited and prepared for the final project.  I didn't get any photos, but we spent considerable time filming Emmanual with his work associates during the day.  Then we recreated some of the prior experiences: 

Reenactment of the bishop inviting Emmanuel for the SR Course

Reenacting the initial job interview

One of the other treats of this visit was to see our manager, Mendonça, driving his own car.  He has talked about buying a car for his family (wife and 3 children) since prior to our mission.  Finally the goal was met.  The photo below is Mendonça with his new (to him) car.

Thursday - Paulo and Rubens

A self-reliance film was created of Paulo a year ago as he was able to start his own business as a carpenter.  This video was to update his continued progress.  Paulo is an inspiration to us.  He is separated from his wife and is rearing his 13 year old son alone.  His story includes some additional progress in the past year.

To begin with he has been able to get his business registered, which gives him full government health care benefits.  He has also been able to build up his business during the past year.  He has facilitated other Self-Reliance courses also.  In one, he invited a non member to attend who ended up joining the Church.  He has also been able to increase his living space and provide piano lessons for his son Rubens, who now plays the piano at Church.  The photos below show some of the film crew filming these different aspects of his life.

Filming Paulo finishing some of the special order furniture that he has built

Paulo praying by his bed.  This is the only room in his house with furniture.  See a key board on the side of the photo that is used for his son to practice the keyboard.

During these visits Elder Rueckert helps with the translation so that the individuals can understand the instructions and clarify their stories.  Sister Rueckert has been named "Chief of Security", responsible to watch the photo equipment while the filming is occurring.  Below is her security station outside of Paulo's home.  Not glamorous, but she does it willingly and well.

Paulo's living conditions are very humble, but he and his son are so grateful for the progress that they have made.  It has given us an opportunity to reassess our blessings and to be inspired by Paulo's simple faith and efforts which are bringing more blessings into his life.

Filming Paulo and Rubens studying together on the top of their house

The filming then went down to the beach to film Paulo pondering his future and his plans.  Here we saw the film crew use some pretty high tech equipment.  This included the drone below that flies in the air to record aerial video.  Pretty amazing!

Paulo pondering on the rocks.  See the drone above him in the sky
We then went to the Church to recreate Paulo's friend's visit with the missionaries and her baptism.  

Filming the baptism of Paulo's friend
On Sunday (today) we had Paulo and his son join us in Sacrament meeting and we had Rubens play the piano for sacrament meeting.  They looked so sharp in their Sunday clothes.  This is common for these dedicated people that have so little but honor their attendance and service in the Church.  We love their examples for us.

Rubens playing the piano at Church
Paulo and Rubens at Church

Friday - Danilo and Elvis

Friday, we drove with Mendonça out to the District of Assomada, about an hour outside of Praia.  There we provided an update to Danilo's story.  Danilo started his own bakery business after taking a Starting and Growing My Business self-reliance group and was featured in a film a year ago.  Since then, Danilo has grown his business and employed a few other individuals as it has grown.  These new employees have included his sister, who ended up taking the missionary lessons and joining the Church.  

One of his current employees is Elvis, a young man who walks to work each day, over an hour.  Elvis joined the Church 11 months ago and impressed Danilo with his dedication and his need for work.  Danilo gave him a job to help with the bakery and sell the product on the streets. Elvis was very shy when he started.  He is now full of confidence and enthusiasm.   He is preparing to serve a full-time mission and has recently submitted his papers.  He told me that on Thursday he will have his interview with the mission president to finish that process.  He is a young man full of faith and dedication that will be an amazing missionary.

The photos below highlight several part so this story:

Filming Elvis and Danilo in the small bakery kitchen
Sister Rueckert protecting the equipment.  This time she had a chair to sit on during the filming.

Elvis selling the baked goods with the help of Danilo
Photo of Elvis at the Self-Reliance Fair on Saturday

Danilo's family watching the previous video that was made year ago

Elder Rueckert taking care of  some of the photo equipment

Reenacting the baptism of Danilo's sister

On the way home, I took this photo of the country side.  Five months ago, everything was green. Since then, there has been little or no rain, which is normal.  Hence Cape Verde, is not very green this time of the year.

As we finished up our night, we enjoyed the famous Tuna on the Hot Stones.  This may be the best food in Cape Verde.  The restaurant is right on the coast with a beautiful outdoor setting.

Saturday - Self-Reliance Fair for the Assomada District and Vera

Saturday we attended the first ever Self-Reliance fair for the Assomada District.  We feel like it was an absolute success.  It included a graduation ceremony for those who had completed Self-Reliance Courses and workshops for Job Interviews, Resumes and Small Business Plans.  It finished with displays from different local businesses and Self-Reliance (and PEF).  There were more than a hundred that participated in the different events over a period of more than 3 hours.  The following photos are from that event, including the filming that occurred with the film crew.

Small Business Plans Workshop taught by a member from the Praia Stake

Resume workshop taught by James Tavares, our SRS manager from Mindel

Job Interview workshop taught by Miguel Adriano, our Operations manager from Portugal

Filming of the Job Interview workshop

Providing Mock Interviews with Job Applicants
Sister Rueckert has developed many ways to pass time when she is in a setting that she can't participate completely.  One of them is to create "Mandalas".  She is amazingly good and creative in doing this.  She often comes back from some of our trips with pages of Mandalas.  This trip is much like that.  The photos below show Sister Rueckert drawing Mandalas.  Then some of the children starting looking at what she had been drawing.  She then decided to share those that she had drawn with the children.  Then more children came and she had to draw many more while they waited.

Sister Rueckert drawing "Mandalas" while waiting
Sister Rueckert sharing her "Mandalas" with the children

Overview photo of the exposition  area

Sign says Self-Reliance Fair, 2nd Edition
Self-Reliance and PEF Loan booth.  Our Area Managers, Tom King and Miguel Adriano
Overall, I felt a strong sense of hope and optimism throughout.  We saw so many people who are trying to improve their temporal status and willing to do their part.  As I shared with the District President, I believe that this district really needs the Self-Reliance initiative and I can see so many positive things happening.

One of the special treats of our visit was meeting a young lady, Vera.  She is a member of 3 years and shared her conversion story with us and her desire to serve a mission very soon.  She is just finishing up some of our health exams to be able to submit her missionary papers.  Her faith is strong and her "light" is contagious.  She has now got her mother and sister going to Church.  I know that she will be an amazing missionary.  This type of person gives us even more hope for the growth of the Church here.

Vera, relatively new member and prospective missionary