Sunday, March 26, 2017

". . . that the poor shall be exalted"

We just arrived home on Friday from Cape Verde, finishing 9 days in this ocean paradise.  All the filming was completed, we added a few other activities to our trip and took our farewell walks along the coast.  We don't expect to be back to Cape Verde on our mission, so this was a farewell to inspiring people and these beautiful islands.

Being blown away near the lighthouse but being calmed by the ocean waves

This is a continuation to our last blog with stories of more heroes we were filming in Cape Verde.

Sunday - Sunday meeting photos and finishing up Emmanuel 

We had filmed Emmanuel at his work on the previous Wednesday.  On Sunday we were able to film him in his role as Branch President of a newly formed branch.  Emmanuel is also facilitating a Self-Reliance group in his ward to help others have the successes that he now enjoys.  We went to his home on Sunday afternoon, filmed him with his group and took some time to film his family.

This self-reliance group was full of less active and non members, which is just what Emmanuel needs to strengthen his small branch.  As we arrived, they were just starting the group meeting.  The film crew took advantage to film Emmanuel facilitating.

Emmanuel is in the black shirt to the right of the photo
After finishing the My Foundations portion of the group meeting, we reenacted Emmanuel's first group experience, including him being welcomed into his first group.

The film crew than took Emmanuel into the bedrooms of his home to keep filming while I took over the facilitation of the group.  I personally really enjoy facilitating SR groups.  It is wonderful to help individuals to develop skills and relationships.  It also gives me an opportunity to emphasize the need to report and commit in each group.  The photo below is of the group working on their Me in 30 Seconds as we recognized that they had not been sufficiently strong in their sharing of their Me in 30 Seconds during the past week.

Monday - Humanitarian Chicken Projects - Domingos and Silvana

On Monday the filming was of some families that participated in the chicken humanitarian project.    These projects have been funded for 10 families in the Praia Stake.  An additional 27 families have been identified for another stake and district in Cape Verde.  On this day we visited two of the families.  Each family is given a chicken coop, 10 hens and enough feed for 90 days.  They are then taught how to care for the hens and gather eggs.  The eggs supplement their diet and some should be sold for funds to replenish the hens and feed.  Each of these families has completed a self-reliance course of Starting and Growing My Business.  Paulo, one of our SR stories, was the facilitator of the SR group and is also a participant with his own project.  He also built the chicken coops for the 10 families.

Most of the chicken coops are established on the roofs of the members homes.  There is room there and it is more secure.  The photos below reflect the two families that we visited and filmed.

Elder Rueckert climbing up to the roof of the home to help in the filming

Up on the roof of Brother and Sister Domingos preparing for the filming 

The eggs that they have collected recently.  The small eggs were the first and he is saving them to remember the beginning of the egg collection.
Filming from outside the coop

Some filming is more complicated, standing on the blocks on the roof of the neighbor

Looking down at one of the neighbors, not all families can afford to put a sturdy roof on, but they can put on a tarp with rocks to make sure that rain doesn't come in.

Sister Rueckert inside the house, guarding the film equipment

Brother and Sister Domingos, in their bedroom/living room.  They have been members for four years and were sealed in the temple after their first year as members.  Their sealing certificate is on the wall of their home.
Brother and Sister Domingos sharing their eggs with their neighbor (being filmed)

Watching the "drone" land.  Aerial photos were taken of some of the activity on the roof.
After finishing this filming, we moved to another family  (Silvina).  She is a grandmother caring for 7 in her home, including several grandchildren.  She also has one of the chicken projects on her roof.  She is such a delightful person, very welcoming of everyone into her home.  She is a blessing to her grandchildren as she helps them to grow up self-reliant and in the gospel.

Silvia feeding the chickens

Silvia with her grandson in the chicken coop collecting eggs

Filming from the side of her coop

Filming Silvina with her personal comments about the project
Silvia cooking one of the eggs that they have collected

Silvia with two grandchildren, teaching them about paying tithing on their income

Two grandchildren played a large role in the filming

Selling eggs to our visiting PSD manager from West Africa

More security work while filming with the stake president counselor

Tuesday - Another Emmanuel and Kayla

On Tuesday we took a break from the film crew while they filmed another humanitarian vision project.  We visited one of our PEF loan participants, Emmanuel, and his wife.  He is the same one who we had visited in November.  He is now current on his loan, was able to get married in December and his wife was baptized in January.  We visited with Elder and Sister Lunt, senior missionaries who are strengthening many of the PEF loan participants in Praia. We spent over an hour with Emmanuel and his wife as he shared his conversion, reactivation and marriage stories and shared with us his plans and goals for the future.  The spirit was strong in his little home as he testified of God's goodness in his life and of his hope for the future.  Elder Lunt shared a Church video and his testimony.

Emmanuel playing his guitar and singing for us

Emmanuel and his new bride, Kayla

What a joy it was for us to see the gospel at work and to be edified by this wonderful family.  We also love Elder and Sister Lunt and the spirit that they bring into these homes.  They had requested to make personal visits with PEF participants rather than just making phone calls.  This is one of the cases that has truly paid off.

Sister Rueckert with E/S Lunt and Emmanuel and Kayla
After enjoying a nice lunch with Elder and Sister Lunt we spent the afternoon with our manager Mendonça and two of his children.  We went together to "Cidade Velha", the old original city of Cape Verde.  There is where the first city was established in 1462 and was a stopping spot for Vasco da Gama  in 1497 on his way to India and Christopher Columbus who stopped her in 1498 on his third trip to the Americas.  It also became an important port for the slave trade to Brazil and the Caribbean.  It's role in the slave trade made it the second richest city in the Portuguese realm.

We were able to visit the original fort (now reconstructed) and some of the ruins of the cathedral in the city.

In front of the old fort on the hill
Panoramic photo of the inside of the fort.  The round building is for the ammunition storage for the cannons

Panoramic Photo of the view from the fort.  Cidade Velha and the coast line below
Looking down at the city below the fort, including the ruins of the first cathedral built in West Africa (in 1556)

Overlooking the coast and the city from the fort

Mendonça and his two older children in the fort

Sister Rueckert guarding the cannon

Sister Rueckert in the ruins of the old cathedral below

The old Pillory, sculpted of white marble in 1512.  It was the place where the slave law was executed and disobedient slaves were whipped.  See the fort on the mountain above.
Wednesday - Fredson and family and follow-up on Paulo and Rubens

On Wednesday we were back on the film crew.  We started out with some additional follow-up with Paulo, whom we had filmed the previous week.  We wanted him with Elder Carnell, showing the designing of the chicken coops, on one of the job sites where he is doing finish carpentry work in some upper class homes and finally walking near the light house with his son, Rubens.

Paulo and Elder Carnell, reviewing plans for the chicken coops
Working in a really nice home in Praia

Paulo and Rubens at the top of the light house.  Although he has lived his entire life in Praia, the was their first time to go to the top of the light house.  They loved it and so did we.

Filming outside of the top of the lighthouse of Paulo and Rubens
Elder Rueckert at the top of the light house, photo taken by Paulo

Elder and Sister Rueckert in front of the light house
After finishing with Paulo we were back on the film crew, filming the story of Fredson.  We participated in the first film of Fredson and his family a year ago while they lived in Mindelo.  We planned on doing a follow-up to this story in Mindelo. We then discovered that Fredson had taken a job in Praia.  He has been hired as a hotel supervisor for the hotel that belongs to the family of President Teixeira, the Stake President in Praia.  He wanted someone with character and leadership to help him in his enterprises.  With Fredson's experience in working in a few different hotels, he fit the requirements.

This is a wonderful success story that keeps growing.  Fredson has been called to the High Council and is on the Stake Self-Reliance Committee.  His wife has had their second little boy last year.  Fredson now has greater responsibilities and hope for his future.  The filming of the family had to occur in the hotel, since they have not yet moved their belongings from Mindelo.

Filming Fredson at his office
Filming Fredson outdoors with a different shirt.  This was part of my contribution.  I may not be in the films, but some of my shirts, my money (tithing shots) and even my ID (purchase at the pharmacy) are part of my contributions.

Filming Fredson and is family in the hotel
Thursday - President Teixeira and Saying Goodbye

Thursday morning we finished up the filming with an interview with President Teixeira, the stake president of Praia.  His stake has been super successful in helping their members become more self-reliant.  He bears a strong testimony of the impact of the Self-Reliance initiative on the members of his stake.  He is also an entrepreneur that has several businesses growing in Praia.  He has hired many members of the Church, including Fredson.  His thoughts were put onto a film that will feature his role as a stake president.  He is a wonderful man that is blessing the lives of so many in Cape Verde.

Preparing for the interview and filming with President Teixeira

Sister Rueckert spent a lot of time being Chief of Security.  Besides creating her amazing Mandalas, it gave her much time to reflect on life, especially as we saw the challenges and the beauty around us.

More Security and more Mandalas

This was our longest stay in any hotel during our mission.  We stayed here for 9 nights.  Fortunately, the hotel accommodations were excellent.  In fact there was a fitness center that may be better than any I have ever seen in my travels.  We worked out in the gym many of the mornings.  This was the first time I had run on a treadmill during our mission and I did it over and over again while Sister Rueckert was on the exercise bike.  The view while on the treadmill was looking over the coast into the ocean, quite enjoyable.

My daily view from the exercise bike

Less than half of the exercise bikes in the gym

One morning, I walked out to the light house after our workout session.  It was beautiful!
The light house with the morning sun

A bit windy by the light house
Some of the beautiful views along the way
Our last morning in Cape Verde we skipped the gym and walked in a different direction along the coast.   The feeling was so peaceful as we listened to the waves beating against the rocks.  We knew that we would miss this paradise.

Selfie along the coast

The morning sun with my sweetheart along the coast

While walking, we ran into Elder and Sister Lunt and Elder and Sister Carnell who make this walk part of their daily routine.  
Elder and Sister Lunt in their fluorescent exercise shirts

Although we spent a lot of time around the existing poverty, we also saw some of the improving conditions, which gave us great hope for the future of Cape Verde

Some of the higher scale homes near the coast
In the end it was with sadness that we left Cape Verde.  We have visited here four times on our mission and do not expect to return before our mission finishes.  We have learned to love the good people here and the beauty that comes with the isles of the Sea.  Our testimonies have grown and certainly our appreciation for our blessings. Even more we are thankful for the examples of faith that we have seen amongst the individuals that we have grown to love.

We were also able to have a lunch with the Institute coordinators for Cape Verde along with the Area 70 and Area Institute Director.  We were able to discuss how we can work together to bless the lives of the members in Cape Verde.  We also attended a fireside for all institute and seminary students that evening before we went to the airport.  Our return flight left at 2 am, connecting in Lisbon with a quick trip through the slow passport line to make our connection to Frankfurt.  We finally arrived home at a little after noon.   

This gave us time to shower, eat lunch and still spend a few hours in the office.  We spent most of our time getting updated with our missionary couple in Sweden.  That night we went to a special German dinner with our German class.  It was held inside a castle in Badenburg, Germany, just 45 minutes away.  It was quite an experience that we fully enjoyed.  It helped us know that we had returned to our home in Germany.

Outside the Castle 

With our bone ribs in a bucket

Our German class with their partners.  Our teacher, Rika, is on the right with her 10 year old daughter., Josefine.
A large basin for us to throw our bones in.  It would have been fuller, but most of us took ribs home to finish.