The big news this week comes from your side of the ocean where Steve successfully defended his doctoral dissertation. We are proud of all of our children and their spouses and their accomplishments. Thanks for all of the hard work.
It is amazing the things you can get into when serving a mission in Africa. This week it was TV production. We have mentioned before that the Findlays are here working on a measles campaign. The role of the Church is to join in the campaign sponsored by the Benin Ministry of Health and UNICEF (United Nations) by providing the advertising for the campaign. It is one of the Humanitarian outreach programs of the church. Elder and Sister Findlay have been busy getting 160 huge banners (probably about 4 feet by 20 feet) made that will be put up all over Benin. There is also printing of brochures and volunteer badges and making television and radio advertisements. The goal is to get every child in Benin between the ages of 6 months and 5 years vaccinated against measles. The return for the Church is that everything printed has the church logo on it so a lot of positive publicity is generated. We also rounded up member kids and their parents to do the shooting of the TV commercial which was done on Wednesday. Sister Black and I were assigned to pick up the TV filming crew and chauffeur them around to the various filming sites. The stars of the show were two 5-year-olds from the Branch. Cecelia and Regis had to hold hand and say in French “a child vaccinated is a child better immunized.” “Immunized” in French is very similar to English and is a real mouthful for 5 year olds. It came out more like “minimized.” The TV filming crew probably had them say that 100 or more times before they started to get it right and even then it was a little questionable. On the way back to the studio, they were laughing and talking about how they really should put in one where they said it wrong because it was so cute.
After filming that they went to a little maternal school (we would call it a preschool) right by the chapel and filmed some of the kids there with all the other kids playing etc. Then on to a nearby clinic where they actually brought out a table and immunized some of the kids. The parents and the children just had to stand in a line waiting for their turn. After that they went to another hospital and actually filmed some kids who were really sick – not with measles, but with other things. The next take required a little effort to find a good place as they wanted a rather traditional African home. There just wasn’t a place at the chapel that would do so we finally ended up going to the member’s home who was playing the part. There the mother had to wrap a cloth soaked in cool water (as cool as water gets over here) around her little child in order to try to lower a fever. I guess that is what they do when a child has a fever here. Last stop was at the beach where an older (but small) girl, Unice, played the part of a girl just reflecting on the situation. Unice is about 8 and is an amazing little girl. She speaks 3 languages–English, French and Fon–all with native fluency. The filming crew worked with her for probably an hour getting the scene just right, and she played the part just like a star. All in all, it was a lot of fun and we are anxious to see the final product. Each child who participated will get a DVD of the TV spot as a souvenir.
Meanwhile, back at the mission, we have been keeping busy solving money problems that always seem to crop up when you try to do anything in Africa. I think the bank likes to hold on to the money and make interest when it is transferred so they tend to tell you for a couple of days that the transfer has been made when in fact it hasn’t if the money is going out of the account or that it hasn’t arrive yet, when it in fact has if money is coming into the account. There have been so many things in progress all at the same time, getting things in their proper place has been difficult. First of all there was the chapel rent we talked about last week that finally got paid. In addition to that we were renting an elders’ apartment on which the rent had to be paid for a year in advance and then all of the money for the measles things and needing to get those bills paid. Anyway, we think we have finally caught everything up without any major mishaps, and we were able to get the elders’ apartment in Akpakpa rented on Friday. The elders will live on the top floor, and there is room on the bottom floor for the Akpakpa Branch as soon as we get the branch divided so we are making progress.
We invite each elder and his companion over for dinner on his birthday. Sunday was Elder Samutamu’s twenty-fifth birthday so we had reason to celebrate. He had no requests other than he really did not like hot piment so we just had a good American meal and chocolate cake. After dinner we took the elders out to Akpakpa and he said it was the first time in his life anyone had ever baked him a cake. He was genuinely pleased, and it was an honor to make it for him.