What do machine guns and women’s underwear have to do with sending filmmaking equipment to Africa? My missionary friend saw my post from Walmart that I was buying crates to make a shipment to Africa. He sent me a warning that corrupt customs officials were confiscating items of value and holding them for ransom. It seems that white women traveling alone to Africa were targeted for this tactic. He recalled that my last crate of Christmas gifts for my African refugee family was transported by just such a white woman traveling alone.
He advised me to wrap valuable electronics in women’s underwear. What??? The entire shipment consisted of valuable electronics. I was sending an entire film lab to Africa. Jerry and I have a story to tell and a movie to make and I sure as heck am NOT going to Africa. (Be very careful about the things you tell the Lord you are NOT going to do.) It seems that some African men treat women as second-class citizens but one thing they will not touch is women’s underwear!
Fresh Out Of Ransom Money
He quizzed me about who was doing the transport of my filmmaking equipment. He told me horror stories of white people who had brought supplies from the US to Africa for missions work only to be targeted and charged thousands of dollars to get the items out of detainment by the corrupt customs officials. I was just sick about this as I could barely afford to purchase what I did of the used film equipment and I was even parting with one of my computers because it was the only one powerful enough to run the editing software. I could not bear for any of this to be confiscated and I was fresh out of ransom money.
The Connections We Make
I explained that a one-legged pastor friend from my hometown had put me in contact with one of his associates in Kansas who was leaving soon for mission work in South Sudan and they all worked for The Machine Gun Preacher. My missionary friend burst out laughing because he knew The Machine Gun Preacher and of all the good work the Angels of East Africa were doing for orphans in the madness going on over there. He told me there would be no problem getting my film equipment through corrupt customs. But I was still advised to use women’s underwear as packing material!
Everything For Good
God uses everything for good even the sad circumstances of why a film lab was available for sale from a dear friend. I had discovered the itty bitty Lumex camera a couple years ago when I wanted to downsize my professional Canon’s and upgrade the technology. She had one available to shoot stills and record 4K high definition movies. My friends who are filmmakers both in the US and in Africa advised me what to purchase for a bare-bones, get-the-job-done film lab. In a Walmart trunk, we have 50 pounds of cameras, lenses, lighting, sound recording devices and microphones (plus the computer I was not quite ready to part with) all lovingly wrapped in women’s underwear. I had a huge supply of “big woman drawers” thanks to getting fatter in my old age.
A Voice To The Voiceless
So the packing and praying began. Jerry was over the moon excited at the prospects of what a film lab could do to give a voice to the voiceless refugees. We decided our own story should be told and produced through our own efforts. The first working title for our film company was “Out of Exile.” Jerry came up with “Flying On My Own” with the letters FOMO forming the Yoruba word meaning “search” in English. Jerry is enrolled in a filmmaking class with a faith-based filmmaking company.
Jerry is a community organizer, a change-agent and is on the steering committee of an upcoming summit “Building the Sub-Saharan African Chapter of the Global Refugee Led Network.” Refugee policy is a top priority of the international agenda, yet refugees’ voices are too often absent from discussions about their lives which results in shortsighted and ineffective policies.
Can We Help Those In Exile?
Jerry is well educated, speaks four languages and during his eleven years in exile, he has never had full-time employment because he is a refugee. How do you support your family, put a roof over your head and educate your children if you cannot provide for them? Short of three poles and a tent in the refugee camps, there are no government programs of provision.
We as Christians should be helping our brothers and sisters in Christ while they are in exile due to the heinous crimes against humanity which evil men continue to perpetuate. I know that a poor, semi-retired, storyteller from Indiana has made a huge difference in the lives of this family. They are blessing me with their gratitude and I believe I just might be educating one of the children who will later be a leader and bring democracy to the insanity in Africa.
The Hands And Feet Of Jesus
Many thanks to my network of local and international friends who made this story possible. You are making it possible for the stories of refugees to be told. They will be voiceless no more. Many thanks to my African filmmakers who are encouraging Jerry in his journey. The most important tribute is to God for orchestrating and protecting this shipment. All of these people who have helped are the hands and feet of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We all do what we do for the Glory of Him.
As one Angel of East Africa said as he completed this delivery and met Jerry for the first time, “We can all make a difference, we only have to be willing.”
Jerry made his way to pick up the crate. They tried to call me but the reception was impossible. I said I hoped the return trip did not include the motorbike “boda boda.” Too late. Jerry balanced the 50 pound crate on the motorbike as the driver made a harrowing drive to take Jerry home.
Polly Riddell writing as G. Polly Jordan is a freelance journalist connecting people through the stories they tell, and now a partner in a filmmaking operation in Africa. Do you want to make a difference in the lives of people in exile? Let me show you how.
Read the entire African Refugee series at TheStoryTeller.net