For lack of a better word

Let me tell you about some people I know. I don’t know their names, but I know them. I don’t speak their language, but I know them. You see this couple only speaks French, while I, as any well rounded american would, only speak English. *cough*¬†On my connecting flight from Chicago to brussels, (a 7-8 hour flight), I was made aware that they do not speak English by attempting some humor as a means to break the ice. Sadly, they neither understood me nor my joke, so I took my seat in mild embarrassment thinking about how long the flight would be as a result.

After a short time I realized a way to remedy the situation. I remembered that my tablet has a translation app made by that wonderful company Google. So, I set it to translate between our two languages and attempted yet again to strike up a conversation. In the next few moments I learned they have a good sense of humor, but most of that time was spent by them asking questions about me. So I told them about this project I am working on. Long story short they were impressed. I’m not sure if it was by my age, where I was going, that an american could be a decent film maker, or a combination of the three. Non the less they were quite happy to meet me, and I happy to meet them.

Now comes the plot twist in my story. My translation app required a connection to the internet, and I did not have time to download an offline alternative, meaning that while in the air I would be unable to communicate. They understood as much and while en rout we communicated via a very strange and original method using wild gestures with our hands, as well as exaggerated smiles and nods.

By the time the flight was over we were exhausted from lack of sleep, but we left on what good terms we could considering the “conversations” we had on the plane. All in all this is just one example of many that I’m sure I will have on my way to Benin.

I am now in Brussels waiting for my next flight. Just thought I would share with you this experience. I’m off to get myself some breakfast. Good morning America. ūüôā

– Alex

Film Making, Budget, And God

Film making and budgets don’t match. For those of you who are creative individuals you know that nothing can compare to when you have accomplished a goal you are passionate about. Be it music, painting, events, or film. You will know that you are willing to go through great personal sacrifice in order to see it happen to the fullest of your dreams. Art in general is a priceless thing… sadly its also¬†very expensive. Making films of any kind that people are going to want to watch requires money. A lot of it. Equipment isn’t cheap. Sadly, neither is travel.

Over the last several days I have become painfully aware of that fact, and I have to fight for every penny spent to see this project get done. Today I have had to find a way to get the $400 required in order to pay for the travel costs of a third bag on my flight. Mind you, those in the finance department are great people and happy to help when they see the need and the cost is justified. Its just the time and effort needed to convey it as a real issue is not the most pleasant experience.

Last night I was looking for a “container” that is the full size of a bag of luggage, sturdy enough to hold all my equipment, and light enough to minimize the impact on my weight limits. I found one, I bought two. During that process, however, my stress levels were high. I have found that the devil is attacking me at every point now trying to discourage me from making this film. As he has been doing more and more to get me discouraged and to put up road blocks in my path, I have found myself worrying even in my own abilities as a film maker. (Something that I usually don’t have an issue with… I usually find myself having to practice humility often) So it’s a big deal. As I felt more and more discouraged about every roadblock, however, I pray to God that somehow He will do the impossible and make a way for things to happen.

At the moment I have a large amount of equipment I have to bring. Somehow I have to divide it between 3 luggage containers and find a way to pack my clothes and other basic necessities. I also have my backpack and laptop bag which I plan to use as carry-ons as well but it is still a lot of stuff. Last night I had no idea how it would all fit in two containers and found myself struggling to stay positive. I found that I should be able to fit it all in two containers and hopefully get my clothes and such in a third. Last night I prayed for God to make a way for it all to work out. This morning, to my surprise, when I weighed the full container I had packed the night before, I found it was just 1 or 2 pounds below the weight limit. I have no idea how this is possible but it is and I praise God for it. I will be packing the rest of the equipment away today.

Then there is the issue of insurance and getting my personal equipment covered for this project. All in all I have a very decent amount of video and audio equipment I have invested in for my own projects. I am happy to use it as well as my investment has been more along the lines of creative cinematography equipment rather than big bulky heavy cameras. As such I can do many things with my gear that I could not do with the equipment that AFM has. My boss agrees. Getting it covered for the trip against theft, damage, or loss is a whole different matter. Thankfully God has made a way for that to work out as well.

It doesn’t seem as real as I write up this blog post, but please believe me when I say there have been several times in the last 24 hours that I didn’t think things would work out. In some ways I am still not 100% sure, however, God is working and encouraging me every step of the way. There are two verses that come to mind as a direct encouragement to this situation. The first is Jeremiah 29:11: “11¬†For I know the plans¬†I have for you,‚ÄĚ declares the¬†Lord, ‚Äúplans to prosper¬†you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”¬† The second verse is actually two verses. Romans 8:28,31: 28¬†And we know that in all things God works for the good¬†of those who love him, who¬†have been called¬†according to his purpose. 31¬†What, then, shall we say in response to these things?¬†If God is for us,¬†who can be against us?”

These verses, while they can be very stereotypical and heard often in church, are very real promises by God. Through this experience I am learning that you cannot fully understand the power and reality of Gods promises until you test them for yourself in life. I, for one, am honored to be put through these trials in the work God is leading me to do. I know I am not perfect, I know that I am not worthy, but the amazing thing about God is He takes the unqualified and qualifies them to do His work.

My prayer for you is that you will ask God where He wants you, and that you will go wherever He leads. The road is not easy. It’s often very hard. You will struggle, you will sacrifice. But you will also be very glad that you did. I know that I could not be happier than doing the work God has called me to do. God has given me a passion to use media to reach others. God has given you a passion that you can use for Him, and He will use you if you are willing.

Please continue to pray for me that God will make way for this project to be a success. Please also pray that the flight and the equipment all arrive safely. I will post more in the coming days.

Thanks again for all of your support,

– Alexander Swensen

6 Days Left! (Otammari project update)

The clock is ticking. Crunch time is on. With 6 days left until my flight we are working hard trying to get all the details worked out as fast as possible. Writing stories, making scripts. Oh, and did I mention a completely new framework for the Otammari film project?

Yep, Thats right. With 6 days left we realized we have enough content to do 2 half hour programs about the Otammari project. Its only a matter of if we can shoot it all in 14-15 days. The biggest thing that I can do now is try and get these scripts written up as fast as possible while the team in Benin work on the framework for what the two films would look like assuming we can shoot them both. (It might just end up being a 1 hour long film on a DVD that will be aired in two parts on 3ABN, it really depends how we put it together) If we don’t get enough content to make 2 half hour programs, I can at least take the two films, find the best of both of them, and edit them into 1 half hour program.

Alright guys, I have to get back to work. Thats all the updates I have time for right now. Please continue to pray for this project. Only with Gods help will we get it all done. One thing is for sure. I have never been so excited as I am right now!

– Alexander G. Swensen

8 Days Until Takeoff!

Greetings everyone! I want to update you on what is happening! Over the last few days we (myself and the teams in Benin) have been working incredibly hard in preparation for the filming that will take place. The Otammari team (in north-west Benin) have been hard at work interviewing local people, writing up stories, scheduling shoots, and a bunch of other things all on top of the work they do as part of their mission project! The amount of progress being made is astounding. God is truly working every step of the way.

At the Dendi project (in north-east Benin), we have Michee Bade (the career missionary) and Quentin Platt (the Student Missionary for this year) working hard as well. There have been some delays getting the direction of the film planned out, but this is to be expected. We have since worked out those delays and the project is making huge progress. By the time I arrive there we will be ready to start the filming process!

Even as I write this post I am getting emails from the missionaries asking questions, giving suggestions, updating the scripts & framework for the film, and giving encouraging words. It’s truly a blessing to work with such great people.

On Monday, October 28th I will be getting on the plane to Benin. I am incredibly excited! While I have never (in the time I remember) been on a flight so long, at the same time I have never been to another country over seas. (except while very small and I don’t remember that so it doesn’t count. ūüėČ ) ¬†This experience is going to be new and exciting for me. I can’t wait to arrive and I hope you will enjoy the experience as much as I do.

Here is what is left to accomplish between now and the next few days. I am working to get my equipment cataloged and insured for the trip. I also will be be working hard to finish up the scripts in time for my flight. I also hope to have power and internet on the flight there in order to communicate with the team most effectively. Finally we are working on getting my cell phone activated and credited in Benin. I already have the SIM card and its only a matter of activating it and putting credit on it. (it is a pay-as-you-go service since a contract is not practical) With this I will be able to stay in contact with the team, access email, and keep you updated via this blog through posts, photos, and short videos.

Finally, I added a feature a number of weeks ago to allow you to be notified whenever the blog is updated! At the top of the screen there is a subscribe button. All you have to do is click that and you will be asked to enter your e-mail address. These e-mails are not visible to me or anyone else. You will receive a confirmation email to active. Once you have activated it you receive automatic updates whenever I post an update! This is free and you can stop receiving the e-mails at any time with included instructions. You can also click here and be sent directly to the page!

Please continue to pray for this project. We have seen that the devil does not want this film to be made and is making many attempts to hinder its progress. Thankfully we know that God is stronger and we are doing His work.

Thanks again for all of your support! More updates to come!

– Alexander Swensen

We Are Funded!

Greetings and salutations one and all! I would like to take this time to say thanks again to all of your support! I have some great news to tell you today!

This last week, wednesday, we received the last of the donations needed to fund this project! Hooray! *balloons, confetti & happy music* What does this mean? It means that the tickets can be purchased and the final preparations can be made to arrange for travel! Thats right, I’m going to Africa! But wait! This isn’t just a travel ticket for one, because I am taking you with me! Thats right, I still plan to keep you updated whenever possible while I am out filming with the natives. But those plans are still to be finalized. How about we talk about what has been happening shall we?

These past few weeks have been crazy. The Otammari project is nearly complete with its planning. We finished up the framework for the film and will be finishing the scripts this week. We also interviewed the St. Clairs who started the project in 1992. Yep, that’s right, they were kind enough to come by the AFM office for an interview and to contribute their experience to our film. I must say it was an amazing experience to be able to talk with them about their time in Benin and to see what God has done in their lives.

More updates to come in the near future! Thanks again for all of your support!

Hey! You made it down here!

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