Video tells story of Church in Africa

"Lives of Service," a new video originally intended to acquaint African government and opinion leaders with the Church and its teachings, is now available for the general use of members and missionaries worldwide.

The 16-minute video, produced by the Church Audiovisual Department and sponsored by the Public Affairs Department, focuses on several Church members in Africa who offer devoted service to their communities and briefly tells the story of the Restoration. Much of the footage was filmed on location in Zimbabwe, and in the township of Soweto near Johannesburg, South Africa.Elder James E. Faust of the Council of the Twelve said the film conveys a powerful message of selfless service.

"Dedicated members of the Church in Africa and throughout the world are truly becoming the leaven of their people as they not only serve in the Church, but also use their skills to improve the lot of those around them," he added.

Bruce L. Olsen, managing director of the Church Public Affairs Department, explained that the film has been shown to various heads of state in Africa and "is proving very effective in removing misconceptions and communicating a Christ-centered message."

The film's message demonstrates that when people join the Church and live the gospel of Jesus Christ they become a blessing to their community, said Russ Holt, a senior producer with the Audiovisual Department.

"They have a heightened desire for service not just in the Church," he continued, "but also for the people around them and they have a desire to lift society."

The film opens with one such person – 74-year-old Julia Mavimbela of Soweto. Sister Mavimbela was already well-known among her people when she joined the Church in 1981. She has been repeatedly elected president of the National Women of South Africa and founded Women for Peace, a multi-racial organization that numbers more than 16,000 women.

"I'm serving my people as the Lord would want me to," she says during the video.

Dr. Emmanuel Kissi, a surgeon and regional representative in Ghana, is also featured. He completed his residency

in London, England, in 1979, but instead of enjoying the benefits of his profession in Europe, he returned to Ghana

to provide medical assistance to his people.

"My colleagues couldn't understand why I wanted to return," Elder Kissi related during the film. "I told them the British people want me but my people need me."

The film shows other Church leaders not only in African countries, but also in U.S. cities serving in their callings and contributing to society. In addition, members are portrayed serving each other, and African youth are shown reciting the Articles of Faith.

"There is a message in the film about the Savior and living water," added Brother Holt. "The Church has provided temporal assistance in Africa through water projects and other means, but the greatest blessing the Church can provide to any people is the Savior's living water."

Throughout portions of the video, a rendition of the traditional African folk song "Siyawe" (pronounced see-a-way) can be heard. Well-known LDS composer, Kurt Bestor, searched out the song and composed the music for the video.

"I was looking for the sound of an African song," said Brother Bestor, who added that the song, translated, means "Don't cry, Mama."

He explained that the music represents the history of Africa, but, as sung by a child throughout the video, also represents the future – "and hopefully, the Church will play a large part in that future."

It was during the late 1980s that the Church perceived the need for a concise and powerful video to introduce the Church to the leadership of African countries, recalled Brother Holt.

"Through our intial research, we knew what the video had to say," he recalled. "It had to make sense to African government leaders, who live in a different world and who deal with problems and challenges we don't even think about."

In August 1989, Brother Holt said his department began a period of intensive research to discover the concerns of these leaders. "We interviewed a broad spectrum of people who had dealings with Africa. We talked to members of the Church who had served in government positions in Africa. We talked to people who deal with international relations in the Church. We talked with black members of the Church," he continued.

Then followed months of writing and "many months trying to make a myriad of arrangements to get a film crew in Africa."

In July 1990, a crew of four, including Brother Holt, made a short trip to the island of St. Vincent in the West Indies where the population is mostly of African descent. Then in late fall of that year, they traveled to Zimbabwe and continued on to Soweto.

The product was completed in February of this year and was shown at first to leaders of African nations. Brother Olsen said the video is now available at local distribution centers for members and missionaries to use as a tool to introduce the Church to others.

Brother Holt added that making the video available for Church-wide use "serves to take our blinders off and reminds us that we are, indeed, a worldwide Church. In Africa, you see the Church in its basic form, in its purest essence. You see the Church operating in a purity and simplicity that is truly powerful."