1. I prepared a 12 minute slide show with an individual section on each student and then a section with all of them in pictures working together. I used a variety of 4 hymns as the background music. Some were energetic and some were inspiring. It was so great that it was overwhelming. The full chapel was absolutely silent when it ended, except for the sniffles of the congregation. I felt as if I had earned my very own Academy Award!
2. We spent the day getting the food ready for the event. Usually they ordered some very dry sandwiches on a bun and give them a drink, and a dry store bought cookie. I asked what the budget was and told them to let us do our own meal for 120 people. With the budget we were able to buy the ingredients to make a good meal. Each person received a good ham sandwich on a French roll (with mayo, cheese, tomatoes & lettuce), a French roll peanut butter and jam sandwich (it became a favorite of the students), a banana, a drink, a homemade cookie and a homemade frosted brownie. We got rave reviews for the “dinner”.
3. We practiced a special musical number for our students to sing. See more details below.
The actual graduation event went very well. Besides our 20 students, they honored about 20 other students who were given certificates from trade schools that taught plumbing, electrical and painting. Each student was only allowed to invite one person to attend the event. All of their bishops and stake presidents were also invited.There were 2 student speakers. One was from the other programs, and one was selected from our students. He did a great job, and told about the important things that Ed had taught them, beyond construction skills.
We then had our 20 students do a musical number. They were really excited about it and whenever we practiced they just kept marching around our class room. It was a combination of my primary and seminary choirs… and Kids Are Music. We started with one student at the mike singing the first line of “The World Has Need of Willing Men”, and then on the 2nd line another 6 men joined him, from out of the audience. On the 3rd line the other 13 students stood up and walked to the front. By the chorus, they were all up across the front. They then sang one verse of “How Firm A Foundation”. (This is a big hit because they have learned to pour foundation walls, and they realize it is symbolic of building a foundation for life.) They next reverently sang a verse of “Because I Have Been Given Much, I Too Must Give.” (This was my Mom’s favorite hymn after my parents served their senior mission in Liberia, Africa. She always cried and said that compared to her life, the Africans had very little… but they realized they had the gospel and their families and felt they had been very blessed.) Then the students energetically repeated the 1st verse of “The World Has Need of Willing Men”, followed by even more energetic marching around the stand and front of the chapel as they sang the chorus. “Put your shoulder to the wheel, push along. Do your duty with a heart full of song. We all have work, let no-one shirk, put your shoulder to the wheel.” Then they stood reverently in their 2 lines across the front of the chapel, with big smiles on their faces, and looked into the eyes of the audience while they emphatically repeated the chorus… and ended with a slow extra emphasis on “We all have work, let no-one shirk, put your shoulder to the wheel.” They were absolutely awesome!
Eric, the man over all construction in Kinshasa, who is our “boss” spoke next. Ed was the final speaker, and he did a beautiful job of wrapping it all up. (shown with his interpreter)
Next Ed presented the graduation diplomas. Diplomas... or Certificates are very important to this culture.
Christophe, the student below, was late most of the time for class. If a student was late, Ed made them sign the roster in "rouge" (Red). (They acted as though it was an awful punishment.) Ed couldn't resist teasing Christophe when he gave him his certificate, and presented it to him with the closest "rouge" thing he could find. Christophe loved it! (Eric, Our boss, is the man between Ed and Christophe.
We ended with our fabulous slide show (if I do say so myself) and then the closing hymn and prayer.It was a very humbling and uplifting night for all of us. It is an honor to work with these great students!