Meet Mampionona. She’s 15, the president of her class, and working on her third language – English – because she wants to be a journalist. Every time she sees me, she clutches me just like this and chases the other girls away.
I get that, because Mampionona lives at a home in Antananarivo, Madagascar for abused, neglected and orphaned girls. The rest of her story would crush you if I told it, but I won’t because Mampionona isn’t a girl who needs pity.
She needs a champion.
Eighteen months ago, my colleagues and I began taking teams of Mercy Shippers to work with Akany Avoko Childrens Home in Madagascar. Because we knew we’d return to see these same girls four times, we asked ourselves:
How do we bring heaven to earth in the world’s 6th poorest nation?
What can we do that has eternal consequences for these girls and us?
How do we show them they are royal, beloved daughters of the Most High King?
What we planned became known as The Esther Project and here’s how it looked:
In two weeks, I’ll fly 10,500 miles back to Madagascar to see Mampionona and her crew of besties again. Here they are.
But we all know the deal. In May, the Africa Mercy will leave Madagascar, and sail back to West Africa to continue her work in Benin. It’s far. Here’s a map.
About year ago, one of my partners walked into my office and said:
“What if we brought them to the ship?”
“Did you fall and hit your head?” I replied. “The ship is a ten-hour bus ride away and where would we put them? How would we feed them? That’s impossible.”
“I know. Let me make some calls.”
What happened next is the subject of a whole different post that I promise to write because it’s breathtaking. Remember when I said I had a big decision to make? That was it. As far as I know, bringing 50 teenage girls to the Africa Mercy for a weekend, has never been done.
And now we’re doing it.
These girls have lived their whole lives on an island and few have ever seen the ocean, much less a ship, much less a hospital in a ship, full of their own people receiving free healthcare.
Africa Mercy management said yes. The hospital director said yes and invited them to visit the wards. The Captain said yes and invited them to visit the Bridge.
What sort of vision will that plant for the girls? Imagine it!
Of course, guess who has to pay for it? The lunatics who dreamed it all up. Namely me, Stefan and Tom. We need about $2000, for transport, food and a lift to a good, safe beach so the girls can feel sand between their toes and splash in the Indian Ocean.
But I am not worried, because our God is mighty and his hand is all over this. I promise I will tell you how I know.
This Thursday, we will take an offering at Mercy Ships headquarters in Texas, because a few people above us, caught the vision and said yes. The same thing happened aboard the Africa Mercy – A call for volunteers goes out Monday morning.
If you don’t happen to work for the Ships, here’s a link to the Go Fund Me account we set up. Come help us bring heaven to earth.
I’ll keep you posted in this space, because the Lord will do amazing things among us. I know Him.
**As ever friends, these views are my own. The official Mercy Ships is here.