Mission Accomplished – The Esther Project

  The Esther Project girls pulled away from the dock in Tamatave, Madagascar this morning through a wall of heavy, warm rain. Because it is Easter Sunday, and our weekend was such a breathtaking success, that seems more than right.  

My friend Stacia stood with her arm over my shoulders, as the last girls boarded the bus, and said:

“Look at this. It’s beautiful.” 

Academy principal Dave saw that comment break me in two. He walked over, took the tail of his shirt and wiped my whole face with it. Which, if you know Dave at all, is exactly something he would do.  

I could prattle on about all this or I could run the highlight reel. 


This is Captain Jan.
 He was an early and vocal supporter of The Esther Project, and this morning was discovered during a routine stowaway check in the van headed back to Tana with the girls. He’s since been returned to the bridge. 

Yesterday, when we toured the Africa Mercy, Captain Jan and Second Officer Eric let the girls take the helm, which they could barely see over, sit in the Captain’s chair and try out the big binoculars. 

One of the girls had this to say about the experience:

“Our Captains are very handsome.”

I’m not sure what’s funnier about that statement, the handsome part or the use of the possessive “our.” Clearly, The Africa Mercy is the girls’ ship now, but her Captain and Officers too? 

 Incidentally, Jan recognizes he is saluting with the wrong hand in this picture.  He would want you to know he was also holding his phone. 

Speaking of amazing guys, here are another two – Ally and Tom. These are the greatest servant hearted fixers of all time, from shower facilities, to communication gaps, these two are all the grease you need. 

Oh and here’s something we learned about showers: Teenage girls like them. 

Especially when you give them a bag with shampoo, soap and a fluffy new towel, right when they get off a ten hour bus ride.  That creates certain expectations, such as: Where are the showers you didn’t think to provide.  

I freak out about stuff like that, but Tom just gets his tools and rigs up three new showers, which work great until our new field security officer Pennie notices a small leak. As she goes to fix it, the shut off valve comes off in her hand. If she lets go, we have a fire hose in the bathroom. Here’s a video of the experience I know she’s dying for me to post.   

Oh yes, and speaking of water, we had it everywhere, especially in our makeshift Hilton, aka: the warehouse on the dock. The Queen Mother of all hospitality, kindness and detail, Lisa Svatek, collected and placed every bucket and bedpan she could find so the girls’ mattresses wouldn’t get wet from the leaky roof. A few did, but even rainy season can’t diminish this level of cute.    

 Are you wondering what happened to all those Pom Poms?

Maybe by now you’re thinking, just how did we manage a beach trip and pool party with all that rain? Excellent question. 


We didn’t.  The rain stopped.    

If you’re me, and planning an outdoor event where rain is certain to spoil your plans, you pray whiny, beggy, cajoling prayers, that basically sound like “Lord pleeeeeeeease. Sun. Ugh.”

The sun never came out at the beach. It was overcast, without a drop of rain.  

But listen, our baby girls live at 5,000 feet and can’t handle sea level sun. Had it been out they would have melted. Plus, the beach would have been packed with people. As it was, we basically had it to ourselves. In addition, had that storm not blown through, the ocean would have been calm enough for swimming, which we didn’t really want for safety reasons. They were happy just to splash in the waves. 

God knew all that before I did.   

How often, after praying for something I don’t get, do I assume the Lord just didn’t answer? Why can’t I trust that He sees what I actually need and is eager to give it to me?

Africa Mercy crew will tell you, that you have to get a coconut at the beach. It’s critical. This vendor saw a significant spike in his daily revenue.  

And by the way, do these swimsuits look familiar? Remember a year ago, when we took the girls swimming in Tana? An American donor bought them new swimsuits. Isn’t it starting to seem like someone is behind all this?

Can your heart handle one last story and picture?

Madagascar is a tropical island nation and native tropical fish swim all around the dock.  Kneeling there you can see dozens of varieties. It’s a giant magnificent aquarium.  


They were doing this when Principal Dave, the one with snot on his shirt, plucked a few urchins from the water and let the girls hold them, which of course prompted squealing.

This morning before they left, one of the girls got up and spoke to everyone through the translator. She spoke quietly and had to compose herself.  Among a few other things, here is what she said:

“We thank you because now we can see how much you love us.”

That, my friends, is complete victory. Thank you to all of you who worked and prayed and paid and planned and trusted that together we could bring a little more heaven to earth. 

EP final graphic


10 thoughts on “Mission Accomplished – The Esther Project

  1. Thank you for telling us this beautiful story. Every time I read what you write I am reminded of some thing I already knew but needed reminding.
    I cried through this whole blog. I just started meds three days ago for type 2 diabetes. It has really brought me down, physically and mentally.
    But you reminded me that there is a reason I am going through this and I will realize later, why?
    I think God is actually saving my life because now I have to watch what I eat and stay healthy.
    The ironic thing is I have never eaten desserts, prefer savory to sweet but I was gaining 50 something weight and needed to nip it in the bud.
    Thanks again for your beautiful writing, huge heart and wonderful lessons!

  2. YAAAAYYY, God! We serve such an awesome Papa God, and I know He is so very proud of you and all the Mercy Shippers who made this possible for these girls. Oh, and…Captain Jan…you ROCK!!!

  3. I did some reading a while ago into how the Holocaust survivors survived after the Holocaust. One of the young girls, who left a concentration camp with only her little sister, said, “What we really needed, I think was to be spoiled.” In essence, after everything taken and degradation planted, it seemed she was saying they most needed a love that simply delighted in them… Went out of it’s way for them… Made them feel special… Because it could. I suppose evil has the exact opposite effect. Love triumphs. Glad you and your team went above and beyond to do a little spoiling of God’s girls… The world needs more of this.

  4. I am so in awe of the way God weaves everything together. So many different servants with different backgrounds all working towards the same goal. I will be praying that God will continue to work in the girls’ hearts so that they too, will eventually work towards the same goal.

    Obedience and joy….GOD ROCKS!!! I am so thrilled to be serving God and being witness to the blessings that His people are working for Him! Thank you, Mercy Shippers…it isn’t just physical health, but heart health that you offer. ❤

  5. I was humbled to hear about this Esther project was birthed and how our God brought every detail into being. This most definitely speaks of the loving-kindness of the Father’s heart; His faithfulness and power to… “make all things work together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose.” Blessings to Erwin and all who stepped up with her to be such a gift to these young girls.

  6. Pingback: What Caught My Attention in March - PROVOCATIVE JOY

  7. Pingback: On Releasing The Lion – The Esther Project | Going to the Sea

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