On Releasing The Lion – The Esther Project

The Esther Project volunteers

One of the loveliest things to come out of the Esther Project was watching dozens of Africa Mercy crew members show up on their days off and not just pitch in, but cut loose and play.

On both nights of Easter weekend, the dock was lined with crew members like mother hens, each with three or four girls tucked under their arms, chatting, giggling and practicing their Malagasy.   Two of our teenage crew members, Wesley and Bendik, students in the Mercy Ships Academy, created the world’s greatest playlist and DJ’d a dance party on Saturday night.

The girls danced for a while, but I could tell they were exhausted. Most sat on the benches and watched our HR director dance around with his flashing red and white bicycle lights stuck to his glasses. Tanya made that even better by holding her iPhone up to illuminate the disco ball. The girls swarmed Kern, our new programs analyst, and mimicked his super suave moves.

Surely that deserves a video. Don’t you think?   At one point, dancing with my Swiss friend Sandrine, I yelled,

“Are we at a rave right now?”

Nodding, she confirmed we were. I had trouble sorting out how to kind of be at work and at a rave, next to the ship with a bunch of kids running around. No matter, it was all caps AWESOME.


Josh and Ruben should be so proud.

As I’ve said before, when you are one of 140 children living in a foster home, rarely is anybody standing by to take pictures of you doing something cute. That’s why on every one of our four field practices at Akany Avoko we included some photography project. The girls never get enough of this.

Stepping it up from just snapping a selfie and showing it to them, Aussie crew member and brilliant photographer Justine, with her helpers Stace and Ivanna, took each girl to their makeshift photo studio and took proper portraits of them. Then they stayed up all night printing and laminating them.  They came out looking something like this.   Easter morning, after Chaplain Nick prayed powerful and prophetic things over the girls’ lives and futures as Malagasy cabinet ministers, Justine, Stace and Ivanna handed those photos to each girl, one by one.

It’s a little/big thing that says, “You matter.”

Then there’s Becki. She actually works at the base in Texas but has been on loan to the Africa Mercy for a few months.    Becki has a passion for global mission work, but she’s also a supply chain master. She filled the gap when, for two weeks before the girls arrived, I was off the grid working in the capital city. I was super grateful for that, but Becki also had a vision for the staff of Akany Avoko who came with the girls for the weekend – the six women who probably got five minutes of sleep the whole time.

She wanted to tell them they were like pearls of great price, so she hustled six pearls from somewhere and made these beautiful cards to go with them. Super Tom will deliver them in a few weeks when he visits the girls in Tana. After that, Becki cracked on with a down-to-the-penny spreadsheet of the things supplied to us by the Ship’s galley, like this stuff.   You know, it’s like we all have two jobs around here. Our day jobs and what we are really doing.

I said that to the Africa Mercy’s deck and engineering department yesterday. Of course it’s incredible all the work they do to keep the big girl floating, running, cooled, and safe, but that’s just their day job.   Their real job, and that of anyone following Jesus like they mean it, is to release the roaring Lion of Judah everywhere they go: Staff meetings, airports, engine rooms and Walmart.

Romans 8:11 says we have the power that raised Jesus from the dead, alive on the inside of us: Power to do big heroic things, like when Dr. Gary removes a massive tumor from a grown man’s face, or when a crew member speaks truth, apology, and grace into a department riven by strife.

When we release the Lion of Judah, the enemy flees before us and we capture his territory. That my friends, is our real job as followers of Jesus Christ.

My friend Lisa said, she thinks we as crew got more from the Esther Project girls than we gave them. I think that’s just what happens when you are at play in Kingdom of God.

What I know for sure is, I loved that crew before they showed up and backed our crazy little project. I struggle to express how I feel about them now.

By the way, this is what it looks like to fly over the Africa Mercy with tears in your eyes.


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