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.
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.