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Yasawa, Fiji 1998


One evening in 1994, the Island Mercy was anchored off Atafu Island in the Tokelau group of islands in the Pacific. The crew enjoyed the tropical tranquility as they sat on the ship’s deck singing songs and talking about the day. One crew member watched the waves lap the shore and decided to put a message in a bottle. He tossed it overboard and wondered where it would wash ashore.

The bottle eventually bobbed its way across 1,500 kilometres of the vast Pacific Ocean before washing up of the shores of tiny Yasawa Island in the Fiji group in 1998. A local pastor in the isolated, impoverished village of Yawairara opened the bottle. Inside he found the answer to his prayers for his people.

You see, Yawairara village had no running water, no electricity nor medical clinics, not even any proper roads. The village children had to walk for three hours, each way, to reach the nearest school.

Four years after that message-in-a-bottle was tossed overboard, the Mercy Ship Island Mercy sailed into Yasawa Bay.

The crew set up the mobile eye and dental clinics to treat the villagers of all ages. A 1,000-litre water tank was plumbed to collect rainwater and provide a clean water supply for the community. First officer Allan Scott says that when it came time to weigh the anchor on the high tide, night was closing in. ‘It was dark and it seemed like the entire village came down to the beach with fire-blazing torches to wave us goodbye. It was really touching,’ he reflects.

This was no longer the village so far off the radar that no one noticed their needs. God used a small crew with big hearts, and a shipload of mercy, to remind them that they are important.

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