Tonight Jody and I went to the airport to meet the newest group of Iraqi children and parents who will go to Israel for heart surgery, after they were identified as operable at the echocardiogram screening last month. This group includes five-year-old Dilshad, 17-year-old Diyar, and two-year-old Delir. It took over an hour for them to clear customs and security, and then we saw them coming into the terminal where we greeted each other with big smiles, handshakes and traditional kisses hello. Although we had taken name cards in Arabic so they would be sure to find us, we found we didn't need them, as we all recognized each other immediately. I knew just who to look for after seeing their faces regularly on their passport pictures needed for their travel visas. It is a blessing to have them here now--those for whom we are laboring and praying.
Saturday Dilshad and his mother accepted an invitation to attend congregation with some of us. The service that day included a special time of worship with some Sudanese refugees who visited the meeting, and a special luncheon given for all to share. While a friend agreed to translate into Arabic the important parts of the meeting for the mother, Dilshad attended the children's class. Because of the holiday season, each of the children present on Saturday were given gifts and snack packs to take home. Needless to say, this was a delight for Dilshad.
The walk back home was also fun for them as all of the children raced down the sidewalks along the way. I was a bit concerned that Dilshad was exerting so much energy, and eventually he did stop to rest - which became a good photo opportunity.
Here at the house Dilshad enjoys playing with the Berg children, but his mother has been growing more and more anxious for his turn for surgery. She asks us daily if the doctors have decided yet when her son can return to the hospital.
P.S. from Martha:
This afternoon we went out to buy some socks for Dilshad and his mother. Then they joined us for my kids' swimming lesson at the YMCA. Dilshad wasn't content to be a bystander, so we asked the instructors if he could swim a little. In typical Israeli fashion, the first answer was a resounding, "NO." But after a bit of trilingual chatting...
...they became willing, and even enthusiastic, to bend the rules for "five minutes" of swimming.
We took a quick picture after Dilshad got out of the pool, before he dashed into the hot shower to warm up.
We ended the evening with pizza and Coke at a restaurant near the house.
Tonight Dr. Tamir called to say that Dilshad will be admitted to the hospital on Friday, and should have surgery on Sunday! When I told Dilshad's mother, she wept out of happiness and relief.
Though we didn't know it at the time, our outing this afternoon and evening was a farewell celebration of sorts. We will miss sharing Shevet's home with Dilshad and his mother for the last few weeks.
They also enjoy playing with the Berg children on the computer, doing craft projects together, having an occasional shopping trip for groceries, and just playing around the house.
Their mothers, on the other hand, feel like they are in a different kind of marathon, and do not find it so easy to pass the time! They miss their families back home, and are understandably anxious to know when their sons will be the next to have surgery. They take good care of the living area in our house where they are staying with us, and cook, and visit with us as we each have a chance to spend time together. I look forward to the day when we can say to them that it is their turn to go forward with the surgeries for their sons. Although at that time their anxiety will peak, so will the grace of God towards them as His healing touch takes over in the bodies of their beloved children. Please keep praying for these boys, their mothers, and their familes. They need patience and perseverance to see them through this waiting period.
I am thankful and happy to report that today all four of the Iraqi boys and their mothers who came to Amman in the past two days reached the hospital in Israel (Dilshad is pictured above in the green sweater). Although the families are tired, they are glad to have successfully passed through the border. The crossings are particularly stressful for the families because they are entering this land they've heard so much about as an "enemy" of their people. And indeed, security is very strict at the crossing points, and seems to be getting tighter. Yet God has allowed us to establish working relationships with the officials at the border terminals which helps make these journeys easier for everyone. The officers and passport control workers on each side are as comforting as they can be to the families while still maintaining the necessary professionalism and protocol which is required to fulfill their posts.
However, I've noticed that until we completely finish the process and are in the van on the way to the hospital there is a tension hanging in the air. Today was no different, and was even a little heightened due to a taxi breakdown on the way to the border. We needed two taxis to transport everyone, so I arranged for my driver and his brother to drive us, and was very encouraged when we left Amman on time, and made very good time through the mountains down to the Jordan valley. We were in fact only minutes from the entry point to the Sheik Hussein bridge when the taxi carrying Delir, Dilshad, their mothers and me came to a stop. Right away the two drivers looked at the problem and knew it could not be easily fixed, so they determined to take us one group at a time to the crossing point, which meant the other group had to stay with our broken taxi. This made the mothers nervous - understandably so - and yet I knew they would be safe with my drivers, whom I depend on around Amman regularly. I have trusted these men with my own luggage when I had to spend hours in the embassy in Amman, so I knew they were trustworthy with this much more precious cargo. They have driven several of our patients to the border, and enjoy helping us, and seeing the children come back healed. Even though it could have been quite a challenge, there was so much to be thankful for as the delay was probably only about a half hour.
The rest of the process in Jordan went smoothly, although there is no way to cross quickly with nine people, eight of whom are from Iraq! While we waited for the bus which crosses the river, we used our time for a quick picnic.
After clearing the security check, which took longer than we've experienced in the past, we made it to the hospital by mid-afternoon, still in time for the children's initial examinations.
While the children were waiting for the doctors to do a preliminary check on Diyar and Delir, a group of volunteers came by, distributing doughnuts and packets of sweets and wishing everyone a happy Hanukah holiday (in advance). It was such a timely gift for Dilshad and his Iraqi friends to receive their first Hanukah gift from their Jewish friends upon their arrival in Israel.
Tonight Aras and Dilshad are with us in Jerusalem. Dilshad is shy but active when left to himself. Tonight he was happy for the opportunity to call home to Iraq and speak with his family via the computer.