Nine families were seen for their echocardiograms and four families were admitted. What a long and rewarding day! Yousef and I started by transporting three families from the border to the hospital. Even though this went smoothly, we soon found out that there was an additional child that was processed late across the border and needed to be driven to the hospital still. This was coordinated with our other driver Jesse, who was gracious enough to transport the last child. Katar was the child and she had a routine post surgery check-up.
Katar shows her picture from before her operation
Overall the interactions with the families were fantastic. At first I was feeling fatigued and discovering I didn’t have much in the way of entertaining the kids, yet God used what I had (some paper and a few pens) to show his love. I started my interactions with one boy and soon had a girl too wanting to draw. This transitioned into me making funny sounds for them and some light-hearted sword fighting. The kids laughed and laughed. This caused one of the slightly older ones to come over and we involved ourselves in a game of slow-motion hacky-sack with a balloon.
Fun times with the children from Gaza
What came next surprised me; I found the parents keenly interested in knowing about me. Normally the language barrier is just that, a boundary that keeps even interaction attempts futile, but today it seemed that the love I was showing to their children made them want to understand me a little better. We did our best to communicate and I pray that they understand God’s love for them and their children.
Quality time with the children and their parents
At the end of the day, Yousef arranged transport for the remaining families, and one just barely made it to the transport before it left. Thank God for good timing and His provision. Yousef and I then transported the remaining two families back. Katar’s mother thanked me before we got in the car. I got a high five from the young man as well.
Even in our weakness, God can uphold us when we rely on Him. Even though four children were admitted, God is amongst them and is using this time to do His work.
It was an exciting day full of blessings. Yousef, my wife Loni and my daughter Shoshanna, and I started off the day traveling to the Erez crossing to pick up two families. It was a special moment for me because I normally travel with only one other person. Getting to minister with my entire family present doesn’t happen often, and them getting to see what I regularly do was helpful too.
We picked up the families at the Erez border. There was a young girl named Sara and an adolescent named Mohammad with their guardians. We loaded up quickly and headed to the hospital to get the examinations. During the drive to the hospital, Sara began to choke and try to throw up. This was nerve wracking as she was all the way in the back with the others and the only things I could do were drive and pray. After about 20 seconds of Sara coughing, she was able to begin breathing normally again and recover from the episode. The rest of the drive passed without incident.
Sweet little Sara
Mohammad takes a break from looking at Israel through the window
Once we arrived in the clinic both children were given the examinations straightaway. Sara, pale and weak, was soon after admitted to the hospital. Shoshanna, though more interested in exploring the hospital, made some good connections between the other kids and their parents. Sara and Shoshanna sat together and attempted to share a toy. Mohammad’s father was impressed with Shoshanna and jokingly suggested that she and Mohammad should get married someday.
Sara and "Volunteer" Shoshanna curious about each other
Sara and Shoshanna taking turns with a toy
Mohammad’s test went smoothly and pretty soon he was playing tic-tac-toe with Loni. I tried to teach him a different game, but he preferred the one he knew. With Sara being admitted and Mohammad’s test complete, we returned to the border with Mohammad and his father pretty soon after lunch.
Yesterday, Yousef, Shivka and I went down to Damascus Gate in order to pick up a family from Bethlehem. Their younger son needed a follow up in Wolfson Medical Center in Tel Aviv. I expected us to drive to the Border Crossing of Gaza to collect more families before we left but all of them had already taken the taxi from Erez. This was the reason why the car was not too full on our way to the hospital. We also arrived much earlier than planned which gave the doctors the chance to start the necessary tests. In total, three families could cross the border from Gaza to Israel and every single one of them is so precious in the Lord’s eyes. We thank him that he makes it possible every single week possible for these families to receive lifesaving treatment in Israeli hospitals.
In the first picture, you can see 2-year-old Fajer and her father. She had an open heart surgery last year and is doing well without any medications. It was lovely to see how he cared for her. He carried her and was walking around a long time. I could already see after a few minutes how sweet their father-daughter relationship is. We can pray for the continuing development of Fajer’s health.
Then, sweet Esra and her father visited the Echo department. He explained to me about her Trisomy 21 and I could see that he cares so much about his little baby. Esra was crying a lot and he tried everything possible to calm her down. In the end, Esra fell asleep and he was holding her. It was precious to see. Please say a prayer for Esra and her whole family in Gaza that they may experience the comfort of the Lord daily.
Also, it was a pleasure to meet the family we picked in the morning. Their son Muhammed (the younger son on the right) underwent a catheterization in the beginning of June this year and is currently doing well. He takes no medication, which is amazing. He is a very calm and friendly boy. Yesterday, he had an echocardiogram and an EKG with good results. On the way to the hospital both of the parents talked a lot with Yousef and they both seemed very friendly and open. The father said thank you to me many times and I was blessed by his thankfulness. We thank our Father for Muhammed’s good condition and ask for continued grace on his life.
In addition to the kids, 12-year-old Mohammed visited the hospital for medical treatment. He looked well and we can pray that the Lord holds His loving hands over this boy in every moment.
Finally, I met a boy and father from Gaza who I got to meet last September. He also had a follow-up yesterday and I was really happy to see him again. He was the first family from Gaza I could accompany to the border last summer. It was amazing to show them the pictures I took with them during during that time. They could remember it and their laughs made me laugh as well. May God bless them and their beloved ones in Gaza.
All in all, it was a very short and surprising Gaza day, but also a very good one. The families were very kind and I was so surprised by God’s timing that I could meet the family from Gaza again. The gratefulness of the people from Gaza strikes me every time I see them and I think we all can learn from that. We give the glory to God, who made this day and the treatment for these children possible.
The Gaza clinic began early with Yousef and myself driving to the border to pick up two families and transport them to the echo-clinic. Once arriving at the hospital, several of the other families had already completed their testing and others were in process. After talking with a few of the kids, I led them in drawing pictures on a large piece of paper. They enjoyed trying to write their names as well.
Soon after arriving one of the girls, Lama, was admitted- as planned. I went with her and her father to ensure they knew the way to the children’s ward and that the admittance process was begun properly. While I was helping admit her, a grandmother guardian in the cardiac clinic became faint from observing a religious fast. She came close to having to be admitted but was able to recover her strength.
Lama was quiet, brave, and a quick learner. She drew a picture of a house and even played tic-tac-toe, which she seems to be quite the expert at. As she was prepped for an IV tap she appeared nervous, but her father was there to encourage and explain how it would feel and to let her know there was nothing to worry about. Her father was helpful in that way and also offered a bit of encouragement to another guardian.
Lama waiting with her father
Beautiful and brave Lama waits for the IV
Many of the kids in the clinic were younger (2-5) and were much of the time sleepy or close to their parents. The fathers did their best to act as hosts of sorts, offering drinks to the kids and staff as well as to the other parents to help calm and bring together the kids.
As the wait dragged on, clowns arrived, and although I found it hard to interact with sleepy kids in another language the clowns did a great job pantomiming and blowing bubbles to entertain some of the kids. At this point the doctor appeared to take a lunch break which inevitably delayed things. This lead to a brief tension on parents wanting to know when they could return home and Yousef reassuring them of the time of 3pm for departure from the hospital.
Leaving the hospital at 3pm as planned amazingly occurred with us taking three families back to the Gaza border.
At this point of the day it is easy to tune out, cruise, and get them back to them home quickly and easily, but Yousef did not forsake the opportunity at hand. During the entire ride he spoke to the three families passionately and boldly about his understanding of God and how that relates to what he had once learned in Islam. I prayed for clarity of purpose and understanding to be given to these families, one of which (Ala) is in good health and it seems unlikely he will be needed to make a crossing anytime in the near future.
The families left in good spirits and offered us a sweet to share with the others at Shevet Achim which we gladly gobbled down at dinner.
Pray that God:
keeps the grandmother healthy during her fast
opens eyes and ears to hear His gospel
keeps the patients healthy
allows us to testify effectively through word and deed
In the midst of a typical chaotic Gaza clinic day, God granted us many opportunities and was there in the midst of us.
Cheerful Majd was back again from Gaza today for his two-month follow-up echo after hearing the wonderful, tentative news that he may not need a heart transplant. Because of his pacemaker and medicine, he was found then to be doing well enough that surgery could be unwarranted. We hoped to confirm this today.
After arriving at the Erez border, we waited a little bit of time before the crossing was processed and then picked up Mona, a very friendly and vibrant girl, along with her guardian, and the other family. Once the families were checked into the hospital, they headed to the area where echocardiagrams are done; other families were already waiting there.
During this time Yousef continued to coordinate with technicians and drivers to ensure the process went smoothly. Judith was in charge of adjusting a prescription. I had the chance to meet and greet many of the kids and kept them from getting rambunctious.
Mona was by far the most sociable and enjoyed trying to imitate the sound effects I was making. Marwan watched from a distance and played "peekaboo" and even sung to himself. Omar let out his playful energy by playing tag with me. He would tap me on the head and run around the corner. We did our best to communicate across the language barrier through gestures. Mohammad played ‘who’s that’ with the pictures Judith held up. Saeed painted and played with a phone to entertain himself and Ali mostly stayed near his guardian. Little Rozy slept most of the time.
Mona just outside the hospital.
Omar alert and ready for tag
Marwan, the singer
Mohammad with bright eyes and a smile
Saeed on the phone waiting for his echo
Rozy asleep with her mother
Many kids and parents in the play area
Overall it was a successful trip with all the families getting the testing they needed as well as Judith getting the adjusted prescription. We made it back to Jerusalem in good time. It was good to see the faces of the children so full of happiness, patiently waiting for the testing they needed to evaluate their conditions.
The Gaza clinic day began with its characteristic last minute information, updates, and changes as we made plans for transporting the (fourteen, no eleven, no nine) children from the Erez border to Wolfson hospital in Tel Aviv. We can usually plan on two-thirds of the patients making it through the border. We transported three families (our capacity) and the rest traveled by taxi.
Ibrahim, Yousef, and Wesam
Yousef and I met Ahmad, Ibrahim, and Wesam and got them situated in the van. Often families don’t know much about putting seatbelts on, but today especially they needed it demonstrated step-by-step. Seatbelts can be taken for granted by Westerners, but others around the world may never have used them! Wesam immediately engaged us and began enthusiastically playing around. Older Ibrahim quietly followed his father to the back seat.
Ahmad is young enough not to care about meeting new people; his mother gently put him in the car seat. The car ride north was loud however as Ahmad did not care for being strapped down.
At the hospital we entered the echo department and stepped into a small extension of Gaza. It was full of families who had come earlier moving around, sitting, and playing. The hospital staff was also weaving through the crowd and asking questions. Other families in line for echocardiograms were there as well, including three from Bethlehem and children through our work:
Leyan, very playful but camera shy
Mina, quiet and reserved
Jod, bubbly and cute (the small girl in the middle)
Bessan, adorable and Momma’s little girl
Baby Hamdi, weak and slept most of the time
Obada, who came with his dad and was practicing being tough like him
The only one who would stay at the hospital was Hamdi. The others had their echocardiograms and were cleared to go home. It was a blessed day getting to know some of the families better and helping them with their business. God gives us precious time with them!
Towards the end of the day, like most of us, Wesam was showing his readiness to go home. He found constructive ways to use his energy though and helped us with some small tasks and got some chips as a reward.
Wesam with his chips
Yesterday, we sent our two vehicles full of children to hospital for echos and tests, only to discover that a lovely little girl from Gaza, Zena, who was already in hospital, would need to return to Gaza at the end of the day. So we had to arrange a taxi for her since our van was full. However, there were complications, as a grandmother from the West Bank was accompanying her, and her parents didn't have passes to get through the border at Erez to collect her. Neither did grandma have a pass to cross the other way. After a lot of dealings, agreement was made for both parties to meet at the border post to swap the little girl over. Then the taxi would return grandma to the hospital, from where she would get home later.
Today, as there were only five children coming through the border (too many for our van) for the weekly Gaza clinic, we arranged a taxi to transport them all to hospital where I was waiting for them. All were checked at the clinic and returned by taxi to the Gaza border during the afternoon.
Whilst at hospital today, I dropped into secondary ICU to find baby Lina who had been brought to ICU with transposed arteries on Sunday, when she was only five hours old. She has been stabilized and extubated, though she has not had her surgery. The hospital has tentatively put her down for surgery Sunday. However, they are so crammed with surgery needs that this date might not be certain.
Baby Lina was born at 5 am in the southern Gaza Strip with transposed great arteries, a life-and-death emergency. By late this afternoon she was already at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon being stabilized and prepared for corrective surgery. Thank God for good neighbors!
Thursday another little Lina came out of Gaza to be admitted to Wolfson Hospital for surgery. She is an adorable little girl; she smiles easily and rests assured in her mother's arms.
Her mother, on the other hand, was often looking concerned and painstakingly went over the business at hand. Now admitted in the children's ward, they are getting to know the other families there and settling in.
Lina was happy to find more attentive adults and would open her mouth in a silent laugh. Thank God for making it possible for her heart to be repaired!
Last week, Ali and Abd were admitted for procedures. And last Thursday, I was blessed to be able to accompany them following their discharges, as we took them back to Erez in our van with Rebekah, Kyle, and Kristina.
On Sunday, when visiting Wolfson, I was surprised and delighted to meet Kawthar and her dad. She had been admitted that day, when I was expecting her to be admitted today (Tuesday). She had her surgery yesterday, and today another surprise: she had been extubated this morning and was awake in bed, waving to Marilyn and me as we waved to her and greeted her in ICU. One of the nurses said she is doing very well and may soon be sent directly to the children's ward.
Today we were expecting up to 14 children coming through the border at Erez, bound for Wolfson, and we only have one van. Moreover, we needed to take Radhwan to Wolfson by 9am. Therefore, it was decided we should all go at 8am, heading for Wolfson in our van, and leave our regular taxi service to transport all the families in two taxi-vans. Jesse drove, and Rebekah and Marilyn came too.
As the morning wore on, we ended up with with only eight children, and in the afternoon, it became apparent that two would be admitted: Zena and Jod.
One of the "children" was Selmi, who was one of the first patients at Wolfson, who is now aged 31, with two little children of his own, Amal and Hala. They all came to Wolfson today and received much media attention.
The other children who came for check-ups were: Dalia, Ameer, and Dima.
Jesse and Rebekah needed to return Radhwan and his mum to base after lunch, so they left in the van, leaving Marilyn and I to help organize the sending of ten people by two taxis back to Gaza. We wondered how this would work out, but in one of Father God's sudden acts of goodness, everything came together. In the space of about five minutes, everyone had received their doctor's letters; the first taxi had arrived; and everyone had quickly gathered at the collection point. Ten minutes later, a second taxi arrived, and all remaining families happily left for home. Marilyn and I were then free to take a bus back to base. It was a wonderful day.