“Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity” – Psalm 133

This grandmother told us with tears of the death of her husband from cancer, and then the death of her only son in a car crash. What a consolation that the grandson Ayan, born after his father’s death, has been restored to the family after surgery in Israel. How can we not thank God for allowing us to be part of his amazing works of mercy?

I know that many of you have been faithfully praying that God will provide a place for little Somaia from Gaza, who has been in the Sheba ICU for eight months. We still do not have any viable transfer options for her, but she has had some great improvement in the past weeks. She is very active, and really enjoys playing with her sweet aunt and with us volunteers. Praise God! It’s a wonderful blessing to see her this cheerful and awake!

Nearly two months ago we heard of another child in Kurdistan, northern Iraq, newly-born with transposition of the great arteries. These children can be given a normal life if surgery to switch back the arteries is done soon enough. We made contact with the family twice about coming to Israel but they dropped out of sight. Maybe it was the Holy Spirit, because this baby boy came to mind yet again when I traveled to Iraq this week. With the help of our Kurdish volunteer Dr. Qaraman we made our way to the family’s mountainous village and entered their home. There was a crib in the living room ominously covered with blankets, and then the mother pulled them back:

Beautiful five-month-old Shan from Kurdistan had her big arterial switch operation on Tuesday morning at Hadassah hospital. Just one day later, Shan is extubated and awake, and for the first time in her life, her lips, hands, and feet are all a beautiful pink! “I’ve never seen a baby look so good right after surgery!” Petra wrote:

A young Yazidi mother–displaced from her home in northern Iraq by the Islamic State invasion of 2014–is with us while waiting for heart surgery at Hadassah Medical Center for her only son. When we mentioned that she’d be welcome to join us at the church, her face lit up. “I know that the prayers of followers of Messiah are received,” she said. And sure enough, she wept as the congregation gathered around her and her son and prayed for his healing:

Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem is opening its doors to more and more children from Gaza and Iraq. Two-week-old Iman (Arabic for “faith”) arrived via ICU ambulance with coarctation (severe narrowing) of the aorta and went into surgery the very next day:

The mood was somber at the start of today’s morning meeting in Ashdod. Probably because 13-year-old Mohammed from Kurdistan, after less than a week with us in Israel, was just then entering his high-risk heart surgery at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem:

Hazhin’s father left his own baby’s bedside to carry Lawik to his grave in Jerusalem. It was impossible this week not to be struck by the overflow of love and faith. In the darkest, most seemingly hopeless moments—weeping in an ICU room where the machines have gone silent, standing before a child-sized grave—still grace and hope have abounded:

I just want to say how helpful and wonderful and kind all of the doctors and nurses were at Hadassah Hospital today – not a single one was ever rude or even seemed one little bit frustrated, even though I had to ask the nurses again and again about Tala’s discharge papers:

The next evening we got a phone call from Lawik’s mom. “My baby isn’t good,” she said. “He’s going to surgery again.” In a cardiac CT a couple hours before, doctors could not see Lawik’s left coronary artery. Suspecting blockage, they decided to rush him into emergency surgery.
The surgeons found a large blood clot in Lawik’s pulmonary artery, and after removing it already saw some slight improvement in his heart function. His mother was overjoyed and thanked each and every doctor and nurse in sight. “You’re working so hard for my baby!”

Tiny Hazhin was stable after her first surgery but is now struggling and has stopped breathing several times. Let's join in the prayer written by Jakob after visiting with Hazhin's gentle, trusting father today:
"Lord, please give the doctors wisdom in their decisions and put your hand protectively over the little girl. Bless her father too, who has not been able to sleep and has always stood faithfully by his daughter's side. Let us trust in your goodness even in such a difficult situation!"

Even though we in the Shevet community somehow get used to seeing babies in ICUs, it sometimes still breaks my heart. This little boy that I would love to take back into my arms, is lying there with an open chest and a lot of cables on him.

In just a few minutes we’ll start the last, great day of the Feast of Tabernacles, the day on which Jesus stood by Herod’s temple and called out “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'”
In remembrance our community waded through the thigh-deep living water of Hezekiah’s tunnel in Jerusalem today, and on Thursday we also had a blessed time at Qumran by the Dead Sea, seeing our beautiful Messiah in a new light as we reflected on the possible connections between his followers and the Essene community:

We had a farewell party in our sukkah (the temporary outdoor shelters of the Feast of Tabernacles) to thank God for his faithfulness to Lalo and his family. It hasn’t been an easy journey for them, but Lalo’s dad shared beautiful and tearful words of gratitude for God’s grace:

Thank God, when we checked in last night Dr. Asaf told us Hamza from Gaza had stabilized and woken up “very beautifully” over the Shabbat. Today Bria found him still holding steady and held his tiny hand and prayed for him. God willing he will go to surgery on Tuesday, immediately after the first day of Tabernacles:

Newborn Hamza was on his way to Hadassah hospital last night by ICU ambulance when his condition deteriorated suddenly at the border. When he had to be resuscitated the paramedics determined that he was too unstable to transport. He returned to the ICU in Gaza and stabilized somewhat. This morning we made an effort to give him another chance:

Three newborns with complex heart defects were barely clinging to life in the Gaza Strip as we entered the two-day Rosh Hashana holiday. These babies kept coming to mind over the holiday. It didn’t feel right to leave them. Through many years we’ve never turned an urgent child with a heart defect away from Israel for lack of space or funds. This can only mean that our Father’s hand has been over our circumstances in ways we didn’t even recognize. Was our season of grace now coming to an end?

It was the middle of a quiet holiday evening Monday when one-year-old Kenan’s mother knocked on the staff house door with her little boy in her arms. He has for some time now been having brief episodes of oxygen denaturation, but this time she knew something was wrong. Kenan’s heart rate was far higher than usual and he was struggling to breathe. Thanks to Rosh Hashanah there was almost no traffic on the highway to Tel Aviv, so it didn’t take long to get Kenan to the emergency room at Sheba:

24 years ago my young family and I were living in a refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip. We went to be a presence for Messiah there, and in turn we learned so much from our caring and generous neighbors. One of those families had a newborn baby girl named Sawsan with a heart defect. Thank God he already in those years was joining us in partnership with the people of Israel to bless their neighbors. Baby Sawsan’s life was saved by surgery in Israel, and this week she came out again for examinations, in preparation for the birth of her own first baby next month:

It was quite a celebration, with the main room of our family house crowded with volunteers and families and filled with an atmosphere of joy and thanksgiving. “You all have been my family here,” Sohaib’s Yazidi mother told us in the Arabic she’s learned and practiced during her months here!

Shevet Achim communities help children from Gaza, Iraq and Syria come to Israel for open-heart surgeries. The first community formed in 1994 in response to the plea of a mother who came to Israel with nothing but faith, seeking life-saving treatment for her son:

“Will you help us?”

Few of us know how to respond to a request like that. But we found if one person will hear that question–and then pray, give whatever they have, and share the child’s story–our Father will form a rescue community that unites all kinds of people around the shared goal of saving a child’s life. And doctors and hospitals in Israel are ready to partner with us and take more than half of the costs on themselves.

Here are some of the families of children who are asking the same question today: “Will you help us?”

How it Works:

Each of these children is invited for heart surgery in one of Israel’s largest hospitals, the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv, or Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. If God gives you the faith to intercede for one of these boys or girls, you can apply to become a local leader. When approved you’ll be given your own page on this website through which you can call together friends, family, and neighbors, to join you in meeting the financial goal. Everyone agrees that a child’s life should be saved–you’ll find yourself partnering with people you never would have expected! You’ll share with them regular updates on your child’s progress, including updates sent from the Shevet Achim community in Israel. And you’ll be invited to come and personally meet your child while he or she is in Israel for surgery.

Here’s how you can get started.

And here are the stories of the children now in Israel: