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

For Meera this week we were delighted to see a great leap forwards as she was discharged home from Israel to the West Bank after heart surgery, no longer needing oxygen support – free from the cylinder after many months! Praise God!

We don’t know why our Father allows some sparrows to fall to the ground sooner than others. But I do know that Eva received the best possible care here in Israel. I couldn’t be more proud of the Sheba medical staff and of our Ashdod coworkers, all of whom were constant by the mother’s side until the end. Eva and her mother were loved well in Israel. This is what will last.
As Eva’s mother left Israel, two excited little Kurdish boys were entering in. Meer and Ali each had the same surgery as Eva five years ago, and are now returning for the next stage of treatment.

Heavy on our hearts this morning is the passing of Eva from Kurdistan. Zechariah got news very early that Eva was deteriorating, and he and Beth quickly went to the hospital to be with Eva and her mother. Eva’s pressures had begun to drop and the doctors said they had done all that could be done. And at 5:50 Eva went to be with God.
Eva fought long and hard, but in the end her body was very weak from the month of procedures, sustained only by machines. Pray for Eva’s family, that they would feel the comfort of God who weeps with them in their sorrow and that they would know that Eva now sees God face to face. We will see her again.

After I misplaced our van key for an hour and a half, and then arrived at the main Bethlehem checkpoint to find it locked and closed, it was well into the afternoon on Wednesday when I finally reached the home of the Gazan baby Hur, to bring her back to Israel for the next stage of her heart treatment. With the Palestinian checkpoint already closed, I realized I would have to try to drive her through a checkpoint meant for Israeli citizens. This is always a sensitive issue, and especially now since as far as we know Hur is the first and only Gazan allowed to enter Israel for treatment since the start of the war.

This week has had lots of both big and small moments, quiet afternoon outings with families, dinners filled with laughter, along with waiting in anxiety for news of surgery, comforting each other in our tears, and sharing our faith and love. I have come to realize more and more, the small and insignificant moments are what lead to those special moments, the ones we may see as great or powerful, but only become possible because of the time and love we poured out into everyone when they weren’t at some great crossroads or trial of life. Being with people all along makes our presence in these special moments all the more powerful.

We must remember that the feeling of being hated, of never trusting one’s neighbors, runs deep in the Jewish soul. Now our Arab neighbors are experiencing something similar. Twice in the last two weeks in the park in our Jewish neighborhood I’ve encountered lone Arab families from East Jerusalem. One told me that where they live they have no such spaces to play with their children. I’ve rushed to welcome and honor them, but also wondered if they don’t realize the danger they are in.

Likewise with the gentle and kind father of Montaser, who is a first-grade teacher in a village outside of Bethlehem. Montaser’s recovery from his heart surgery two weeks ago has been prolonged, and today we learned he may need another surgery. We’re confronted again and again with the dilemma: when we can’t drive him to the hospital in Tel Aviv to visit his wife and son, is it safe for the father to travel on buses and trains in Israel in the current climate?

Wednesday was the last day in Israel for 13-year-old Rozh from Kurdistan. Our sisters Bethany and Diane took Rozh and mother, along with the mother of Eva, to Jerusalem to pray on the Temple Mount. And the rest of us piled into a (very hot) car (due to an uninspired AC system) to drive to Bethlehem and visit with our Gazan families for Eid Al-Adha, the second of the two main Islamic holidays. They continue in that strange, interim life of theirs in Bethlehem, waiting for news and signs of deliverance:

I found myself telling Eva’s mom that if it were my child, I would feel the exact same way. I too would be sure it was over. As we sat in silence, somehow we started to reminisce about Eva and how God’s hand has been so clearly evident all around her life. How she was so close to death back in Kurdistan, and how the Lord miraculously pulled her through. We talked about her Israeli visa and our nail-biting trip, and how Eva got into this nation with only a few hours left to spare before it expired. We talked about how well she did after her first surgery here and how far she had come. We then came full circle and talked about how much it seemed that we truly are at the end with Eva; and that somehow someway, God still had a plan with her life even if she were to die. As we sat holding on to each other and crying together, at some point Eva’s mother turned to me and almost defiantly said. “I’m waiting on the Lord.”

Doctors in Israel believe they`ve found the reason they couldn`t get Eva from Kurdistan off ECMO heart-lung support: severe narrowing in the conduit connecting her lungs to her heart; oxygen-rich blood simply wasn’t able to pass through. This morning Eva was rushed in for an emergency catheterization to try and resolve this issue. Please pray for her! And please pray for her mother as well. She is tired and weak and experiencing health troubles of her own, likely exacerbated by her severe stress. She knows about God’s faithfulness and his love for Eva; she’s seen it demonstrated. But she told me that even though she knows this, when she sees Eva connected to the machines she fears anyway. This is a very hard time for her. Please intercede on her behalf.

The hostage rescue was a transformative moment for the people of Israel, who just days before were telling us in these same hallways of their hopelessness and despair. I’m not sure we Gentiles fully appreciate just how much the whole Jewish people at some gut level see each other as family.
And praise God, that love of Jewish neighbors was also overflowing to our Muslim neighbors at Sheba this morning, as three-year-old Montaser from near Bethlehem was wheeled in for his long-overdue heart surgery. If you study this picture you’ll see from the head coverings that the medical teams at Sheba are about evenly divided between Jews and Arabs, all flowing together in harmony for the higher purpose of saving lives. And in fact one of the outstanding continuing stories of the war is the counter-intuitive increase in Israeliness among Israeli Arabs:

By far the central focus of our work in Israel this week is sweet little Eva from Kurdistan. Her body was rejecting the changes introduced by last week`s Glenn surgery, and the built-up pressure in her lungs not only risked permanent damage, but also kept her oxygen saturation dangerously low and unstable. A special blessing came in the form of the return of Andrea and Bethany to support Eva`s mother. Andrea flew in from her home in Switzerland, and arrived at the hospital just as Eva was taken in for emergency intervention:

Eva from Kurdistan is struggling tonight with low oxygen levels and is again stuck on the ventilator. Her doctors in Israel are fighting with every tool they have, and after identifying a narrow blood vessel as the possible cause they will try to expand it via balloon catheterization in the morning.

"God heal her
Give her strength and heal her
Fill her with your spirit and strengthen her
God heal her and strengthen her
Pour out your fire and purify her
God heal her and strengthen her"

I sent this song to Eva’s mother tonight, as she awaits her daughter’s high-risk catheterization in the morning. Let it be our prayer for Eva, and for ourselves; for Israel, and for her neighbors.

An amazing answer to prayer is the scheduling and completion of a catheterization for Eva, after weeks of no appointments or news of appointments for her, all happening the day after we prayed with Eva’s mother. Then only two days after the catheterization Eva was already taken into surgery! After this major surgery Eva’s body was struggling to adjust, and overnight she was closely monitored. We praise God that they did not need to place Eva on ECMO heart-lung support, as this was a strong possibility. We ask that you would join us in persistent prayer, that Eva would regain strength, that her oxygen levels would continue to improve and the damaging high blood pressure in her lungs would be reduced.

Michelle and I went by the hospital this afternoon to see the parents of Osaid from Hebron after his second surgery in Israel two weeks ago. I wanted to tell them that their beautiful son was alive because of their faith; many doctors advise parents not to treat a child with hypoplastic left heart syndrome like Osaid, but instead leave him to die. And even though workers from Hebron haven’t been allowed into Israel since the start of the war, Osaid’s father kept his commitment and brought with him about an eighth of the cost of his son’s surgery, gathered from family and friends. As part of our pruning this year, our goal is to only bring children for surgery when their costs are fully sponsored by all of us working together. To my amazement we’re now at the end of May and still have not incurred any new debt this year.

Visiting the Upper Room this week with Kurdish mothers, we met two young European sisters in Messiah (one from an Iranian background) who were chanting and singing in the room. Eva’s mother especially was struck by their singing, and asked for them to pray over Eva. They sang a song over the sweet little girl and gave her a medallion after hearing her story. Eva still hasn’t taken off the medallion! These two women of different backgrounds and experiences, who hadn’t met Eva before today, looked upon her with the same love as we volunteers look upon these kids. The heart that yearns for healing from God was also present in them; we reach out to the heavens in different ways but with equal sincerity; in short, I was struck that our love came from the same Spirit. The love which was delivered two thousand years ago on Pentecost, in the same spot where the disciples gathered unified in prayer, is still alive and present today:

Doctors and charities in Israel are not immune from the winds buffeting this land. Virtually no one is now helping Palestinian children who need heart surgeries, even those from the West Bank. Thank God that our partners at the Sheba Medical Center, with Christian support, reached out their healing hands again this week to give Osaid from Hebron the second heart surgery he needed. Tonight he returned home to his family.

We praise God that Jonathan, Michelle and Zeporah brought 13-year-old Rozh and her mom from Kurdistan, northern Iraq to join us this week. Rozh had her first echocardiogram Thursday, and doctors will meet together and decide how to proceed. Pray God gives them wisdom and understanding of her condition and that she may receive the proper treatment and God’s healing touch:

It was an afterthought really, as we drove to the airport on Wednesday afternoon at the conclusion of our ten-day trip through Kurdistan, northern Iraq. We were going right through the little town where Birhat and his family lived. Five years had passed since his young parents scraped together everything they had to send their profoundly-disabled baby boy to Israel for heart surgery. They wanted to do everything they could to extend his life, even after doctors warned that heart repair would not improve his neurological condition; Birhat would likely spend his whole life lying on the floor, unable to walk, talk or feed himself. And that’s the way we found him this week, with his mother still lovingly and faithfully tending to him:

While the war prevents the arrival of new children from Gaza into Israel for heart surgeries, we are finding more children in the West Bank who need urgent intervention. This week happy one-year-old Osaid came to Sheba Medical Center for interventional catheterization, and will stay over in Israel for heart surgery in the coming week:

It’s been a week full of beautiful encounters since I last wrote you from Kurdistan, northern Iraq. Joyful feasting with families whose children returned from Israel with healed hearts. Gratefully watching God pour out his love on the families of children who died in the hospital in Israel. Seeing a Jewish believer fulfilling her longtime call to share Messiah’s goodness with Muslims, in this case Syrian Kurdish army officers. And seeing the hope in the faces of young Muslim parents when they hear their first child can come to Israel for heart surgery:

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: