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

Do you remember the Yazidi refugee child Saan, flown into Israel on oxygen support, at 6 lbs/3 kgs his skin hanging in flaps from his twiglike arms? A week ago he was judged far too frail for the emergency surgery to switch his great arteries; early this morning we barely caught up to him (newly-plump) just before he was whisked into Hadassah hospital’s underground OR:

Beautiful little Nozhdar and his mother, who have been vibrant and life-bringing members of our community for many months now, were finally discharged from Sheba and returned to Kurdistan on Wednesday morning. The night before, we had a farewell party all together—the last time, at least for a while, that we here will get to eat his mother’s delicious cooking, which she shared with us as often as she could:

Month-old Yazidi refugee baby Saan was born with transposition of the great arteries. His family was regularly giving him oxygen at home, and the cardiologist in Iraq wrote that oxygen would also be required during his flights. We decided to fly him straight through to Tel Aviv urgently, with only me (God help us) as his medical escort. Saan began crying uncontrollably on the first flight, and worried passengers and flight attendants gathered around to offer advice:

This morning I received a discouraged text from seven-week-old Jud’s mother: "Look at my daughter. Is there any solution for her? Tell me if there is a chance."
Today her doctor confirmed the mother’s fears: “She’s between life and death.”
I responded to Jud’s mother as well as I could in my broken Arabic: "My sister, we’re praying for your daughter. There is still hope for her because God loves her so much."
Friends, please join us in prayer for little Jud and her mother.

Ten-year-old Roshna from northern Iraq took a bus from our new Jerusalem home early this morning and bravely went in for her open-heart surgery at Hadassah Medical Center:

We've seen so many precious lives that have been plucked from the fire this week. Lastly from this squad was Sila, who is so strong and beautiful after her emergency aorta repair, and whose eyes sparkle like stars:

As we drove away I realized that we were near the home of the first Yazidi child to come to Israel for heart surgery, back in 2012. Hunting through my phone I discovered an old location pin, and we set out to find them. When we pulled up to what I thought could be the house, a 13-year-old boy was standing by the door. It turned out to be the toddler Atwar operated on so long ago by doctors in Israel:

Anas arrived yesterday in Israel by ICU ambulance from Gaza. He has hypoplastic left heart syndrome, perhaps the most difficult heart defect to treat. The chances of long-term survival are pretty low, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t get a chance. Thank God that the staff of Sheba Medical Center take these children and fight for their lives. Please pray for Anas and for the doctors who are trying to decide how to help this little boy:

I’ll share just a few of the redemption stories that crossed my screen tonight as a reminder that we serve the one who makes all things new. You remember Liya from Gaza, who two weeks ago was rushed for life-saving hyperbaric oxygen treatment after air bubbles went to her brain. Doro shares from Sheba Medical Center tonight how the story is still unfolding:

This week in Ashdod has been marked by joy and laughter—a surprising thing when you consider that our house is full of families who have been here for quite some time and are eager to return home to Kurdistan. All five of our Kurdish children have faced some unexpected delay or another, yet somehow despite the disappointment and anxiety our little community here seems to be flourishing.

Our friends in the pediatric ICU at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem made good progress this week in the fight for the life of Ayham from Gaza. He’s now breathing on his own after his first heart surgery, and God willing will soon be ready for the second, bigger surgery to switch his great arteries. Meanwhile over in the administration building another battle was being fought over the bill for his first 75-day hospitalization as a newborn:

Newborn Masa arrived in Israel from Gaza a week ago in cardiogenic shock and her body temperature only 32 C (89 F). She immediately went on ECMO heart-lung support to keep her alive. After Masa's emergency surgery Lena found her today breathing on her own and sleeping peacefully!

That’s the head of pediatric cardiology performing an echo on newborn Halah from the Gaza Strip, in preparation for her life-saving heart surgery which just finished at 9 o’clock tonight. Did you notice the weapon tucked into his belt? He told us he lives in a kibbutz right on the Gaza border, which is under constant threat of attack. What a picture of loving our enemies!

The second heart surgery of our beloved Liya from Gaza was abruptly abandoned at the Sheba Medical Center today, when doctors discovered that a hole in one of her arteries had allowed air bubbles to enter her circulatory system and travel to her brain. To prevent brain damage or death she was rushed to another hospital for emergency hyperbaric oxygen therapy. At this hour she’s still in the oxygen chamber, with her mother and Elise waiting outside:

It was a big surprise when I heard today that Sila will be discharged to Gaza [after her emergency life-saving surgery in Israel]! At first I thought the doctors were talking about a discharge in a few days but her overjoyed mother told me she can go home today.
And if you’ve followed the news this weekend, you know the grace-filled story above comes right on the heels of a terror attack that killed seven Israelis in Jerusalem on the Shabbat. It’s little short of miraculous how Jewish doctors lovingly care for their Arab neighbors throughout such times. It fulfills Messiah’s command to love our enemies:

Our miracle is finally heading home. On Tuesday an ambulance brought Somaia and her mother to a hospital in Gaza. There was big applause from all the staff in the ICU as they said goodbye to the beloved child they cared for so wonderfully for 10 months!

When I finally entered Arya’s room, he generously offered me a cookie. I declined with thanks because I didn’t want to disregard the strict hygiene standards in the ICU. However, Arya kept going, as it is common in Kurdish culture. Finally, I capitulated and quickly slipped the cookie under my facemask. Thank you, Arya, for the delicious cookie!

Tiny newborn Masah was rushed to Israel in an ICU ambulance from Gaza for emergency surgery to switch her great arteries, and give her the chance to grow up and have a normal life:

For many long months–nine months–newborn Somaia from Gaza lay immobile on an ICU bed in the Sheba Medical Center, helpless even to breathe on her own. At one point her bones were breaking although she was hardly touched or moved. No other hospital would agree to take her in, as they saw little hope for change any time soon.
So great joy broke out among our community members when a nurse walked by and casually remarked that Somaia was now breathing on her own for three days. And somehow Somaia appeared even able to count to three!

Friends, it’s incredible to see how this little boy, this two-year-old from a humble family in the Gaza Strip, was so loved by so many. It wasn’t enough to save his life, but it didn’t have to be. That power was in the hands of the One who is holding Fayez safe in his arms even now. Our calling was so much smaller, and we pray that however imperfectly we may have fulfilled it, that the Father will bring something beautiful from it:

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: