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

Our good friend Naim from Gaza had a big and important surgery yesterday at Sheba Medical Center in Israel. He was born with his abdominal organs in a sac outside his body, and has been waiting seven years for corrective surgery. Now for the first time in his life all his organs are in the proper place. He’s recovering in the pediatric ICU, and we hope to see him up and running around soon:

Our new coworker Ben shared this week how moved he is to see how positively our Muslim neighbors are treated by the doctors at Hadassah Medical Center. And it was a pleasant surprise this week to see our first financial support for surgeries come in from a donor in Dubai. I wrote to ask how he had heard of our community, and he replied that a Palestinian woman had shared a link on Twitter. Also a man in Yemen wrote this week to say he’d come across the story of how Shevet Achim started on an English-language podcast. May these things be harbingers of increasing common ground to come.

We welcomed Mark and Aishah and their two beautiful daughters Abigail and Hannah to our community this week; it has been a long and tumultuous road for them coming from Holland, with many unexpected setbacks, but the Lord has faithfully made the way straight. It is a new dynamic for many of us in this community to have an entire family join us; but we have already been blessed by them, and it is great joy for us to hear the laughter of their girls through the workday.

Now I am gone my children dear
Into my silent tomb
Repent I pray immediately
For in heaven there yet is room

As I drove Sara and her mother to the Gaza border, her mother asked me over and over again: "What can we do to thank you for what you have done for us?"
I told her: "You can thank us most truly by thanking God, because all we do we do for love of you and for love of God; and all good gifts come from Him." And she was pleased with that answer.

When we met little Yaman and his mother in Ben Gurion airport yesterday, my first thought was, “This is not good.” We knew he was in a bad condition in Kurdistan, and had brought a machine for oxygen, but thank God we didn’t need to use it while bringing him to Hadassah Hospital in our car. His lips were dark blue on the edge of black, all his body was bluish.
But to see him today left a big “HALLELUJAH” on my lips! It was hard to stop smiling, because when someone is prepared for an emergency operation like he was yesterday, you know that the child is in a serious condition, and I had the feeling that they came here to Israel in just the right time to save his life:

This week we said goodbye to one of our most beloved Kurdish children, little Ayan. Ayan is one of the sweetest and brightest little boys I’ve ever met, always smiling and laughing and eager to be with me. He loves cars more than anything right now; he says very little except “ayn ayn,” his sound for revving engines. And for a while he was a beautiful member of our community in Israel:

Just as our Father is making space for us Christians and Muslims to open our hearts to each other, so he is doing for Jews and Muslims. We saw it again this week: both weeping and rejoicing as Salma from Gaza rolled out of the Hadassah Medical Center ICU after spending the first four months of her life there:

Pray for Bilal from Gaza, who has been with our community for over a week now awaiting pacemaker surgery. Bilal is a bright and cheerful young man who’s been spending a lot of time hanging out with us over the last few days, playing games, helping with chores, making music with us, even going on an outing to IKEA:

What’s amazing about Hadassah–and all the big Israeli hospitals–is the way Jewish and Arab medical staff work hand in hand to care for Jewish and Arab patients side by side, usually with great love:

We pray for Ameer. The doctors think there is nothing else that can be done for him at Sheba; they want to send him back to Gaza, so that he can be with his family before he passes. We do not believe his death is decided, and neither does his mother. Even when she said weeks ago that she no longer wanted to talk to the doctors because they only brought bad news, she would still seek me out every day and ask me what they had said. She hopes for her son against all odds, and so do we. Pray for his life.

Today I rose at 5:00 a.m. to be at Hadassah Hospital by 7:00 because Hassan was scheduled to have a major operation, the Fontan, the third of three surgeries this little boy from Gaza has undergone in Israel. I watched his father and him begin today playing and having a lot of fun getting dressed for the operation. They were laughing, having fun and really enjoying themselves:

Some exciting news this week: after a great echo report yesterday, Dino has been discharged from Sheba, the first of our current Kurdish crew to be able to go home! And, thank the Lord, he has been released without even needing a surgery, his catheterization was so successful. The whole rest of the day, he was in such a great mood, running around, squealing and laughing more than I’ve ever heard him do before.

As soon as we walked into the ICU in Israel Dr. Evyatar told us that Ismail was a miracle. When he arrived from Gaza that first night his blood pressure and oxygen saturation were in the thirties. An ultrasound showed significant damage from bleeding in his brain. “We didn’t know whether to take him to surgery. It would be like operating on a corpse.”
And Ismail has shocked everyone by the way he is recovering. Here’s the video message we had the joy of sending his father Mohammed today from the ICU:

In these next weeks our community will undergo transformation again as we learn how to live with one another all over again. Pray for us as we go forward and as we learn to love one another. The community we all build up together is one of the most essential parts of our life here, because it is from that community that love can truly flow out. From my coworker Berith’s last blog on baby Atif in Hadassah: "I have never seen this large a spectrum of people, from different backgrounds, gathered together in unspoken unity like this before, and it amazes me."

Early this morning we went with Jude and mother to the crossing for their return to their home in Gaza. From Berith’s farewell blog:
"...this is the first time I have ever been so affected by a child as I have been by our beloved baby Jude, and that is incredible since he’s only 10 months old. At that age, a child is supposed to receive love, not give it to others, but that is exactly what Jude has been doing all these months that I have had the opportunity to get to know him."

Jude was discharged after another 17 days in Hadassah and is finally back in the house of the Jerusalem community. It is hard to know that all the care Jude is receiving is considered palliative care only. Medically speaking, Jude is waiting for the Lord to take him. But we keep praying and trusting the Lord that He can still heal Jude. It doesn’t mean He will do it, but we know that He can.

A milestone for our little community today. Spurred on by a gift from believers in Korea, we added a third Hyundai passenger van to our fleet which is daily running children from Gaza and Iraq to hospitals in Israel for heart surgeries:

This week I’ve found myself even more than usual needing to hold to the promise of hope in the scriptures. In the wake of the deaths of Eslam and Yousif, and as hope seems to dwindle for Jude, I’ve thought often of others who have gone before us to be with the Lord...So many lives cut short; so many seeds planted in hope of resurrection. It’s this hope that carries us through the valley of the shadow, this promise and confidence that each of these seeds will burst forth from their graves when the trumpet sounds.

For the second time we were told today that there is no hope for Jude, but for me, there is no such thing as “no hope.” I stand firm in my faith that has shown the opposite more than once, there is always hope. And as long as this precious little baby named Jude is breathing, I will stand here waiting for a miracle to manifest.

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: