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

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:

Eva`s mother has been waiting anxiously throughout almost two months of echo after echo, since her emergency transfer to Israel and first heart surgery. This week`s echo was finally looking good enough that the doctor said we could schedule a diagnostic catheterization in two weeks. This is the first step towards Eva’s second surgery. The doctors do not know which surgery she will need yet, there are two possibilities, one that is more risky than the other but with a better outcome if successful. God has already done a mighty work in Eva’s life throughout her time in Israel and we trust him to continue that good work, to keep Eva strong and healthy and to guide the doctors in their decision:

When Jan emerged from the airport in northern Iraq at 3:30 this morning, he found a crowd of family excited to see him after his four months in Israel for heart treatment. And they kept gathering throughout the day at the family home to celebrate his healing. I understand there will even be a sheep sacrificed as a thank offering! It’s such a good ending to Jan’s story. His mother first took him to Iran for treatment after his birth, and the indifference and devaluing of his life which she experienced there left her deeply traumatized. Her family was reluctant at first to send her with him to Israel. Now she returns to share with them joy and peace:

This is the week of Passover, and so alongside our neighbors we spent Monday in a frenzy of cleaning and preparing. We threw out all the leaven and leavened foods we had, arranging our home as a clean space ready for renewal. As we piled up bread and flour and pasta into trash bags, I was struck with a tremendous feeling of waste. Conflicting thoughts kept running through my head as we worked. Is there a way to save some of this—maybe we can leave some of it outside for the week and then bring it back in—surely we shouldn’t throw away the leaven our neighbors gave to us (as some benevolently do every Passover, unaware that we Gentiles are observing the holiday with them)—and so on and so forth.

Over our 30 years of partnership with Israel to provide heart surgeries, I’ve seen again and again how many Jews find great delight specifically in following the instruction of Jesus to love their enemies. It is a quintessential Jewish value. And it is this value that is under attack in Israel in our days. So what shall we do? In eight days we have an appointment to bring four-year-old Rafiq from Jenin to Israel for evaluation for surgery. In the current climate no other charity in Israel will help him. And we’re committed this year not to bring children until we have funding. Rafiq currently needs $5300. We’re asking our Father through his people to help Rafiq:

This has been a very big week for our Gaza families in Bethlehem, with our usually quiet hostel home shaken by loss, homesickness, and rockets. Loai’s grandmother has been with us for eight months for the sake of her grandson (pictured here), who is each day getting fatter and happier after his heart surgery, and is now learning how to walk. But her own three-year-old son has been disabled since birth, and she’s been consumed with worry about him back home in Gaza. This week the dreaded word came that he has passed away. Loai’s grandmother was overwhelmed with grief that she wasn’t there to see her son again, and all we can do is try to join her in her pain, and pray she and her family can be comforted and draw close to the Lord:

Dear coworkers,
Your messages and prayers for us during the Iranian attack last night were a gift. There’s a peace in knowing we are under our Father’s eye and in the prayers of his people. In fact we were all sleeping soundly in Ashdod while you were worrying!
Calmest of all was three-year-old Sohaib, who traveled from northern Iraq through Jordan while all this was going on literally over his head:

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: