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

As the clock ticked down toward the start of the Shabbat, I turned to every doctor and manager I knew. Still no help could be found. In desperation I reached out to every alternative ambulance service we knew. Nothing moved.
It was now 03:00 in the morning. I could feel the frustration rising up in me, as it had last year when the interior ministry wasn’t issuing visas for emergency transposition babies to enter Israel. Again I wanted to speak out and shame people: How can you stand by and do nothing while this baby is dying?
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On Tuesday afternoon we got a surprise phone call from Sheba hospital; a surgery had been canceled at the last second, which opened up a spot for the year-old Yazidi refugee Sohaib to come for his much-needed operation. The multiple holes in Sohaib’s heart were causing pulmonary hypertension so severe that the doctors in Kurdistan had feared there was nothing that could be done for him. What a beautiful gift and relief, then, when after four hours in the operating room on Wednesday the surgeon came out with the good news that the holes are repaired and Sohaib is doing well!
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We first met Sohaib's family in a Yazidi refugee camp in northern Iraq last September, and promised to try to help him get to Israel for lifesaving heart surgery. But over the next seven months I left him on the back burner--and then was shocked in April to get a cath report from his doctor in Iraq indicating it was now too late and he could no longer be helped.
Somehow the Sheba team agreed to accept Sohaib in Israel for a second look and a second chance. Our Father then provided a medical escort to get him here safely, and--praise God!--in Tuesday's cath doctors discovered he is still operable. Please pray with us for Sohaib as he goes into surgery this week:
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I was surprised to learn that just two years ago Wasim was between life and death after a 13-hour-long surgery. He was close to needing ECMO support, but pulled through and recovered wonderfully. It’s hard to believe that the friendly, smiling young man we met on Sunday is the same person in the photos from two years ago:
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Somehow Joanne and Bria and Lilly found grace under all the pressure, and the day after Shavuot/Pentecost brought Racheal’s mother to Jerusalem to bury her little daughter on the hilltop above the Garden Tomb. From the top we can see an otherwise hidden topographical truth: this long ridge, hidden in the bustle of the city, is actually the direct continuation of Mount Moriah, on which the biblical temples were built:
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As we said goodbye to Racheal’s mother in the airport, she hugged each of us and told us, “I’ll never forget you. You’re in my heart forever.”
“We’ll never forget you either,” we told her. “You’re our sister and we love you forever.”
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On Friday just hours before the long Shavuot/Pentecost weekend began, I realized that by turning off my phone overnight while in the US I had overlooked emergency, day-old baby Sanad in the Gaza Strip. If she didn’t reach Israel before the holiday we would miss the 48-hour window during which it was most likely her life could be saved:
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Last night, as the mother held her baby’s hands and stroked her beautiful dark hair for the last time, she told me, “Racheal is good now. No more machines. No more surgeries. No more pain. She’s good now.”
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This evening Tatiana and I brought our little Syrian friend Hussein back to the hospital in Israel for his open-heart surgery. He was crying very hard as soon as the doctor entered the room. We stayed a little while with him in the room and he was in my arms until he was finally calming down. He kept saying that he wants to go back with us and doesn’t want us to leave:
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“Can I ask you something?” one of the Kurdish moms asked me timidly this week. “Do people here hate Muslims?”
For a moment, I wasn’t sure how to answer. It’s a question we’ve heard a lot this week. “People back home don’t like Israel,” she continued. “I don’t know what my friends would think if they knew I was here.”
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It happened again this morning. A child who was waiting for months in Iraq for heart surgery finally made the long journey to Israel and arrived safely at Ben Gurion airport. But our team soon realized something was wrong. Lara had oxygen levels which fell to about half of normal. This is basically incompatible with life:
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Doctors in Israel are working hard for two-month-old Somaia from Gaza, who was stable at the beginning of this week after a difficult weekend. On Tuesday, to our surprise, Amelie found Somaia extubated and breathing with oxygen support only through her nose. “Sometimes you have to give a child a chance just by herself and see how she is doing,” the doctor explained.
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This morning the hospital called us and told that Racheal is now going into surgery, so I drove to Sheba to be with her mother. When I finally found her she was sitting on the floor, crying and very worried about her beloved daughter behind the OR doors.
Before I entered the hospital I was a little bit afraid if I would be a good comfort to the mom because I don’t speak a lot of Kurdish and so I prayed that God would work in me and through me – and he did. Love doesn’t need many words and God can use everyone!
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We have seen time and time again God’s power to overcome even the most challenging medical situations. Just this week we celebrated baby Liya’s discharge to Gaza after a difficult few weeks in the ICU. After her pulmonary band surgery last month, her doctor told us quite honestly that her situation was serious and she may not survive. Praise be to God, on Sunday morning we got the news that Liya was ready to go home to Gaza!
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I was standing a while at the bed of Somaia to talk to her and to promise her that there are people who love her and that God loves her so much. This girl doesn’t need only better health but also love! Somaia is in God’s loving hands and we can trust him that he will make it good however.
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Doctors in Israel on this Independence Day are battling without compromise for the lives of half a dozen little ones from the Gaza Strip:
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It was ice cream night out tonight for our community and families, some of whom were especially excited because the month-long Ramadan fast ended at sunset! Has Ashdod ever seen such a group, including Assyrians, Syrians, and Iraqis, as well as volunteers from three continents? It’s a picture of the kingdom of God. May their tribe increase.
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Four-year-old Syrian refugee Hussein had a shunt surgery in Syria as a baby, and is now big enough for repair in Israel of his heart defects. Doctors referred him this week for a CT scan to help them examine his heart more thoroughly before the operation. For now, Hussein is busy keeping our house in Ashdod full of laughter and mischief, and slowly working up the courage to befriend our dog Shevie:
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If it is hard to believe that Jews and Christians can ever reunite, how much more that Jews and Muslims could come together again as the sons of Abraham? But I thought I saw a glimmer of hope–a prophetic sign?–this week at the farewell party in Ashdod for baby Ayan, before he returned to Iraq following his successful arterial switch surgery:
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After a nerve-wracking journey from Iraq, newborn Racheal is now safe, stable, and intubated in the ICU at Sheba Medical Center in Israel. As the volunteer doctors were describing the trip, I was struck by the tireless effort it took to deliver this precious baby to safety, and how grateful we are to those who offer their time and skills to come alongside to get these children the care they need:
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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 seeking life-saving treatment for her son at a cost of $64,000:

“Will you help us?”

Few of us have the resources 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: