Shevet Sunday


All men are created equal

Dear friends, Those of you who see the mid-week Shevet Prayer letter (click here to subscribe) already know how the Sheba doctors fought for the life of eight-month-old Shadi this week, as intercessors around the world fought alongside them. Shadi’s surgery wasn’t delayed by visa issues, like so many of the critically-ill newborns we’ve seen in recent… Read more »

Who they are called to be

Dear friends, Do you remember the ISIS refugee baby Sulaiman, and the agonizing 53-day wait for his permission to enter Israel in time for his emergency heart surgery? Two weeks ago he was between life and death on the ECMO device after surgery; last Sunday surgeons at the Sheba Medical Center were finally able to close… Read more »

Cracking the stony wall

Dear coworkers, Last week I wrote you about the painful loss of the Kurdish baby Ayan, caused at least in part by the long delay of his entry visa by Israel’s interior ministry. Tonight Georgia reports that the mother of another delayed baby, Sulaiman, is “bursting with good news” after his chest was finally closed 12 days… Read more »

Making all things new

Beloved friends, The past two weeks we’ve focused on two transposition babies in critical condition in the Sheba Medical Center, after visa delays pushed their surgeries outside the safest window for intervention. Today Georgia, Alena and Sabrina were shocked to find one of them, Mohammed B, already out of the ICU and on the fast track… Read more »

Transformed into creatures of the air

Dear coworkers, Last week’s letter was a call to prayer for two of the transposition babies, in critical condition and on the ECMO device after their entrance to Israel for surgery was delayed by the interior ministry for over a month. Thank God—since then baby Mohammed has come off ECMO and today doctors finally closed his chest,… Read more »

Never turn away a child

Dear friends, We need to pray. Two of the Kurdish transposition babies whose entrance to Israel was delayed by the interior ministry are in the most critical condition tonight. Doctors at the Sheba Medical Center took the drastic step of putting them on the ECMO device (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) to give their tiny hearts a… Read more »

Israel we know and love

Dear friends, For the first time Israel has a Torah-observant prime minister tonight: Naftali Bennett started the day by tweeting the Aaronic blessing, along with a picture of him praying with tefillin. This afternoon he concluded his speech to the Knesset by saying “I pray to God that He grant me wisdom and understanding to lead the State… Read more »

Comfort my people

Dear coworkers, After 53 days the saga of Sulaiman’s entry to Israel finally came to an end Thursday. His crying awoke me early that morning, from across the hall in the Baptist guesthouse in Jordan near the border crossing into Israel. We’d been waiting there for nine days, since the other six in Sulaiman’s group… Read more »

Faith rather than religion

Dear coworkers, The battle for the transposition babies continues. When I wrote you last Sunday, four of the latest group of seven had just entered Israel following delays of over a month; two more were allowed to enter on Tuesday. They’ve all been evaluated and the first baby, Lava, will go in for surgery tomorrow morning… Read more »

First four transpositions arrive

Dear coworkers, Today seven weeks were fulfilled since the resurrection day of Messiah, and our community normally sets this Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) apart as a Torah holiday of rest, worship and laying hold afresh of the promise of the Holy Spirit. But Israel as a nation already marked the holy day last Monday, according… Read more »

Healing hearts underground

Dear friends, When our coworker Sabrina went to visit the children today at the Sheba Medical Center, she found that due to the current state of war the whole intensive care unit has been moved from the top floor of the children’s hospital to an underground parking garage: What a picture! Even as rockets from… Read more »

Wait for the Lord

Dear coworkers, Let’s take stock. One month has passed since nine urgent children from Iraq made it into Israel, after a long struggle to get permission from the interior ministry which ended only after intervention from the media and the Knesset. The delay made the arrival of the children late–almost too late. When I wrote… Read more »

Be there for each other

Dear coworkers, I wrote you a week ago on the eve of Salwa’s switch surgery, the last such surgery to be done for the six babies now in Israel who were born with transposition of the great arteries. And I suggested we could “relax a little” about rushing the next seven transpositions babies to Israel,… Read more »

Recognize each other as brothers

Dear coworkers, First of all tonight, look what God has done! Of the six Kurdish children who came last month with transposition of the great arteries, five have now had successful surgery to switch those arteries back to their proper places. The latest was Yousif, who went in for a routine check on Thursday, and… Read more »

Seven more transpositions!

Dear friends, Our little neighborhood in Jaffa is all over the national news in Israel this evening, after two Arab men gave a beating to the rabbi who runs a nearby yeshiva for young Jewish men before they enter the army. This hits a nerve for many Jews who believe Israel’s core purpose is to be the… Read more »

Honored to suffer

Dear friends, Are you ever like me impatient with the people of Israel as you read the exodus account, wondering with a tinge of self-righteousness how they could witness such mighty miracles and turn around the next day to doubt God, complain, and worship a golden calf? Well we truly are made of the same… Read more »

Never give up

Friends, When I arrived five weeks ago at a Yazidi refugee camp in northern Iraq with our Kurdish coworkers Ahlam and Ramzi (parents of a previous heart patient named Shana), we had no idea what was awaiting us inside the tents. We found a first-time mother, who had just given birth to triplets, anxiously watching… Read more »

In their spiritual DNA

Dear coworkers, Last Sunday night I suggested that prayer rather than publicity could help the nine urgent Iraqi children refused entrance to Israel by the coronavirus travel exceptions committee. And indeed the next day when I saw the article published about the crisis I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach. It was basically the same story that’s been… Read more »

“Come with us”

Dear friends, A week after the miraculous transfer of six families into and six families out of Israel, I find myself still writing to you tonight from Jordan. While the Lord made a way for the families, he has chosen thus far to leave me and eight other coworkers still outside the promised land and… Read more »

A singing people

Dear coworkers, I wrote you last Sunday about newborn Mina, whose life and future depended on her reaching Israel as quickly as possible: But with the airport closed in Tel Aviv, she and five other urgent children had no discernible path to enter Israel, just as the six Kurdish families stranded in Israel after their… Read more »

In God we trust

Dear coworkers, Something strange is happening here in Kurdistan, northern Iraq this week. Yes, the pope is in town for the first time since…ever. Iraqis and Kurds are excited and proud–like all of us they want to know they matter and that the world deems them worthy of attention. I’d like to believe in some way they… Read more »

You’re not alone

Dear friends, Ten months ago our coworker Alena brought little Ziad out of Gaza for what we expected to be a routine echo: It turned into multiple surgeries and a ten-month stay, during the last five months of which Ziad was breathing only with the help of a tracheostomy. His lovely parents each spent months… Read more »

The hem of his garment

Dear coworkers, A couple of nights ago I came across these words which I wrote to you in a Shevet Sunday five years ago this week: It’s a fool’s errand, I know. But I’ve resolved to start dividing my own time equally between Kurdistan and Israel, together with whoever else is called and willing to… Read more »

So much stronger together

Dear coworkers, Our father in heaven strengthened our hands through the affirmation you gave following last week’s letter about Abed and Asma and the non-heart-related care they so urgently needed in Israel. Here are the first four replies received: My heart skips for joy when I read this letter–I witness in my spirit that you… Read more »

Abandon all of our worries

Dear coworkers, 11-year-old Asma was discovered in Gaza to have a malformation of blood vessels in her brain. Palestinian doctors who examined her in Nablus, Ramallah and East Jerusalem all agreed she can only be safely treated by a specialist in Israel using advanced endovascular intervention. The day after we heard about Asma, we were also… Read more »

What must we do

Jerusalem at night Dear coworkers, The first month of 2021 is already gone. “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day,” Jesus said. “Night is coming when no one can work.” I’m steadily convicted by the spirit that now is our time to invest the talents we’ve received, for our master… Read more »

When Abba gives blows

Dear friends, The Israeli government today took the unprecedented step of “hermetically” sealing the country by shutting down all incoming flights until next Sunday. During this time the country will race to vaccinate another one million citizens against COVID, which will bring the level of vaccination to about 40% of the population. (They’re already vaccinating high school students!)…. Read more »

We’re alive together

Dear friends, My understanding was taken to a whole new level this week of what a treasure our community is. Shortly after I wrote you last Sunday night, my son Ben texted to say that our coworker Frank, a 73-year-old widower, was in a hospital in Fort Wayne, Indiana on a ventilator with COVID. That… Read more »

Life from the dead

Dear coworkers, When my heart is heavy with concern, fear or confusion, I open the Psalms and am immediately confronted by the glorious imperatives to give thanks, rejoice in the LORD, and bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,… Read more »

Hope we can be changed

Dear coworkers, As we enter the new year there are good reasons to thank our Father. I wrote you two weeks ago about the arrival in Israel of our five emergent Christmas babies from Iraq; today Georgia shares that little Eliyas (“Elijah”) was rushed into surgery after his oxygen levels dropped, becoming our first surgery of… Read more »

Fear not little flock

Dear friends, Three Sundays ago I wrote you from the emergency room. Doctors had just emerged grimly after 35 minutes of resuscitating Alaa and connecting him to heart-lung support, and made clear they didn’t think he would survive. Two Sundays ago Alaa was weaned from the heart-lung device but still ventilated and critical. Last Sunday he… Read more »

A branch from the stump of Jesse

Dear coworkers, Last Sunday night I shared that against all odds Alaa’s heart started working on its own. And those of you who watch our Facebook/Instagram updates or Alaa’s blog know how shocked I was to walk into the ICU Thursday night and find him not only breathing on his own but also sitting up and… Read more »

Do we love our Jewish neighbors?

Dear coworkers, My letter to you last Sunday night was brief. Doctors had just come out of the emergency room and told me they didn’t think our much-loved Alaa from Gaza was going to survive. Over the next day or two it became clear that this was caused by a mistake in his medication. I was by… Read more »

The valley of the shadow of death

Friends, I’m writing you from the emergency room at the Sheba Medical Center outside Tel Aviv. Our dear Alaa from Gaza was rushed here tonight by ambulance after experiencing fever, cough and pain in the wake of his heart surgery two and a half weeks ago: It was our coworker Amar who worked for hours and insisted… Read more »

A little baby has visited the earth

Dear coworkers, Israel’s prime minister was on hand Thursday morning when the first commercial “flydubai” flight landed in Israel from the United Arab Emirates: “There will be many more, going both directions. But you can only be first once,” he said at a welcoming ceremony in the arrival hall. “And this is a pivotal moment, because we’re… Read more »

A captivating righteousness

Dear coworkers, A humble 25-year-old man from Hebron approached the admissions window this evening at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, anxious to get his firstborn son Saif Aldin in for emergency heart surgery that couldn’t be done in the Palestinian territories: I stood over his shoulder and listened to the admissions clerks talking about… Read more »

Let the stories tell themselves

Dear coworkers, The elevator doors burst open late in the evening and out strode a five-member team from Magen David Adom (the Red Shield of David), surrounding a newborn Gaza baby in an incubator: As you can see in the video above, they were single-mindedly focused on getting baby Osama into the cardiac critical care unit… Read more »

Let not your hearts be troubled

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it… Read more »

An election prediction

  Dear coworkers, In just over two days, like many of you, I’ll be online to see who’s won the American election. And I hope that I/we won’t be in ecstasy or despair because our side has won or lost. Whatever the result there will be turmoil ahead. The real issue is simply which tool… Read more »

A place for them in Israel

Dear friends, The first cloud that caught my attention this week was tiny, the size of a man’s hand in an otherwise blazing blue sky Thursday: Oddly, it hovered directly above the gold dome over the rock on which Abraham is said to have bound Isaac for sacrifice, the same rock which by some accounts… Read more »

Boast in the Lord

Dear friends, At this hour our longtime coworker Lindsay is airborne, with daughter River and a son in utero, following a joyful, tearful parting from our dwindling Jaffa community: Lindsay, in the foreground of the picture with her husband Amar, is one of just a handful who’ve completed a full five-year term with the Shevet… Read more »

Enemies of the gospel

Dear friends, Yesterday was the last, great day of the Feast of Tabernacles, the day on which Jesus cried out in the temple courts: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Just on… Read more »

Our holy visitors

Dear coworkers, Imagine my surprise when I logged into Zoom yesterday for Shabbat morning prayers at our local messianic synagogue–and there in the middle of the screen were our Iraqi father and Gazan mother! They’ve grown so accustomed to joining morning prayer and scripture reading at our Jerusalem guesthouse that it may have just seemed… Read more »

The siren is wailing

Dear friends, As the sun sets in a few minutes all Israel will fall still and silent for Yom Kippur, set aside by everlasting statute as the day the high priest enters the Holy of Holies and sprinkles blood on the cover atop the ark of the covenant, “that atonement may be made for the people… Read more »

Blast of the shofar

Dear coworkers, We’ve just emerged from the two-day celebration in Israel of Rosh HaShana, or as it’s called in the Torah the Feast of Blowing (of shofars). As our Jerusalem community sought insight this morning into the significance of the shofar blast, the Kurdish Iraqi father staying with us was the first to share, describing… Read more »

Go and do likewise

Dear coworkers, I was surprised to learn a few weeks ago that Israel is among a handful of nations with a “Good Samaritan law” that requires passersby to stop and give aid to an injured person. How beautiful that the command of Jesus to “go and do likewise” has been enshrined in Israeli law! O… Read more »

An inflection point

Dear coworkers, How strange it seemed to walk into our Jaffa base this afternoon to the eerie silence of no families. For the last several years the house has been packed non-stop with children and parents from Iraq, Syria and Gaza. But Thursday night ten of our families, stranded in Israel the last half-year by… Read more »

The sabbatical you’ve always wanted

Dear coworkers, Instead of resenting the coronavirus shutdown, one writer commented this week, think of it as the sabbatical you’ve always wanted. At the Jerusalem guesthouse, we’re relishing this unexpected gift of extended life together with our neighbors from Gaza. We went together to the Garden Tomb earlier this week, and then Friday to David’s… Read more »

Our common destiny

Dear coworkers, Shortly after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, the director of one of the largest evangelical missions to Muslims taught a two-week intensive course at a Christian university for missionaries to the Muslim world. He also allowed a journalist to attend as an observer for the progressive magazine Mother Jones: The article that appeared… Read more »

Worshipping under one roof

Dear coworkers, It’s been a big week for Israel, with word that the United Arab Emirates will give full recognition to the Jewish state. It’s the first Arab nation to offer peace to Israel without territorial concessions, and more Arab leaders will follow, as Robert Nicholson concludes in his essay The Era of Arab-Israel Cooperation… Read more »

More stringent than the Torah

Dear coworkers, The names jumped off the medical reports received this week for two emergency newborns from the Gaza Strip. These appeared to be clans well-known in Israel for past involvement in suicide bombings and abductions. How should we respond? This touches on one of the most distinctive teachings of Jesus: “You have heard that… Read more »

New hearts, new home

Dear coworkers, When I wrote you last Sunday newborn Zaed from Gaza was hours away from his life-saving heart surgery at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center. Tonight Margarita and Berith picked him up from the hospital–his pulmonary artery reconstructed, a shunt in place, and needing no medications other than aspirin: When he was rolled back in… Read more »

Opening of the heavens

Dear friends, After I wrote you last Sunday I left for the airport for my scheduled flight to return to Israel. I entered the departures hall with some confidence, went to a kiosk, and just succeeded to type in my name and reservation number. Red lights on the kiosk started flashing and airline personnel were… Read more »

Not our wisdom but his

Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. Dear friends, I said farewell to my… Read more »

Only the Spirit brings reconciliation

Dear friends, Thank you for praying and caring for the three babies in Gaza, who as I wrote in last Sunday’s letter were refused transportation to life-saving medical care by their own government, as a form of protest against Israel’s proposed annexation. By God’s grace our Gaza coordinating team of Yousef, Amar and Lindsay persevered… Read more »

Many will be made righteous

Dear coworkers, This week we’re seeing one of those uniquely clarifying moments in the Middle East. Baby Omar from Gaza was much loved by the women of our community ever since he came to Israel as a newborn for emergency heart surgery in October: Omar’s second surgery was planned for last month, but was delayed… Read more »

In search of first-century Jerusalem

Dear friends, Last week our community somehow got free for a full day (thank you Amar, Lindsay and River for watching over the recovering children and their escorts in Jaffa), and we set out in search of first century Jerusalem: Yes, by God’s grace we were allowed by the Greek Orthodox caretaker to enter the… Read more »

2019 is history!

Dear coworkers, I flew into the US Friday to join up with my wife Michelle and visit parents, children and grandchildren. On the last flight leg I sat across the aisle from a young black man, about 50% larger than me, twirling his dreadlocks. As we were waiting to deplane I put aside my reticence… Read more »

The end is near

Dear friends, The end is near…but not yet. It feels like the world is exhaling a long breath of relief this weekend. Coronavirus infections haven’t spiked since Europe loosened lockdowns. And a month since the New York Times claimed the US government was privately projecting “The daily death toll will reach about 3,000 on June… Read more »

Faithful to the Torah

Dear friends, It was a beautiful and yet a painful Pentecost/Shavuot in the heart of Jerusalem this morning: As you’ll hear in the video above, the bells of the Russian Orthodox church were declaring the glory of God! But competing with them were jackhammers and traffic from the adjacent construction site. Yes–incredibly–the people of Israel… Read more »

Death is temporary. Love is eternal.

Dear coworkers, This morning I had to tell our partners at the Sheba Medical Center that baby Mahmoud has died back in Gaza. The Sheba team fought for his life from his arrival in Israel as a two-day-old at the end of January, until he was finally well enough to go home at the end… Read more »

A friend in time of trouble

Dear coworkers, One reason our community has survived these 25 years is the Father’s gift of a handful of experienced and faithful brothers who have stood by us as board members. I meet with one of them regularly for accountability, encouragement and prayer, and he has a list of pointed questions which he asks me… Read more »

Love and truth meet together

Dear coworkers, Today we’ve completed four weeks out of the seven-week countdown from First Fruits/Resurrection to Pentecost/Shavuot. And it appears that our ultra-Orthodox neighbors in Jerusalem are much more excited about this “counting of the omer” than we are. Today they were out in the streets protesting the ban on gatherings on the 33rd day… Read more »

In the presence of his brethren

Dear coworkers, The same old traffic jam was back on the way to our Jaffa base this morning. Schools and workplaces are reopening, and people are nearly free to move about now in Israel. There’s growing and irresistible pressure here (as is likely wherever this letter finds you as well) to get back to something… Read more »

Missing page between the testaments

Dear coworkers, You’d think that after nearly two months of coronavirus lockdowns that we’d be running out of children coming to Israel for life-saving heart surgeries. A couple of hospitals that normally help care for Gaza children in truth have closed their doors due to the crisis; but surprisingly that means that our work is… Read more »

A day honored by the Torah

  Dear friends, Our coworker Markus tonight sent us the time-lapse video above from our Jaffa community with the caption: Beautiful end of a beautiful Resurrection Sunday. It’s been a full week for our faithful Jaffa team of just 11 volunteers who have remained despite the coronavirus. With the discharge of Kurdish Adleen after her… Read more »

Resolute in our call

Dear coworkers, Lord hasten the day that “coronavirus” never again appears in our Sunday letter! But until that day it is drastically affecting us all. Two of the hospitals that perform heart surgeries on Gaza children (Wolfson in Holon and Makassed in East Jerusalem) have stopped accepting children all together. And today Georgia reports that… Read more »

This is our hour

Dear coworkers, Yousef and I had to explain our way past an Israeli police checkpoint in Jerusalem this morning. And Mohammed’s mother did the same to get past the Hamas checkpoint in the Gaza Strip. But thank God, we met just past noon at the nearly-abandoned Erez crossing between Israel and Gaza, and by 2… Read more »

Our only comfort

Dear friends, Nine much-loved coworkers were forced to leave Israel this past week, over concerns that the ongoing collapse of international air travel would have kept them from returning home as required in the coming weeks and months: Anne and Don to the UK on Monday; Almuth, Johanna, Jana, Joela and Lisa to Germany on… Read more »

Carry one another’s burdens

Dear friends, Following her birthday dinner tonight, our office coordinator Luzma texted that we could all slow down a bit tomorrow since it is election day in Israel: I share this window into the souls of our coworkers to help us all to cherish them and to pray for them. Today they had 17 children… Read more »

Leaders for the harvest

Dear coworkers, On Wednesday, thank God, we were able to pay off all of our 2019 commitments to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, and we are poised to go forward with them in 2020 if God wills. This comes after we paid over half our commitments two weeks ago to the Sheba Medical Center in Tel… Read more »

Blessed is the man

Dear coworkers, When we consider adding new members to our community, we look for those who feel an instant heart connection to Shevet Achim when they first hear of what the Lord is doing here. To them, in the spirit, it is exciting and alive! They know it is for them. For others, who are… Read more »

Why do you cry to me?

Dear friends, We were asked to walk again through the valley of the shadow of death this weekend. 16-year-old Mustafa barely survived his heart surgery six weeks ago. Since then there seemed to be slow and steady progress in the ICU, until Friday afternoon; his mother was praying on the Temple Mount when the call… Read more »

As the almond awakes

Dear coworkers, We’re closely watching the almond tree in the courtyard of our Jerusalem guesthouse this week, as it’s right on the verge of bursting into glorious blossoms:  The Hebrew name for this tree could be translated as “watcher” or “waker,” for it is the first to awaken out of winter’s sleep. Remember how Jeremiah… Read more »