I will not be shaken


Thursday morning Simona and I sat together at the start of our Ashdod community morning meeting – everyone else already somewhere on the road doing what needed to be done on the last day of this busy week.  We started with one of our favorite psalms:

Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord;
apart from you I have no good thing.”

What a beautiful reminder after a week that slowly stole all the strength left in us, as we were working from early mornings to late evenings to give our many kids the best care possible. How good to know that we don’t have to fight this alone with our mortal bodies, but that God is our strength, especially in our weakness, when we are filled by his spirit.

We continued reading and came to these verses, without knowing how soon we need them to not lose hope or joy:

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand. 

Minutes later we received the message that our good friend Abed had died in a hospital in Gaza the day before. Many of you probably remember the sweet boy that stayed for over nine months at Sheba and who went home on a ventilator. We were so thankful to see him growing up, gaining strength, and coming off the ventilator.

abed returnsFull of joy we welcomed him and his sweet mom back for a few days in August where he came again to Sheba so that doctors can see if he is big enough to remove his tracheostomy. We were so happy to see how good he is doing and had so much hope. Hope that he will make it and have a normal life.

This also gave us hope for Somaia, our little girl that is now fighting on the tracheostomy at Sheba for eight and a half months. She slowly is making progress in getting off the ventilator, and we always said: She will God willing come off like Abed one day.

somaia breathing on ownWhere is this hope now? In God, who will fill us with joy in his presence, with eternal pleasures at his right hand. Who knows from what things God has rescued Abed by taking him home now?  Only this can give us true hope and joy even in the grief and pain that his family and we have in this loss. Abed’s life was a blessing to many, he was a delight to all the staff at Sheba, to all us volunteers and his whole family. Please join us in praying for everyone who is walking through the grief now, especially his family and faithful mother.

And we want to keep fighting and praying for our new arrival Habeeb who was safely delivered to Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem this Wednesday evening:

habeeb arrivesHe was diagnosed in Gaza with Tetralogy of Fallot with an especially severe coarctation of the aorta; but doctors found out yesterday that his case is more complicated than they thought, and they are now working on a treatment plan. His name Habeeb Allah means “beloved of God” and we want to pray that through him many will see God’s love.

As I write this another little boy, Hamed, is on his way in an ICU ambulance from Gaza to Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv. We are thankful that Sheba finally accepted him now as they were short on ICU beds this week and couldn’t take him. Thank God that he is now on his way to a hospital where he can get the help he needs:

hamed gaza icuAnother little one is still waiting in Gaza: girl Hala is diagnosed with an urgent heart defect, but is also suffering from pneumonia and sepsis now. The hospitals in Israel want her to recover first from this before they will accept her. This can be dangerous for the little girl as the hospitals in Gaza can’t give her the same care as the ones here, so we will try again after the weekend with an updated report to get her here soon. Please pray that she will stay safe and get better until then and that God will open up a way for her.

The last new emergency baby we had this week from Gaza is little Ahmed J. who arrived in Israel exactly a week ago:

ahjmed jThe not even two weeks old boy had his big surgery to switch his great arteries yesterday, and his grandmother received after only six hours the relieving news that the surgery went well, Ahmed is doing very well, and the doctors even hope to extubate him during the weekend. Praise the Lord for this hopeful outcome!

And we finally have a surgery date for the Kurdish boy San. After a long wait he completed his pre-surgical dental treatment Sunday, and will go into his big open-heart surgery in two days:

san thumbs upHis mom was very happy when she heard that news, but there is elevated risk in the surgery since San’s defect would normally be corrected much earlier. San is such an energetic little boy and his mom’s only son; we pray that his surgery will go well and he will have even more energy after his surgery!

Over the weekend San will still be here in our community house in Ashdod, where he is continuing to stir up mischief with his friends Naim and Lya. Delightful Lya will have an echo on the day of San’s surgery, and if everything looks good after her interventional catheterization, her doctors might even decide that she doesn’t need surgery and from a cardiac perspective can return home to Kurdistan:

lya tongueWe still hope to check this week whether it is possible to help Lya with her profound congenital hearing loss while she is in Israel.

Naim came from Gaza on Tuesday afternoon to our house for an CT on Wednesday. He is now staying over the weekend with us and waiting for an echo at the beginning of next week. In the meantime he is making friends with everyone, walking frequently in our house with a big grin and saying salam alaykum (“peace upon you”) to everyone and asking for his best friend, our dog Shevie. Yesterday morning he and San joined us during our scripture study, and were sitting very well-behaved on the couch with us and listening angelically to words that they didn’t understand:

san naim morning meeting 2Waiting with them in our house are our three little boys Sarjon, Miran and Arya who can’t keep up with the big kids yet. Sarjon (from Iraq’s Assyrian Christian community) will get next week an echo under sedation as the doctors couldn’t get a clear enough picture of his heart during his first echo:

sarjon blocksMiran has an echo on Monday which his mom hopes is his last one before going home to Kurdistan:

miran standingAnd Arya has to wait patiently for an MRI before he can have his surgery. As of now this MRI is scheduled in a month and we were all trying our very best to get this moved earlier – without success so far.

arya post cathPlease ask the Father for help in that, as Arya is cyanotic and needs his surgery and his mom is missing her other kids very much. She is already here in Israel nearly two months.

Our longtime patient Saif came from Gaza to our house to wait here for his echo next week, and he woke up the next morning with a cough, fever and a little blood coming out of his tracheostomy, so we brought him to the ER at Sheba:

saif and joanneThere the doctors discovered that Saif has pneumonia, and after nine hours that Joanne waited faithfully with him in the ER he was finally admitted. The doctors want to investigate in the next days a little more so please pray for wisdom for them.

Our friend Kenan B. was also back from Gaza this week from Saturday night until Tuesday. He suffered seizures in Gaza lately and so the doctors did a few tests like a holter and an EEG to find out more about it, and then discharged him with a medication against the seizures back home. He will come back in three months for a neurology and cardiac follow-up and we pray that he will stay stable until then:

kenan b sleepingAlso going home to Gaza after only a short echo was our well-known boy Fayez. After he was hospitalized in the Gaza ICU because of seizures and heart failure, his cardiologist at Sheba suggested to bring him for an echo. I was shocked by how he looked when we picked him up at Erez: cyanotic and nearly not responding to things happening around him:

fayez sleepingNot even during his echo did he have the energy to scream like he usually does. His doctor told me that “even for Fayez he looks bad.”

As Fayez is diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart, the hardest heart defect to fix, his condition is very serious but there is not a lot that doctors can do for him right now. His heart is weak but he is not well enough for his next surgery yet. His doctor started a new medication for him which she hopes will help him to get a little better, and told the family again how important it is that he gets his meds on time and to limit his fluids, but that’s all she can do for him now. It made me very sad that there is not a lot of hope that Fayez will grow old in his life, and to see him suffering like this. But again I need to remind my self that our hope is not on this world, and that Fayez one day also will say: …therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead.

Surprisingly admitted after her echo this week was little Rifan who came this Sunday from Gaza. Her doctors discovered a severe coarctation of the aorta and admitted her straight to the intermediate ICU. In the CT they performed the next day – on her first birthday – they saw that the narrowing is so severe that she may even need surgery and they can’t fix the problem with a cath:

rifan smile 2Her mom was saddened by this news, but we pray that all her procedures will go well and that next year she can celebrate a more joyful birthday than this year.

A few doors down Mohammed R. is finally making good progress in his fight against his viruses. Doctors were able to wean him from the ventilator this week, and his collapsed lung is now finally recovering:

mohd r waitingWe pray that he stays stable and keeps getting better. Doctors plan to do his surgery at the beginning of the new year as they want him to gain enough strength.

Our other Gaza Mohammed–Mohammed B–had a joyful day this week. On Wednesday his mom finally got the permission to travel to her son and change places with his aunt. Please pray that things will go a little faster for him as he is still waiting and waiting and getting bored in the hospital:

mohd b waiting stillWaiting with his mom is also six-year old Azhan from Kurdistan, who was discharged to our Jerusalem guesthouse on Monday, only four days after his open-heart surgery:

azhan postop homeWe are very thankful that he recovered so well and his mom is hoping very much that she can go home already after his next echo as he is doing so well. Praise God for this wonderful fast recovery!

Waiting with him in Jerusalem for his next post-surgical echo is 14-year-old Mohammed M.A. from Kurdistan. We are very thankful that he stayed stable since his third ER trip one and a half weeks ago. We still don’t know exactly when his next echo will be but if he stays stable until then and everything looks good there he might also go back to his family soon:

mohd back homeThree persons did have the joy of going home this week after two beautiful farewell parties. First adorable Shan was discharged by her cardiologist on Monday during her echo. Only a little over a month after her arrival here the smiling girl is already cleared to go home! What a blessing for her family!

shan farewellAt the farewell party Tuesday night her mom shared with us that she never expected to find such a kindness from people in a strange country. She had tears in her eyes when she shared how thankful she is that her daughter is now perfectly pink – something she never saw before. And we had tears in our eyes when we shared how thankful we are that she was here, especially in the days after Sineor died the week before. She was the perfect support to his mother and we wouldn’t have known what to do without her. Wednesday afternoon she left Jerusalem for the airport, and the next morning we got the message that Shan and her mom safely arrived back home:

shan to airportAnd last but not least we had to say goodbye to our good friend and coworker Petra yesterday evening (below right with me at the airport):

petra and doroPetra served with a humble heart those last five months in our community in Ashdod and Jerusalem. Whenever we had new people here we could count on Petra to make them feel loved and welcomed. She built up deep relationships with all our mothers and grandmas from Gaza, supporting them, encouraging them and talking to them with her Arabic skills. I never met a girl that is so young and has such a deep trust in God and so much wisdom. Petra was a huge blessing to all of us, and while we will deeply miss her here we pray that God bless her wherever he leads her next.

It was a long week where again tears and laughter were mixed. And while most of us are at the end of our strength and need to process our emotions on this Shabbat, we don’t lose hope. From the second psalm we read in our morning meeting yesterday:

You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

And knowing that he is surrounding us we want to rest in the hope we have in him, and keep fighting at the side of all the little ones he is entrusting us.

Thank you for joining us in prayer,

Doro for Shevet Achim