Born to die


After last week’s prayer update we got a call from the mother of newborn Mohammed from Gaza. Some 30 hours after his arrival in Israel, Mohammed died Friday morning despite all the best efforts of his doctors. Joanne rushed to the hospital to support his grieving mother until an ambulance took them back to Gaza. In the moments after his death Mohammed’s mother held herself together–she trusted in God no matter what.

mohd ambulanceAnd only two days later on Sunday evening we got the message that our beloved Habeeb had died. His blood pressure dropped suddenly, and after the medical staff performed CPR for 40 minutes they had to let him go. Habeeb Allah (“beloved of God” in Arabic) was indeed a proof of God’s love, a perfect gift for everyone who got to know him. And now God’s beloved went home to his creator:

habeeb eyesEarly the next morning Elise and Luisa went to Hadassah to be at the side of his grandmother in her last hours in Israel:

We could see how glad she was that we were there with her. Those moments are the most terrible ones when you can’t do anything anymore but cry for your lost ones. I was thankful that we were able to be there for her, even if it felt like we didn’t do much. Probably there’s nothing that you can do in those situations but just be there for the family, so that they don’t feel alone.

The question arose in my thoughts: why did God create these little ones just that they die again? Why did he not save them? They were too little. Only a few days old.

But on Christmas Eve, as our community walked through the Old City of Jerusalem and worshiped in Christ Church, I had some time to reflect. Jesus was born and that’s what we celebrate; but that’s not the end of the story. He did many good things during his life, but this was not the main reason he came. He lived to die–and to rise again. And as he conquered death, we want to trust in the resurrection also for our two little ones Mohammed and Habeeb. Still we don’t want to forget their grieving families, and pray that God will comfort them.

Three new Kurdish children arrived in Israel early Tuesday morning with their mothers. Ahead of them lies a challenging time, separated from their families and fearing for the lives of their children while they undergo open-heart surgery. Two-year-old Dahen and his mother went directly from the airport with Luisa by train to our Jerusalem guesthouse, as he will have his first echo at Hadassah hospital on Monday morning:

Dahen and LuisaAnd I brought one-year-old Nozhdar and three-year-old Daveen to our Ashdod community, where Nozhdar got off to an exciting start here in Israel. On arrival he had a cough and runny nose, and in the middle of his first night here his mother called to say he was running a fever. We decided it best to bring him to the ER, so shortly after midnight I was on the way with him and his mother to Sheba Medical Center:

nozhdar in ERIn the long waiting hours there he had a blood test, an x-ray, and in the early morning his first echo. His cardiologist found that Nozhdar appears to only have an ASD (a hole between the atria) and not multiple holes between the ventricles as diagnosed in Kurdistan, which will make his treatment easier. Doctors will decide his treatment plan in the coming days and told us that from a cardiac point of view Nozhdar is good enough to go back to Ashdod. So we went back to the ER where they suspected that he is developing pneumonia, so they gave us some antibiotics and sent us home to Ashdod, where Nozhdar and Daveen are enjoying some well-deserved rest and recreation:

daveen and nozhdar playingSaif and his mother from Gaza have also come through two challenging days. Saif was admitted Tuesday morning for a bronchoscopy to attempt the removal of his tracheostomy. After this failed on Wednesday, doctors tried a second bronchoscopy today but were again unable. They suspect now that his windpipe has closed over the years so he is not able to breath on his own.

saif drinkingSaif will have a CT scan tomorrow and then doctors will decide what to do for him. It’s a long road lying in front of this little boy, so please pray for all his next steps.

Ahmad N. came back from Gaza and underwent catheterization today in an attempt to open his blocked superior vena cava–the vein that returns blood from the upper half of his body to the heart:

ahmad n to cathBut alternative branches have already developed, so doctors had to stop the cath and will first need to address this problem. Please pray for wisdom for the doctors to find a good solution.

And this week 13-year-old Mohammed B. from Gaza got finally the treatment he’s been waiting for since the end of November. On Wednesday Sheba doctors took him through a complex catheterization process to place a sophisticated artificial valve. The procedure took only four hours, went all well and he is doing great afterwards:

mohd b postcathHis doctor is very optimistic that Mohammed won’t need a surgery again in the near future. The only other concern they have is that he is clinically depressed. Please pray for him to get better soon, physically and psychically.

Our cute girl Rifan from Gaza finally had her cath this week too. On Tuesday morning doctors were able to open up her aorta and she shouldn’t need further surgery:

rifan post cathShe recovered beautifully and already went home to Gaza the day after. What a great day for her mother, who was in the hospital for two weeks waiting for this cath.

Hamed from Gaza is also recovering well, thank God. He was moved from the ICU to the pediatric ward on Christmas weekend and is breathing completely on his own:

hamed improvingHamed still gets his food through a nasal tube but he is slowly learning how to eat again. It’s just always very nice to visit him and his amazing grandmother!

Ahmed J. is our other surprise every time we visit him. He doesn’t need oxygen support anymore, got moved to the intermediate ICU on Wednesday and is just the cutest little boy:

ahmed j betterHis heart is doing great and if he continues we won’t be surprised if he goes home next week. Let’s pray that this will happen–especially his mom back home is missing him very much as she had to give her firstborn child away so shortly after birth.

Please pray also for Somaia and Maryam who are only slowly making progress and have spent so much of their lives at Sheba. Maryam is slowly gaining weight, but still not enough to consider discharging her. In the meantime she is getting tests for her ears and eyes and is going for walks in her stroller with her grandma.

maryam strollingWe pray that one day Somaia can join her as she is already taking short walks in the arms of her mother through the ICU. She is slowly learning to breath on her own but there’s still a long way for her to go:

somaia and mother cribA few doors down in the ICU Mohammed R. finally had his first surgery this Monday to close his AV canal. All went well and he is recovering, but doctors discovered at the end of the week that his aorta is narrowed and his aortic valve is leaking:

mohammed r postopHe had a CT scan today and doctors will decide what to do next for him. It’s relatively easy to fix the narrowed aorta but more complicated to fix the valve, so the doctors don’t know yet if they will take the risk. Please pray for good decisions!

Lya from Kurdistan was finally discharged home from Sheba to our Ashdod home Monday. The hours before her discharge she had a hearing test under anesthesia, and doctors hope to soon decide if she is a candidate for a cochlear implant:

lya going homeAlso Lya finally has an appointment for her dental treatment in one and a half weeks, and we want to thank God that this finally worked out.

Lya’s friend San also had one night in the hospital this week. On Christmas San developed some pain in his neck and shoulders and we brought him to the ER that evening. I waited for some hours with him and his mother for his x-ray and bloodtest until doctors decided to admit him for observation. The next morning San had another echo and saw his cardiologist; his heart right now looks good and he was cleared to go back to Ashdod.

san shootingThe cardiologist wants to see San again in one months as his mitral valve is still leaking a little bit. This is pretty normal for kids with a VSD, and will God willing get better by itself. But his doctor wants to be sure before sending him home to Kurdistan–in case surgery is required. Please pray for San and for patience for his mother in the coming weeks as they wait.

Our little Assyrian Sarjon also spent two nights in the hospital for his diagnostic catheterization on Tuesday. He came home the day after and is continuing to visit us (and our dog Shevie) here in the staff house, running around between us volunteers, playing the piano and stealing our Christmas decorations.

sarjon christmasNext Wednesday he will have a CT and neurology appointment and we hope that soon afterwards the doctors will make a decision about his surgery.

Patiently waiting here in Ashdod are still Miran and Arya. Miran (below left) will have another echo next Monday to decide if he needs another intervention before he can go home to Kurdistan:

high chairsAnd in the meantime Arya (above center) is still waiting for his MRI in the middle of January before he can have surgery. We enjoy a lot having him here and he loves imitating everything we do, but for his mom this waiting time is very challenging. Let’s trust God in the waiting time that it’s only for the best even when it doesn’t look like it to us.

Our only child left in Hadassah is little Hala from Gaza, who is daily growing stronger after her full-repair surgery last week. Her oxygen levels are slowly increasing and the doctors are able to reduce the oxygen support:

hala recoveryShe still has to learn how to eat by herself again, but with all the improvement already we are optimistic that she will soon learn this.

Finally we said goodbye to two of our Kurdish kids this morning. Azhan and Mohammed both had their last echos on Monday morning at Hadassah and were overjoyed that they can go home. They enjoyed two more days in Jerusalem before we brought them to the airport early this morning to fly back to Kurdistan:

azhan mohd farewellWe are thankful for their recoveries and successful surgeries. God please bless them and their families back home and continue working in them!

Last but not least we welcomed two new volunteers here in Ashdod last night:

hison and daughterDr. Hison and his ten-year-old daughter Yieun from Korea will join our community for the next few months, and are considering longer term service including wife and son. We are excited to get to know them more and pray that they will have a blessed time here!

As this week ends, we are also coming to the end of the year. We can again look back on a busy week with only a few volunteers, a lot of children and a lot of procedures and trips to the ER. But we can also look back on a year full of God’s blessings. Of healed hearts, of moments that we laughed together, of moments that made us cry but brought us closer to him in the end. As this year ends we are also one step closer to his everlasting kingdom. On Christmas Eve we read Isaiah 9 together as a community, and verses 6 and 7 stayed in my head for the rest of the week:

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this

The son of God came to this world to die. To save us. To have him as our king forever. And if we have this wonderful counselor, mighty god, everlasting father and prince of peace on our side, what more do we need? To God be the glory for this last year and to him will be the glory in the next year. And in this hope we rest and trust him with whatever comes.

Thank you for faithfully joining us in prayer for this year,

Doro for Shevet Achim