To our friends, brothers, and sisters,
Greetings from Ashdod. It has been a long, though not particularly difficult, week here at Shevet Achim. Our numbers dwindled somewhat due to sickness or vacation, but our community here was strong, and we gathered in mutual support and encouragement.
There is a passage of scripture I think about all the time these days, Romans 12:10; but I will include the surrounding context here as well, because it is so beautiful.
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.
What a list! If there is any passage in scripture which lays out how to live life in a community of believers, it is this. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Honor is an idea that the West does not interact with as much anymore, so much so that it seems difficult even to define. But I am reminded of our Arab brothers, who are, for the most part, still deeply immersed in an honor-based culture. When the Arab honors, he does it by bringing you into his home; showing you his children; sharing his food and drink with you; giving you what gifts he can. And he asks you to honor him in return by accepting these things.
Hospitality and honor are deeply tied together, and although they can be separated from each other, it seems that each becomes weaker when you do. Both hospitality and honor, then, are a sort of space-sharing; a saying “here, come into my place, and let me give what I have to you, because I love you.” And what a beautiful thing when brothers and sisters honor and love one another! When everyone gives of themselves, and so everyone receives.
We were short on hands this week, and yet we pulled through all the same. We supported one another and went the extra mile (just now I realize that idiom comes from Jesus’ words) where we could, and in doing so we honored one another and gave of ourselves to one another. Father, work in our hearts that we might do so even more!
From a certain perspective, the entire work of Shevet Achim is a work of honoring. We bring into our space families from Gaza and Kurdistan or wherever, and give to them freely of our belongings and of ourselves, and we tell them they are precious, both in God’s eyes and ours. And they in turn are so eager to honor us and to give whatever they can to bless us and show us love.
Just yesterday I was driving to the Gaza border with one father and his son. He noticed that I was stiff and sore in my shoulders, and immediately he moved to give me a back rub. And every family we ever have with us always says the same thing when they leave—come to see us. Come and stay with us. We will honor you, and we will give to you from ourselves.
Arya, who has been a beautiful and joyful part of our space for over four months, finally returned to Kurdistan with his mother this week. Although we were all weary the night of the farewell party, we nevertheless gathered around them and shared stories and memories and good food and gifts all the same, and it was a joyful time.
After Arya was newborn Masa, who was so critical that she went immediately on ECMO heart-lung support when she arrived from Gaza one month ago. Praise God again, she is doing well and her heart is in good shape now.
From our Jerusalem community, Kanz departed as well: with good echo results and oxygen levels, the doctors decided to send her home for the time being without surgery. Three weeks from now she will return for the doctors to determine her surgery date. Pray that the Lord strengthens her heart in preparation:
Several children came back from Gaza for follow-up after their surgeries this week, and mostly good news for all of them. Taleen, who has beautiful red hair, had her echo and ECG, and all was well:
We often talk about honoring and glorifying God, but I, at least, was often confused about what that actually meant for us to do. How do we honor God when we’re walking? When we’re sitting? When we’re speaking? What does it look like for our lives to honor God?
There’s an analogy I find helpful nowadays. I went to a university that is, in certain specific circles, very reputable (outside of those circles, no one has ever heard of it). And when I meet people who know about it, and tell people I went there, and then demonstrate my character, they say “Ah! That college must be doing a pretty good job!” That is to say, they honor my alma mater, because they like seeing the things I’ve done, and they know where I came from.
So too, I think, with us and God. We are equipped and then sent out by our Heavenly Father, and we go and do good and cool and loving and honorable things. And people see that, and people know who we serve, and they say, “That person’s doing cool stuff, and they came from God. So God must be pretty cool.” And so simply by living well in the way God has asked us, we honor him in the eyes of those who see us.
And God, then, honors us as well—He calls us sons and daughters, and prepares a special place for us all within His big place. He shares of Himself and of His possessions with us, and that’s pretty great.
So let us live in cool ways that prompt those around us to honor God. Let us honor and love the people around us and the people God brings to us, striving even to outdo one another in it. Let us support one another and bring one another into our spaces and our lives and give freely of ourselves and our possessions. And let us, of course, pray for the lives and restoration of the precious children that God places in our lives to love and look after.
May the God of peace and love be with you all.
Zechariah for Shevet Achim