Longing for his return

Friends, brothers, and sisters,

Greetings from those of us in Ashdod.

The past week has largely been a time of rest (though I was sick for most of it). Our days were quieter, and with a surplus of workers, we took some welcome deep breaths. Not all of us got to be so relaxed though; this week our coworkers Nate and Colin travelled to Kurdistan to provide medical escort for Lya, our newest Kurdish baby, who has frequent spells of low oxygen.

lya in kurdistanNate and Colin are also visiting with families who returned from Israel, including Mina who is all grown up since she was with us as a baby nearly five years ago:

nate and colin in kstanThey are working hard, and we are grateful for their labors, done in service to our Father. They will arrive with Lya via Jordan on Sunday God willing—pray that she’ll remain stable on her long trip!

In the same quiet vein that we spent our week in, we have comparatively few things to bring before you all in prayer. The first and most pressing is Milad from Kurdistan. Milad continues to be in a tricky place, with ongoing risk of pulmonary hypertension; furthermore, the doctors are fearing potential infection in his heart.

milad pacifierThey have him on a new medication which may resolve the issues; if it does not, he will need further treatment and possibly even further surgery. Please pray that this will not be the case, and that his health will improve quickly. His mother remains anxious and afraid, quick to believe the worst and slow to have hope—pray that she will have the peace of God with her.

Yesterday Hur from Gaza returned to the doctor for a nutrition follow-up, where she and her aunt received good news—she is growing at a healthy weight, becoming bigger and stronger and more beautiful by the day.

hur nutrition visitWe praise God for her good health, and the continued good health of all our children not in the hospital.

Pray that the good health continues, though. Our dear Naim struggles to remain in top shape, and his oxygen levels have been dipping slightly, even as he runs around Ashdod with our coworkers Alma, Miriam and Linnea:

naim and girlsToday we resumed treating him with one of his old heart medications again at his doctor’s recommendation. Naim has several follow-ups scheduled in the next coming weeks; pray that he will be completely restored. And remember him and his mother, who struggles after the deaths of her other children in Gaza—but who chooses to be strong and who chooses to have hope in what she does not see for the sake of her remaining son.

And pray for Asmeen, whose long-awaited kidney examination is in just five days. Everything is arranged for it now—the only thing that could go wrong is if she develops a fever beforehand.

asmeen in parkPlease pray that her health will remain steady and that she won’t develop any infections or illnesses!

Please continue to hold Loai from Gaza and his grandmother in your prayers as well. Loai is in good condition here in Ashdod, with his next follow-up early in this coming week; his grandmother is now in her final month of pregnancy and easily tires. Soon we will likely move her to Jerusalem, nearer to the hospital where she will deliver her baby:

loai and grandmotherWe praise God for a new location for our three Gaza families whose treatment is finished. The ministry of health in Israel asked us to keep them in the West Bank until Gaza reopens, and after a blessed two-week stay in the Christian village of Taybeh we today safely moved them to Bethlehem, where our coworker Keyla is watching over them:

keyla and families in bethlehemAnd pray that we’ll have good news for Mohammed this coming Thursday; if all’s well on his echo, he’ll be able to go home to Kurdistan.

mohammed postopHe and his mother have been here for a month and a half now—not long compared to many, but what a month and a half it has been for them and us all!

Those who follow the news and read these letters know that the last month and a half has been difficult for us and far more difficult for the families we are watching over here. The letters written in the last six weeks are testament enough to that: I will not dwell on it further here. But I will say that always, even in the dark, we have been keeping up our hope and looking to the promise of the future—the promise of Messiah’s return, the promise of reunion, revelation, and restoration.

We discussed that at length in one of our community meetings this week: the idea of living with the expectation of the Messiah’s return. When Jesus preached, he often reminded his followers to remain vigilant, telling them that the day of the Lord would come like a thief in the night, when we least expect it; and his parables often touched on the importance of staying ready, staying alert, remembering the impending return of our king.

We asked ourselves: how much do we actually live with that thought, that hope, in mind? Are we truly living as if Messiah could return tomorrow?

Holding that hope does not mean living in a constant apocalyptic fervor; rather, our faith leads us to act the same regardless of whether Messiah returns tomorrow or in another thousand years. If we truly believe—and I do—that the way Messiah taught us to live is the best way to live, what better thing could we do instead, even if we were in the final day of our lives?

Nor does that hope mean living in an anxious pursuit of flawlessness. If that were the criteria, very few indeed would be saved. But thank God who is greater than us, his love is not dependent on our perfection, nor his faithfulness on our fidelity.

But I do think that holding that hope prompts us to reflect on the direction of our hearts. Where are our hearts pointed: at God or at the world? If Messiah returned tomorrow, would we run to embrace him, even with our flaws and ugliness? Or would we hide as Adam and Eve did when God sought them in Eden?

Sometimes, then, that hope can prompt in us a holy fear and a repentance: a turning away from the world and a turning back to God as we remember that our master is returning. But friends, when our heart is pointed back to him, what an excitement and joy that hope produces!

I remember, when I was a boy, the excitement I would feel whenever my father or older siblings would come back home after long times away. There was of course the joy of reunion and of renewed companionship. But one of the best parts was taking them to see all the cool things I had done while they were away. Often those cool things were juvenile and silly: drawings, Lego, burping the alphabet. But I wanted to share them with the people I loved, because I was proud of them, and because—often—I made them to be seen. I made them to be shared with my loved ones.

zack as childThat is the same heart I want myself and all of us to have for the return of the Messiah: the pure heart of children that long for him to return so that we can show him all the cool things we made for him.

Friends, that is the spirit we seek to have here as we continue our work and continue our struggle. Next week, when our numbers dwindle substantially again, it’ll be even more necessary. No matter the difficulties or obstacles we face, we endure and continue to build, knowing that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

May the God of peace and love be with you all,

Zechariah for Shevet Achim