Grief and joy together

Friends, brothers, and sisters,

Greetings from those of us in Ashdod.

Despite our prayer and the best efforts of the doctors, Mohammed’s health deteriorated this week. His kidneys and liver are non-functional, and doctors fear they will not recover. Mohammed’s head has also begun to fill with water, leaving reduced room for blood flow, which in turn has reduced his already low cognitive function. He is in a dark and heavy position, and we have all felt the weight of that this week.

mohammed icuMy mind rarely leaves Mohammed’s condition, and much of my time this week was spent at his bedside in the hospital. I have tried to find ways to comfort and assure his mother even as I continued day by day to be the bearer of poor news. Each day we pray together and we eat together, and I remind her that Mohammed’s life is in God’s hands. It is, and she believes so, too.

But she feels the burden nevertheless, as do we. One month ago, Mohammed was poised to go home and reunite with his father and six older sisters:

mohammed precathNow he is close to death for reasons that are still unclear. I find that with each day I also have fewer and fewer words left in me to say. In their place is a great bleakness, and now all I can do is wait alongside his mother. That’s all any of us can do now, really; wait, and see what God will do. Please, be unceasing in prayer for him. Even now we believe he can be healed. Even now we believe he will be healed; though perhaps we will have to wait a long while to see it.

But it’s not all heavy news this week, thank God. To our surprise Eva was discharged from the hospital this week. Although she has not actually undergone any medical treatment, she’s in much better condition since her emergency transfer from Iraq, and she is completely over her respiratory virus.

eva dischargeShe’s now resting with us here in Ashdod, awaiting her diagnostic catheterization at the beginning of next week. Pray for her until then, that she’ll remain healthy and stable; although she’s much better than anyone would have expected her to be, she’s still pre-operation and vulnerable.

Jan returned to the hospital for a follow-up echo this week, and we had good news from that too. His heart looks to be in strong shape, and Jan himself attests to this with the loudest voice I’ve ever heard on such a small baby. You would never know he has or had a heart condition, watching him rolling around and playing and laughing and eating:

He’ll have one more echo in two weeks, and if everything holds good there, he’ll be discharged. Pray for his continued health and well-being!

The same is true for teenaged Shalaw, who had a follow-up echo on Sunday. When Shalaw was discharged from the hospital after his surgery, his echos showed a disproportionate gradient of blood flow across a heart valve, and his doctors were unsure if this would necessitate further treatment. But at his latest echo the examining doctor found that the unhealthy gradient had mostly and mysteriously disappeared.

shalaw echoShalaw will wait here in Ashdod two more weeks and have another follow-up echo; if the unexplained improvement remains consistent, he’ll then be discharged back to Kurdistan. Pray that this improvement is from God and that he stays in this better condition!

We also received a slight surprise from the hospital today with the discharge of Milad back to our house in Ashdod. Although his health is not perfect, and he still struggles to gain weight, doctors want to see if a new, less clinical environment will be better for him.

milad homeSo he and his mother will spend the next week resting and eating and observing before he goes back to the hospital for a check-up. Please pray for Milad in that time, that he will improve and not have any setbacks outside of the hospital, and pray also for his mother, that she will not be over-anxious in her time here. Friends, what a blessing it is though; after nearly four months in the hospital, to finally have them restored to us here. We thank God for it.

We have one more great gift from God to share with you all. Asmeen’s MRI, which I reported last week would not happen until March 27th, has been pushed up all the way to this Sunday, over a month earlier than we thought!

asmeen carIt is a miraculous development; after weeks of banging our heads against the scheduling bureaucracy, we finally went to the MRI department in-person with Asmeen in her mother’s arms. A few minutes later we had our new appointment. We thank God for this. We can finally move forward with what is, we hope, the last step of her treatment. It’s been nearly ten months since Asmeen arrived in Israel: thank God, the end is in sight.

There aren’t so many other individual updates this week. Most of our children are in a waiting time, in one way or another; Lya will be leaving early next week we expect and, God willing, she’ll be followed in short order by Mir, Shalaw, Jan, Sibar and possibly Ali, all of whom await one last OK from the doctors before they return home.

Reading through all these accounts, I realize that there is much to praise God for. And we do praise God. Most of our children have great news, and God’s healing hand in their lives is completely apparent. One of the tricky things in this work—and I will be honest and admit that I am not yet very good at it—is learning how to hold both the grief and the joy together. Weeping when it is time to weep, and laughing when it is time to laugh, and these things often in close succession. Sometimes in the same day!

But we do our Father a disservice if we don’t hold both. Life is often hard and life is often also beautiful, and if we only see one of those things, then we will miss much of our Father’s work.

I write, and believe, all of that. But it is easy for the joys to be blotted out by the grief until they are forgotten entirely. We have the promise of the resurrection, the promise that no matter what Mohammed will eventually be healed. That is also a promise I believe, and I believe that whether he lives or dies in these next days, we will see him raised up all the same.

This week we took several of our mothers to Jerusalem to pray at the mosque on the Temple Mount, which is an important trip for them and which they often ask for. But before we left Jerusalem for the day, we also stopped by the Garden Tomb, where my father talked through the story of Jesus and his resurrection with them. They listened with rapt attention; one mother seemed particularly struck by the account of life from death and was the first of the mothers to go into the tomb to look around.

garden tombI wonder whether she thought of her child’s miraculous healing as she did. That garden, whether it was the actual historical location of Jesus’ resurrection or not, is a sign of God’s healing and redemption. We were reminded there of the promise of death defeated and life renewed, and of the day when all will rise and stand before the throne.

But despite all that, when I think of going back to Mohammed’s bedside and standing with his weeping mother while I pray over his water-bloated body, a part of me shudders. Even with our promise, it is hard sometimes to be hopeful in the face of such suffering. Perhaps that is my weakness in the faith.

But friends, to comfort and to wait and to love, even or especially in such a time as this, even when we shudder, is the heart of our work here. So in addition to praying for Mohammed, that he would be healed, and for his mother, that she would be brave and endure, please pray for us as well. Pray that we will be strong and share this heavy burden with her, and that we would be given hope beyond ourselves through the promises of our Lord; those we have seen fulfilled, and those we are even now waiting for.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Zechariah for Shevet Achim