Forward onto stormy waters

Friends,

We are coming to the conclusion of another week spent in faith and service to and through the Messiah, and we see the fruits of it, as well as the next challenges to come from it. We seek God daily in prayer, and looking back and looking forward we see a lot to lift up in gratitude, and request His blessings and guidance to continue.

This has been a very big week for our Gaza families in Bethlehem, with our usually quiet hostel home shaken by loss, homesickness, and rockets, and then uprooted to another home. That’s right, we moved out of the hostel in Bethlehem and into a guesthouse just a short walk away, meaning the families don’t need to leave any roots they have put down in the last six months.

new bethlehem houseThe new location is larger and has a private entrance, so the families gain extra privacy and freedom. We pray that this home will be filled with laughter in the times of harvest, and comfort in the times of hardship.

This move came in the wake of heartbreak for one of the guardians, Loai’s grandmother (pictured above). She’s been with us for eight months for the sake of her grandson, and he is each day getting fatter and happier after his heart surgery, and is now learning how to walk:

loai in walkerBut his grandmother’s own three-year-old son has been disabled since birth, and she’s been consumed with worry about him in Gaza. This week the dreaded word came that he has passed away. Loai’s grandmother was overwhelmed with grief that she wasn’t there to see her son again, and all we can do is try to join her in her pain, and pray she and her family can be comforted and draw close to the Lord.

This loss has only increased the desires of most of our Gaza families to return home, reminding them of their separation from family and their lives before the war. They aren’t getting to be a part of what their loved ones are going through. No matter the state of Gaza, it is still their home. There were some rumors of a possible ceasefire allowing them to reenter Gaza, and the families clung to these, whether reliable or not; however it seems many of these fleeting hopes were dispelled on Saturday night with the Iranian missile attack. We ask for prayers that they can find family in the body of Messiah while here, and return to Gaza soon and safely.

Ashdod is also not without a big update, as Jan went in for his second interventional catheterization early Thursday morning:

jan last cathThis was a pretty nerve-wracking procedure for everyone, since one of our last catheterizations was Mohammed from Kurdistan, a sweet little boy nearing the end of his treatment and needing a low-risk procedure, a near-perfect mirror of Jan; Mohammed did not survive his treatment though, falling ill for unknown reasons and passing only one month after a simple and seemingly effective diagnostic catheterization. We spoke about this over dinner; both the mothers and community members expressed our anxieties, and thus began to pray, near-constantly. Each dinner, and each step before his surgery it seems Jan got prayed for at least twice, and usually more.

We saw the fruits of our prayer too, since Jan came out of his catheterization doing well only a few hours after it began. Doctors are happy with the work they have done and are hopeful for his recovery.

jan cathJan was already awake and doing well when he came out, with our biggest concern being how this lively and animated boy would keep his legs still for the necessary six hours of recovery. We are going to continue in prayer for healing, recovery, and victory!

Another big event this week was the arrival of the Bagley family from Jordan, along with our new three and a half year old Yazidi boy named Sohaib.

sohaib and bagleysWe welcome the extra hands as we saw our Swiss volunteer Andrea leave just the day before they arrived, and their girls especially bring a lot of joy and brightness to our house. I love having families on the staff side because it allows us to incorporate children into the body of believers, and benefit from their contributions, and help them grow as well.

Sohaib was here around one and a half years prior to this visit, and nearly died when his heart wasn’t able to handle the attempted surgical repair. Doctors ended up reversing the surgery leaving him where he started off. Now that he is grown, Sohaib is ready for round two, and is making sure to gain strength before. He is rarely seen without food in his hands and the first days he was here we struggled to get any photos without him munching on something; he is quickly becoming a personal hero for me, as I am watching this little boy eat adult-sized servings of dinner every night and then wanting more.

sohaib eatingAlong with his love of eating, he loves laughter, whether it is from himself, or him making us laugh. He can cause a whole room to break into laughter just by his own laugh or making silly faces, trying to make a heart with his hands (which really just looks like a circle) and many other little jokes and habits he has.

sohaib and girlsThis kid is quickly becoming loved by this community, and we can’t wait to see his treatment continue, and are praying for the Lord’s hand to guide him to success.

Sohaib’s little Kurdish housemate Eva herself is getting closer to surgery and/or catheterization, but seems to be moved back each time she gets closer. She has been delayed twice now, with doctors wanting another echo before they proceed with treatment, but we are now hopeful that after this next appointment she will get to proceed to surgery.

eva smilingShe has occupied the days by gaining weight and strength, and striking up a close, somewhat one-sided friendship with Jan.

eva and janWe joke Eva has a crush on Jan, but he is either interested in other things like food and toys, or he does like her but just shows it the way all little boys do, by stealing her things. Eva luckily knows how to stand up for herself and won’t hesitate to slap him for it.

This week our struggles were not just contained in the homes of Shevet Achim, but the whole nation and world as we saw Iran launch a large attack of ballistic missiles and drones towards Israel late Saturday night. While we were unaffected in Ashdod, sleeping soundly through the night without a disturbance, our Bethlehem home saw this massive battle in the sky, rockets streaking overhead towards targets they would never reach, and the forces of countries who condemned Israel protecting it and her people.

missile attackWe are casting our fears onto the Lord, and praying for peace and wisdom for our leaders, that their hearts will be turned to and by the Lord in this. We pray for peace, but we know also that God works through tragedy and hardship, and uses all things to bring his purpose about, so let us first pray to grow and be comforted and held in any trials we may come to.

The future is anything but certain to us in this season, and any prediction we make is little more than a guess, but we are walking in faith by grace. We lift these prayers up with you not to a deaf or indifferent God, but one who is waiting and wanting to help us and reveal himself to us.

He is not an indifferent judge who is pushed to justice and service, but a father who is eager to give us the blessings we see here daily; growth, healing, life, and comfort. God walks with us daily, holding and sustaining us. When we call out to him from seeming safety, he beckons us forward onto stormy waters, and holds us up through faith, all because of his great love.

Max for Shevet Achim