What are you waiting for?

Dear coworkers,

Seven weeks were finally completed today since the Feast of Firstfruits/Resurrection Sunday of Passover week. So this morning, according to the Torah, our little community gathered in Ashdod to celebrate the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost, starting by reading the words of the risen Messiah to his disciples:

He ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

We confessed our inability to do anything of lasting value without that power from on high, and asked for grace to lay down our lives and be suitable vessels for the promised Holy Spirit. And we wait.

At the same hour our newly-returned nursing team of Beth and Bethany were waiting alongside Eva’s mother at Israel’s largest hospital, the Sheba Medical Center. Eva has gone through procedure after procedure during her last 11 days on ECMO heart-lung support, with little visible improvement. With each passing day it has become harder for her mother to hold on to hope.

eva mother and bethHere’s Beth’s Pentecost report from the hospital:

First thing today we woke to the news that Eva was still bleeding, and the medical team were taking her back to the operating room. Hours later the surgeon came out and unexpectedly told us that he had decided to actually take Eva off of the ECMO machine completely, as he felt that she was at a critical point and might not recover if left on the device for even one more day. The rest of the day her oxygen varied wildly, even dipping as low as 49 percent a few times.  Her blood pressures were not much better.

Eva 1
I sat with Eva’s mom and we talked about many things. Mostly we talked about death. She said that she felt that she would not get Eva back and that she was gone for good.  I sat listening to her, feeling that I should say something to infuse hope into the situation or to speak up to the contrary. I wanted to say something in defiance to her apparent defeat. The longer I sat though, the more I realized that I had absolutely nothing to say. Her words and the situation had struck a nerve deep within myself.

While serving here at Shevet, I have looked longingly upon the wonderful volunteers I have met here who did not have a background of working with pediatric heart kids. I have thought about how freeing it must be for them to come here and not have any preconceived notions of how any particular situation or surgery may turn out. I have sat and listened as these incredible faith-filled believers have offered up many hope-filled prayers for different children, all the while feeling embarrassed by my own lack of faith due to my background as a cardiac ICU nurse and things I have seen over the years.

I remember when our little Lya was with us and critically ill.  One night at the climax of her illness, we all gathered to pray for her and all I could do was sit there.  I didn’t have any words to say.  I had no faith, hope or belief that she would truly get better.  That night, it was Petra, our friend from Germany, who had stopped and prayed and had truly seemed to touch the throne of God on Lya’s behalf.  And she recovered.

Today felt oddly similar to me.  Eva is in a desperate situation in need of strong, faith-filled prayer.  I sat next to Eva’s mom, locked my arms in with hers, and listened to her through the ears of someone who has worked a long time with congenital heart kids; through the eyes of someone who has seen numerous poor outcomes; and with the heart of someone who has grown cold over years of watching many of these heart babies die. 

Eva 2
I found myself telling Eva’s mom that if it were my child, I would feel the exact same way. I too would be sure it was over. As we sat in silence, somehow we started to reminisce about Eva and how God’s hand has been so clearly evident all around her life.  How she was so close to death back in Kurdistan, and how the Lord miraculously pulled her through.  We talked about her Israeli visa and our nail-biting trip here into Israel, and how Eva got in to this nation with only a few hours left to spare before it expired.  We talked about how well she did after her first surgery here and how far she had come.  We then came full circle and talked about how much it seemed that we truly are at the end with Eva; and that somehow someway, God still had a plan with her life even if she were to die.

As we sat holding on to each other and crying together, at some point Eva’s mother turned to me and almost defiantly said. “I’m waiting on the Lord.”

She said that she didn’t know what He would do, but she knew that He would do something.  “He always does something”, she said.  “Even if Eva dies, He will do something.” She said it with such sureness I had absolutely no doubt that she was right.  I marveled at her faith.

It reminded me of the song I had listened to just a few hours earlier, when I snuck out to get some air: “Wait on You.” I had listened to it, hoping to encourage my own heart about these very things. Now I looked around and noticed that—for the first time all day—the hospital room was empty and it was just Eva’s mother and myself inside. I pulled out my phone and started playing the song for both of us.

Wait on you
We both sat there hunched over my phone, listening to every word. When it was done, I opened my Bible app and read to her from Isaiah: “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

It was a moment of sweetness with her that I will never forget.

A few minutes later, as we were sitting still together, the chief surgeon came into Eva’s room. Casually strolling up to the bed, something seemed to catch his eye and he leaned over and looked at her chest very closely. He dug around, grabbing a surgical blade, and knelt down once again near her chest. He appeared to be cutting something but I couldn’t tell what it was. He finished and took a step away from Eva’s bed, and at the same time I noticed her oxygen levels climb 10 full points. I was speechless!

When he left the room, the hospital nurse and I looked at each other and I asked what he had just done—she had no idea! We both went up to Eva and she took her surgical dressing down, exposing the chest area. Nothing appeared out of place or really any different. But something had changed. Eva’s oxygen saturations were now in the 70’s and holding. Far higher than they had been all afternoon.

After awhile longer, we felt secure that Eva was holding steady so we readied ourselves to leave for the evening. On my way out, I ran into the surgeon and was able to ask further about what he had done. Apparently, he had adjusted a simple stitch that was causing some undo pressure around her chest area. The positive increase in her oxygen numbers seemed to prove that his suspicion was correct and her body was grateful for the change. One small tweak from him made a huge difference for Eva today and we are truly rejoicing with the Lord about this!

Eva 3
On our way home I sat mulling all of the day’s events over. Who would have thought that a day that started out so gloomy and heavy, full of conversations about death and shattered hope, could have ended on a high note with rejoicing and laughter? Not me but I am speechless and grateful. I realized today that sometimes a faith-filled walk means powerful prayer, and sometimes it means silence and just standing our ground. When we have done all, we stand.

Both Eva’s mom and myself had nothing this morning, so we stood. And waited. And just as Eva’s mom had so firmly announced, He did something. He always does something, she said. She was right. They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.

Can we also make this our prayer for the people of Gaza, many of whom are hostages to Hamas just as much as the captured Israelis? This week we’ve seen an explosion of reports that after waiting through eight months of war, the scales are falling from their eyes:

What waiting for

Hamas has “led the Palestinian people into a war of annihilation,” said Umm Ala, 67, who has been displaced twice during more than eight months of war between Hamas and Israel.

“If the Hamas leaders were interested in ending this war and ending the suffering of the Palestinian people, they would have agreed [to a deal],” added Umm Ala, who has now sought refuge in Khan Younis, the main city in the southern Gaza Strip…

“We are tired, we are dead, we are destroyed and our tragedies are countless,” said Abu Shaker, 35.

“What are you waiting for?” he asked, addressing the terror group. “What do you want? The war must end at any cost. We cannot bear it any longer.”

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Friends, I know many of us have a struggle to sympathize with the people of Gaza. It is too easy to be swept up in the lie, as so many in Israel have, that all the people of Gaza are Hamas. But we are not in this region to condemn, but to bring hope. And it is so helpful and necessary for us to hear the voices of the actual people of Gaza. Please listen to these two brief following videos, and let the spirit of God use them as fuel for prayer that the people of Gaza can be freed:

Gaza video 1
“We are all civilians! And you’ve convinced the world that we’re all monsters and animals! We are none of that! Our children are dying! Our whole world is over! You’ve set us back 500 years! You promised us a dream society that was all lies upon lies! We are all just dying!”

And the video of this wounded Gaza man crying out in the street was featured on the Al Jazeera network, which is inflaming so much of the hatred toward Israel in the Middle East and around the world. For some reason though the following words were cut out of their presentation:

X post 2Yes, the people of Gaza are waiting for a deliverer. And today the old Yemenite Jewish owner of our Ashdod home dropped by for a visit. He talked about how Israel too is waiting for a politician who can lead them out of the present mess.

I replied that we’re really waiting for Messiah. “If only!” he exclaimed.

Friends, we keep our eyes fixed on him. He alone is the worthy answer to the question: What are you waiting for?

Jonathan for Shevet Achim

“Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity” (Psalm 133).