Those Who Want to be Transformed

For you will go out with joy And be led forth with peace;
The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you 

Dear coworkers,

An extraordinary exodus of children left our community this week, all healed and joyfully returning to their families. 

Ahmed was the first to roll out on Monday, back to Gaza looking like a normal newborn after the emergency surgery to switch his great arteries:

ahmed back to gaza

  Then Thursday it was the Christian refugee Bella returning to Ninevah after five months in Israel; her mother’s joy coming after the heartbreak of missing her older daughter’s first communion back home:

bella and mom going home

And tiny Birhat, a fighter like his peshmerga father, returned to Kurdistan on the same flight:  

birhat going home

Friday it was featherweight Aram, a Syrian refugee with Down syndrome, returning to her mother, who said she was too excited to sleep the night before:

aram to her mothers arms
aram and sisters

And even as I write, year-old Ozhen is flying back to Kurdistan, with so much post-op energy that he couldn’t stop dancing at this week’s farewell party:

ozhen farewell

In years past an exodus like this would have emptied our house. But all it’s done now is bring us down to a somewhat more sane count of nine Kurdish children remaining with us in Israel for heart surgeries–and that only because we’ve held off on the arrival of the next six children whose visas are already approved.

This increase in numbers isn’t something that we are doing. But if we will pause in the midst of all the activity and take notice, we will say Look what God has done. Let’s ask for the strength and the vision to keep up with the works our Father is doing.

One reason I believe we survive is that we are a discipling community that spends the first two hours of each work day together in worship, scripture and prayer, intentionally opening our lives to the word of God and seeking his transforming power.  In some ways we are seeking the kind of transparent authenticity that can be found in an Alcoholics Anonymous/12 steps meeting. For more on this model see the thought-provoking article “Small Groups Anonymous” that appeared this week in Christianity Today:


…generally speaking—and amazingly—AA works. It has a theory of how people change and a set of practices designed to change real human beings. In this respect, AA has what the contemporary church, or at least a large portion of the contemporary evangelical church, seems to lack: a clear theory of personal transformation codified in practices and traditions that are easily accessible to those who would like to be transformed.


We try to share those very words when interviewing those considering coming out to share in the work of Shevet Achim: this is a place not to put on a mask, but for those who would like to be transformed. And friends, if we are willing to be transformed–no matter what it costs us–we may yet see the spirit of God working through us to offer the hope of transformation to other broken sinners in the Middle East like ourselves.

Jonathan for Shevet Achim

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