Shevet Pentecost: A new community

The Shavuot/Pentecost holy day has ended here in Israel with the setting of the sun:

end of shavuot

I snapped this picture just as we finished our annual community gathering for worship and study about Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit; the three Kurdish families in the foreground are returning from the beach to join us for a delicious holiday-ending meal of Middle Eastern dolma.

It’s been a significant week of learning and transformation for our community. Members say we’ve been given “a new way of thinking,” “a new way of living,” even “a new community.” The catalyst for this was a visit from our sister Martha, who together with her husband Tim also helped spark our launch into Gaza more than two decades ago:


What did Martha do? She shared a simple, biblical message of the members of the body of Messiah accepting each other as they were created, with all their strengths and weaknesses, without judging one another, and learning how to work together in unity. Often she led us in this exercise through willingness to reveal her own weaknesses. It soon became apparent that she was truly connecting with members of our community at our point of need. She helped us focus on the one necessary requirement for entering and remaining in our community (and in the kingdom of God, for that matter): a heart of humility. If your church, group or workplace wants to grow together in love and unity, we highly recommend Tim and Martha and Split Rock Coaching.

And when we turned today to Jesus’ great explanation of the role of the Holy Spirit in John 14-17, we found that his concluding prayer came to settle on the same message of unity: “…that they may be one as we are one–I in them and you in me–that they may be perfectly united, so that the world may know that you sent me and have loved them just as you have loved me.”

The Middle East of today looks almost as daunting to us as the Mediterranean world must have looked to Jesus’ disciples. How will this world possibly come to know that the Father has sent Jesus? We’re putting aside all our strategizing and dreaming, to focus on the one thing that Jesus focused on: “This is my command to you: love one another.” May God’s spirit in truth empower us to live this out.

And how about an orthodox Jewish rabbi commenting on Shavuot, speaking of our need to be “combustible,” and even managing to work in a quote from the New Testament? You may be surprised to read “Is the Torah divine? Thoughts for Shavuot on combustibility.”

Alena’s just back from a late-night surgery admission for Marya, the Iraqi Arab girl pictured above with Martha at her first birthday party:

In the evening after a double Shabbat, a few of us from the Shevet base gathered at the car to pray for little Marya as Georgia and I were about to drive her to the hospital to be admitted for surgery tomorrow. The whole process went smoothly; the car ride was filled with Marya’s mom video chatting family to tell them she was going to the hospital for Marya’s operation tomorrow, they had a room ready and waiting for her, and they did an ecg and x-ray within the first hour of being there. The nurse asking preliminary questions remembered Marya, and other nurses came into say hi because they too knew her from her first surgery. And this is the norm for her–Marya and her mom are beloved and so special.

marya to third surgery

Please join with us in praying for the peace of Jesus, which surpasses all understanding and remains through all circumstances to be with Marya’s mum through the Holy Spirit tomorrow during her daughter’s surgery, and for precious Marya we ask our Father to watch over His daughter as she undergoes the Glenn procedure where the surgeon will take her superior vena cava and attach it to her pulmonary artery which makes blood from the upper parts of her body go directly to her lungs, and therefore bypassing her heart. This procedure is the second part of three step process; the third of which, God willing, she will have in a few years.  So we ask all this from the Great Physician, little Marya’s healer.

Marya’s surgery will be at our main partner hospital, the Sheba Medical Center, which is Israel’s largest. This week I had a lovely meeting with Sheba’s VP for finance, to close out loose ends from 2018. Sheba’s administration has compromised on point after point to help us get the billing for each child’s heart surgery down to a cost of about $8500 (the list price for an Israeli child is $22,500!). After a few miscellaneous items, the last sticking point from 2018 was the billing for hundreds of outpatient visits for echocardiograms, CTs, MRIs, emergency room visits, etc. We agreed orally a year ago that these too should be included in the package price, but the administrators had forgotten and were now asking us for a total of nearly $80,000. 

I told them that we are here to support them in their outreach to their neighbors, and that with God’s help we will always honor our commitments, and never come back asking for further deductions. And I also told them that in this case I was sure of their commitment not to charge for these visits. Finally the VP came back in typical Israeli fashion: “Nu–we have to have something. How about 100,000 shekels (about $28,000)?”

I’m praying and trusting that God’s spirit is with us and teaching us, for at that moment I felt it was right to agree. I hope that going the extra mile for Sheba will strengthen our relationship for the next time (probably tomorrow) when we come to them with another request for a big discount to help the poorest of our neighbors.

So I’m in the humbling place tonight of sharing this unexpected need for funds, particularly after last week’s letter headlined “Please don’t send a contribution.” Yes, it’s true that we’re asking God to raise up local leaders with faith to call their community together and cover all the needs for one child. But evidently we do still depend on individuals and individual contributions; any who’d like to help with this last request of Sheba for 2018 can do so through this link.

Thank you for your love and patience.

Jonathan for Shevet Achim

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