The LORD is yashar

Dear coworkers,

Again and again and again we are being tested. The calls come in from Gaza: a newborn baby is between life and death. Only emergency surgery in Israel can save them. No one else is willing to take financial responsibility. Will you?

It’s hammering into us obedience to the command of Jesus which concludes the parable of the Good Samaritan: love even your enemy–don’t turn away–go and do likewise.

Two weeks ago it was baby Hassan, rushed to the care of our emerging partners at the gleaming new hospital tower at Hadassah in Jerusalem. Today Alena went there looking for him:

When Lou and I walked into the ICU of Hadassah, not for the first time we had the happy surprise of finding that a child had unexpectedly been moved to a general pediatric ward! “He’s too well to be here now,” the nurse told us. 

finding hassan

But her statement didn’t just apply to Hassan being well enough to move out of the ICU, but actually he was well enough to go back to Gaza! He had a final x-ray and then was discharged! The long awaited day for me came because after many visits of seeing him attached to medicines and machines, today he lay free of all attachments and I finally got to hold him!

hassan and lou

His discharge was a surprise, so Lou and I didn’t bring a car seat with us, so while she stayed with his grandmother and waited for the discharge report, I drove back to Jaffa to get a car seat, and then back to Jerusalem to pick them up. Thank God for the timing and peace of today; the report was ready just as I got to the hospital, and then we  arrived at the Gaza border 45 minutes before it closed for the day. This day was a joyful one, but I know it had the propensity to be stress-filled and exhausting. What made it such a joyful occasion was the body of Christ: our community at Jaffa praying for us as we drove around Israel, Lou as an encouraging and steadying companion, even my beautiful mum who is 7,000 miles away helped us today.

Because of the community of believers all over the world, we could revel in Hassan’s discharge for what it should be: a celebration of a little boy who desperately needed help, and by God’s grace received it. It was bittersweet to say goodbye to him and his wonderful grandma this evening at the border. But he is due to come back in three months for a checkup, so we will see these two again (I am very happy about this!). I remember meeting her a few weeks ago, tired and stressed after coming to the hospital, but today she exuded ease and satisfaction as she brought her grandson back to his parents. Praise God for what He has done in these past few weeks of Hassan’s life.

As Lou and I drove back from Gaza to our community home in Jaffa, the sun was setting on the horizon and the lyrics of a beloved hymn played in the background as the day closed: “I will not boast in anything, no gifts, nor power, nor wisdom; but I will boast in Jesus Christ, his death and resurrection.” We boast in Jesus, for his hand carried Hassan through surgery, gave his grandma continued strength, and upheld us through this day.  

Friends, with an emergency like this there’s no time to find local leaders to share a child’s story and seek the Father to raise up financial and prayer support. So far only $50 has come in toward Hassan’s surgery! So of course this week we were tested by two more emergency pleas, both for newborns in Gaza with transposition of the great arteries. The first call was for Mohammed, who was quickly accepted on Monday by our main partners at the Sheba Medical Center, where our senior nurse Diana found him and his grandmother waiting for surgery today:

handsome mohammed

Today was only my first day that I met them, and it was a real pleasure to be with her. Although I cannot speak her language, I always think that the love language is the best! The grace and the favor of God in us. Today Mohammed is seven days old, and he seemed bigger. He is so so handsome. Please join with me to declare his complete healing and quick recovery. Also pray for Grandma that she can have a good time in the hospital and with us when we visit them.

When the call came for the second newborn transposition Sheba once again scrambled to open space in their ICU, and thank God, tiny Sohaib reached the hospital on Sabbath eve, and Sophia was by his side there today:

sohaib in sheba

It was a true joy to see little Sohaib from Gaza today in the hospital. He is incredibly small, so that you don’t want to touch him even just to make sure he would not break! The reason for that is that he is a preterm baby, born at 35 weeks; but so beautiful. He is now a bit over two weeks old. How sad it always is to see when a child has to start his very first days around surgeons and nurses because of a life-threatening disease. It must be also very hard on the family, since his 26-year-old, now-healthy mother had also been born with a congenital heart defect and had surgery at the age of 3 months.

Little Sohaib has, like many urgent babies, a transposition of the great arteries (TGA). Right now he can only survive because of a little hole inside his heart, through this a blood exchange can happen. This hole is very normal for unborn babies, and usually it would naturally close a few days after their birth. So now he is on medication to stop the hole from closing, until he had a successful surgery. Let’s pray for a soon scheduling of his operation!

One of the best parts of today’s hospital visit was getting to know Sohaib’s grandmother. How lovely she is! She was so welcoming to our volunteer Margarita and me; at first just happy to see anyone and being able to spend time together, she was just joyfully chattering, even though we could barely understand a word. When Margarita started praying for Sohaib, she then suddenly broke into tears, being very moved by it.

May our God protect both of them and hold his hand over Sohaib during the whole time he will be with us.

And friends, let’s not forget our precious Reem from Gaza. Doctors in that same Sheba ICU have been battling for her life night and day for the past two months, without complaint or any extra charge. Please let’s pray for strength for them, and for Reem, to carry on.

Finally, Michelle and I will board an airplane in the morning to return to Israel, concluding our summer visit to see our parents, siblings, children and grandchildren in the US. We’ll launch this next season of ministry with a retreat along with all our long-term coworkers Thursday-Saturday outside of Bethlehem. Martha from Split Rock will be returning to share in her unique way how to support each other in humility and unity, releasing each other to walk joyfully in our individual gifts.

One of the highlights of the US visit was declaring to the saints at Malibu Presbyterian how yashar–true to his word–the LORD has been since our young family first set out from southern California 30 years ago this summer.

This message is now available online, if you have 40 minutes sometime this week to join me in giving glory to God!


Jonathan for Shevet Achim

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