All we’re asked is to show up

Dear coworkers,

Today started bleakly. After a 13-day tour of northern Iraq, I landed at the Amman airport at 06:00 am and drove across town to the Jordanian interior ministry. On the way out to Kurdistan I’d filed a request there for the little Syrian refugee Rahaf to return to Israel for a second heart surgery. I felt then a new and surprising level of resistance, and when Rahaf’s father went back Thursday to pick up his permission, they chased him off with talk of a new policy requiring a Jordanian guarantor and a deposit of 5000 dinars ($7000).

After sleeping for an hour, I scraped myself off the front seat of the rental car and limped bleary-eyed toward the chaotic hall, where the unfortunate come to plead with bureaucrats for their personal status through little circles in glass windows. I could only pray as I walked in, Lord this has to be your power, I’ve got nothing.

When the man responsible for Syrian refugees saw me through the hole in the window, he laughed, and said “You’ll never give up.” And as I stood there looking blankly the pile of Rahaf’s paperwork started shuffling from window to window. By the time Rahaf’s father showed up the permission was in my hands. I’d said and done nothing. Sometimes all we’re asked is to show up.

Tonight Rahaf and father entered Israel, were met by Ben, Coby and Jana, and are now safely sleeping at the new Jerusalem base:

Friends, look what God has done. Let’s take courage, and keep showing up. Do you remember the story five years ago of the spindly baby Berevan, in a Syrian refugee camp in the dead of winter without parents or passport, and how hopeless it appeared that she could ever reach Israel? Today a colleague in Kurdistan surprised me with a photo, and the question “Can u remember this child?”

“Not immediately,” I replied.

“Berevan Syrian child. Today graduated from kindergarden.”

Our coworkers are experiencing these wonderful moments of grace day by day. Today, Alena writes, she and Ruth had the privilege of driving baby Hussein back to the Gaza Strip from Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem:

I say privilege because I have no other word for it. I remember when we were told he would most likely not live for the next 24 hours or survive surgery, and then he lived through both, and started to improve. What joy when we found out he was taken off the ECMO machine! Coby wrote in his previous blog that one of the doctors said Hussein was a miracle, and really it’s an incredible thing to go back and read his blogs chronologically, to see the stages of his recovery.

Hussein’s life is now a living testimony of God’s glory. We pray that he would grow up with an awareness that it is the Messiah who has preserved his life for a purpose. Psalm 116 comes to mind for the circumstances of Hussein’s life,“For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.”

Or finally, consider the story of nine-year-old Gashbin from Kurdistan, taken by Colin and Joela to the Sheba Medical Center in Israel last night to be admitted for open-heart surgery. She is old enough to be terrified, and couldn’t stop crying. Joela writes:

After a long time I was alone with her in the room and I started talking to her. She looked at me and tried to say something. The only thing I understood was the word pray. So I looked at her and asked if I can pray for her. I was so happy as she nodded. As I prayed she was very quiet and I felt so much peace in this moment. A peace only God could give. 

Today at noontime our coworker Julio, a fluent Kurdish speaker, was allowed to be in the operating room when Gashbin’s mother handed her daughter over to the Israeli doctors. Click on the audio file below to hear Julio’s description of the holiness of that moment:

Friends, when I sat down to write this letter at the end of the day, I was feeling tired and bleak again. But it’s good for the soul to recount the marvelous works of our Lord. I’m heading to sleep now with a grateful heart. Thank you for sharing in these stories with me.

Jonathan for Shevet Achim

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