His glory in our valleys

Dear friends,

Today Ruth, Anna, Markus, and Colin organized a painting activity with the families. They sent pictures to our group chat and as I flipped through there was one that deeply moved me: it was Maryam’s mother holding a painting with the words, “if the god was with us who can be against us.” I will admit I wanted to cry looking at this image. She is a fellow believer and her faith encouraged my own.

If you look through my search history on my phone, multiple times a day I check the news for more information about the coronavirus, to check the death tolls, the number of people infected. I see governments once high and mighty being brought down in desperation and confusion, unable to actually help their own citizens, much of the time because of their own stubborn, partisan agendas. But these words written in paint by a woman my own age gave me the simple truth that all the news outlets in the world cannot give: God is for us. No earthly enemy, not death or disease, can stand before him. He broke the power of those things on the cross. Paul writes in Romans,

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I don’t feel like a conqueror when I frantically check the news every ten minutes, and neither am I acting like one who has been adopted into a kingdom that cannot be shaken. But this picture of Maryam’s gave me courage, a reminder of the steadfast assurance of Jesus, “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Please join us in praying for our world, for its redemption, for the Lord to ease the suffering of those who are sick, and to give us courage to be selfless and oriented towards others in this time of worry. And also please pray with us for our families who are separated from their loved ones.

Please pray for Thabet, a three-year-old boy from Hebron. Though he is from neither Gaza or Kurdistan, his family appealed to Jonathan for help, and Sheba was willing to take him.

Now, although he is stable, he is intubated and his condition is not good. The doctors say his lungs need to rest before they can go ahead with a procedure for him. On Monday his parents introduced themselves when I was sitting outside the ICU; they showed me Jonathan’s whatsapp picture and asked if I was with that organization! We spent a few hours together, and they told me about Thabet and showed me videos of him from before at home, and now sedated and intubated. One video showed him playing with his baby brother, and at one point he speaks to his mum holding the phone. She replayed the sound of his voice a few times, and clutched the phone to her chest. She kept saying she couldn’t believe how he was.

His mother told me and Georgia that they lost their oldest daughter when she was nearly four, and ever since then she has been so sad inside. She described how she was before her daughter’s death, and it was a picture of a vibrant young woman who was a doting mother. But now bereavement is always with her, and in light of Thabet’s condition, what if she experiences this again?  Please hold Thabet and his family in your prayers. May the Son of David have mercy on them; heal Thabet, bring him through this and be glorified in his life.

God willing Wasim from Gaza is going to have surgery tomorrow, please pray that the operation will achieve the goal of a fully-functioning heart. And in addition to this, Wasim has been lethargic and sad this week as he waits for the surgery in the hospital.

We’ve not been able to see him due to the COVID-19 restrictions of the ICU, but the staff have told us he is struggling. Please pray for this beautiful boy, and his mum who is anxious for the surgery

Our lovely Asmaa is recovering after her second surgery; they were able to repair the valve instead of putting in an artificial one, which will be better for her in the future. Now let’s pray it holds and continues to work and that her body can adapt to this new function.

We also have God to thank for how her grandmother is doing; she no longer reports any stomach pain and is taking some medicine regularly to help her. In these moments, you realize just how fragile our humanity is. The fact that Asmaa’s valve was repaired and that her grandmother’s stomach pain was not a fatal disease is God’s common grace; it is also a reminder that we should seek to steward the time we have been given well and worship him for all the things he does which we do not even see.

There has been an onslaught of good news for many of our families at the house, especially that Adam and Imdad were discharged from the hospital to return to the Jaffa base this week! Both families were very happy to come back and it’s good for them to be connected with the other families as well. I think of Imdad and Khalid who can now enjoy their time here not in the anticipation of a major surgery, but in the peaceful stead of having it over with. Adam’s mum also has missed the fellowship of women at the house, and we pray that although there is so much going on in the world and with their own children, they can see Shevet as a haven and a home.

For Khalid, Iman, and Lawi there has been the wonderful news that cardiologically, they are well enough to go back to Kurdistan. But because there are no flights, their homecoming is delayed for the foreseeable future. Even in the midst of a world crisis like COVID-19, God sees these families longing to return to their loved ones, we trust that they are not overlooked by him, and his plans and purposes are for good.

I also ask your prayers for our Gaza team, Lindsay, Amar, and Yousef. Much of their work in scheduling families to come out for treatment has been halted because the border of Israel is now closed except for urgent cases. Particularly to remember Amar as he must call the families whose appointments have been cancelled and let them know not to come; this is an exhausting task and one that is very hard.

Please pray for God’s wisdom as Amar speaks to these many families, and for the Lord to protect his heart. May he feel love and peace towards each person he talks with.

Although for many of us this time feels unprecedented, one only needs to look back in history to realize that actually pandemics every number of years were quite normal. I was reading a Puritan prayer that, much like Maryam’s mother’s painting, brought the deep reassurance of the good kingship of Jesus:

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from the deepest wells,
deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter
Thy stars shine;

Let me find Thy light in my darkness,
Thy life in my death,
Thy joy in my sorrow,
Thy grace in my sin,
Thy riches in my poverty,
Thy glory in my valley.

May His glory be in our valleys,

Alena for Shevet Achim