Preparing for Pentecost

Dear friends,

At the Jaffa base we’ve been studying Acts as Pentecost Sunday nears; the Greek word used to describe the Holy Spirit is worth examining. The word is parakletos, which in extra-biblical literature was used for a legal assistant, someone who pleads the cause of a defendant before a judge. (It’s something similar to a lawyer, but of course that would be a weird translation if Jesus says, “I’m sending you a lawyer”). Some translations say comforter and others advocate; both meanings are implicit, and both cover what the Holy Spirit does.

He is more than an emotion or experience, and maybe the most miraculous work of our advocate is what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12: “and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.” The inherited curse of forever trying to be our own gods is broken by Him when He works within us to say Jesus is Lord.

The author of Hebrews links this inner change to the great new covenant chapter of Jeremiah 31:

For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. 
The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:
“This is the covenant I will make with them after that time,” says the Lord.
“I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”

God is conforming us to the image of his Son, the second Adam, through His Spirit. Without the Spirit, our faith would be another iteration of humans trying to keep rules and regulations in and of themselves. But we do not try to reach heaven with our works, because heaven came down for us in Jesus and dwells in us with His Spirit. He is the one who transforms us, engaging our mind and emotions by re-centering our lives on the one true God whom we know only through Jesus. May we give thanks this Pentecost, that we have a God who is always faithful to us (salvation is His work from beginning to end), and for the gift of the Holy Spirit who is the seal of our redemption.

Last week I wrote that Ahmed’s surgery may be pushed back due to the inundation of appointments lately as Israel returns to normalcy. It is an answer to prayer that this Sunday the hospital called to bring him for surgery! This was wonderful merciful timing as over the weekend his aunt really began to feel the strain of being here indefinitely while caring for an infant 24/7. His surgery was higher risk because of his many heart defects, but thank God the nurses reported to Yousef yesterday and Ruth today that he is doing well and hopefully will be extubated today:

His aunt was so happy yesterday when I saw her, and she has a good support system also as the other Gaza children Ziad and Hassan are right near her room as well. Thank you for praying for Ahmed during these past weeks. No one can tell what would have been, but because of the quarantine the Gaza families face when they go back, Ahmed staying with us and having his surgery moved forward may have been God’s providence.

I say this because this weekend we found out that Mahmoud who was at Sheba for three months died after returning to Gaza four weeks ago; our thoughts aren’t God’s thoughts, there is a point beyond which we can’t comprehend, why one child lives and another dies. But we can pray for his family, especially for his grandmother who was at Sheba with him and whom he knew the best out of his family, as most of his short life was spent in her care. We also can thank God for his life and for the doctors and nurses who fought to sustain it.

Mohaned, also from Gaza, had a bronchoscopy two days ago to attempt to open his right lung after both his lungs collapsed, and only his left one reopened. Doctors did not succeed in opening his right lung fully, but the procedure did help, they said. His beautiful grandmother sat putting him to sleep when I visited her this week. She talked about her other grandchildren, but then said this one, “he is inside my heart!”

Like many of the newborns that come for heart surgery, they spend their first months of life with whichever guardian accompanies them, which is very often an aunt or grandmother. I remember taking a course on the history of Judaism and one thing my professor pointed out when we read the story of Moses is that he survives because of the courage and compassion of women: the two midwives that refuse to act on Pharaoh’s orders, and instead of killing the Hebrew infants let them live; his mother putting him adrift in the Red Sea to preserve his life; Pharaoh’s daughter who takes him from the Red Sea and raises him as her own; and his sister Miriam’s suggestion that his biological mother could be his nurse. I see that theme played out at Shevet often as most predominantly it is women who come from Gaza and Iraq to selflessly care for the children, who may not even be their own biologically. We can thank God for, celebrate, and honor the courage and compassion of these women.

The mother of Maryam recognized that her courage can only come from the Lord as she was unusually calm while Mimi underwent a catheterization yesterday to investigate why her oxygen drops so low.

As Georgia wrote in her blog, this is Mimi’s fourth major intervention, and maybe this will lead to a fifth, being a third surgery. Please pray that God would give insight and understanding to the doctors as they draw conclusions as to why her oxygen is dropping so low. Please also pray for Maryam and her mother who have been so brave and have preserved through many hospitalizations.

Another valiant woman is the mother of Ziad; she faced her son’s heart stopping and his resuscitation this week. Since that episode yesterday he has been intubated, but today one of the nurses said that they hope to extubate him soon.

We can pray that his heart is prepared for this, and that his body responds well to breathing without the ventilator. We love him and his mother. I love her gentleness and her resilience, and I miss making Ziad laugh by messing around with face masks. I pray to hear his laugh again.

And lastly, our beautiful Khonav had another appointment today. Unlike most of the other families, this was not a last check up to get ready to fly home. She will have another catheterization at the end of June to see if her arteries have grown enough to do a second surgery during this stay.

After being here for so long (six months!) Khonav and her mum still have a beautiful outlook on their circumstances. As I’ve written before she is more akin to our sister than a friend, and maybe she should join our staff because she’s been here for as much time a long term staff might be! Please pray that God would prepare her and her mum for what is ahead, whether going home to wait for another surgery or doing it in this stay. May He bless this precious family, in the name of Jesus.

Have a blessed Sunday as we remember Pentecost. Here is a prayer for this day from the Book of Common Prayer:

Almighty God, who on this day didst open the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of thy Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Alena for Shevet Achim