We do not face trouble alone

Dear friends,

In “Letters to Malcolm” C.S. Lewis writes something that has been invaluable in my prayer life. The chapter is a recollection of one friend to another when they were walking in a forest:

“You first taught me the great principle, ‘Begin where you are.’ I had thought one had to start by summoning up what we believe about the goodness and greatness of God, by thinking about creation and redemption, ‘all the blessings of this life.’ You turned to the brook and once more splashed your burning face and hands in the little waterfall and said: ‘Why not begin with this?’… The cushiony moss, that coldness and sound and dancing light were no doubt very minor blessings compared with the means of grace and the hope of glory. But then they were manifest. So far as they were concerned, sight had replaced faith. They were not the hope of glory, they were an exposition of the glory itself.”

There is another passage from “Letters to Malcolm” that has changed the way I pray: “The prayer preceding all prayers is, ‘May it be the real I who speaks. May it be the real Thou that I speak to.'”

God has made me aware of how many facades one can have, and as I write this, I know that the “real me” is, like the other six remaining staff at the Jaffa base and the three staff in Jerusalem, very tired and stretched thin. It feels a bit like treading water. I couldn’t write about theology today simply because I haven’t had the time to contemplate it; I couldn’t expound on a bible passage because for a while I have been too tired to wake up and read it.

The bleakness of another total lockdown looms in the near future as corona rises in Israel again this time more widespread than before. But I thought of the great principle Lewis writes about above: “Begin where you are.” I am thankful for the beach across the street, for the sunshine, and by extension for sunscreen because I am very pale. I thank God that we have food, and air conditioning, and hot water, and a lovely little dog named Shevie that loves to cuddle. Thank you for the sacrificial love I have seen in Julio, Luzma, Lindsay, Amar, Georgia and Colin in Jaffa and Claudia, Berith, and Margarita in Jerusalem. Lord, thank you that your Spirit brings about in us the willingness to put others before ourselves, because that is who you are as we see in the sacrifice of Jesus.

Every morning we pray for the families, and especially that God will make a way, sooner rather than later, for them to return to Kurdistan. They are desperate to go back home, and there may be an option next week. Please join with us in prayer that logistically and bureaucratically the Lord would allow all the pieces to fit so that the families could return to their families by the end of next week.

All of the children currently in Sheba and Hadassah are from Gaza. The latest, newborn Saif, only arrived in an ICU ambulance late last night:

Saif was born with transposition of the great arteries, and doctors are assessing whether they can perform the switch surgery which if successful can give him a normal life. Saif still needs a local leader to advocate for prayer and financial support for his surgery.

One of the babies that came urgently last week, Khader, had the Norwood procedure on Monday. His chest has been open since, but hopefully it will be closed today or tomorrow:

Thank God for preserving his life all these days, from birth, on the ambulance ride to Sheba, and through his first operation. Please keep him from regressing, and may the staff going to the hospital be a faithful witness of the love of Jesus to his mother. Lord thank you for Georgia who was by her side for the duration of the surgery, and her selfless support to Khader’s mother.

Ziad also had surgery this week, not this time for his heart, but the first of two surgeries to help cure his Hirschsprung’s disease (a congenital colon malformation):

I spent the three-hour wait with his beautiful mother; I remembered when she first came to Sheba and Georgia and I waited with her for six hours for their corona test to come back negative. That day she told me he had many issues, and one of those was his colon. I remember her anxious eagerness to address all of his problems, and how after his heart surgeries, he was in a very bad way, and we didn’t know if he would make a recovery. But thank God for yesterday, that he has come far enough to begin surgically treating the other problems with his body.

For the past few weeks baby Fayez has not been feeding well. The brain scan did not appear to show problems, but this week the doctors ordered an MRI of his brain because of concern over Fayez’s persistent inability to remember how to feed via a bottle:

Please be in prayer for him and for his mother. We pray that there would be no brain damage for Fayez, and for his mother as she fears the unknown for her baby. Lord, would you mitigate any problems that are present with Fayez.

This week we also said goodbye to two babies both of whom were treated at Hadassah. Kamala came last week, but the doctors determined that she didn’t need to be treated with a surgery or a cath and returned her to Gaza, where we pray the Lord will keep her and allow her to grow and flourish:

And Aya was staying at the Jerusalem guesthouse since her discharge from Hadassah two weeks ago until her final echo on Monday. when she too was cleared to return to Gaza and come back in two months for a follow-up!

Berith and Claudia came to the car to say goodbye before I brought Aya back to Gaza. It was really special because Aya’s grandma felt the presence of God through the worship that our coworker Ruth played when she visited the guesthouse last week. We pray that that will not be an isolated experience but a life-changing event for Aya’s grandmother. She felt the love of God through Jesus as Berith laid hands on her and Ruth sang the Aaronic blessing.

Ruth has the gift of worship. She is a skilled musician, but more than that, her love of God is pure. Over the past ten months we’ve had the privilege of calling her family. No matter how tired she was, she was always willing to come alongside others and serve their needs. During lockdown she would make the every day things more beautiful by her selfless, kind, and humorous temperament. On more than one occasion she kickstarted a weekend cafe called “Dean’s Bean’s” (her family name is Dean), and we decorated the house, set up games and music, and had snacks and coffee. This was her invention and we forgot the monotony of not being able to go anywhere on the weekends. She was unapologetically who God made her to be, not concerned with the opinion of others but with what God has to say. She is one of a kind, and though we said goodbye to her as her chapter at Shevet came to a close this Sunday, I know we are better for knowing her. Ruth returned to Wales on Sunday night and God willing she will attend medical school after the summer:

When she got home she texted me a picture of the first chapter of “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,” as we share a love of those stories. The depiction of friendship in Tolkien’s books are what, I think, Christian friendship should look like. And in particular one quote from one the characters exemplifies this and what Ruth’s friendship looks like:

“You can trust us to stick with you through thick and thin–to the bitter end. And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours–closer than you keep it yourself. But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word. We are your friends, Frodo.”

God bless You, and thank you friends for praying.

Alena for Shevet Achim