New hearts, new home

Dear coworkers,

When I wrote you last Sunday newborn Zaed from Gaza was hours away from his life-saving heart surgery at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center. Tonight Margarita and Berith picked him up from the hospital–his pulmonary artery reconstructed, a shunt in place, and needing no medications other than aspirin:

When he was rolled back in his mobile crib, it was such a relief to see him again. It was hard to think it was the same baby we had visited a while ago. My innermost rejoiced over this adorable boy…

I thank God for Zaed’s improvement, and for all the love he has received through the marvelous medical staff. They are doing a wonderful job with all these sick children. Please continue to carry him and his family in prayer, and remember to lift up in prayer all the staff in the hospital also.

By God’s grace we had a place to bring Zaed and his mother tonight, since we took possession Friday of the beautiful new home for our Jerusalem community that I wrote you about last week:

Tomorrow we hope this will gave them a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the holy sites in Jerusalem before returning to the Gaza Strip. We’re all deeply grateful for these opportunities to share more of the love of God and his word with our neighbors from Gaza. The new home will also provide 14-day quarantine space for two incoming nurses Debi and Erika who will arrive to support our community, God willing, tomorrow and Tuesday.

Meanwhile down at the Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv, Georgia and visiting friend Dr. Elizabeth found our contingent of Gaza babies looking better and brighter today, including Mohaned who as of today has been in Israel for three full months:

Jalal, still without a local leader to advocate for his prayer and financial support, is waiting stoically for his Glenn surgery this week:

And most encouraging, tiny Khader–who earlier this month lingered between life and death for several days with his chest open–has “graduated” from the ICU and is now without oxygen support and crying for his mother:

Also feeling encouraged are the 11 families from Iraq and Syria, who finally have their air tickets for next Monday after waiting with us for months for the skies to reopen so they can return to their homes:

We’re expecting to have the mother of all farewell parties next Sunday night and will share all the joy with you friends!

Also next week I hope to have ready for you a summary of my quarantine reading about the community of the Essenes and their essential role in the start of the Jesus movement. Either I haven’t been paying attention, or this story hasn’t been told well enough. I’m often dumbstruck by some of the things I’m learning, such as:

**how John the Baptist’s diet points to the likelihood he was an excommunicated Essene;

**that the “upper room” of the Last Supper and Pentecost was a technical term for the teaching and guest room in first century synagogues;

**the possibility that Jesus and his disciples kept the Passover there according to the Essene calendar, thus eliminating the seemingly insurmountable chronological conflict between John’s gospel and the synoptics;

**and the light that the Community Rule scroll throws on the story of Ananias and Sapphira.

As those who watch the signs of the times, I also hope we’re paying attention to the Hagia Sophia church in Istanbul this weekend. The first Muslim prayers in nearly a century were held there on Friday, and hundreds of thousands turned out for the momentous occasion, with President Erdogan front and center:

The significance of this spot struck home for me when I visited and saw the circle still embedded in the marble floor where the Roman emperors were crowned (their empire, so significant in the revelations of Daniel and John, didn’t cease to exist with the fall of Rome, but had already moved the seat of authority to this eastern capital). For Muslims it was of immense spiritual significance when their caliphate finally captured Hagia Sophia in 1453; and it felt like a death blow to them when the caliphate dissolved in the wake of World War I, symbolized most clearly by the declaration that Hagia Sophia was no longer a mosque but now a museum. What then does the revival of Hagia Sophia as a mosque now symbolize?

But as always, we must distinguish between spiritual and political authorities, and those precious souls who live under their oppression. Erdogan surely does not speak for the Kurdish Muslims in his realm or across the border in Iraq and Syria, any more than Hamas speaks for our lovely Arab neighbors in Gaza, or the Ayatollah for the people of Iran. These peoples see the bankruptcy of religion firsthand, just as we do, and they long for something real. Our call is not to fear them, but to love and pray for them.

Thank you friends for caring and sharing, for our neighbors and for all these little ones our Lord has brought into our path. When we do it for the least of these, we do it for him.

Jonathan for Shevet Achim

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