So dearly to redeem

Dear friends,

As I wrote this letter word came that the Gaza baby Besan, who came urgently last week, died in surgery. As we waited with her for the death certificate the mother told us her baby’s life story; how Besan’s name was chosen, how she was after her birth but before she went to the hospital, and how she, as her mother, somehow sensed that Besan would die.

besanBesan’s older brother asked every day they were at Sheba hospital when his sister would come home, her mother explained as she looked through photos of Besan and her son on her phone. She returned home to Gaza with Besan’s body this evening to her three children and her husband. Please pray for them as mourn and honor the life of Besan.

Another newborn from Gaza named Hoor was on the way to Sheba via ICU ambulance today when she went into cardiac arrest and passed away. Please pray for her family as well, as they grieve their newborn daughter.

hoorWhen death takes the place of the promise of new life, we can remember our God’s response to the destructive powers of darkness was neither to recoil from the evil we had wrought nor withdraw from our compromised humanity. His answer was to take on our humanity and suffer all the very worst of the fallen world, and in doing so ensure that:

Heav’nly love shall outdo Hellish hate,
Giving to death, and dying to redeem,
So dearly to redeem what Hellish hate
So easily destroy’d.
(Milton’s “Paradise Lost”)

The apostle John wrote in his first letter that God is love. But in Greek there were different words for love. John tells us that God is agape, a love that is ultimately characterized by selflessness and unconditional. In “The Four Loves” C.S. Lewis explicates four of the Greek terms for love and warns of the danger that “God is love may slyly come to mean for us the converse, that love is God.”

God must define the terms for us, lest we should make meanings of our own and apply them to Him. So if the definition of love is God himself, then never for a moment can love be anything less than selfless or else it ceases to be truly love according to the Being who defines it. Paul outlines all that love encompasses in the famous thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians.

But there is a modifying term I’ve found myself using in talking with my fellow Shevet volunteers about love. I say it is the staying love of God. This could fall under the umbrella of love being patient, though another way to say it is that love does not leave when convenient. If Jesus left when it was convenient for him, we can tell from his prayer in the garden that there would have been no defeat of sin, death and darkness on the cross and at the resurrection. But the commitment of the Lord to his world knows no bounds, not even death as those bonds couldn’t restrain him.

Please pray that we can be ambassadors of this hope of redemption to Lalo’s mother from Kurdistan, who is struggling as her son was moved to the intermediary unit after surgery, only to go back up to the intensive care unit today.

lalo back to icuHe will be having a catheterization tomorrow to see if they can improve his condition. She is scared and concerned for his future, and was really crying today when Georgia and I saw and embraced her. Please pray that God would bring about a resolution to this, and especially for tomorrow as Lalo goes in for his cath.

Baby Awmed from Kurdistan has also been struggling. He went in for his second surgery on Monday, for a pacemaker implantation and closure of a hole in his heart, after doctors tried and failed several times to get him off the ventilator. On the day of the operation I hugged his grandma as she was following his crib into the operating room, and somewhat to my surprise she didn’t let go, keeping my arm around her and her arm around me so that we walked together into the surgical area.

awmed to surgery (2)I was surprised because she is a woman of few words, so it’s not always easy to tell how to best support her. No one should ever face that walk into the operating room alone, where they will kiss their child goodbye. As we waited together the thought kept coming into my mind Thank God she knows she is loved, and she knows Awmed is loved. Awmed is doing a lot better since this second surgery, and is now weaned from the ventilator:

awmed extubatedHis grandmother is very joyful about this news.

And doctors at Sheba are still working to free another Kurdish child, Asmeen, from the ventilator after her heart surgery:

asmeen postop
She had a follow-up surgery on her diaphragm this past week which we pray will allow her to breath on her own.

Baby Huda is also having a slow recovery from her surgery, and underwent a catheterization yesterday. Her mum was quite sad about having another procedure when Huda seemed to be so close to discharge last week:

huda post cath
Through the catheterization doctors saw that Huda should be started on a new medicine to help her vascular system; please be praying for this sweet girl.

Mariam from Gaza was here as a newborn in the summer with her aunt, and has come back for the second-stage surgery. She is with her mum thus time around who is quite nervous about tomorrow’s operation.

mariam pre second opMariam is now six months old and she is really big compared to when we last saw her, although her big brown eyes are the same. Please pray for her as she goes into surgery tomorrow and that her mum will have peace.

Our lovely Mohaned from Gaza is back with us in Jaffa, awaiting catheterization after hospitalization due to an infection in his lungs. Carina (pictured below), our German volunteers, and now all of us have taken to calling him schlingel.

schlingelThis roughly translates to rascal in American English or cheeky monkey in British English. We are so happy to have this schlingel/rascal/cheeky monkey back with us in Jaffa, and his beautiful mother who is like a sister.

Praise God, ten-year-old Aya (pictured below right) was told she can return to Kurdistan after her echo today! Her heart function is great and her mum and she are really excited about this news.

aya homeBecause of the current lockdown in Israel, there may not be flights for another few weeks, so please pray for the Lord’s timing and patience as they may need to wait. Two other Kurdish children, Ahmed and Shireen, also had really positive echos this week, and their next appointment in two weeks may be their last. The progress of these Kurdish children is really wonderful, we are thanking God for this.

Wasim from Gaza returned this week for pacemaker appointment on Monday, and stayed in Jaffa for one night and Jerusalem for another before returning to Sheba for his echo today. It showed his heart is continuing to function well.

wasim and momSeeing Wasim and his mom was like reuniting with old friends. Given his 12-hour operation and struggle to survive after his surgery nine months ago, seeing him in a leather jacket and sneakers looking like your average teenager was amazing. The night they came to stay in Jaffa they had been at Erez border crossing by six in the morning, so by the evening they were both exhausted. However, in the quickest amount of time I’ve ever seen this dish prepared, Wasim’s mother had whipped up the Arabic dish maqlouba for thirteen people between volunteers and families.

Please pray for Mohammed E from Gaza who has been in Sheba for two and a half months as he struggles with immuno-deficiency:

mohammed and fatherHis dad is very tired taking care of his newborn in the hospital, so please pray for open doors with the Erez border crossing as we look at bringing another guardian so Dad can return home.Ziad’s dad has been with his son in Sheba for several months, anticipating that Ziad’s tracheostomy would be closed, and the doctors have finally informed him that they will attempt this in the next week.

ziad and dadThe father has wanted this for Ziad before he consents to any other surgery, so please be praying that the procedure goes smoothly and that his body can function well without it. When I visited them his father said that because of the tracheostomy Ziad can’t speak, and he hopes to hear him say ‘Baba’ again when he is without it.

Lastly, Zaed was discharged from Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem yesterday evening after recovering well from his second heart surgery, and two caring nurses escorted him and his mother all the way to our van:

zaed returns homePraise God for the outcome of this sweet boy after his emergency surgery two weeks ago. May God bless their family as he and his mother returned to Gaza, where I’m sure they were ushered into a celebration of his homecoming.Thank you for praying with us. May God bless you.

Alena for Shevet Achim