We know the beautiful verse that inspires the name of our community. Today we experienced Shevet Achim in action. At the most basic level – we sat. We sat together. We sat together for nearly eight hours. We spent a portion of that time sitting with Abu Rahaf – but he seemed exhausted and noticeably anxious and mostly paced and went for cigarette breaks. And we sat as a large community, expressing loving support for Rahaf and her sweet family. We can not think of a better expression of what Shevet Achim is all about.
The gathering of Shevites grew and grew & at one point we snapped this photo that represented supporters from 7 nations – Columbia, England, Kurdistan, Syria, Germany, America & Israel. How amazing.
After six hours we were informed that the surgery was complete and successful. Rahaf’s VSD, the hole in her heart, has been completely repaired and she received a conduit replacement for her ventricular stenosis. An initial problem with bleeding was brought under control.
By the time we left the hospital, after eight hours, Rahaf had been extubated and was waking up, showing signs of the feisty little girl in pink that we know and love.
Grant returned to the CICU room one more time to say goodbye and was privileged to be able to pray with Akram before departing.
We are constantly noticing the high esteem that Shevet Achim holds among the hospital staff. In the ICU room Grant & Margarit introduced ourselves to the doctor as volunteers with Shevet. She responded, ‘Oh, I know who you are because you are the ones always standing nearby with so much concern and love for these children. I know who you are and I think you are amazing!’
What an honor and blessing to be a part of this day that the Lord has made. Who other than our amazing loving Father could orchestrate an intersection of lives such as this. Thank you Father, and thank you Shevet Achim.
The Jaffa community shared tender moments this morning during our devotional time together. After the security alert yesterday, we all affirmed our hope in the Lord’s steadfast love and offered praise and worship with the words ‘It is Well With My Soul’. Our Father is the source of unwavering, undeserved, relentless and boundless love.
Our hearts ache for the families in Gaza who are affected so negatively by recent events in Israel, and were reminded by Jonathan that the mission of Shevet Achim started in service to these people. Our study in Hebrews 13 began with verse 1, ‘Let brotherly love continue’. Lest we skim over this passage, we were reminded by our Palestinian brother, Amar that his Arabic translation for love here is Thabt – describing a love that comes from deep within, that is firmly established and unmovable. I took this message to mean that we are to love our brothers as the Lord loves us – unwavering, undeserved, relentless, boundless.
With that message on our hearts we moved into our daily tasks. We are local leaders for both Neena in Jaffa and Rahaf in Jerusalem and were so excited to see that both children in Jaffa this morning. Rahaf has come down to prepare for admission for her heart surgery tomorrow. Events transpired quickly and we were able to join with Rahaf’s Father, Abu Rahaf, Akram – transporting them to Sheba and completing all the tasks for her admission. Our team was sent off with a powerful blessing, a prayer in Arabic from our brother Amar and the whole community wrapping us in love, waving goodbye. Rahaf is a bundle of energy – only slowing down for a brief nap during the van ride to the hospital. At all other times she is on the move.
It was a bittersweet to leave Rahaf and her father at the hospital, but we reassured them that we would be returning in the morning and that we have shared with hundreds of friends around the world who will be praying for success with this surgery tomorrow. We know our actions fall far short, but our prayer is that we were able to show even a dim reflection of the Father’s love, wrapping this sweet family in Thabt. We pray that this sure hope reaches deep into the hearts of Rahaf and Akram, bringing healing and hope to the whole family.
In the early morning we started our way to Sheba Hospital.
Rahaf is not a morning person, she sat in the car, looking like she would sleep with her eyes open. In the hospital we met Daryan and his mother who were, just as Rahaf, waiting for a CT-scan. We spent the time with walking around and Coby played with Rahaf with a hand full of toy animals.
Rahaf did very well! When she went for the CT-scan we prayed together with her Dad. After she woke up from her anesthesia she was very hungry. She also wanted to run around right away but still had a little bit wobbly knees, so she couldn’t.
In this beautiful picture she is “calling her mum” with her toy-phone to tell her, the CT-scan went well. She also “called” me a few times and we had a lot of fun. We are really proud that she wasn’t crying much the whole day.
Back in Jerusalem Rahaf was happy to see her “big sister” Shahad again. The two of them are a gorgeous team. Rahaf is imitating everything Shahad does and Shahad cares wonderfully for Rahaf.
How great to know, that we can call our heavenly Father at every time even when we don’t have a toy-phone. So let’s call him and pray for good results of the CT-scan and wisdom for the doctors on what to do next!
Rahaf and her father are waiting patiently at our Jerusalem base for a CT which will help doctors study the anatomy of her heart in preparation for surgery. Meanwhile this newborn–who came to us emergently last year–has now emerged as an adventurous, fearless, and cheerful toddler. Here’s a sample of her playing with an inflated hospital glove with Johnny B., part of a group from Denver visiting with the Jerusalem community this week:
Today Rahaf had her first echo exam at Sheba Hospital. While we had to wait she was very relaxed and happy and ran around. Her Dad and I always had to watch her because she is exploring everything and loves climbing things. Especially she loves other little kids. When she sees a baby she always runs to it and wants to socialize. When you see her like that, you would not expect that her heart is not working properly.
When they did the echo Rahaf was not relaxed anymore and we could only calm her down with some music from the phone. The doctor decided to do a CT scan soon. Please pray for sweet Rahaf!
Today started bleakly. After a 13-day tour of northern Iraq, I landed at the Amman airport at 06:00 am and drove across town to the Jordanian interior ministry. On the way out to Kurdistan I’d filed a request there for the little Syrian refugee Rahaf to return to Israel for a second heart surgery. I felt then a new and surprising level of resistance, and when Rahaf’s father went back Thursday to pick up his permission, they chased him off with talk of a new policy requiring a Jordanian guarantor and a deposit of 5000 dinars ($7000).
After sleeping for an hour, I scraped myself off the front seat of the rental car and limped bleary-eyed toward the chaotic hall, where the unfortunate come to plead with bureaucrats for their personal status through little circles in glass windows. I could only pray as I walked in, Lord this has to be your power, I’ve got nothing.
When the man responsible for Syrian refugees saw me through the hole in the window, he laughed, and said “You’ll never give up.” And as I stood there looking blankly the pile of Rahaf’s paperwork started shuffling from window to window. By the time Rahaf’s father showed up the permission was in my hands. I’d said and done nothing. Sometimes all we’re asked is to show up.
We drove to pick up Rahaf, and there was a tearful farewell as mother and sister gave up their precious one into the Lord’s hands:
Tonight Rahaf and father entered Israel, where they were met by Ben, Coby and Jana, who came to take them to our base in Jerusalem.