Doaa's Heart Surgery

Kurdistan, northern Iraq

Joy Comes in the Morning

Posted on Wed, 05/17/2017 - 23:09 by Ruth Zellweger

"Weeping may endure for a night, but a shout of joy comes with the morning." Psalm 30:5

It has been my great joy to visit Doaa's family during my current visit to Kurdistan. There are so many memories connected to them, both in regard to their time in Israel, but also the recent visits to their home last year. I remember our first visit after Doaa had just passed away. The family was still broken-hearted, and though strong, her mother shed some tears in front of us, a sign that she considered us family. During our second visit in April last year we felt that we should pray for another baby for the family, and that this time there wouldn't be any complications as Doaa's mother has a history of miscarriages and giving birth prematurely. While preparing for another visit in August last year, we heard that Doaa's mother was pregnant again. This was beautiful news, not only for the family, but also for our community. 

Doaa's mother gave birth prematurely once again, and for a long time we did not know if precious Tina would survive or not. She has suffered many chest infections since her birth, and only slowly gained weight. During one of his follow up visits last winter, Jonathan found tiny Tina in front of a kerosine heater in a cold room. He realized quickly that Tina should be hospitalized. She had been discharged early due to hospitalization cost. A few hours later, precious Tina was back in an incubator in the hospital, and friends all over the world helped with the hospital expenses. 

Doaa's parents had kept me updated about the progress Tina had made since then, proudly announcing her weight gradual weight gain. They still feel so much part of our Shevet family, that they constantly invite us to come and visit them. And two days I finally had the opportunity, and it was a very special and beautiful time. 

Doaa's twin brother Haron and his parents welcomed me joyfully when I reached their house. We went straight to the room where Tina was sleeping. Seeing her made me so happy and thankful, as she is now a chubby little girl, doing really well. She still has some infections from time to time, and is currently battling an ear infection. But besides that she is strong and healthy, with a loud voice. She is a little fighter and I could see much of her mother's personality in her. 

I am praising God for what He is doing in that family. They have suffered many losses and much pain, but He also brought them joy. He has given them Tina. And Haron is such a sweet spirited and affectionate little boy. 

Doaa's family still needs our prayers, as they do not have easy circumstances within their own family. When Doaa's father is on duty with the Kurdish Army for ten days at a time, the mother is on her own with the children and does not receive support from other family members as it would be normal for their culture. There are broken relationships that need restoration and forgiveness. Please pray with us that Doaa's parents and the other family members would learn to live with and love each other. We know that true forgiveness and fellowship is only possible by knowing the Messiah and accepting His love.

God is at work. May we see Him doing more beautiful things in that family.

Reunion with Doaa's Family

Posted on Sun, 11/13/2016 - 21:05 by Rebekah Yang

After more than a five and a half hour car journey, and more than dozen phone calls between Doaa's mom, Hezhan, and myself; praise God eventually Mark, Virginia, Hezhan, and I reached the home of a very special family. This is, of course, the family of our beloved Doaa. 

For those who don't know the story: Doaa and her mom arrived to Israel for Doaa's heart surgery in early October, 2015. While she was waiting for Doaa's open heart surgery, she had delivered a premature baby girl at only 24 weeks gestation and a weight of 530gm in late November. Doaa's mom only had a few hours with the baby girl before she passed away. Afterwards, Doaa's strong mother, holding her grief, continued to take incredible care of Doaa.

Our precious and sweet Doaa had her heart surgery, finally! Afterwards, doctors arranged for her to have a follow-up catheterization for helping to finalize a solution to her heart defect. Unfortunately, soon after the catheterization both her heart and lungs failed. After a month of every possible medical intervention used to try to rescue her life, with tears and broken hearts we lost Doaa on the 22nd of January, 2016.

The image of Doaa's mom's pain and sorrow was always in my heart. It kept me praying for her and motivated me to want to come to Kurdistan. Therefore, last week when I heard she had a caesarean section for her newborn premature baby girl, I knew it was time for me to visit dear Doaa's mom.

We arrived to the hospital before noontime. At first, Doaa's mom was afraid the hospital regulations would not allow me to go inside of the ICU. After a few minutes of waiting and praying, I went in after her. All of medical staff were a bit surprised. However, I bowed my head humbly to greet them and asked them to allow me a few minutes to pray for the baby in front of the incubator. By God's grace, they did agree to this. Doaa's little sister was not intubated, but had an oxygen mask on her face. She also has a NG tube in order to be feed extra milk. She was born with a weight of 998 grams (2.2 pounds). After praying, I got an opportunity to ask a doctor on duty to find out the little girl's condition. He told me so far she is stable, but she is still very weak due to her prematurity.

I was overwhelmed by what I saw, and right away I prayed to our mighty God, through Yeshua our Messiah.

Thanks for all of you standing with us and praying for this little girl and her family. I do believe your prayers are supporting and upholding her life. My heart is singing: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Messiah Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)  

Pray for Them

Posted on Thu, 08/25/2016 - 16:30 by Sophie

It has been seven months and three days since our precious Doaa passed away. I still remember clearly; it was my birthday. I had the day off with Ruth, and we were in Tel Aviv. Suddenly, we received a phone call from Jonathan; Doaa had passed away. We immediately went to the hospital to support her mother and father. We wanted to support them constantly, letting them know we love them. More importantly, we wanted them to know God loves them even more. 

Last time we visited Doaa's family, they were still in heavy grief. The only thing we could do was to be with them and pray for them. A few days ago, we had the chance to visit Doaa's family again. The good news we received is Doaa's mother was pregnant! She is now in her fifth month. Previously, she has miscarried in her fifth and sixth months.
They are facing a difficult period. Doaa's twin brother needs constant attention and taking care of by his mother. The father is a soldier, so not always at home. So, Doaa's mother is often alone. She needs to be very careful with her pregnancy, especially considering she is experiencing a lot of pain.
Thanks to God we had the time to pray for them. Please keep them in your prayers. May God heal their broken hearts and give them a new hope and strength!

Comfort in Grief

Posted on Sat, 02/13/2016 - 21:27 by Agnes Bruna

First priority on our recent visit to Kurdistan was to go see Doaa’s parents at their home. Ruth, Jonathan and I went there straight after our arrival and a few hours of sleep. They live in a village and appeared very happy to see us. Our hearts were heavy joining in their grief, but we also wanted to bring a message of hope.

They received us with typical Kurdish hospitality--plenty of water to drink, a meal, tea, and fruit. We spent some time getting to know the family. Doaa’s twin brother is adorable:

Several family members joined us, and Jonathan (in Arabic) and Ruth (in Bahdini Kurdish) had long talks with them. We then accepted their invitation to sleep there – the men in one room, the women in two other rooms.

After waking up in the morning I spent some time “talking” with the father’s mother. She was very quiet in the evening, and unusually did not respond to any smiles. In the morning I communicated as well as I could in my limited Kurdish how sorry I was. She then started talking about Doaa and how much she missed her, and even cried a bit. After that it seemed like the barrier had been broken down. She insisted I sit next to her at breakfast, and kept filling up my plate.

After breakfast, Jonathan and Ruth spent some time making sure Doaa’s parents understood what happened with Doaa. They are still full of questions, and one thing is clear: nobody totally understands what happened or why. But I pray that we left them with the hope that Doaa is now with God. In my prayers I have seen her exuberantly dancing with Jesus, totally healed in heaven!

We visited Doaa’s grave (after admiring their lamb). It’s a beautiful remote spot up on the mountain. We sat and stood with them, prayed for a bit, and then walked down. I felt it was an amazing moment, full of healing emotion. Please keep praying for this family--only God can bring the comfort they need.

Grace Poured Out

Posted on Fri, 01/22/2016 - 23:20 by Lindsay Martin
There are times when we have to look outside of ourselves, ask the Lord, "What is Your will?" and trust Him to lead the way. That was how we felt yesterday as Jonathan drove to the airport to pick up Doaa's father and drive the short distance to the hospital to be reunited with his beloved wife and daughter. We didn't know what God had in store, but we trusted that His hand would be upon us and precious little Doaa.

His hand has been upon Doaa since the day she breathed her first breath on this earth and He was with her when she breathed her last, just a few short hours ago.

Sometimes we can't see or understand the ways of the Lord, why He would choose to save one and not the other. But we felt so strongly that He had something in store for Doaa--whether that was resurrection in this life or resurrection in heaven.

His grace was present while mother and father were battling with the most difficult decision they would have to make, whether or not to pull her off life support. To save them both from the guilt they likely would've lived with the rest of their lives, He came in and poured out His grace by taking Doaa to be with Him this afternoon, while all her medical support was still in place.

His grace was present when He put it on the hearts of the people working at the Ministry of Interior to grant permission for her father to come to Israel, just in time to say goodbye to his little girl.

Grace upon grace.

We believe that His grace is enough. We pray that His grace would continue to be poured out on Doaa's parents as we minister to them in their last few days with us here. We pray that His grace would call them to Himself, that they could fully know His love and mercy.

And His grace gives us hope. We have hope that Doaa's parents will know their loving Father. That they would find peace in His presence. And we have hope that we will one day be reunited with Doaa. That we will meet her again in heaven and she will run into our arms just like she's done so many times before, where she will no longer experience pain or suffering or disease, but instead will be praising and worshiping our great God.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain,
for the old order of things has passed away.
He who was seated on the throne said,
"I am making everything new!"   (Revelation 21:4-5)

My First Trip to the ICU

Posted on Sun, 01/17/2016 - 23:11 by Brenda Hofer

To be quite honest, I was nervous and anxious going to the hospital today.  This only being my second time there and never to the ICU - let alone another country and culture was a bit daunting to me.  The day quickly started with the joyous greetings of the Gaza families who were so friendly and warm to me evident by their many kisses and hugs. 
That moment was short-lived.  I next witnessed Doaa's mother pour out her frustrations and anger to Ruth, my Shevet partner for the day.  Ruth handled the situation beautifully and was able to diffuse the situation from escalating any higher. I next went to see Doaa for the very first time and was saddened to see such a tiny little body lay motionless on the bed. A nurse was changing some tubing of some sort and I was struck with by tenderness and care that she was giving Doaa. 

Doaa's mother, Ruth, and I then settled in spending some time together in the little ICU room with Doaa.  The most difficult part of the day, I believe, was watching and hearing Doaa's mother completely break down into tears into Ruth's open arms.  I could relate a little to what she was going through, remembering when my father lay dying in the hospital bed from colon cancer.  But it is a natural progression to see a father or mother die first in life. That is what we expect, not the other way around.  I could not hold in the tears for the next few minutes, just praying for God to give comfort and grace in these precious moments.  Even though the mood was somber, God's spirit was in that room.  I felt God was softly saying that He was with Doaa and her mother this entire time, even in the most difficult moments.  
After lunch Ruth and I came back to spend more time with Doaa and her mother.  It seemed like the air had cleared and the atmosphere was sharply contrasting with the earlier events of the day.  I sensed that Doaa's mother was a little more relaxed and calm.  I was able to see her smile several times.  She showed me pictures of Doaa - a dear girl with a darling smile and a head full of curls.   I continued to pray throughout the day that God's presence would be evident in this most stressful time, as Doaa's father is still waiting on a visa to join them.  As I left Doaa's mother, though she does not speak English and I do not speak Kurdish, we were able to speak the language of tenderness and love for Doaa.  I wished that I would have been able to say to her that it was a privilege and a honor to meet her and her daughter in these fragile moments.  I hope that Doaa's mother was able to at least feel that when we hugged goodbye.

Beautiful Ones

Posted on Sun, 01/10/2016 - 19:00 by Sarah Powell

The ones with tear-stained faces

The ones with trembling hands

The ones with weary smiles

The ones with many scars


Those are the beautiful ones


The ones with desperate minds

The ones with burdened hearts

The ones with crumbling spirits

The ones with crying souls


Those are the beautiful ones


The times when the mask falls off

The times when the facade crumbles

The times when the world is in chaos

The times when words won't help


Those are the beautiful times


The times when we don't understand

The times when we've lost hope

The times when darkness pervades

The times when sorrows encroach


Those are the beautiful times


Those are times for redemption

People in need of redeeming

Those are times for comfort

People in need of comforting

Those are times for restoration

People in need of restoring

These are times for salvation

People in need of saving



Those are the beautiful times. Those are the beautiful ones.


As I spent the last twenty-four hours or so in the hospital with Doaa and her mother, I often thought of the words of this poem. When Lindsay and I first arrived at the hospital, I entered the ICU doors only after taking a deep breathe, expecting that on the other side of those doors, I would need God's grace to help me deal with some intense emotions. And God so abundantly provided the grace that I asked for.

When I greeted Doaa's mother and sat down with her, I fully expected that there would be a feeling of heaviness in the room. But there wasn't. God's peace was so tangible. It was beautiful. And I knew that peace could only be present because of the prayers of all of us together that “have great power” in the lives of both Doaa and her mother (James 5:16).

Doaa's mother grieves for her daughter regularly, and she struggles with wanting to blame someone for what has happened. Sometimes she wants to blame the doctors; sometimes she seems to blame herself; and sometimes I think she fights against feeling bitter toward God. But I know that God has been working in her heart because she has not lost hope. Every time that the nurses came to Doaa's bed to readjust her position, or change her diaper, or bathe her, Dooa's mother was right there, gently and carefully helping with the process. And she was always attentive to all of Doaa's vital signs above her bed, which miraculously show Doaa remaining very stable. And her mother continues to ask us to pray. She asks us to ask you all to pray. And as I sat by Doaa's bed, praying throughout the day and night, I was overwhelmed by the sense that God is in total control in this situation. And He is doing something beautiful in the lives of this mother and daughter.

So I pass on Doaa's mother's request to you once again. We serve a Lord that has conquered death – a God for whom nothing is impossible. Let us pray that He would intervene in the lives of both Doaa and her mother in a way that would cause His name to be lifted high. It seems to me that the most perfect circumstances for God to intervene are those in which we have nowhere else to turn for hope. Then He is the only One who can receive the glory for the miracles that will take place. These are times for salvation – people in need of saving. And by God's grace, they can turn out to be the most beautiful times. 

The Hope of Resurrection

Posted on Sun, 01/03/2016 - 23:00 by Ruth Zellweger

As it is our custom at Shevet, we began our week with a special greeting: "Messiah is risen. He is risen indeed"! Throughout this Sunday, the first day of the week, we had many opportunities to be reminded of the fact that Jesus overcame death and is alive. After a beautiful time of singing praises to God, we watched a testimony of a woman who had been in similar condition as our dear Doaa. She was diagnosed brain dead, and doctors told her husband that, within the next few days, they would disconnect her from the mechanical ventilation. His response was to call in elders and believers from their church to anoint his wife with oil and pray for her healing according to James 5:14-16. After two days, his wife was sitting up in bed, disconnected from all the life-saving tubes and cannulas! We were encouraged by this testimony and discussed what we could learn from it and how to apply what we learned to our ministry to Doaa and her mother. Our whole group gathered around Erin and me to intercede for us as we went later that morning to the hospital to visit Doaa. Ever since Doaa has been in this critical condition, I have prayed many times over her, but I had not yet anointed her with oil. But before we pray for and anoint the sick with oil, we are asked to confess our sins because “the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” And so we prepared ourselves for that special mission, encouraged and supported by our family who stayed behind in Jerusalem. 

Upon arrival at the hospital, Erin and I split up to be with the two families we have currently there. I met Doaa's mother outside the ICU, and she told me that Doaa underwent a CT-scan of her brain earlier that morning. I went with her inside the ICU to see Doaa.

Even though she is in very bad condition, I thought that Doaa looked a lot better compared to my last visit this past Thursday. It almost felt that she is in a very deep sleep, and I saw so many similarities between Doaa and the other little girl that Erin and I had read about on our way to the hospital. The physician Luke's gospel recounts an event in another little girl's life. This daughter of the synagogue leader had passed away while Jesus was still on his way to her house. When he arrived at her house, he told the parents and the people who were mourning her death that "she is not dead but sleeping." And then he spoke to the girl, "Talitha kumi," which means, "Little girl, arise"! And that girl got up at once and was well. 

Erin and I anointed Doaa with oil and prayed for her, just before the doctors took her for another, even more specialized CT scan to know for sure if Doaa has any brain activity at all. Doaa's mother led the way as we went to the radiology department. She seemed so strong. 

It took nearly an hour before that test was done. About half an hour later, the doctors came to Doaa's bed to share the results of the tests. Basically, they confirmed what they had already assumed: there is no blood flow to Doaa's brain and "her brain tissue is dead." Doaa's mother started crying and asked many questions, which the doctors patiently answered. They also offered to take time again tomorrow for her to ask more questions. They told us that in other countries these tests would be sufficient to disconnect Doaa from the mechanical ventilation, but here in Israel that could only be done if her parents would give their consent. As soon as Doaa's mother heard that, she gave them a strong and clear "NO." She would not sign any consent, which the doctors had already expected, and they respected her decision. This really stuck out to me – that the doctors and medical staff truly go the extra mile to support Doaa's mother within their abilities.  

Before Erin and I left that evening, we gathered one last time around Doaa's bed and prayed with her mother that God would intervene and raise up Doaa. It seems that death has the victory. But we know the one who has overcome death, and he is able to overcome for Doaa also. 

Am I sad that Doaa is in such a bad condition? Of course I am, especially seeing her brokenhearted mother at her bedside. On the other hand, these are exactly the circumstances that our Lord can use to intervene. I have not seen her arise yet, but I continue to pray over Doaa, "Talitha kumi."      

Our hope is to get a visa for Doaa's father so that he can come to see his daughter and support his wife. We appreciate your prayers for that, as we need the favor of the Ministry of Interior. Thank you for praying for Doaa and her family. 

"I pray that you will begin to understand how incredibly great His power is to help those who believe Him. It is that same mighty power that raised Messiah from the dead and seated Him in the place of honor at God's right hand in heaven." 

Ephesians 1:19-20

The LORD is Near the Brokenhearted

Posted on Wed, 12/30/2015 - 20:34 by Ruth Zellweger

A week has gone by since Doaa had to be resuscitated after her heart catheterization. Her loving mother underwent an emotional rollercoaster during that time, from fear of losing her daughter to hoping Doaa would make it. The stress she is experiencing is hard to imagine.

The medical staff in the ICU is carefully monitoring Doaa, watching out for signs of brain activity. Sadly, so far they have not been able to observe any. Even though Doaa is without sedation, she is not showing any movement or reflexes. They do not think there is any brain activity at all. This news, of course, is not easy to communicate, not only because of language barriers. I am touched by the gentleness and respect the ICU staff is showing towards Doaa's mother. They give her space at Doaa's bedside, bring her water frequently, let her grieve and cry, and in general want to make this experience the least painful as possible for her. Her mother's heart cannot stand to be separated from her daughter for a long time. It always draws her back into the ICU.

We very much appreciated your prayers for little Doaa and her desperate mother, but also for her father and twin brother in Kurdistan, who have to deal with this situation from afar.

"The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18

A Big Step

Posted on Mon, 12/28/2015 - 21:52 by Rebekah Yang

Doaa seems remain in the same condition in the ICU, intubated and on the ventilation machine. After the doctors finished their run of all the beds in ICU, they decided to close Doaa’s chest which has been left open since her heart surgery Saturday. Doaa’s mum was very anxious and worried and began calling everyone who can speak her Kurdish dialect, Bahdini, in order to find out every single detail of what's going on. It was a very confused and emotional moment at the beginning. After I spent some time with Doaa’s mum, she was calm again and agreed to be patient without asking more questions about the medical procedure.

We left the ICU and waited outside at around 2:30 pm. At that time, Samar’s grandmother, Maureen, Erin, Doaa’s mum and I all held hands together to pray for the closing to be a good and successful procedure. During the time of waiting, Doaa’s mum was not able to sit or stand still but kept pressing the ICU door button, longing to go inside to be with her daughter. At around 4 pm, we finally saw a surgeon come out of ICU. He said the closing of Doaa's chest went well with no problems at all. It seems like a big step in Doaa’s medical treatment. However, we have to patiently wait for Doaa to wake by herself.

Doaa’s mum took this news well when she understood and then asked us to pray for Doaa without stopping. When we were about to leave and come back to Jerusalem, Doaa’s mum kissed Samar’s grandmother several times and hugged her with her eyes full of tears. Again, it was a very difficult and sad time to say good bye to her. I was wordless but prayed in my heart: “Dear Father in heaven, you love Doaa and you have healed her and sustained her life until today. Please heal her brain now and bring our sweet and energetic Doaa back to her mum and our whole Shevet family. Dear God, you know all of our hearts that want to see your miracle happen in Doaa’s life, so that she can be a testimony to glorify your holy name. In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.