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

Meera was discharged from the hospital today, after three months of being honored and loved to the full by her father and by the staff at Sheba Medical Center. I believe that because of the love she received from them, she is a different girl than she would have been otherwise.

Sulaiman's finally in the hands of doctors in Israel. And the other transposition babies in his long-delayed group so far seem to be coming through their surgeries safely, thank God!

Sulaiman's crying awoke me early from across the hall in the Baptist guesthouse in Jordan near the border crossing into Israel. We’d been waiting there for nine days after all the other children in Sulaiman’s group of transpositions entered Israel the previous week. Now it appeared another week had passed and Sulaiman was still left waiting outside.
As I thought about his predicament I couldn’t go back to sleep, so I pulled out the computer and drafted a strongly-worded Hebrew tweet:

Sulaiman has finally made it into Israel for his emergency surgery! He joins some 17 other little ones whose families brought them to the Jewish state seeking new life.
Our tiny staff carries on until new workers are allowed into the country. Never has our Father done so much through so few:

The seventh transposition baby is still waiting in Jordan near the bridge to Israel. It appears that Sulaiman’s paperwork was simply lost in the shuffle, and our daily appeals on his behalf mostly ignored by Israel’s interior ministry.
What’s painful about this is it’s the exact opposite of what we see day in and day out in the hospitals of Israel. There the doctors–mostly secular–treat each child as if his or her life is the most precious thing.

When Haveen was brought to her room, I couldn’t see past the fact that she was gone and not coming back to this life. In those moments when death is just before you, maybe the resurrection, with all its power, is at the same time a candle which burns persistently and stubbornly against the hovering darkness.

We all mobilized and celebrated Pentecost today by welcoming the first four of the emergency Iraqi babies across the Jordan River into Israel!

Firstly, thank God for the approval today of the nine new Kurdish children, seven of whom need emergency surgery to switch their great arteries. I want to express how it is truly a privilege to work with the Sheba Medical Center; with these nine new families, the total number of Kurdish families in country will be 22 and Gaza families are five (two of which are remaining in country due to the fighting which has closed the Erez border crossing). The staff at Sheba are not just partners but also dear friends, many of whom make themselves available to help us around the clock.

What a picture! Even as rockets from Gaza are falling all around them, the medical staff and volunteers in the bowels of the hospital are doing everything possible to protect and cheer their little patients:

This week we saw in a new way the incredible significance of a Jewish surgeon performing a cardiac surgery for a baby from the Gaza Strip–even as the rocket sirens blared throughout Tel Aviv and the surrounding cities.

The force of the words which the father speaks over his returned prodigal son in Luke 15 were imbued with new and deeper meaning as Salwa’s mother ushered co-worker Georgia and me into her hospital room to see her baby awake and well: "For this son of mine was dead and is alive again." 

One of the Kurdish parents said that you don’t have to ask how Salwa is doing, just look at her mother’s face (below middle) and you’ll know!

I wrote you a week ago on the eve of Salwa’s switch surgery, the last such surgery to be done for the six babies now in Israel who were born with transposition of the great arteries. And I suggested we could “relax a little” about rushing the next seven transpositions babies to Israel, since doctors seemed to believe Salwa would do well despite the delay in her arrival.

Well it’s been a non-stop fight for her life since then. For the last six days her heart and lungs were working only with support of an ECMO device, the last-gasp measure for both critical cardiac and COVID patients. Today Georgia was there when doctors tried to wean Salwa from the ECMO, which only succeeds in about 50% of cases:

Salwa’s mother bravely faced the day with desperate prayers, repeated over and over, laced with tears, gasping for breath and willing with every part of her, the healing and life of her baby. She understands that Salwa’s heart is weak and that her body is struggling. It was so sad to see Salwa’s beautiful mother’s heart being wrenched with fear for her daughter’s life:

It was during the Shabbat meal, the first with the remaining families out of quarantine, when one of the Kurdish mothers in hospital called to say Yousif was not well and was having a procedure. His oxygen was dropping into the thirties. For a few minutes Georgia and I hesitated whether we needed to go, but then she said one very definitive thing that put it beyond a doubt: If Yousif’s mother was my sister I would be there.

Thank you for praying for the needs of our community; as seven more urgent Iraqi children’s visa applications are going in to the Ministry of the Interior in Israel, we bear in mind the difference it will mean for each of those lives if everything is approved in the next weeks:

After we took in an incredible 15 emergency babies from Iraq in the last month, the Father has now gifted us with seven more newborns with transposition of the great arteries–all of whom can have a normal life only if they reach Israel for arterial switch surgery in the next few weeks.
Meanwhile the first of the 15 urgent babies from the past month was today already discharged to return to Kurdistan, and Georgia reports it is none other than newborn Mina, whose own transposition story we’ve been following from week to week:

We stayed for a few hours walking up and down the street, the mothers were filming and taking so many pictures. It was a time of genuine fellowship. Georgia and I looked back on last night and wondered where the strength let alone desire to bring the families for an outing and stay out late into the evening came from. These weeks have been so busy that it seems improbable we would have that sort of energy, so we deemed it truly a work of the Holy Spirit; left to our own devices, we would have been back by nine. But last night eating ice cream with everyone out on Jaffa Street in the midst of Independence Day parties is something we will all remember and treasure; truly, behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers and sisters to dwell together in unity.

I left you last Sunday with Alena and Georgia rushing newborn Yazidi refugee Hena to Sheba Medical Center after she landed at Ben Gurion airport; she had her surgery Wednesday, and Alena found Hena today drinking milk and breathing on her own with only a little supplemental oxygen:

Because of a deterioration in her condition while traveling, Khanda was taken straight from the Israeli border to Sheba Medical Center where doctors were waiting for her. Her oxygen was fluctuating and dropping to below 50%, which is life-threatening, while she was in the ER. Compare the color of her hands to the color of Georgia's hand in this photo:

Shevet Achim communities help children from Gaza, Iraq and Syria come to Israel for open-heart surgeries. The first community formed in 1994 in response to the plea of a mother who came to Israel seeking life-saving treatment for her son at a cost of $64,000:

“Will you help us?”

Few of us have the resources to respond to a request like that. But we found if one person will hear that question–and then pray, give whatever they have, and share the child’s story–our Father will form a rescue community that unites all kinds of people around the shared goal of saving a child’s life. And doctors and hospitals in Israel are ready to partner with us and take more than half of the costs on themselves.

Here are some of the families of children who are asking the same question today: “Will you help us?”

How it Works:

Each of these children is invited for heart surgery in one of Israel’s largest hospitals, the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv, or Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. If God gives you the faith to intercede for one of these boys or girls, you can apply to become a local leader. When approved you’ll be given your own page on this website through which you can call together friends, family, and neighbors, to join you in meeting the financial goal. Everyone agrees that a child’s life should be saved–you’ll find yourself partnering with people you never would have expected! You’ll share with them regular updates on your child’s progress, including updates sent from the Shevet Achim community in Israel. And you’ll be invited to come and personally meet your child while he or she is in Israel for surgery.

Here’s how you can get started.

And here are the stories of the children now in Israel: