Yara's Heart Surgery

northern Iraq


Posted on Sun, 08/28/2016 - 17:49 by Ruth Zellweger

It is always a joy to visit Yara's family, as they have become dear friends to us. Last week Thursday we were able to spend the evening with them, and we can only give praise for the things God has been doing in their lives. 

The family was enriched last year by beautiful Mina, who just turned one year this month. Hallelujah! Mina is a fast little girl and can be found almost everywhere. She especially enjoyed the company of our co-worker Hezhan, who has a sweet way of interacting with children. They usually trust him immediately, and Mina was no exception. 

Yara is now four-years-old and far from being the shy and timid little girl she was three years ago. Instead, she is funny and outgoing, and she loves to dance and sing. While Sophie was playing a Chinese worship song on her phone, Yara picked up the predominant word in that song - Hallelujah -  and, repeating it several times, danced to the song. Hallelujah to the LORD for healing and freeing this precious little girl!

It is such a privilege to be able to witness the changes that take place in the children and often the entire family after they return from Israel with a healed heart.

"Hallelujah! Praise the LORD, my soul! I want to praise the LORD throughout my life. I want to make music to praise my God as long as I live." (Psalm 146:1-2)

Good News

Posted on Tue, 06/30/2015 - 11:57 by Sophie


Two years ago we celebrated Yara 's birthday in Jerusalem with the Shevet Achim family, but this year we had the chance to celebrate her birthday in Kurdistan with her family and relatives. You can see what a party it was!

Yara's birthday cake that her parents ordered for her, in exactly her favorite color. 



Her wonderful mother prepared birthday desserts for her precious daughter; they were very pleasing to the eyes!



The birthday dress was accompanied by jewelry. She was so adorable!




The party continued going on, and the best part was Yara' s dancing! I was totally amazed.


I have other good news that I want to share: Yara's mother is pregnant eight months. Last year in October, we spent two nights in their house. One nightl during a long conversation, Kristina and I had the chance to pray for her. We prayed that God would take all the fears from her and give her peace and prepare her heart for another child. Two weeks later, she is pregnant! When I first saw her text message, l was so happy, I almost cried. I wrote back to her, "That is great, God really heard our prayer to give you a healthy baby!"

Dear friends, let's giving glory to our Heavenly Father and precious Jesus! When I saw Yara 's mother,  I reached out my hand to touch her womb. I feel my spirit is connected with this unborn girl. I fell in love with her! Thank You God, for this beloved girl!

They are all very special friends for me; we are engaged in the spirit. I believe God will protect them and bless them. Pleasing keep praying for them, especially for Yara's mother who will give birth in two months. May God's peace dwell inside her, and may the baby be smoothly delivered. Thanks to God for this friendship! 

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.

Joyful Expressions

Posted on Sun, 11/02/2014 - 11:50 by Sophie

Two weeks ago, Sophie, Kristina, Ruth, and Jonathan had the opportunity to visit Kurdistan, northern Iraq. While we were there, we got to see Yara's family, and we stayed with them two nights. I was very surprised that when Yara saw us, she just stared at us, however, after a little while, she began to play with us and follow us around. 

After we had dinner together, we went out shopping because Yara's mother wanted to buy some gifts for us. We appreciated that very much, but we told her that just seeing them was the best gift and she did not need to buy us anything. However, she still bought special Kurdish tea for us to bring back to Israel in the end. She also treated us to drinks while we were out. You could see on the street just five ladies walking together, which is something that you do not usually find in Kurdistan. Women do not usually hang out outside of the house unless they are escorted by men, so that time was a special memory and a unique experience for me.

We spent more time talking with Yara's mother, and even though we do not get to see each other often, we felt that we were free to share openly with each other. We asked if we could pray for Yara's mother also, and she shared with us some specific things that we could pray for. We especially prayed for God's peace to be with her and her family. I enjoyed all the time with her, even if we sat with her without saying a word. I remember one night, Yara could not go to sleep; we were both tired so we laid down on the floor together until Yara went to sleep. Then we were able to say goodbye to each other and head to our own beds.

Our precious girl, Yara, is growing up so fast. She is a very active toddler, and she was always running all over the room and was very curious about everything.

For example, when Ruth was brushing her teeth, Yara decided that she wanted to brush her teeth also and asked her mother for a toothbrush so that she could join Ruth.

Even though she was so active, she had a very gentle and quiet spirit. I have seen many other children her age who could not wait at the table for food, but she was always very patient and calm while she waited for food. Her expressions really caught my eye; I liked playing with her and watching her fun faces, and they always brought me joy and made me happy. Please keep praying for this precious family; may God be with them and bless them and protect them all their days!

A Kurdish Queen Returns

Posted on Mon, 10/14/2013 - 00:33 by Kristina Kayser

Whenever a beloved monarch steps down from the throne, it is often said that an era has ended. The same is true for our community at 29 Prophets Street, who bade an unforgettable queen farewell on Friday afternoon. After a four month reign in the Shevet center, lovely Yara's era came to a graceful end. And in the wake of her departure, we remember the sweet and lasting impact she, as well as her parents, had on each of us.

Whereas most children are usually accompanied by one parent, Yara had the honor of being escorted by both her mother and father. Building relationships with an entire family enriched our lives. Yara is the apple of her mother's and father's eye. There is nothing they wouldn't do for her, and journeys across borders to distant lands in search of healing have proved this point. Her mother's tireless care and affection and her father's protective concern further accentuated their deep love for her. When Yara's father needed to return home for several weeks, he left his wife and daughter in Israel with peace and a clear conscience. He later disclosed that this confidence was due to the fact that we had become family to him, and he fully trusted us. He, likewise, became a brother to us all.  Meanwhile, Yara's mother established herself in our home, making delicious Kurdish cuisine and even playing the perfect hostess when we visited her in hospital. Patience waned for both parents as time went on, understandably so. Nevertheless, each passing week provided the opportunity to walk with this family through their struggles and point them to the reality of God's love and faithfulness.

Another example which lends to the uniqueness of Yara's time in Israel is the number of medical treatments she received, in addition to the positive results that followed. She arrived in June, a frail and timid little girl with a mountain of challenges in front of her. Yara was born with several other congenital health issues besides her heart defect. And with increasing awe, I watched how God daily met her needs, adding strength to her body and joy to her spirit. In between two heart operations, Yara learned how to sit up by herself, a huge milestone in her developmental growth. She also went from solely drinking milk to acquiring an appetite for solid foods! Gastrointestinal, Dietary, Nephrology, and Urology specialists were all involved in this little girl's care, each one pulling for a greater quality of life for her. By the time Yara had completed her third (and possibly final) heart surgery, her increasing progress was evident to all. The cardiology team at Sheba were pleased to see her heart beating with greater ease due to a VSD closure and a determined effort to open her narrowed pulmonary artery. The fruit of their labor was best demonstrated in Yara's final days with us. Slowly but surely, she began to stand and bear full weight on two wobbly little legs. Tentative steps followed that lasted but a few seconds each time Finally, the perfect moment arrived for everyone to see what Yara had been practicing so hard to accomplish.

This moment happened to be at her farewell party held on Thursday evening. Everyone was gathered to celebrate the beautiful work that God had done and continues to do in Yara's life. It was a festive occasion, complete with traditional Kurdish cookies, music, and the company of good friends. Yara was swaying to the music until, suddenly, she wanted nothing more than to be up on her feet. Holding tightly to Madelyn's hands for stability, she proceeded to lead her escort around the room several times.

Yara's face glowed. Smiles and claps further encouraged her to continue her victory laps, much to the delight of her mother. Our community took several minutes to then affirm our love and support of Yara's family. I shared how just as Messiah was raised to new life, the gift of new life in Him has been extended to them as well. Yara's healed heart was a miracle and a beautiful gift from His hands.

Yara opened several more gifts that night from our community, which included a lovely hand-stitched quilt from a church in the U.S. Our evening culminated with a specially crafted DVD, filled with four months worth of pictures and amazing memories.

The following afternoon, we prayed for and said goodbye to this delightful little girl and her parents. Goodbyes never get easier, and I still find it hard to believe that Yara is not still here with us. Our greatest consolation, however, is knowing that Queen Yara's reign has not ended for good. Rather, she has simply returned to her rightful throne in the land of her birth... Kurdistan. May she continue to flourish, bringing joy to all who know her. And may her life never cease to be a testimony of the unceasing and limitless love of God.

Opportunities for God to Work

Posted on Wed, 10/09/2013 - 21:47 by Sarah Powell
We entered Yara’s room in the hospital today to find two very contradictory scenes. Yara’s mother sat in the corner crying, while Yara lay in her hospital crib, sleeping as peacefully as an angel. Her mother was distressed because this morning they received the news that Yara’s urinary tract infection cannot be taken care of with a surgery until she is older, so they must wait about ten years before she can be permanently healed of this problem. This was not the news that Yara’s mother and father had been hoping to hear. However, Kristina was able to explain to them that this is actually better for Yara. If she were to have a surgery to correct her problem now, she would have to continue having surgeries over the years as her body grew. However, if she waits until she is older to get a surgery, she will be able to get her problem corrected with only one surgery.
Shortly after Kristina finished explaining the whole situation to Yara’s parents, little Yara opened her big, bright eyes. Instead of being grumpy for having woken to so many people crowding her little hospital room, she smiled sweetly at all of us. And only minutes later, she was sitting up, clapping, and cooing along as we sang silly children’s songs with her. In between songs, she made funny faces at all of us and intermittently broke out laughing. As her mother watched her little girl, the sorrow started to leave her face, and she gradually began smiling and laughing alongside her daughter. 
Soon after, we received news that Yara had been discharged as the result of a pleasing final echocardiogram this morning. This was sweet news for all of us, and Yara’s parents quickly began darting around and throwing their things into bags, eager to leave the hospital. Since Yara is not having a surgery for her urinary tract infection right now, they are free to return to Kurdistan and hope to do so this weekend if at all possible. Her mother and father are both very ready to go home after several months spent away.  
Just this morning in our weekly women’s meeting with the volunteers at the Shevet house, we were discussing John 9, which tells the story of Messiah healing a blind man by wiping clay in his eyes and instructing him to go to the pool of Siloam to wash. In the very beginning of the story, Messiah and his disciples are walking by this blind man, and the disciples ask Messiah whether it was this man’s sin or his parents’ sin that caused the man to be born blind. Messiah emphatically replies that it is not because of anyone’s sin that this man has been born blind; on the contrary, the man’s blindness is an opportunity for God to show his power and be glorified. Walking into Yara’s room this morning and finding her mother so distressed made me question what could cause such suffering or how a good God could allow such pain in the world. But recalling that passage from John, I was able to look at the whole situation from a different perspective and see God’s hand at work in Yara and her parents’ lives throughout the time they have spent in Israel. When Yara first arrived at Shevet, she was small, weak, and fearful. Now, she has a healed heart, fixed kidneys, and joyful energy. More than that, God has been working in her parents’ lives to show them his goodness one day at a time. Just this evening, her father told Kristina that he now realizes that we at Shevet could not do the things we do without God’s help. And that is very true. Just as Yara and her parents are able to see God’s goodness in the help that they have received through Shevet, so each of the volunteers here is able to see God’s goodness in his willingness to allow us to be a part of the wonderful work he is doing among these children and their families. Yara and her parents are just like that blind man. Each of the volunteers at Shevet is just like that blind man. All of us are broken and do not deserve God’s grace in any way, but God chooses to show us that grace in his goodness anyway. Where we – like Messiah’s disciples – see only problems, God sees opportunities to show us his love and goodness. So, let us pray together that even as Yara deals with her urinary tract infection for the next several years, God will use that problem for good in her and her parents’ lives and use it to bring glory to his name through her.

Yara's Hospital Adventure Continues

Posted on Sun, 10/06/2013 - 18:36 by Kristina Kayser
Our beautiful friend Yara is back in the hospital once again. This time, however, her heart is not the subject of care. Now that her digestive system is improving and her heart is on the mend, God has provided a way for Yara's chronic urinary tract infections (UTIs) to be treated.
For as long as her parents can remember, thier daughter has battled UTIs on a monthly basis, frequenting Kurdish hospitals with high fevers and discomfort. Needless to say, they're ready for a solution. Yara's antibiotic-resistant bacteria required her to be hospitalized last Friday in preparation for an extensive assessment of her urinary system today. Yara's mum and dad have waited nearly one month for this appointment, and patience was wearing thin. So, you can imagine the relief they felt this morning to get the ball rolling again.
The relief was short-lived due to Yara having a complicated urologic anatomy. The specialist could not secure a catheter to perform the assessment. After multiple attempts that proved insufferable for Yara, the doctors decided to stop and reconvene. The decision was then made to try again with special instruments under anesthesia this Tuesday. Once a catheter is in place, doctors can move forward with the urodynamic assessment and then plan for a surgery.
By the time Sonia, Jesse, and I arrived, Yara was back to her cheerful, playful self. Her mother cried with us, remembering her daughter's pain this morning. Our comfort was welcomed along with the encouragement to remember all that God has done for Yara thus far and thanking Him for His provision. Singing silly songs and dancing with Yara also brightened everyone's spirits.
To walk with someone through their pain is humbling, as is the effort to inspire hope. May our source of comfort and encouragement be always rooted in the Lord. Please continue to pray with us that Yara and her parents will experience His love and faithfulness toward them one day at a time. 

One Victory at a Time

Posted on Sun, 09/22/2013 - 21:54 by Deborah Burke
Today was the day for sweet little Yara to have her first echocardiogram since her second heart surgery. It began as a very anxious journey to Sheba Hospital for Yara’s parents who were tempered somewhat by Yara’s rather large fan club – Nick, Hannes, Ruth, Mary, and Deborah. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait very long at Sheba before Yara was ushered into the examination room. Her parents knew exactly where to go and what to do, working as a well-trained team. Their loving concern for Yara exuded a palpable energy as her father organized to play Yara’s favourite music and her mother organized the milk bottle.
After completion of the echocardiogram, there was a small wait for the doctor’s examination. The team occupied Yara with music and dancing and succeeded in receiving smiles and claps from her. Everyone waited with bated breath while the doctor examined the cardiogram, and as he reported that everything is fine with the heart, there was a moment of almost disbelief from Yara’s parents. The doctor did mention that Yara’s pulmonary artery was a little small, but he expects that to widen as she grows. There MAY be a need to have further heart surgery, but not for 10 or 20 years! What a glorious report to receive at this time of Sukkot.
One more little procedure needed to be completed before today’s visit was over – removal of the sutures from the drainage holes in Yara’s abdomen, which was done very quickly and with barely a whimper. To complete the medical report for today, Yara no longer requires her diuretic medication but remains on her antibiotics for a urinary tract infection. She is to have an examination for her renal (kidney) problems in two weeks, and the doctor recommended a follow-up echocardiogram to be done on the same day to avoid the stress of two trips. He recommended follow-up echos when Yara returns home to Kurdistan, which we pray will be in the near future.
The relief was obvious on everyone’s face as we happily convened to partake in lunch together. 
This delicate little girl is a reminder of how weak we all are but through Jesus the lamb of God our weaknesses are made strong (2 Cor 12:9-10). 

Yara Back at Prophets Street

Posted on Sun, 09/08/2013 - 23:57 by Nick Boyum

Sheba Hospital's children's ward is short one set of dark, beautiful eyes and an accompanying toothy grin tonight. Praise the Lord, Yara was discharged in good health today, and is back at Shevet on Prophet's Street! Her patience was admirable as parents and Shevet volunteers waited for an early afternoon X-Ray to be examined and Yara's discharge papers to go through. Yara happily entertained us with her joyful laughter and even a short bout of hiccups which failed to take the smile off of her face, and increased the smiles on ours'. Due to the recent departure of several mothers and children from the upstairs room, Yara and her parents get the privilege of having the space all to themselves as they enjoy some much-needed rest and relaxation! Prayers are greatly appreciated, as Yara has a couple more visits to the hospital on the horizon, including an imminent kidney surgery in the near future.

Yara Feeling Great

Posted on Wed, 09/04/2013 - 15:03 by Nick Boyum

The morning after Yara's surgery found her oxygen levels up and her spirits even higher! If it wasn't for a web of tubes and wires confining her to a hospital bed at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv, I'm confident she would have been putting her bottled-up energy to much better use. But despite placing radiant smiles on the faces of her beaming parents and visiting Shevet volunteers alike, Yara's smile and beautiful dark eyes remained the center of attention. That is, until she couldn't resist the weight of her eyelids and quietly slid into a peaceful sleep. With Yara snoozing and her heart monitor quietly displaying the steady beats of a healthy heart, her proud parents and Shevet volunteers took to enjoying some quiet conversation over some Kurdish sweets and a couple hospitable cups of tea.

The mixture of anxiety and excitement was apparent in both of Yara's parent's voices as they discussed not only the possibility that the hospital may release Yara that very evening, but more importantly the approaching likelihood of returning home to northern Iraq! It was obvious from the various pictures on Yara's father's phone and accompanying stories that he had done a fair amount of traveling, but he couldn't stress any harder that he wouldn't rather be anywhere else other than right here by his wife and daughter's side. And even when his travels took him to England, Jordan, and even India, his mind was never far from his darling Yara. We could have easily sat and talked all day, but two new volunteers from the United States were about to land at Ben Gurion and needed to be picked up. As we were getting ready to say our goodbyes for the afternoon, Yara's eyes cracked open just enough to afford us a farewell smile. We left Sheba in hight spirits, excited at the prospect of welcoming smiling Yara and her happy parents back to Shevet very soon. "Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy all you up right in heart!" Psalm 32:11 ESV

Round Two: Surgery Day for Yara

Posted on Mon, 09/02/2013 - 22:21 by Agnes_Wiggers

This morning I left Jerusalem with Jesse at 6:30am to spend the morning with Yara’s mother and father on Yara’s surgery day. Dara’s father had been in Jerusalem before with his family, but had to go back to Kurdistan for a while. So it was a real blessing for Yara’s mother to have him there at such a stressful time.

Traffic was awful so we arrived five minutes after she was taken into the operating room, and her parents seemed a bit puzzled why we were there. When I explained that we thought it might help them to have some company during the long wait. They looked quite grateful, and got out their Kurdish snacks Yara’s father had brought and made some tea! Kurdish hospitality is amazing.

We had a good time, and I learned that Yara’s parents speaks English quite well. So we just talked and talked while waiting. There was even a moment when we discussed prayer and the difference in prayer between Muslims and Christians. They explained that their prayers are so difficult because of all the things they have to do (like washing and changing clothes etc.) before they even can pray. So I explained that when I pray, I just talk to God like I was talking to them. Jesse then explained about how God sees all people the same, as He made them all and has no favorites. All in all it was a good chat.

The doctors had warned them that the surgery could take between 3 and 6 hours, so we were pleasantly surprised when after only 3 hours and 20 minutes into the procedure, one of the doctors came out to tell us that the surgery went well, that they had done what they intended to do, and that they just had to close her chest. Wow, amazing. God is good!

When we went in to see her, she was still asleep but looked quite peaceful (and so did the nurses and doctors, always a good sign in ICU!). A short time later after everything seemed under control, and with Yara’s parents adjusting well, we left them in the good hands of the doctors and nurses.