Shevet Sunday - My God is too small



Dear coworkers,

The message came in last Sunday from Dr. Fitoon, a young surgeon in training in Kurdistan. Could we help a nine-month-old Arab baby named Mohammed? His young parents brought him to Kurdistan in desperation after doctors in Baghdad were unable to help him. A pneumothorax was threatening to destroy Mohammed's lungs, but doctors could not operate because he also has a heart defect. Only an advanced center could save Mohammed.

 
mohammed in hospital
 
It was a bold request from Dr. Fitoon. The baby did not yet have a passport. We stay strictly focused on heart surgeries, and have no agreement in Israel for discounts on other types of surgeries. And she said Mohammed had to travel this week!
 
But something about her faith that we and the hospital in Israel would help triggered a response. Maybe it was like Jesus and his response to the Canaanite woman whose daughter needed healing.
 
The Sheba Medical Center agreed Wednesday morning to accept Mohammed, and, hoping against hope, we asked the Interior Ministry that same afternoon for an emergency visa. In the best of conditions this has always taken a week. But in faith we went ahead and booked Mohammed's air tickets for Saturday.
 
Thursday afternoon I reached Mohammed's hospital bedside in Kurdistan, and told the parents that it would take a miracle to get a visa at that point. And we prayed together with them for one. 
 
The Interior Ministry was about to close for the weekend, and when I contacted them for a final check they said it was too late to do anything. Forgetting my prayer for a miracle, I quickly thought of what I could do, and changed the flight tickets to Monday--even knowing this could put Mohammed's life in further jeopardy.
 
Late in the afternoon of the next day, oddly, a text came in from the Interior Ministry--22 minutes before the start of the Shabbat! When do they need to enter, and where?
 
The head of the visa department had taken Mohammed to her heart, and went to the Minister of the Interior to win special permission for him to enter Israel. That started a scramble to restore Mohammed's tickets for Saturday. Why hadn't I waited on the Lord? My mistake cost $300 in extra fees.
 
Time would fail to describe all the hurdles that still lay ahead, after we put Mohammed in an ambulance to the airport Saturday morning:
 
mohammed ambulance
 
He still had to clear three airports with chest tube and a large glass bottle conspicuously hanging from the end. And his flight from Baghdad to Amman was late, with only a 30 minute connection time to Tel Aviv. Our Kurdish coworker Daniel was tracking the flight online, which prompted us to contact the airline and ask them to hold the connecting flight until he arrived. 
 
The final result: six days after first hearing of Mohammed, he was in the hands of doctors in Israel. We've never seen anything move that quickly here in the Middle East.
 
mohammed at sheba
 
There are a couple of lessons in this worth noting. It was a Kurdish doctor who had compassion on an "enemy" Arab baby, and turned to Christians who turned to Jews. This is what first gave birth to our community: recognizing that the unique goal of saving a child's life has the power to unite people who would otherwise never agree on anything. And I believe this in turn points to the Messiah, the greatest healer this world has ever seen, who in the end will unite all peoples and all things in himself.
 
And secondly, I realized today that my God is still too small. I say that he reigns over all things, that he provides, that he opens doors. But I actually live most of the time as if it's up to us to take care of things. I want to change, and finally rest in the knowledge that the smallest detail is really in his care. 
 
This morning I had to cross the chaotic Iraq-Turkey border, in time to catch three flights to get back to Tel Aviv, where our coworker Brenda is in what appear to be the last days of her life until the resurrection. There were hopeless delays at the border, and ordinarily nothing makes me more tense than knowing there is a plane to catch. But I thought of what I'd seen in Mohammed's life, and just threw up my hands and said I was in my Father's care.
 
The impact was palpable on the drivers and passengers who were with me. I think they were as surprised as I was that I could relax and trust God, and thank them for their efforts to help me get to the airport. And incredibly, I did catch that plane, after a wild taxi ride, with about two minutes to spare. I'm writing to you tonight from Brenda's hospital bedside.

Friends and coworkers, thank you for your patience with me--and thank our Father for his patience with us--as slowly, slowly we learn to really let go, and let God.

Jonathan for Shevet Achim

"Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity" (Psalm 133).