Shevet Sunday - No distinction between people

Dear coworkers,

Do you, like me, often feel weak, discouraged, and ineffective in fulfilling God's purpose for your life? Embrace that feeling! It is our prime qualification: "God chose what is low and despised in the world," Paul writes, "even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God."

A few times this week I've seen so clearly that it is God at work in our community, and not we ourselves. A guest with us chose this resurrection week to follow Jesus down into the waters of burial, and up again to new life. (Click here for a fascinating look at the links between baptism and Passover). I wouldn't have expected it from this person, and I don't know that we did anything exceptional to make it possible. When I warned the guest that there could be religious opposition, the reply was: I've been reading the scriptures, I never knew these things, there is no mistake in it. I could only conclude that the spirit of God himself had intervened to open the eyes of our friend to the truth.

About the same time this week it became clear that our Father was about to take home to himself our beloved baby Shadi, following his second heart surgery. The mother asked us to bring her husband from the mountains of northern Iraq. With the interior ministry locked up for Passover week, I put in a halfhearted request via WhatsApp. It reached a compassionate heart, however, and was passed up to the minister of the interior, leader of an orthodox religious party in Israel. "Sometimes requests reach my desk that it's impossible to be indifferent to," he told the Hebrew press:

In these clear-cut humanitarian cases no other considerations are important. It doesn't matter who he is or where he is from, but the essential element supersedes all other factors. Of course I approved the father's entrance immediately, that's the least that could be done in this case.

When we received this unexpected word, there was just one barely-plausible three-flight connection that could get the father here in time--but the first flight was sold out. However the gift of faith was operating now; eventually it led us to a friend in the Kurdistan airport who intervened with the airline. The flight even took off a half-hour earlier than scheduled, which gave just enough time for the father to race through the transit airport and catch his second and then his third flights. Within twelve hours of leaving home he was by Shadi's side; his son's heart stopped just five hours later.

It was heartrending to witness, and also beautiful to see the love and support from the Israeli medical staff:

sheba staff

The father grasped immediately that everything possible had been done for his son, that regardless of his background he'd been treated as the most precious child that he was. As we boarded the elevator to leave the hospital, Shadi's father looked at me through his tears and spoke with intensity: "Don't ever make a distinction between people."

It was so unexpected to hear this from an exhausted father at the moment of his greatest grief. Again I had to say, this is the work of the spirit of God. There's no other explanation. 

Andrew shares how that work continued tonight as the Shevet community gathered around Shadi's parents to say goodbye:

shadi parents farewell
It was a very emotional evening as we gathered with the Kurdish families for dinner and a time of worship and sharing our memories, hopes and prayers with Shadi’s parents.

Over a meal of Kurdish biryani, I talked with Shadi’s parents about their home and hobbies.  We laughed and spoke of small towns, fishing and snow-capped mountains in Kurdistan.  It was clearly refreshing for them to have a small distraction from their grief.  After the meal we had a sweet time of worship, and as we sang each song, Shadi’s mother translated the lyrics of the praise songs to her husband.  The message of the carefully chosen songs was simple: “God loves us, He is trustworthy, and He wants to turn our pain into something beautiful for His glory.”

As we shared about Shadi’s time in Israel it was clear that the joy of this little boy had touched everyone he encountered.  Strangers on buses were drawn to his smile.  Even in moments of pain, his peace and joyful spirit had encouraged and sustained his mother.  

shadi smiling

Then she told us that his name means “joyful” and that, after he passed, she had a vision of him sitting in a beautiful place and smiling at her.  God had shown her that he was waiting for her in heaven.

There wasn’t a dry eye in the room as we watched a slideshow of photos from Shadi’s time in Israel with another lovingly chosen song:

Oh love
Like crashing waves of endless grace
You won't relent
Until all I am is Yours

You have my heart
You have my heart
You have my heart oh God
You have my heart

Oh hallelujah
Oh hallelujah
I found Your love
When I lost my heart to You

Finally this week, with our hope firmly fixed on the power of the resurrection, let's reflect on the outstanding essay "When Life Burst Out of Death" written for Christianity Today by our former community member Ryan Gregg:

Whatever happened here on an early morning very long ago, it unleashed from the unlikeliest of sources—a stiff corpse—an explosion of otherworldly power that today is still expanding (like the universe itself) and sweeping up souls in a wake of light...a voice breaks through that simultaneously brackets and beautifies all we could ever think, feel, or know: I love you.

Jonathan for the Shevet Achim community

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