Healing Hearts and Saving Lives

When I was in Jerusalem a few weeks ago, I paid a visit to Shevet Achim. I don’t know of any ministry that more powerfully brings enemies together with the love of Christ.

Shevet Achim brings Palestinian and Iraqi children with heart defects to Israel for life-saving surgeries by a team of Jewish doctors. When families come from enemy nations and discover the compassion that Jews have for the suffering of their children, hearts are healed of hatred. (Shevet achim means “brothers dwelling together,” a reference to Psalm 133.) The Christians that head up this ministry explain they do this out of obedience to Jesus, who taught his disciples that they should love their enemies.

When I was there I met some of the Iraqi mothers cooking lunch and saw a couple of children that hadn’t had surgery yet. They were playful and seemed well, but I was told that if they cry or over-exert themselves, they can have a “cyanotic spell” – a drop in oxygen in the blood that causes them to pass out and can cause death. The children often have bluish lips and fingertips, and the fingers can become quite clubbed.

Bahzan's blue fingersJust a few days before I visited they brought in Bahzad, a six-year-old from northern Iraq whose fingers were quite blue. He nearly died just as he arrived at the hospital, but they rushed him into emergency surgery and saved his life. Afterward his fingers and lips were quite pink, showing that his repaired heart was now amply supplying oxygen to his tissues. You can read Bahzad’s remarkable story here.

Jonathan Miles, the founder and director of the ministry, told me about one day years ago when he was in Gaza. He was at a police station waiting for a family when a fearsome-looking man glared at him from across the room. The hulking man approached Jonathan and verbally assaulted him for several minutes, demanding to know why he had come to Gaza. (Jonathan later learned that he was a member of a terrorist organization, and even being recruited to be a suicide bomber.)

Jonathan MilesJonathan explained his mission, that he was expecting meet the family of a child needing surgery. It was getting late though, and they hadn’t yet arrived.

His questioner’s hostility deflated like a balloon pricked with a pin! Eager to help, he took Jonathan from house to house in order to hunt for the family. Jonathan and he have since become friends, and the man avidly seeks to know more about Jesus.

That is the power of one obedient disciple — that by his example he could reach a would-be murderer, and cause him to consider following Christ.


8 Responses to “Healing Hearts and Saving Lives”

  1. 1
    Ted M. Gossard|June 1, 2010

    Amen. Great story and ministry. Hopefully people will see Jesus through our lives and in practical ways like that.

  2. 2
    Carson Dreyer|March 23, 2012

    What a great story of how broken relationships are being healed. Jonathan Miles is truly living out the gospel call to live as Jesus did. Its awesome to see how this man’s passion for healing children with heart defects fits into the kingdom building that is happening on earth, here and now. What a great example of how we are supposed to live.

  3. 3
    Kendra Kolean|March 23, 2012

    This story truly moves my heart. What an amazing ministry that has not only brought hope to lives of hurting children, but also brought hope to those who have seen a true disciple being reflected in the missional people who run it. This is what it means to love people toward God.

  4. 4
    Elle Q|March 23, 2012

    We’ve been learning about the upset in the Middle East this year in school, and I think this is an inspiring story! I love how God’s love is greater than any political or social conflict.

  5. 5
    Brenen Louwerse|March 23, 2012

    This is very sad that these children are sick like that. I am thankful that people are stepping up and helping them have a more normal life.

  6. 6
    Ryan Diepenhorst|March 23, 2012

    I thought that this was a cool article it shows how great people can go to a corrupted place in order to spread the love and by having compassion to help sick children. Its cool to see that so many people would risk themselves to help others.

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    Susan Anthony|March 23, 2012

    It is amazing to see how God chooses to work through all kinds of people. The Jews and the Palestinians are supposed to be enemies, and because God is constantly working in the lives of these people groups they are able to come together and form a relationship. When you seek out the will of God, and what that means for your life, God will bless your efforts. In this case, the Christians who headed off the organization showed how the boundaries are endless. They have accomplished more than they could believe when they started the ministry, and by living out their faith many stories are now able to be shared because of the grace of God. Praise God!

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    Brianna|March 23, 2012

    I have never heard of such a disease. It is obviously something serious, praise God for Shevet Achim. It sounds like this is a great cause especially with the war and another things that are going on in that area right now. It was touching to me how Israelites would care that much about the Palestinian and Iraqi children. I love that they are doing it out of obedience because Jesus said to love their enemies. I do not sure if I would be able to care for somebody that I hate. It is a good reminder/challenge for me to live out my faith by loving my enemies.
    The ending of this story is awesome! How such a hostile man could change just like that, from one conversation. It is encouraging to see that Christians really can make a difference, and it just goes to show how important making disciples is!

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