Q&A with Alex Pettett

Check out "Life Over Sees ," this month's Buzz Update on the Pettetts, a young couple from Gastonia who moved to Jerusalem to become missionaries. Here's more from the interview with Alex Pettett.


What was the most difficult part when you were leaving to go to Jerusalem?
Family. We'd lived around my family for quite some time and Jamie was pregnant. We'd wanted to have a family for a while. When we decided it was time we didn't have plans for Israel necessarily. We found out she was pregnant as we were planning this move so it was very tough. Because that meant we wouldn't be near [our family]. So that aspect has been the singular most difficult part. Then everything else—living abroad presents its own challenges in any culture. And Israel is no exception.

What was the day like when you arrived?
I lived here four years prior to moving back so we had some knowledge and friends living in the area, so that made it a bit easier. We got off the plane and we were picked up by one of my future coworkers who brought us up to Jerusalem, and we rented a very, very small apartment. We spent the next two weeks looking for a [permanent] apartment. It's very hard to find a reasonable apartment here. And even our place now is probably not that reasonable. It's an expensive city because it is such a tour Mecca.

Tell me more about Shevet Achim.
We bring children from the Gaza Strip and from Iraq to Israel for life-saving heart surgery. We do all of the logistics involved. We do the fundraising. We spend enormous amounts of time with the families. We drive them everywhere. We do all of their litigating on behalf of the government. We work between Iraqi, Jordanian, and Israeli governments and ministries of interior in order to secure visas to Israel. It's a bit of a funny thing to have an Iraqi come to Israel because you just don't find many who aren't Jewish and didn't immigrate decades ago. It's a logistical difficulty for sure, and I'm always amazed that it works out in the end.

There's a lot of pressure involved in it because a lot of these kids are on a timeline. Some of the kids we meet have gone for years without any sort of treatment, and they're very blue because their heart condition has depleted oxygen. And as they get older their condition can quickly deteriorate. So we're fighting the clock much of the time to try to secure these visas to get these kids here as quickly as possible. And we usually succeed. There have only been a few kids, unfortunately, who've died waiting for paperwork to go through, which is just terrible. But for the most part, the governments cooperate with us and we've seen a lot of kids come through a lot of great surgeries.

Since you've been there for a year now, have there been times when it's just become too overwhelming?
Yes. At least two or three times a week I have to learn how to deal with stress in a new way. I spend a lot of my job problem solving. With all the problems that come up medically and through the bureaucracy we find a lot of frustrations. I probably today got four phone calls with four new situations that needed to be dealt with, that were things we couldn't have planned for. For example, a pregnant mom came, and today she was in tremendous pain. The doctors determined that she had a urinary tract infection. And how was this going to get paid for. So I spent some time on the phone calling different people seeing if they'd be willing to help out with this situation. And that's just one example of the dozens we face each week. So it is very overwhelming. 
Keep up with the Pettetts on their Web site, www.pettetts.com , which includes a blog and photo albums.

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