It’s not too early to begin praying about and planning for the Summer Medical Institute Philadelphia, June 29-July 20, 2013! The student application is posted here, and due to a few unexpected openings, the application deadline has been extended to May 15. To view it, click here!
As I finish my second year of medical school, I have come to appreciate the lessons and experiences that I gained from the Summer Medical Institute (SMI). I initially applied to SMI because I felt that my medical education did not address how I would be able to combine my faith with my calling in medicine. Admittedly, it was naive on my part to expect any modicum of training in addressing spirituality in what is already a pressure-filled and time-crunched setting – by the end of my first year, I experienced burn out and simply could not gain any perspective as to the reasons I pursued medicine, mainly due to the fact that after years of excelling in school, extracurricular activities, and employment (I worked for two years prior to returning to school), medical school was the first time in my life where I did not reap any immediate rewards (e.g., grades, accolades, affirmations) for my hard work. At the same time, as a Christian, I knew that God wanted to teach and mold me, but at that time, I simply could not see the ultimate reasons behind His plan.
The three weeks I spent at SMI was a time of spiritual renewal, where I experienced the importance of community and finally saw what it could look like to integrate my faith and future career. From shadowing doctors at Esperanza Medical Center to talks and panels given by Christian physicians, I was encouraged both spiritually and professionally. In addition, to be able to apply the principles that I learned through Door-to-Door Outreaches on a day-to-day basis was a blessing; even though I had just completed my first year of medical school, complete strangers invited me into their homes, opening up about their struggles and issues – simply because I had a stethoscope around my neck and a diabetes glucometer in my hand. I was reminded that although medicine is very much about the science, it is also a profession that has the “human experience” at its epicenter – in fact, it was what attracted me to the field in the first place! Unsurprisingly, God further opened my eyes beyond just serving patients from a humanistic perspective – I soon realized that as a physician, I would be in a very privileged position to point my patients to the Great Physician, a lesson of which I must remind myself daily. By the end of my time at SMI, I resolved to simply be faithful with what He had tasked me, and I returned to medical school with this mindset.
Although second year has been undoubtedly stressful, I was never worried that God would not see me through, as my first-hand experiences in conjunction with my spiritual growth at SMI served as a continual reminder that I was becoming a doctor to ultimately serve God wherever He may lead. In fact, many of my classmates, most of whom are non-Christian, have commented that I seemed more relaxed and less stressed, even as we gear up to take our first high-stakes licensing exam (Step 1) this summer. In many of these interactions, I was grateful to have been able to have the opportunity to point to God as the ultimate reason for my peace. As I look forward to my clinical years in a few short months, I am very excited to see how God will use my experiences at SMI to serve the patients with whom I will be privileged to interact. At the end of the program, I distinctly remember praying that SMI would be a time from which we would continually draw new lessons and strength as we went through our medical training – although it has only been a year, I can unequivocally assert that God did not disappoint!
- Brian (SMI Philly 2012 Participant)
2013 has arrived and the countdown to SMI Philly has begun! SMI is a joint project of Medical Campus Outreach and Esperanza Health Center, and this year’s program will take place June 29-July 20, 2013.
SMI is an intensive three week immersion program for Christian healthcare students, serving the urban communities of Latino North Philadelphia by sharing the love of Christ as they provide door-to-door diabetes and blood pressure screens (mobile HIV testing is also in consideration for the 2013 program).Students learn to understand the complex issues surrounding urban healthcare, learn how to practically integrate their faith and career, and are provided with rich opportunity for mentoring, discipleship, and community as they live and work together in the urban neighborhoods.
A brief report of SMI 2012, including last summer’s statistics and a detailed description is available here.SMI 2012 Brief Report
Come join us in 2013!
While walking around today, I felt God calling our team to go into a local restaurant. Once there, we were able to set up at a table and do several health screenings. But more importantly, we were able to talk to the customers and restaurant owners about spiritual health. Eric and I could gather that the people were interested in learning more, so we decided to go back to Urban Hope Community Church to get some Bibles, thinking that it would be good to even just leave them on a table for customers to casually pick up and read. Upon arriving back at the restaurant, three people wanted the bibles and, right at the counter, they all opened their new bibles and started reading them. It was very powerful for me to see that these individuals were so receptive and opened their bibles as if they were the best gifts that they had ever received. This story will remind me that Jesus is an awesome gift and every day we should be excited to know Him, just as the people at the restaurant were excited to receive their bibles.
Later that day, it came time to conclude our outreach session, but I noticed a group of individuals standing around a man who was making pinchos. Again, God had called our group to approach these people and talk to them. I believe we ended up doing three health screenings. One woman I talked to, Luz, which means light in Spanish, opened up to me about how she was recently diagnosed with cervical and ovarian cancer. When it came to the conversation about spiritual health, she explained that she had a Catholic background, but did not really go to church anymore. I continued talking with Luz about her health and asked her if she were to die from the cancer, where would she go? Luz accepted Christ on that day and as the tears rolled down her face as I prayed for her and hugged her, I could feel a peace that came over her. From this encounter, I can look back and see how God can always calm a storm and give us peace in the most difficult of situations.
On our last day of outreach, Jibu said to me, “I really want to make it to Hurley Street today because I have a really good feeling about it.” Well, God had put Hurley Street in his mind because we had some great patient encounters there. At the first house we entered, it seemed like the woman had been hesitant to even open the door, but when we explained to her what we were doing, she invited us inside. Upon talking to her, she told us about how she is very alone right now and feels the weight of the world on her shoulders due to her husband’s and daughter’s drug addictions. She explained that just last week, she had started going back to church after 20-something years. We told her about Urban Hope Community Church and she was so excited about the church and its women’s group. God is so powerful, and He brought us to that house today to harvest Ruth’s seed that He had recently planted.
The last house we entered belonged to a 23-year-old man whose mother, who lives across the street, had been screened by us two days earlier. She had asked us to visit her son’s home, and we knocked on his door twice in the morning. The first time we knocked, he must have been sleeping still, but the second time we knocked, he opened the door, and I was really glad he did. He told us that he usually isn’t home, but he had just quit his job one-to-two weeks ago because he had been getting lightheaded and weak while working. He also explained that he was born with a “hole in his heart,” but had not seen a doctor in three years because of his fear that they would tell him something “bad.” He continued to explain that he plays basketball with friends in the community every day, but is not able to run much because he gets short of breath easily and also gets lightheaded and weak. I told him these symptoms may or may not be connected to his heart defect and that it was very important for him to make an appointment with a doctor soon. Aside from all his cursing while talking, we were also able to get him to talk about his beliefs. He said he went to church when he was younger but does not feel it is cool anymore.
This guy really weighed heavily on my heart because he reminded me of my friend who died this year at the age of 24 due to heart complications. Like Juan, the 23-year-old we talked to, my friend thought that he was invincible and that even though he had several heart defects, he would always be fine. My friend ended up getting a heart valve replacement and did not take care of himself in the month afterwards, and he died. Two weeks before his death, I had invited him to come to church with me. He said how he would love to go, but never showed up when Sunday came along, probably because he was hungover. I was angry with him and did not speak to him, but then he died. This is how God really drew me back to Him. I was afraid of death and did not know what my purpose was in life. SMI has helped me grow closer to God and realize that I am working for the highest power imaginable and that I get to be on God’s team. I was so glad to share my story with Juan today, and out of my friend Brennan’s death, something good finally came from it.
Know that even though we have reached the end of our journey at SMI, each one of you has touched someone’s life in a special way. Use everyone that you have come into contact with to teach you something about yourself.
When I approached Ms. X yesterday she seemed quite withdrawn and nervous. As I began speaking to her my spirit lead me to ask her “Is Jesus your Lord and Savior?” She responded by saying something like “There is a Lord.” I asked “Who?” and she didn’t really reply.
We continued with the health screening and again my spirit lead me to ask her “Is Jesus your Lord and Savior?” Again she was quite vague, and she began looking around as if some mystic presence were there and would harm her if she proclaimed His name.
I was confused and didn’t know how to move forward, but I continued with the screening questionnaire. As we spoke, she mentioned a doctor who happened to be a professor of mine. She started to open up and again my spirit lead me to ask the same question. So I did. “Ms. X,” I said, “is Jesus your Lord and Savior?” She then looked at me and proclaimed “Yes, Jesus is my Lord and Savior. He is.” She then stated “I never thought no one would come here to check us out and talk about Jesus, that’s why I didn’t answer you before. He is the only family I have.”
Romans 10:8-11: But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
I am so grateful that through our outreach efforts and the grace of God, I was a living witness to hearing this woman confess from her mouth what she held in her heart. Thank you Jesus. You, Jesus, are Lord. Praise be to Your name.
Today marked the end of SMI Philly 2012 – and we miss it already! On Friday (July 27), we held our banquet at the beautiful Hunting Park site of Esperanza Health Center. In addition to reflecting on our experiences, we were grateful to be able to acknowledge and appreciate the many people who were instrumental in shaping the program to be a great success. We are all so appreciative of your support and know that the lessons that we learned – and will learn – through the program will shape both our personal and professional lives in the years to come.
We wanted to share snapshots of our time in the program with all of our readers. We pray that this can be an encouragement in your walk with God.
The team also decided at the last minute to showcase its creative side in this parody video – enjoy!
We thank you once again for your support and prayers. Several reflections will be posted over the next several days.
Brian and Eric
SMI Philly 2012 Blog Editors
On our first Sunday in Philly, the pastor of our church here (In the Light Ministries) reminded us in his sermon that “the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power” (1 Corinthians 4:20). This has been a theme for me these three weeks as I have been challenged to trust in God’s transformative power in the lives of the people we have met in these neighborhoods. We’ve seen a lot of hopelessness and sadness in people’s homes and stories, but I’ve also heard faith-building testimonies in the church and in the community. I’ve been challenged to pray big prayers and trust that God hears us and is responding in His perfect timing.
On Friday, our group started praying for salvation for the whole block. When one of our group members declared this in prayer before starting that day, I’ll admit that I doubted that God would grant it – I had seen so much brokenness, so many who reject the Gospel and choose to continue living with sin and its consequences. After this prayer, we talked about our expectations for God, and I realized that God’s arm is not too short to bring salvation to the whole block.
He also answers my prayer to increase my faith. That day we spent most of our outreach time in two houses: Our first visit was with an elderly woman of God who was lonely and saw us as angels who came to encourage her, and the second visit was with a young woman whose faith journey began with a nun who prayed with her daily for four months when she was abandoned and raped at the age of nine. This woman experienced God’s overwhelming peace through the nun’s prayers, and God continued to send Christians in her life to bless her at her lowest points. She saw that God was pursuing her, and we encouraged her to trust Jesus with her life that afternoon. As she prayed, declaring her trust in Jesus to guide her life and save her soul eternally, I thanked God for showing His power to me. God is mighty to save. Our words, arguments and service to others will not bring people to Christ on their own because “the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” Praise God that the Holy Spirit is working in North Philadelphia and we can participate in God’s process of salvation for the whole block.