The Summer Medical Institute (SMI) is a three week urban immersion missions experience. Students from all healthcare fields, including medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, and podiatry live and work together in North Philadelphia, serving the community by doing door-to-door health screenings. Medical Campus Outreach (MCO) seeks to encourage students to maintain and grow their faith through the difficult years of medical training, and to encourage them to keep a vision for service when they are fully practicing healthcare professionals.

Several of our SMI 2015 participants will be sharing their experiences here over the next few weeks.

My heart was crushed, feeling as if it were being wrung to death. The woman before me, completely undone, was soaked in tears after recounting the past year. Six months ago she suffered a miscarriage, and not too long afterwards, she found out that her fiancée had passed away in his sleep for reasons unknown to her. Only three months later, her children’s father also passed away in a drive-by shooting. Unfortunately, during SMI, we heard a number of other similarly heart-rending stories. However, I did not meet this woman during an SMI outreach. As I looked on with tearful eyes, I could see in my peripheral vision the exam table with fresh white paper draped across it. Four bare, white walls enclosed the exam room in which I encountered this broken woman.

I had previously participated in SMI in 2013, and it was a life-changing experience where my ideas of both medicine and myself were challenged and my heart was brought to the foot of the cross. I never imagined that God would call me back, thinking that it would never fit into my rotation schedule. Little did I know, God had planned for me to return this year with two more years of medical school under my belt and a deeper understanding of his love and goodness. I came into SMI this year with much trepidation, unsure how my experiences on rotations the past year, my new team, and the people we would meet would change my perceptions of what I encountered during SMI.

During my third year of medical school, I found myself wishing that I could be more bold in my faith and mindful of the Spirit’s leading, rather being consumed by the pressure to perform well before man. When I came back to SMI this year, it was so encouraging and freeing to be in an environment where time was not a constraint and where teammates and staff not only encouraged but challenged you to live wholly in the gospel. As the end of SMI neared, I found myself struggling with how to make living out and bringing the gospel to people through healthcare–the heart of SMI–a reality in my clinical encounters with patients. I do not mean this as negatively as it might sound, but I felt as though SMI was a safe Christian bubble and that my outside world of medicine was another bubble that would not allow itself to be popped and intermixed.

However, I believe that God wanted to break that lie and show me that if I were just willing to trust him and to follow his leading, he would show me that these worlds are one because they are under his domain. He wants very much to work outside of SMI just as he worked during the outreach. This was made even clearer when I met another woman, “B”. I entered B’s exam room thinking it was going to be a routine diabetes follow-up: I would ask how her blood sugars were since the last visit, ask her the pertinent review of systems, and check her hemoglobin a1c level. To my surprise, God led me to ask a question that allowed us to go deeper. She had mentioned how she had been addicted to heroin and crack cocaine but had been clean for two years. I then asked how she stayed clean, and she recounted the story of when Jesus saved her life. She then went on to talk about other current addictions in her life, including something as simple as chewing gum, and how she was learning to die to her flesh and depend on Jesus.

B's testimony actually really encouraged me, as I’ve also been finding myself struggling to lay down certain addictions. I felt a strong desire to pray with her, but at the same time that I felt this, my mind raced with doubts. There are so many other patients to see. Do I have enough time? What if one of my classmates hears me praying and reports me? What if the patient is offended and reports me? As I wrestled with these thoughts, I went to present B to my attending and proceeded to listen to their encounter together while praying for more clarity and peace. Finally, after my attending was gone and everything on the visit’s agenda had been completed, I asked B if I could pray for her. She excitedly agreed, and as the words from the Spirit flowed from my mouth, tears of thankfulness splashed down B’s cheeks. After I finished praying, all she could muster to say through her sobs was, “God is so good. I’ve been praying to meet more Christians.”

My encounter with the first woman mentioned did not end with me sharing the gospel with her, but I have hope that this is just the beginning of her journey and that God will invade her life amidst the brokenness. I yearn for him to breach into her heart through the cracks. I share these stories to encourage my teammates and my fellow co-laborers in Christ to have faith that God indeed is working in our workplaces. God is so much greater than anything I can imagine, and he is not absent. He is doing a great and mighty work. I also pray that it will serve as a reminder of the great hope that we have in Christ.

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