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. Oddie's post is a reaction to the first week of SMI.

Today, I found myself asking God why some people have to deal with so much suffering. I am struggling with reconciling the suffering and pain I have been exposed to in the past week with my own life. The stories, the wounds, the poverty are all too hard to understand.

My team and I were walking down Somerset Street when a lady asked us to come over to her house. She noticed the stethoscopes on our necks and the scrubs we had on and figured we were doctors. We walked up to her, and she asked us what we were up to because she had seen us walk around in the community. We explained to her that we were both giving free medical screenings to people and also sharing the love of Christ. She had just seen a doctor not too long ago, so she was well aware of her level of healthiness. However, she had been coughing and having difficulty breathing, and she wanted to know if she was okay.

I just finished my first year of medical school and have barely mastered the skills involved in listening to the lungs, but I still said I was going to definitely help her. Jessica (my partner) and I set our heavy backpacks down and got to work.

Looking at this lady, I would have probably guessed she was about sixty-five years old, but she was only thirty-nine. She had lost a few of her teeth, was overweight, and had a cast on her left leg. Finding out she was so young hit me really hard. The plan was to listen to her lungs and talk to her about her smoking habits. She knew she had to quit and expressed she wanted to quit, but needed help to do so. Our conversation began in earnest, and before long our fifteen minutes quickly rolled into an hour. We still sat with this lady, watching the tears form in her eyes and in mine. Some tears were from laughter, while others were from sorrow.

Despite the suffering and the deep poverty in her life and community, she had a heart that was full of love for the men and women who were strung out on drugs and roaming the streets. She sat by her window everyday handing out water and food to homeless men and women who walked past her window. She couldn’t walk or even leave her house without a wheel chair. Her best was just to sit there and to hope. Despite this, she had so much love to give, so much joy to share.

This encounter really hit me hard. It was the last outreach for the first week, so I had a lot of time to sit and take in everything that had happened. I don’t know why she was dealt the card she held. I don’t know why her life is the way it is. It’s really hard for me to reconcile the excesses in my life, knowing that some don’t even have the basic needs of life.

I have spent the day asking God to help me understand. In the midst of my turmoil, he reminded me of this:

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” 2 Corinthians 4:17.

So, even though I don’t understand, even though I can’t explain or reconcile the realities of life, I will hold on to this truth, that there is glory even in pain and suffering.

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