Despite the misleading title, the 2014 Philadelphia Sumer Medical Institute (SMI) has successfully been completed. From June 28–July 19, nine teams composed of seventeen Christian health care students, over 51 volunteer “faculty” (Christian medical professionals), and over a dozen rotating interpreters provided door-to-door health screens in North Philadelphia, sharing the love of Christ through conversation and prayer with those they met. 

Tenth’s role in SMI is significant. Medical Campus Outreach (MCO), a ministry of Tenth, runs SMI while partnering with Esperanza Health Center (a Christian medical center in North Philadelphia). Among the 51 faculty who taught the students or worked alongside the students, 20 were from Tenth. Six individuals/families and one women’s Bible study from Tenth each provided a dinner for the group. A vocational team of Maranatha teenagers joined SMI for a week and shadowed the teams as they worked. Also, many faithful Tenth members provided prayer and financial support. 

On the medical side, many health screens were performed, and students referred several to the emergency room. Two people with previously diagnosed HIV were found not receiving any care or treatment, and are now being followed up by Esperanza. For a better understanding of the work done, here are the 2014 statistics:

  • 2,000 or more doors knocked on
  • Blood pressure screens given
  • 552 blood sugar screens given
  • 101 households educated about asthma
  • 51 diabetic foot neuropathy screens performed
  • 82 in-home HIV tests performed
  • 62 new positives for hypertension indicated
  • 21 new positives for diabetes indicated
  • 537 prayed with, with 138 receiving medical and church follow up
  • 5 prayed with to receive Christ

However, the numbers only tell so much. Each screen represents a story, an interaction with a household, and perhaps an individual or family prayed for. What is priceless and meaningful during SMI is witnessing people we met when either they responded to an invitation to come to a local church or we gave a Bible to someone who asked for one. It is seeing the students handle difficult encounters in the neighborhood with compassion and grace, sitting with a woman who cries as you offer to pray with her, or allowing someone you’ve just screened to fill your water bottle and pray for you and your team.

Two doctors who had participated in SMI in the 1990s came and joined our group for a few days. During an evening talk they told us that in the past, on the last day of SMI, a previous director wrote on the board: “SMI begins today!” This idea resonates for several reasons.

Now experiencing my third SMI, I feel like it’s no longer a coincidence when we see prayers answered during the program. God allows something special to happen when each day is filled with a kind of hungry anticipation for who we will meet, who we can pray for and/or invite to church, and an eagerness to attend small group and study the Bible with one another. I saw the students demonstrate not only a willingness to serve the community, but a gladness to serve one another with alacrity. They showed consideration for each other’s needs, demonstrating love and patience despite living in close quarters and enduring a busy schedule (the men also surprised the women on the team with breakfast one morning!). They displayed humility and teachability, and a willingness to learn from the community and from one another.

This offers a compelling picture of life when it is founded on an awareness of Christ’s sacrifice and a joyful desire to give to others what has been so freely given to us. This awareness fills us with a hope and longing for what is to come, and a desire to live intentionally—caring for the sick and the needy, praying for those who are suffering, and proclaiming God’s message boldly. As one student pointed out “…wherever you live, Christ-centered service is not just something for missionaries, but for everybody who has a heart for Christ and his people.” SMI begins today!

For information about MCO and SMI, visit the website or read the student blog.

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