We survived our little wi-fi outage relatively unscathed, but weren’t able to bring you an update until now. I’m sure y’all are eager to hear about what’s been happening Day 2: Church with Spirit and Truth in the morning and lunch with some of the church members! It was an excellent time of fellowship and good preparation for the coming days, as we were to be going door to door in the neighborhood surrounding the church & its members. Later, we had the opportunity to take some time and explore the community around us on a block-by-block tour.
Day 3: Crash course orientation on taking blood pressure & glucose levels. We practiced on each other (and some unfortunate faculty who were in the wrong place at the wrong time). The faculty got us back by role-playing a variety of potential door-to-door medical & evangelistic scenarios (even including some crying and yelling). Bryan Stoudt then helped us hone some evangelism strategies, and Andres Farjado filled us in on demographic details of the community. All the training later proved to be necessary and helpful.
Days 4 & 5: First days on the streets. For the most part, we were nervous but excited. We went door-to-door offering free medical screenings for high blood pressure and diabetes, taking opportunities to share the gospel and pray for the people we encountered. We also shared news about the presence of Spirit & Truth in the community as well as the plans for a new satellite clinic from Esperanza Health Center in the area. Our offers were greeted with a variety of responses, from “No, thank you,” to “Sure, come in!” But we were impressed by the overall tone of openness of the residents, who shared their medical, social, and spiritual problems with us.
We found that it is this sharing that constitutes the core of our mission, as we recognized that the actual medical interventions we performed are only effective in context. Blood pressure and glucose levels are simply numbers, and while we found that most residents did see a primary care physician somewhat regularly (from free or community clinics in the area), many did not understand the significance of their condition or medications. Often, social problems or difficulties were the main barrier to accessing care they needed: many didn’t have any insurance; some interpreted a need for doctors as weakness or irrelevance; others coped with the stresses of daily life or medical conditions through unhealthy means.
But in virtually every instance, we were able to see how elements of faith threaded their way through the problems. One smoker with multiple medical problems admitted that she used it as a way to handle the stress. A young couple attributed recent stress to a new baby on the way. Many were looking for work after having lost jobs and some were shadowed by a criminal record long past. Some described previous dramatic conversion experiences. Others who professed to have no faith readily accepted prayer on their behalf for the many problems they faced. By far, the most common (and most emphatic) prayer requests were about family: keeping kids out of trouble or relatives out of bad health. Despite some negative (and occasionally hostile) experiences, most of those we encountered were very appreciative of our services and we were getting the sense that they were most thankful for the opportunity to talk to someone willing to listen.
Day 6: Half & half. We spent the morning continuing our door-to-door outreach, with growing confidence and effectiveness in the community. The afternoon was devoted to Institute learning, where we listened and talked about lectures on the intersection of faith and medicine. It was a good day to reflect on the things we had heard and seen in the past week, and we are looking forward to another action-packed day of ministry tomorrow!
- Openness of hearts and minds to hear the Gospel. As we have been learning in our training sessions, the Gospel is something to be preached daily and in all situations: it is the Good News that nothing is broken beyond redemption, and that God reaches across insurmountable barriers (in health, family, relationships, and life) to heal and create something new and beautiful. While the presentation of this message is not always complete or direct, we pray that whatever we are able to communicate can show our new friends that God offers them a hope and joy beyond anything they can ask or imagine. Pray that they will have the chance to hear and be changed by the same radical message that transformed our own lives.
- Safety and health. Our interpreters in particular have been having a difficult time, battling surprising illnesses and delays. Most are volunteers from the church, so please pray for strength and joy in their work.
- New and old relationships. Pray that we will be able to make new friends among the people we meet as well as follow-up with ones already made. We would like to return to many of the households to offer further medical care and spiritual help, even if we are only here for another week+.
- Team togetherness. We have been working well together and love each member of the team, from students to interpreters and faculty (and their oh-so-adorable children)! Please pray that we will continue to operate as a unified and purposeful unit.
That’s it for now; talk to you soon!
-Dave Chen, Kelli Ellis, & Johanna Sheu
© 2021 Tenth Presbyterian Church.
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Dave Chen and Kelli Ellis. © 2021 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org