Diet & Exercise

Series: Summer Medical Institute 2014

by Erin Shufflebarger August 18, 2014

The Philadelphia Summer Medical Institute (SMI) is a project of Medical Campus Outreach MCO, a ministry of Tenth  Presbyterian Church, partnering with Esperanza Health Center. During the three week summer project, which ran from June 28-July 19, Christian health care students live and work in the dense urban environment, providing door-to-door health screens for diabetes and blood pressure, as well as providing information about HIV, asthma. They share the love of Christ through conversation and prayer with those they meet. The blog posts here are written by various SMI student participants who have contributed to this series.


In almost every home we go in during outreach, we recommend a healthy diet and adequate physical exercise.  \We also emphasize the importance of both the physical and spiritual aspects of health. In one of our biblical foundations training sessions, it was said that we are to have a healthy diet and adequate exercise spiritually as well. Diet from God’s word, and exercise by being “doers” of the Word and living out the principles found there. While it seems simple, that idea stuck with me.

Yesterday on our way back from outreach we were called over to a man lyingon the ground by a corner store. We weren’t sure if he was asleep or passed out, but the people around insisted we help since we were "doctors" (or at least looked like them). After a few minutes, we got the man awake and sitting up so that we could check his pulse and blood pressure (after consent, of course!), and both were normal. Even with our interpreter, it was hard to communicate with the man, but we did find out he was homeless. I felt a burden to share Jesus with him but knew it would be hard because of this language barrier. Other members of the team found a crumpled up used water bottle that we had in the bottom of a backpack, and we filled it half way with our warm water and offered it to him because we had nothing else. The man’s eyes became wet with tears as he shook our hands and pointed toward the sky. We were also able to bring back a dinner for him, which he received with a big teary hug.

I’m still struck by how simple the gospel seemed there. In that moment, the only message we needed to get across was that we loved this man because he was an image bearer. In James 1:27, James emphasizes the importance of caring for the weak when he writes, "religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." Likewise in Matthew 25, Jesus characterizes the "sheep" (those who inherit the kingdom of God), as those who care for "the least of thes"—feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming strangers, and visiting the sick and those in prison.

What about those who have had hour-long quiet times every day since they day they trusted in Christ, those with perfect theology, those who have read every Keller and Piper book written? These things aren’t mentioned in the Bible. So often I get caught up in these things, though, thinking they are what are most important to the Christian life. In reality, I’ve been ignoring many of the things the Bible talks about most concerning caring for the poor.

That’s where diet and exercise comes in.  I’ve been focusing my attention on spiritual diet while neglecting exercise. While my "spiritual BMI" may look alright from the outside, my spiritual muscles are weak and in need of training.  I thank the Lord for the experiences at SMI where I’ve been able to see my sin and get a glimpse of the Lord’s heart for "the least of these." I pray God is glorified and that I can enjoy more of him as I learn to balance my spiritual diet and exercise and work out my faith in response to and by God’s grace.