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, and nutrition. They share the love of Christ through conversation and prayer with those they meet. The articles here are written by various SMI student participants who have contributed to this blog series.
Over the past couple weeks of SMI, I have seen the Lord work in mighty ways to shape my life and the lives of those around me. Coming into the trip, I tried to avoid forming preconceived notions about what to expect in my interactions with the people in North Philadelphia. In just a short time, God has moved in ways that I never would have imagined and has taught me a number of lessons.
The first thing the Lord has shown me is the biases and prejudices that exist in my own heart and the sinful ways that I let those prejudices influence my expectations of the people I have interacted with. On several occasions when an individual would first open the door, I immediately began envisioning in my mind how the interaction would take place. Even before I had begun talking to the person, by just looking at them I thought I knew how the individual would respond to our questions about health and spirituality. But on many of those occasions, I was proven completely wrong. As the people have opened their doors and their hearts to us, I have been blown away by the vulnerability and depth of the conversations we have had. People have shared their deep struggles with depression, anxiety, and loss to us strangers who had just shown up on their doorstep. They have shown us hospitality by letting us into their homes and offering to share their water and food. In many ways, the people I have met in North Philadelphia have blessed me in ways that I could never have imagined.
The second thing God has done is worked through difficult situations to redeem them for his glory. During one SMI outreach, my group was walking down the street when a man approached us and began to aggressively yell at us and threaten us. My immediate reaction was to fear for my safety and find every human reason possible to leave the block that we were on. However, sitting on the doorsteps along the block were a number of people who wanted to participate in our health screens. As we screened the people along the street, the man continued to harass us. Despite the difficulty associated with working under those fearful conditions, the neighbors sitting outside started to notice that we were serious about offering health services to the community. As a result, one of the block leaders went around to different houses inviting community members to come get their blood pressures and sugars checked. One lady we met through his recruitment had difficulties with her health and was unable to access care. We were able to tell her about Esperanza’s mission to provide quality care to people in her neighborhood. She was amazed and overjoyed that healthcare was available to her, and she was able to visit Esperanza that week. In addition, she tearfully shared many of the struggles that she had gone through in her life recently. We were able to share the love of Jesus with her, invite her to church, and pray with her. God allowed us to meet this woman in a time of need, regardless of the circumstances of harassment that we had faced on the street.
Lastly, God has shown me the full blessings and riches of Christian community. Having the chance to live and work closely with sixteen other brothers and sisters in Christ has multiplied my faith and encouraged me in my daily walk with the Lord. The faculty members that have come to work with us have spoken wisdom and encouragement into our lives by sharing their experiences in healthcare. God’s love has truly been shown to me in the lives of the people participating with me in SMI. Throughout these weeks of knocking on doors in North Philly, God has proved himself to be a faithful and good God in the way he has worked in and through the people on our team.