For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.—Isaiah 55:10-11
These past three weeks in Philly have been packed full of grace. Our team was blessed to see God’s word successfully accomplish its purpose – in changing the hearts and minds of the patients and of us. I’d like to share some things God has revealed to me.
I Am Unable. God Is Able.
Growing up in church, this concept has been drilled into my mind. But until I found myself continually dumbstruck in light of a patient’s stubbornness or suffering, I still subconsciously believed my skillful persuasion or comforting words could change a person’s heart. For instance, my team met a very strong-willed man who believed that God would grant a request if he prayed persistently and tithed more. After a while, it became very clear that none of the biblical truths we said could change his mind. All we could do was listen and pray that God would give him understanding.
At another home, a young woman shared that her brother was murdered several months ago, her mother died this year on her birthday, she doesn’t know where she and her three children will live next month, and she’s suffering from PTSD and severe depression. What do you even say in those moments? I couldn’t possibly understand the suffering she endured or provide lasting comfort with my own words. But thank God that Jesus, our High Priest who intimately knows our suffering (Hebrews 4:15), has suffered so that we may pray to God in our time of need. So that’s what we did.
God Is Sovereign.
Amidst the suffering, God revealed his hand over the community—sometimes in an encouraging prayer, or an orchestrating of circumstances that allowed us to meet certain people. After praying with the woman I mentioned earlier, I was worried because she might have difficulties contacting the pastor, or walking all three children to church. Who would take care of her? Our SMI team would leave Philly in a couple days, so who would make sure she finds adequate housing? Miraculously, another outreach team that was screening the same street ran into the pastor! Turns out that the pastor of the local church lived several houses away! We immediately exchanged their contact information. This local church had many young kids, and so I’m encouraged to think that the woman would feel comfortable bringing her children and fellowshipping with the other mothers. Praise God for His provision.
Medicine Is a Wonderful Platform For Missions.
It’s wonderful that many of the people in these communities have a positive response to scrubs and stethoscopes. And it’s rather crazy that people would let strangers into their homes, share sensitive information (e.g. weight, age, etc.), and let us draw blood for sugar or HIV tests. People even start sharing about their personal lives and family struggles. I can’t think of many other professions where people are this open with you. These make for prime evangelism opportunities! From the subject of physical health, it’s very natural to transition to a conversation about spiritual health. As healthcare providers, we care about a patient’s wholeness. We know that no matter how healthy a person is, there are emotional and spiritual hurts that no amount of medicine can heal. Whereas medicine only addresses the physical, Jesus brings wholeness by healing the spiritual and physical.
It’s Okay If Nothing Massive Happens.
God’s presence is often felt not in miraculous signs, but in gentle whispers (1 Kings 19:11-12). So on those afternoons when we encountered 20+ unopened doors and screened only three people who were already believers, we were still assured that God was present and working. Any opportunity taken to share His word and love on one another is not in vain. Maybe praying with those three patients was a well-timed blessing to their day. Or maybe it was a well-timed blessing to us. God’s word does not return to Him empty.
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Natasha Ng. © 2023 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org