Patience was an attribute I found myself lacking during SMI. God saw it fit to not only inform me of this issue, but to also work on it at the same time. In many cases this was through the very people we were seeing door-to-door. Perhaps the Lord was showing me some humor by teaching me patience through my patients.
The following encounters are meant to give a brief understanding of the SMI experience. Names and details have been changed.
Jason is about 4 years old. He is an energetic little guy with a very loud mouth who likes Transformers. I am able to play with him once his mom let us enter their home. He enjoys shape games and knows his stuff really well; like hexagons and crescents. In speaking with his mother, we find out that we had screened his father earlier that morning and found that he likely has coronary artery disease; which explains his intermittent chest pain. His wife is concerned for him, but needs him to keep working or they wont be able to make rent. We tell the dad that his smoking was likely to be a large contributor to the chest pain he is experiencing and that if he wants to see his boy grow up he will have to seriously consider quitting. Situations like this are common in our area, but we often rejoice in the beauty that God does provide and the hope that exists in Christ. Jason is a great kid and I pray the Lord blesses him with a happy and bright future, one that includes both his mother AND father.
Andrew is middle aged man who had a noticeable healed injury. He tells us during our encounter the story of how it happened. He was at a bar a few years ago when a girl asked him to come into the alley with her. He was accosted by some men who wanted his things, but he refused. They laid him on the train tracks that caused this horrific injury. He still has hope and works a job, but he is forever changed by the injury. Andrew is a testament to the community, but his life is still difficult and he says he is not ready to receive Christ. We will continue to pray for him, and those who know him, that he would become ready, perhaps with the help of some fellow Christians.
Lawrence is a very large man with a heart of gold. Despite the immense cheese-factor with that prior statement, its true. Not only does he have an enlarged heart literally, he is also full of love, despite having been imprisoned years ago. We give him a screening and speak with him at length about his weight and how it is causing many of the issues he is complaining about to us. He receives the information well and asks good questions, which is always a good sign. A few days later we run into him again while we are screening a few other guys. Our interpreter is helping me understand the conversation, but needs to help translate for another patient. Lawrence comes over and speaks to me about his wife in Spanish and gestures me toward his truck and begins to open the door. I immediately back away thinking he wants me to come in the truck to go to check out his wife. However, I see a look of confusion and disappointment come over his face like a friend backing out of a promise to go play catch. I eventually realize, through the interpreter, that Lawrence is trying to show me the tomato his wife gave him to help him have a better diet to lower his weight. A wave of disappointment comes over my whole body as I realized that many people in this community trust me to walk into their homes, ask for intimate information, and trust me to feel their bodies; yet I dont trust them to show me their joyful progress. How much pain it must cause our heavenly Father when we dont put our trust in him; when we pull away in fear. Sometimes He may just be trying to show us what He is doing.
Students and faculty often ask, especially in the last week of SMI, What has been your most meaningful encounter? I have consistently answered that Sandras family made a large impact on how I feel about many in this community. Sandra is a grandmother with a daughter (Gina) and 3 granddaughters. Gina invites us in when we knock and explain our presence. There are several fans blowing directly on her and her 3 daughters because the house is incredibly hot. We begin the screening and I play with the kids so that the screening can proceed smoothly (also, I like playing with kids). After a little while Sandra comes downstairs and sits toward the front of the house a few feet from me. I offer the screen, she accepts, and we go through it with sweat dripping from us by the end. She has high blood pressure, but the interesting part is still to come. On the spiritual assessment, she eventually mentions that she has been depressed and has attempted suicide in the past. I tell her about how I was depressed 2 years ago and found that Gods presence was a constant assurance during that period through 1 Peter 5:6-11.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under Gods mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.”
After asking if the kids can join us for a story about Jesus, we go through the wordless bracelet (colored beads on a string that represent the Gospel story). Sandra accepts the Lord into her heart and Gods appointment for her is filled. Being able to witness this and be a part of it for the first time was a blessing and encouragement.
SMI has been a blessing in community with other Christians, in loving Gods people, in preaching the Good News, and gaining wisdom from fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord. Thank you SMI and I pray the Lord uses this experience to tone the future careers and lives of myself and all of the other SMI’ers.
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Dan Mirsch. © 2020 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org