At SMI, the 18 of us are assigned to four different community partner churches. Along with community interpreters that attend these local churches, we usually split up the four different church groups into smaller groups of two or three when we go out on outreach. Yesterday and today, one of our interpreters told the 10 members of the Bethel Temple Church group that we were going to have to stick together; he was taking us to the hood. This came as a bit of a shock because we thought we were already in “the hood.” It was our mistake to lump the neighborhoods of North Philadelphia into a monochromatic conglomerate of gated rowhouses, stray cats, and Chinese takeout places, as the atmosphere a couple of blocks further south had a deeper sense of hopelessness. Here, we would meet drug dealers blatantly making transactions 20 feet behind us and walk through streets strewn with used insulin needles, with addicts getting their fix in plain daylight.
It was in this park that we met three Hispanic 20-somethings sitting on a picnic table smoking pot (again, blatantly). Members of our team immediately began to offer medical services to the girl but the interpreter began talking to the two young men after they refused the screening. With six people already working on the girl, a couple of us just stood around listening to him as well and we were soon as drawn into the recounting of his testimony as the two men listened intently.
The interpreter had been from that neighborhood, and had even made a lot of money dealing drugs. He had a brother who had been declared dead and taken to the morgue, chest cavity exposed, before the mortician noticed something moving under the sheet. About half an hour of miraculous stories later, the two men accepted Christ as their Savior. One of the two men expressed how shocked he was to see us there and that the timing had been perfect to hear the gospel message. Its been so amazing to see how God orchestrates moments like this!
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