Well, we have complete one week of SMI! The week has been jam-packed with fruitful outreaches, wonderful fellowship, lots of learning, and many laughs! As I was weighing all week on what to write for this entry, I felt a desire to comment on the challenges of inner-city ministry.
I realized that the greatest challenge to inner-city ministry lies within my own skin. There were so many hard barriers that had to be peeled off – almost like the skin of a cantaloupe. Fruit cannot be produced without slicing them off.
One of the big barriers that I had to get rid of was that I was trying to save them. For most people, I am not providing a completely innovative test to cure them of a disease. Most people get their blood pressures and sugar levels tested regularly. However, everyone has been gracious about our efforts. I needed to realize that I was not coming to save the people in West Kensington. I had to recognize that my primary goal was to develop relationships with the community and understand that God will continue to plant seeds in their lives. It was so encouraging to see that a local pastor has baptized several members of his church due to contributions of SMI students.
Another big barrier that I had to shed was my misconception of the neighborhood. Sure, I will give it to you that these areas have higher crime rates than a typical Philadelphia neighborhood. Somehow society (including myself) labels these people as inferior by association with low income/crime/drug ridden areas. When I first walked the streets, I was certainly intimidated due to the reputation of the neighborhood. I started to think, Since when have these people become less human than myself? These people have invited me into their homes and shared heart-breaking stories to a complete stranger in scrubs. They deserve the same respect and treatment as someone from an affluent area.
Our society decided that religion is extremely private and personal and should never be discussed in general. It was yet, another misconception that I possessed. If there is one thing that I will definitely take away from SMI, it is practicing to have the courage to ask strangers do you have a religion and May I pray for you? I am completely surprised at how receptive people are to talking about their faith and receiving prayer. I know that most people dont talk about faith, but many of them are looking for an opportunity to express their spiritual struggles.
These were only three of many layers of the cantaloupe skin that I had to shed this week. When Jesus says in Luke 9:23 If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me (ESV), I truly believe that part of denying yourself is to shed those barriers that we have put up. Once you shed those barriers away, you become tasty and sweet to the people in the community!
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