Spiritual Truth from Surprising Places

by Laura Layer November 23, 2016


By Laura Layer, Medical Campus Outreach Director


And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. (Matthew 15:21–28)

Sometimes spiritual truth comes from surprising places. This story of a healing miracle is one of my favorites. The woman’s audacity and quick thinking responses are remarkable. Jesus’ power and compassion are on full display as he heals with just a word, across a distance, across national lines, across cultural boundaries. The verbal interplay they share, with she being the almost perfect foil to the King of Kings, is unique among the New Testament stories. Jesus is so surprised by her boldness and faith that he is taken aback and says essentially, “Wow—done!”

The staff, volunteers, and students of Medical Campus Outreach are invited to enter into surprising places with our patients who are essentially strangers, often of different cultures and upbringings. But like the woman in Matthew’s story, they share the desire for physical and spiritual healing. The people we encounter can be as varied as the Hispanic pastor diagnosed with a dangerously high blood pressure by a pre-med; the hip, urban couple shepherded through the delivery of their firstborn by an OB nurse; or the older woman with no family and terminal cancer, accompanied by an Oncology fellow on her journey through the last week of her life. Healthcare students and professionals have what I call like to call the “odd privilege” of surprisingly intimate encounters with desperate and vulnerable people like the Canaanite woman. Those personnel trained by Medical Campus Outreach can bring their gospel centered world view to bear in deed and sometimes word as they discover spiritual truth together with their patients in the shared journey through pain, illness, and—Lord willing—healing.

Medical Campus Outreach has been a ministry of Tenth Presbyterian Church for over twenty years and in that time we have discipled, mentored, and equipped hundreds of healthcare students. We engage in one on one intentional relationships, visit campus Bible studies, facilitate community housing, prepare monthly lunch or dinner speaker events, and run our immersive short term outreach programs—the Summer Medical Institute Philadelphia and SMI Eastern Europe. Through it all we point healthcare students to Jesus, keep them in fellowship during the isolating years of their training, and help them to have those conversations with colleagues and patients that lead to the mutual discovery of spiritual truth. These ambassadors for Christ are then able to go anywhere in the world as healthcare workers and take the gospel with them. They can be found in your community clinic, in academia, and in the most difficult creative access countries.

As the new director of Medical Campus Outreach I am both excited and humbled to be on the forefront of this storied and significant ministry. It is my prayer that we continue and expand our work of shepherding healthcare professionals and students so that they in turn can help to lead others into a deeper knowledge of God. It is also my prayer that Tenth will continue its fruitful partnership with us, and that more of the congregation will benefit from our ministry. Physical illness is often a surprise, but it can also present a unique opportunity for spiritual growth. If you ever find yourself in this unexpected circumstance, look first to Jesus for direction, wisdom, comfort and possibly divine healing. But when you need a healthcare worker, perhaps the alumni and students of Medical Campus Outreach can come alongside to help deepen your faith in God’s truth and plan in the midst of your surprising place.

To learn more about MCO or get involved, contact mco.smi.tenth@gmail.com or mcophillydirector@gmail.com.

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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Laura Layer. © 2023 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org