By Dr. Laura Layer, MCO Director
Jenny is a talented pre-med student with several professionals in her immediate family; she has had a pretty typical middle to upper middle class upbringing. Because her Christian faith is important to her, Jenny has participated in several Medical Campus Outreach (MCO) activities including our recent Summer Medical Institute (SMI) conducted in North Philly. We at MCO have come to know Jenny as bright, articulate, and genuinely concerned for the physical and spiritual health of those she encounters. She is pretty normal as MCO students go.
Normal for Jenny, during the three weeks of SMI, was to wake up every morning with this question in her mind: “I wonder if today is the day when I run into my brother wandering high on the streets of Kensington?” About half way through our program Jenny told the group that her brother was a drug addict, had not been home for months, and was believed to be hanging out on the very streets where SMI was ministering. As we prayed for her family and have continued to minister to Jenny, the team of MCO staff and volunteers has discovered that—although we hesitate to call the growing trend normal—families who struggle with drug addiction are becoming more and more common.
Our work with Jenny is the bread and butter of MCO. We come alongside health professions students during the often isolating years of their training. At the time of life when they might be tempted to put their faith “on the shelf” for “just a little while,” we encourage them to stay in fellowship by supporting campus Bible studies, developing mentorships, and providing opportunities for Christian community living.
We also help to equip our healthcare students and young professionals through monthly speaker events on relevant topics, on-line training resources, and frequent neighborhood outreaches that offer opportunities to practice integrating their Christian faith with medical practice. During their training and careers MCO participants are on the front lines dealing with complicated patients, difficult family situations, abuse in a myriad of forms, and not uncommonly, death. They need a deep rooted understanding of the gospel and how to apply it in stressful circumstances; they need to wrestle with their views on work and on suffering; and most of all they need a daily dependence on the grace and strength of God. MCO is privileged to come alongside those in healthcare, truly befriend them, and shepherd them through hard situations made even more difficult by the open hostility that often rises up against people of faith.
As the new school year starts, please pray for the ministry of MCO. Pray for:
- Our staff and volunteers, who have much to do and give generously of their time and talent; please pray that they can demonstrate biblical wisdom, gracious speech, and humble teachability as they minister to the healthcare students of Philadelphia.
- Our speakers, events, and outreaches that ideally will impact the broader community; pray that students, practitioners, church members, neighbors, perhaps even you will come and be blessed by God’s word, a friendly chat, and useful information to help us all minister better to both body and spirit.
- Our students! Hundreds of Jennys and Jacks out there need your prayer support as they study for make-or-break exams, work 80-hour weeks, and process the consequences of the life or death decisions that they make several times a day. They need Jesus. We all do.
So what of our Jenny? She is done with her pre-med program, now working in education, and studying for her MCAT (Medical College Aptitude Test). No, she did not see her brother on the streets of Kensington during the Summer Medical Institute of Medical Campus Outreach. But she did see him—about two weeks later on the streets of Narberth, when he came home! God answers prayer and we rejoice. He has been clean for about a month, and his family continues to minister to him. We can surely say together, “Bless the Lord O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit…” Ps 103:2–4.
For more information on Medical Campus Outreach, please email Laura Layer. The above story was used with permission (names and locations changed).
© 2021 Tenth Presbyterian Church.
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Laura Layer. © 2021 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org