What are the results of the Summer Medical Institute, known as SMI? Aside from the statistics we provide about the number of doors knocked on or the number of health screens performed, what good actually comes of the program?
In case you don’t know, SMI is a project of Medical Campus Outreach (MCO), which is a ministry of Tenth Presbyterian Church. During SMI, Christian healthcare students live and work for three weeks in the underserved neighborhoods of North Philadelphia, providing door-to-door health screens and sharing the gospel through conversation and prayer with those they meet. Students are accompanied by volunteer medical professionals (known as "faculty"), who provide relational mentoring or topical teaching during the program.
The most obvious positive result that most think of is the practical healthcare information that SMI provides to the neighborhoods in North Philadelphia. Perhaps a more important result is the many people who are shared Christ with and given information about the local churches. However, I’d like to share with you about yet another result, which is the tremendous impact the program has upon the students who participate.
During SMI, students grapple with the concept of suffering within the community. This may be through the many they meet who have family members who are incarcerated or have been victims of violence or abuse. They encounter those who lack health insurance or have to make difficult decisions on whether to pay their utilities or spend the money on needed medications. In these households, heath care costs are usually an unnecessary luxury.
Coming from a rigorous academic environment where they are expected to know the answers, they often find themselves confronted with their own limitations.
Through discussion, teaching, debriefing and prayer, students are reminded of their need to place their faith in a sovereign God, and to seek his help for wisdom—the God who says he counts the very hairs on our head, who clothes the lilies of the field, and who ultimately suffered himself for our own transgressions.
With this motivation, they learn to become confident, sharing their faith through daily practice, are humbled by people in the community who stop to pray for them, by the warmth and love they receive from many in the neighborhoods, and by the beauty God manifests in unexpected places.
Finally, the students are edified through the relationships they build while living in community with one another. During these unique three weeks, they spend time in prayer for one another, worshiping together, sharing their testimonies through late night conversations, or in casual conversations with clinicians over dinner. Most recall this experience as transformational, reminding them of their need to seek Christian community for encouragement, prayer, and accountability as an integral part of their lives.
This impact may be heard in an SMI student’s own words:
The three weeks I spent at SMI was a time of spiritual renewal, where I experienced the importance of community and finally saw what it could look like to integrate my faith and future career.
I learned evangelism is not a tool but a lifestyle. It is a mind that looks for brokenness. It is a heart that moves with compassion. It is a Spirit that always takes people back to the gospel. Not only on a mission trip, but wherever God plants us.
We are in the midst of actively preparing for this year’s program, which will run from June 28-July 19. If you’re a Christian healthcare student, consider applying to SMI, because God can use it to impact your life and career. If you’re a Christian medical professional, please consider volunteering for a day or more to come serve as faculty and work alongside the students.
We can also use volunteer cooks to sign up to provide a meal at suppertime for the group (we can reimburse you for the cost of your ingredients, too!). We are very grateful for the financial support and prayers that have made this program possible.