Throwing on some scrubs, stocking up pockets with my pens, struggling to get my shoes on for another day as humans, we can instinctively go through these motions like puppets. Whether you are a Christian or a non-believer, we can enter “auto-pilot” at times. When I first arrived at SMI, I was expecting God to use me in supernatural ways right away. Unfortunately, l came in with a narrow mindset that I was immediately going to be blown away by seeing how God works through an underserved, poorly-knit, and dangerous community. I had a whole vision set out in my head about how I wanted to interact with the community and comfortably talk, serve, and ultimately, relate or sympathize with the people living in North Philadelphia.

God has taught me a few things these past few days. The other day, I met P, a non-believer in his 20s who had abused drugs, had a friend who passed away because of a drug addiction, and had dealt with a broken family. God taught me that I could never personally relate to this type of lifestyle. I was never a drug addict, I never had a close friend who passed away because of substance abuse, and I did not come from a broken family. No matter how much you want to relate to someone, you can never experience some horrific stuff other individuals have been through including having your spouse get raped, being sexually molested, or seeing your children die, just to name a few, if you have not experienced those things personally. Although we want to feel that same feeling to reach out and comfort, its just almost impossible to share that pain. P was ready to check his blood sugar. I went for the glucometer to check the numbers, and I knew I could break the ice. Are you afraid of needles?, I politely asked, and he jokingly said Why would you ask me that? I replied, Im just curious man, haha. This is how I got to relate with and joke with him. After I checked his blood sugar I asked if he wanted a Band-Aid and a Popsicle, and we just got to laugh it off. He was finally comfortable enough to introduce himself to me with his nickname. The receptive behavior he expressed towards me made me smile inside, and I knew I could try and use this window of opportunity. Inconveniently, I was juggling another patient at the time, attempting to get their blood pressure. After Jean asked him about salvation and seeing Ps desire to turn his life around 180 degrees away from his drug addiction, I begged him to come to church for me. Yo P, Ill come pick you up to go to church man; just do it for me, I smiled. Hopefully, I will be seeing him this Sunday, where he can learn to find joy in God, rather than earthly things. Additionally, Im praying that he will ask God for a change of heart to desire to serve his enemies, his neighbors, and the Lord.

When I walked away from that man, God revealed to me an ignorance that had clouded my mind this past week and a half. I got to listen to marvelous testimonies, see the effects of traumatic experiences that appeared irreparable, and get to know the people on the streets of North Philly. Because of my own narrow mindset, I was unable to see how God was working throughout the community in each individuals house, despite the 1-2 hours I spent with them talking about Christ. I was just going through the motions with these empty conversations. There was no conviction to just let other people know about Jesus and the sacrifice He made for us. My ignorance blinded me in sharing the joy we can find in salvation and sharing a relationship with Christ. My ignorance blinded me from letting broken people know that God will cleanse you by picking you off the ground and wipe away every tear. My ignorance blinded me from sharing that our Shepherd will put you through trials in some cases and snap the sheeps, broken sinners hungry for Christ, legs to bring them back into the sheep pen (Dan Whang). I got so excited over one person that I lost sight of how God has been using me as a vessel, with the gift of wanting to serve through medical services, to shine light into the darkness, letting people know that hope exists by placing all your faith, trust, and love into Jesus. This trip has also dispelled the misconceptions of this community as well. I can confidently say that North Philadelphia is such a close-knit community where people actually love each other by serving and watching out for one another. Looking back, Im glad God taught me this lesson, especially midway through SMI. Having God reveal this to me will convict me to fervently serve the Lord for the rest of the trip (better late than never). If you are reading this and feel like you are experiencing a season of just going through the motions without the right heart motive, let me tell you something. God perfectly orchestrates His show and He is the author of the play even though you may feel like a puppet. He will make His show happen whether you want to be in His performance or not. The question is: will you share the love and happiness of knowing Jesus by being part of his performance?

Patrick Pham

© 2023 Tenth Presbyterian Church.

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in its entirety or in unaltered excerpts, as long as you do not charge a fee. For Internet posting, please use only unaltered excerpts (not the content in its entirety) and provide a hyperlink to this page, or embed the entire material hosted on Tenth channels. You may not re-upload the material in its entirety. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Tenth Presbyterian Church.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Patrick Pham. © 2023 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: