We’ve just returned from Winter Conference and had an absolutely wonderful time. God was clearly at work, and we’d love to tell – and show – you how.
What is Winter Conference? It’s an annual, three-day conference for healthcare students and professionals in the Northeast, including many from Philadelphia. The conference takes place at Sandy Cove Conference Center (one hour south of the city) and exists to provide much-needed opportunities for teaching, fellowship, worship and refreshment. This year, approximately 170 were in attendance (see above, upper right)!
One of the primary goals of the conference is to help students and professionals connect their lives in Christ to their callings in healthcare. This is absolutely essential because their training insists that their faith has little or no place in their practice of medicine. Jesus, however, came to “proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal”, and told his disciples to follow His example (Luke 9:2). This year, Dr. James Avery gave three talks emphasizing both the need for Christians in healthcare to care for the body and soul, as well as the power Christ provides for this noble calling. They were the best talks I’ve ever heard on what it looks like to practically share your faith with patients in a way that is both natural and respectful. I had the privilege of concluding the conference with a fourth message on this theme (pictured above, lower left).
In addition to receiving solid teaching, those who attended the conference also had many opportunities for fellowship – both with the Lord and one another (see above, lower right). In this regard, the timing of the conference is everything. Midway through the academic year, many students come to the conference spiritually depleted from intense coursework, exam schedules and clinical training. By the end of the weekend, they have experienced the life-giving, but often forgotten, reality of God’s presence and support of their peers and other professionals. This year, I had the pleasure of giving (and receiving) spiritual encouragement to many in the form of countless conversations and prayer times. I was thrilled to have my family join me for part of the weekend as well. Although our stage of life limits their involvement to some extent, we remain committed to a vision of ministry that includes our entire clan!
At many points throughout the conference, we had an opportunity to respond to the talks through times of praise and worship. It was renewing and powerful to “enthrone God on (our) praises” (Psalm 22:3)!
With all the time for teaching, fellowship and worship, we still had plenty of room for some much-needed fun and refreshment. We enjoyed swimming, a bonfire, and other forms of recreation like football (see above, upper left) and basketball. Everyone had a phenomenal time!
On a final note, the value of Winter Conference will extend well beyond its formal conclusion both for the students and my ministry to them. It was a special opportunity to reconnect with many local students, and I will follow-up with them back here at home. I have a better sense of how I can pray for them, and what their most pressing needs are. And I have more tools to offer them as they seek to integrate their faith in Christ with their lives in medicine.
Thanks so much for investing in our family so that we can invest in these key students and professionals. We are truly grateful for each and every one of you!
Bryan & Sharon
For prayer & praise:
* Praise God for an absolutely wonderful Winter Conference! This is one of the high points of the year for me ministry-wise. Please pray that the work God did there would continue now that the conference has ended.
* Praise God for his ongoing blessing on our work at PCOM (the medical school where I minister). The men’s bible study has been deepening, as have my relationships with those who come. Praise God also for a message I gave at their commissioning ceremony this past Friday night. It was exciting to see so many students clearly professing their desire to Christ through healthcare. Please pray for the students, as a leadership transition will soon take place, and for me as I guide them through it. We’re meeting this coming Tuesday for an important, initial discussion.
* Praise God that Sharon’s pregnancy continues to go well as we approach a mid-April due date. Please pray that her gestational diabetes will not affect her or the baby negatively. Please pray as well for wisdom with getting our home ready – we will probably have to be creative and “make” an extra bedroom in the basement.
* Please pray that God gives us clear guidance as we discern His next ministry calling as this transitional year starts to wind down. At this point, we can share that Bryan does not feel led to pursue a solo pastoral calling (i.e., being the only pastor at a given church), and that focusing on full-time, discipleship-oriented medical ministry in Philadelphia is the leading candidate moving forward! At the same time, we want to be certain we are following the Lord’s leading, so keep us in prayer over these next few months, as we hope to have a final direction before the baby arrives.