As you know, this past weekend we held our second Intermed Retreat for healthcare students and professionals in the Philadelphia area. By all accounts, it was an amazingly successful time! Please read on for a quick update on some prayer items for the retreat, as well as its surprise ending.
* turnout – We had 64 students and professionals come for the event, a very solid turnout. We also saw a significant increase in the number of professionals in attendance, a real encouragement and learning opportunity for the students.
* relationships – I had asked you to pray that significant relationships would be formed, and God really answered this prayer. Those who came were still talking 45 minutes after the retreat had ended. In fact, we only left because we had to, and even then many continued their conversations at local restaurants and night spots.
* my involvement – God truly blessed my time at the retreat as well. There was a special openness in our group that allowed us to wrestle deeply with the talk on “annoying patients” we had just heard. I also had many spiritually significant conversations throughout the evening.
Earlier in this post, I had mentioned a surprise ending. Based on its title, the second talk for the evening promised to be about how our shortcomings and failures are actually great preparation for medical missions, something many of the students are considering. We were all ready for a standard message on how the Lord used some significant, but relatively minor, ups-and-downs in preparing the speaker for his upcoming medical missions venture to Africa.
No one could have guessed, though, just how honest he was going to be. Despite being raised in a godly home on the mission field, and knowing what to expect during medical training as the son of a surgeon, things became incredibly bleak right after graduation from medical school. Isolated, seriously depressed and certain that his life had been wasted, he was literally just a moment away from taking his life when God miraculously intervened. Through tears, he spoke of God’s astounding mercy in restoring hope, becoming chief resident in his residency program, and allowing him to move forward with his vision for medical missions. “I feel,” he said, “like I’ve been saved twice.”
This was an amazingly powerful moment for everyone there. Healthcare providers are trained to “have it all together.” Failure is not an option, or, at least not something you admit. This mentality – prevalent even among Christians – has a devastating spiritual impact. The truth is none of us “have it together spiritually” – or even professionally – and a climate where failure is unacceptable encourages us to hide from God, and the help He wants us to receive from the Christian community.
So, in sharing his experience transparently with the students, the speaker gave them “permission” to be more honest with God and each other. Far from being embarrassed about their weaknesses and failures, he encouraged them to find their security in Christ and see their shortcomings as opportunities for Him to accomplish His saving work. Nothing can stop God from using us for His purposes!
This is why we’re in medical ministry. It’s an incredibly tough environment where spiritual stagnancy and decline are the norm. We’re there to connect students with resources like this retreat, and to help them not only hang on, but thrive, during their training. When this is handled properly, the students go on to become people who can truly walk alongside their patients with humility and hope, physicians following the Great Physician in treating body and soul.
Thank you for your prayers, gifts and encouragement. With your support, we are making a real difference in this corner of the Kingdom!
For the King,
Bryan & Sharon