From The Field

Part of our team debriefing right after the outreach.

With our first SMI Philly outreach under our belt, I wanted to send you a report “from the field” that I hope will encourage you and guide your prayers over the next three weeks as the project continues —

Yesterday afternoon, we held our first Summer Medical Institute (SMI) Philly outreach for the year.  Based in Philadelphia’s second-poorest community, we offer free health screenings and discuss spiritual matters with anyone and everyone who wants to.

Although we held four hours of training the day before, including what to say when we knock on doors and how to address spiritual concerns, we came away with a profound sense that there’s really no script for this kind of thing.  In all honesty, that can be kind of scary, and all of us had some level of anxiety even though most of us had done it before.

After all, following Jesus can land you in some pretty interesting situations.  Like a community hair salon, where we wound up spending our entire afternoon.

At first, I’ve got to admit, it was a little awkward.

Although the owner had invited us, when we opened the door we discovered other members of our team were already there due to a change of plans.  No one on our specific team had ever done the screenings we were about to offer.  Demographically, none of us looked like we belonged there, something that was not lost on the salon’s patrons.  And, as a guy, I felt a little out of place.

But, there we were, and we weren’t about to miss the opportunities God had put before us.  So, with hair dryers blazing all around us, and our interpreter as our primary ‘lifeline’ between us and the Spanish-speaking customers, we started screening anyone who was interested.

Our last interaction turned out to be our best one.

“Maria” (not her real name) is a woman in her early forties, and she was clearly worried about her health.  Although she had been seen by a local clinic, she was not getting adequate services for her high blood pressure and GI issues.  Without getting into all the details, she had been eating just once a day to avoid embarrassment at work.  And, as the single parent of a two-year-old, she was (rightly) scared about what would happen to him if her health didn’t improve.

Although we weren’t able to do much for her medically on the spot, we did connect her with Esperanza, the local, Christ-centered clinic that will provide excellent care for her.  And, although she wasn’t ready to discuss spiritual concerns deeply in a public setting, she responded to our offer of pastoral follow-up, even requesting a worship service in her home.  Only God knows how Maria’s story will end, but our team left encouraged, feeling privileged to be part of God’s work and believing she will receive the medical and spiritual follow-up she needs.

So, although the day didn’t unfold anything like we expected it to, God’s script was better than ours.  And that’s exactly what we needed to see – practically – on our first outreach.  Strengthened by that experience, we’re resolved to trust Christ for every interaction we have over the next three weeks:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”  (Proverbs 3:5-6)

If there’s any ‘script’, it’s Him!

Please continue to pray for us, the people we’ll be meeting, and our partners who will be following up in the days ahead.  Thanks, as always, for your heartfelt prayers!

With Christ’s love,

Bryan & Sharon

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