Transition Time!

relay raceThe look of stress on the faces I pass says it (without words) all.

This last month before classes end, and ‘boards’ begin, is a trying time for most of our students.  Things have a way of piling up at the end of the semester, and (understandably) everyone tends to be a little more distracted and a little less available.

So, every May, we adjust our strategy.  Our meetings with students are less frequent and shorter.  We check in more through emails and texts: ‘How’s it going? How can we pray for you?’  And, with new leaders onboard, I work hard to set up meetings with them to strategize for the coming year, address any areas of concern, and help them establish their key priorities.

To give you a feel for how it works, I had an especially good meeting with the leaders from one of our dental campuses.  They’ve been extremely committed in re-launching the group during their first two years, but, understand their commitment next year will be more sporadic because of clinic, which involves seeing patients.  In addition, we will only have 1 leader next year who won’t be in clinic, but he has some other factors that may make it harder for him to ‘run point’ and lead the club.  All of this can feel overwhelming, and, make it challenging to continue the group’s recent success.

This is why I’m here!

Over lunch, I helped them develop a simple, but effective strategy:

  • reach out to first-years – they will be our future leaders and help the fellowship stay strong;
  • I will support the leader who’s not in clinic – so he has guidance and doesn’t have to ‘go it alone’;
  • keep meeting weekly – to provide continuity and much-needed refreshment, even during exams and seasons of busyness;
  • seek the support of the professor who’s been coming – although faculty can’t come frequently, their example of following Christ in the academy is irreplaceable.

It sounds simple – almost too simple, right?  It’s certainly true that this would not qualify as ‘rocket science’, but in the midst of schedules with precious little time, I feel privileged to help the students stay encouraged and take the small steps that will help them obtain God’s vision for their group.

Each campus leadership team’s needs are different, but real nonetheless.  As leaders stay focused on the Lord and His vision for their group, their fellowships thrive.  Thank you for making it possible for Sharon & I to support our leaders; together, we’re making a difference.

In Christ’s love,

Bryan & Sharon

Please join us in praise & prayer for the following items:

  • Praise for great leadership teams at our area campuses and the opportunity to speak into their lives.  Please pray that God gives all of us wisdom to discern His vision for each, and, the strength to live it out.
  • Pray that God gives the students strength to finish well academically, and, to keep growing in their love for Him.
  • Pray for our ministry team as we start to minister to medical residents (the stage in training just after medical school, but before becoming a full-fledged physician).
  • Finally, please pray that the Lord provides a reliable, cost-effective car for me as mine is, as they say, near the end of the road.

 

 

 

Winter Conference!





Dear friends in Christ,

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)!

Teaching

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).

Fellowship

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!

Worship

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)!

Refreshment

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!

Most warmly,
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.

July Update

Dear friends,

We hope that your summer is going well, and that you’ve been able to enjoy some ‘down time!’ Now that we’re starting to settle into our new ministry position, we wanted to touch base with you on a few things.

God at Work in Students

During the summer months, the students are busy with various projects, and many are away. Still, it’s possible to keep in touch and build relationships with them so that we can hit the ground running when they return to campus. I’ve been doing that with many, and here are a few encouraging comments I’ve received:

Thanks for all of the hard work! I don’t know were we would be without your time spent on helping us.

Thanks so much for checking in on us. Everything here is going really well [here at SMI]… I can’t wait to share more with you when I get back. Please pray for [my wife] and I to find comfort/growth in the Lord during our short separation (the next 3 weeks), and also for the Lord to prepare the hearts of those we will be ministering to both here in Texas and down in Matamoros. Thank you so much for everything.

Bryan, I feel in many ways I’ve been blessed with men in my life that I trust with my weaknesses and you are one of them, so thank you.

As you can see, God is at work through our efforts and we are blessed to know that He’s using us to make a difference. We can’t wait for the fall!

The Transition Period

Until the students return in late August, our priority is communicating with our supporters (in other words, you!) about our transition. For those of you who support us financially, hopefully you’ve received a call from us and we have answered your questions on how you might continue to support us financially. If that hasn’t happened yet, would you please get in touch with us either by phone (856.524.2126) or email (stoudtb@gmail.com)? If any of you have questions on our transition (regardless of whether you support us in prayer or financially), we continue to be available to you. We’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to connect with many of you more personally.

We’re also in the process of recruiting new members for our support team. Our goal is to have our full support pledged – and received – so that we can focus our energies on the great mission the Lord is calling us to. Our current goal is $1,000 per month, mostly to replace natural attrition in our support base.

Refining the Scope

In our recent updates, we’ve mentioned that our new calling will focus on two groups – (1) medical and university students in Northwest Philadelphia, and (2) younger people at and around our new church, Pilgrim (also in NW Philadelphia). Among the first group, we also mentioned that there are four potential campuses in the area where we could concentrate our ministry. Since we’ve last written, we believe that the Lord is sharpening our focus to mainly focus on two of those campuses, the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) and Philadelphia University (“Philly U”). We’re excited because this narrowing will allow us to draw upon our experience with both medical and undergraduate students, and make a deeper impact at each campus.


Notes on Contributions

Thanks so much for your ongoing support – your generosity allows us to impact lives for Christ, and we are tremendously grateful! On a practical note, we wanted to address a few questions that have continued coming up over the past several weeks:

Q: Can I keep contributing through Tenth Presbyterian Church, your former church? If not, where can I send my contributions?

A: We know that, for some of you, giving through the offering plate at Tenth made it easier to contribute. Going forward, please send all contributions to: Pilgrim Church * PO Box 35184 * Philadelphia, PA 19128, and mention “for the Stoudts” on the memo line.

Q: Electronic giving helps me be consistent with my contributions. Can I still do that?

A: Probably. Although Pilgrim Church can not initiate monthly electronic transfers, you can (probably) initiate such a transfer with your financial institution in the same way that you would pay your bills automatically/electronically. For most banks, this is now a free service. The bank would need Pilgrim’s account number so just let us know if you’d like that by replying to our email (stoudtb@gmail.com).

OK, that’s all for now. Please know that we love you, and are grateful for your partnership in this ministry!

Warmly,
Bryan & Sharon

A New Opportunity!

Dear friends,

Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. – Psalm 37:4

Well, the time is finally here! Sharon and I are thrilled to share with you God’s goodness in faithfully leading us to where He wants us to minister next! As you’ll see, this new opportunity takes advantage of everything we’ve done in the past, yet builds on that in ways that are exciting as we move ahead.

We anticipate a mid-summer transition to our new ministry, which at its core, is essentially a continuation of our call to minister to students and young adults. Pilgrim Church is uniquely situated to partner with us as we seek to reach out to this population. Located in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia, Pilgrim Church has two medical schools (Drexel and PCOM) and two undergraduate campuses (Saint Joseph’s and Philadelphia Universities) within only a few miles of its doors. Together, these campuses represent more than 10,000 students and a tremendous opportunity to impact our region for Christ! We are now prayerfully considering how best to reach these fields for harvest, knowing that there will be no shortage of opportunities to get on campus!

The neighborhoods surrounding the church also have a corresponding higher concentration of younger people. Over forty percent of the population is aged 18-34, and it’s growing! Pilgrim is the only evangelical church in its immediate neighborhood, and has begun to attract younger folks, but as of yet it has struggled to engage them and rally them around a vision to reach their peers. Working toward this goal is therefore a priority for the church, and the senior pastor is eager to have us play a lead role in this area.

I am also thrilled at the prospect of being mentored by Dr. Ed Gross, the church’s senior pastor. I have known him for roughly fifteen years now, and he is truly one of the godliest men I have ever met. He will be investing in me, and allow me opportunities to exercise and sharpen my gifts within the context of the church. Since he hopes to transition out of his position as senior minister in October of 2009 to pursue foreign missions work, one of the goals for this next year-and-a-half is to see if the Lord is preparing me for pastoral ministry, either at Pilgrim or elsewhere. Although this would be a tremendous honor, we want to let this to unfold naturally to see if it is a good fit. Please pray with us along these lines.

Finally, this position is a blessing for our family, and Matthew in particular. It will allow him to stay at Devereux, his school for autistic children. During these two years, Matthew has grown amazingly in his abilities to communicate, and we relish the opportunity to see that continue.

As you can see, God has designed a perfect situation for us! For those of you who are practically-minded, though, you’re probably wondering what that means for you, our support team. The short answer is that we will continue to depend on a support team to propel this ministry forward, at least through October of 2009. At that time, we will reevaluate and pray with you for the Lord’s clear leading. In the meantime, we will continue to need financial and prayer support for this ministry to thrive among the students and young adults of northwest Philadelphia!

And since our time with MCO will be ending soon, we will be contacting each of you in the near future. We hope to, wherever possible, meet with you personally to share a short presentation we’ve put together about this new work. Please continue to keep us in prayer in these next months. We look forward to connecting with you soon!

Warmly,

Bryan & Sharon

P.S. Please see the following “Frequently Asked Questions” we’ve put together that will answer some other questions you may have. You may also contact Pastor Gross at (215) 482-1139 if you would like to hear his perspective on this exciting opportunity.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How did God lead you to this latest opportunity?

A: As we were seeking our next calling, I (Bryan) approached Pastor Gross with the hope that he could help me network as I looked for new ministry opportunities throughout the mid-Atlantic region. I was surprised – and thrilled – when he told me that there were opportunities at Pilgrim that fit our background and gifting perfectly.

Q: What else excites you about this new opportunity?

A: Beyond it fitting our experience/passion for reaching young adults so well, Pilgrim Church has a real heart to reach its unbelieving neighbors. Its official mission is to “reach every man, woman and child” in their section of the city with the gospel. It is eager to work with other bible-believing churches to accomplish this vision.

Q: Will you still be on support, or will the church support you?

A: Although Pilgrim will contribute a small percentage toward our support needs, we will continue to be ‘on support’. In essence, our financial situation will remain the same as it always has, but Pilgrim will handle our contributions. As an aside, they will not charge any administrative fee; the entirety of your support will go directly to our ministry needs.

Q: When should I transition my support, and where should I send it?

A: We will send an update once the date is finalized, mostly likely the end of June or end of July. As of that date, financial gifts will then be made payable to Pilgrim Church (memo line “Stoudts / support”), and sent to the church at P.O. Box 35184, Philadelphia, PA 19128.

Q: Will I receive receipts with my contributions? Are my contributions still tax-deductible?

A: Yes, you will receive a receipt with every contribution. Yes, all contributions are still tax-deductible.

Q: Do you offer electronic (automatic) giving?

A: At this time, we are not able to offer this service. However, you can setup electronic giving through your bank. Many now offer free, automated payments, even covering the cost of postage!

Q: What will your ministry look like on a practical level?

A: While we expect some of the details to evolve over time, we anticipate that our campus ministry will very closely resemble what we’ve done in the past. This means I’ll lead bible studies, do large group teaching, disciple (mentor), train leaders and equip them for ministry on their campuses, and reach out to non-Christians. At Pilgrim, I’ll work with the younger people to reach their peers, some of whom will be the students I minister with and to on campus. I’ll have opportunities to preach and share in some of the general ministry of the church. We’ll also use our home freely so that people can share in the life of our family. Our goal is that these two ‘worlds’ of campus and church would have a lot of overlap.

Q: What is happening with MCO, now that you’re leaving?

A: The board of directors is taking this opportunity to re-evaluate and pray about the ministry’s next steps, but remains committed to the vision of ministering to medical students. The ministry will likely undergo some significant changes, since it now entirely a lay ministry (without full-time staff). However, we have full confidence that God is behind the changes for both MCO, and for us. For example, we have the board’s full support regarding both our departure, and our desire to continue in medical ministry in the city.

Q: How will you keep us informed about your new ministry?

A: We will continue to provide monthly updates via email.

Q: What are your biggest prayer needs right now?

A: Please pray that we finish well with MCO, that the Lord provides all of our support needs, and that He continues to give us an all-out passion for this new work!