Fall Intermed Update & More

Intermed Update

One constant feature of our ministry here in Philadelphia is change.  Students, residents, fellows and even professionals come and go at God’s leading.  Because healthcare training is comprised of many transitions, we made this the theme of our most recent Intermed, a gathering of local healthcare students and professionals for teaching, worship and fellowship.

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Drs. Jim & Thanh Kirkpatrick share about their own transitions at Intermed.

Drs. Jim & Thanh Kirkpatrick shared about their own transitions, both personal and vocational, during a great message that challenged those who came.  It’s vital for students to hear personally from those who have walked with Christ down the same roads they are about to travel.

Worship during Intermed.

Worship during Intermed.

Intermed, though, is about much more than the message. It’s also a time of connecting with others, worshiping together, and, processing the message in community during small group time.  By this measure, the event was a tremendous success!

Turning Point

Now that we’re well into the semester, we’re going through a (small) transition of our own.  I’ve visited all our campuses (at least) a few times, met the new first-years, reconnected with our returning students, and helped our leaders develop and implement a strategy tailored to their campus.  After this season of intensity, Sharon and I turn our attention to investing in the relationships formed in August/early September.  From now through early December, we’ll be going deeper with students, helping them to live out the gospel in the day-to-day grind of their everyday lives.

To give you a feel for what God is doing through us, I wanted to share (with permission) a portion of an email we received from one of our closest student friends, following a good conversation with him:

‘Thanks for today and for chatting and musing along with me… [and helping] me do a 180 degree on the recent “wilderness” trek I’m going through — I definitely was lost in the sense I didn’t (and still don’t really) see God’s hand in my life in a tangible way, but when you said that God is blessing me in this moment, I definitely realized that was so true — He loves me so much that He is allowing me to go through this period, molding me and shaping me more into His image; what else can I really ask for, right?’

It’s our tremendous privilege to be in relationships where we can have meaningful conversations like the one above.  While we feel our weaknesses and limitations, God seems to use the questions we ask, the attention we give, and, the encouragement we offer to make a consistent difference, and for that we give thanks.

On that note, we would be remiss if we didn’t end without giving thanks for you, our support team.  Intermed and the relationships we have are only possible because of our prayers and gifts.  May God bless you many times beyond all that you’ve given!

With love,

Bryan & Sharon

Here are some prayers and praises for this month:

  • Praise God for a terrific Intermed, home bible study brunches, many new first-year students, and, many wonderful times on campus.
  • Pray for our student overnight retreat Oct. 12-13.  Specifically, please ask that God helps students connect with Him and one another, and, that God blesses Dr. Josh Uy & myself as we speak on the theme ‘Rest for the Weary’.
  • Pray for wisdom and fruit as Sharon & I turn our attention to deepening relationships with students, especially our campus leaders and first-year students.
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Fall Intermed Almost Here – Register Now!

Whole Conference 2012Intermed, our gathering of healthcare students and professionals for teaching, worship and fellowship, is almost here!  Registration is free and now available at tiny.cc/intermedfall2013.

More details are available by accessing the flyer, but we’ll gather at Drexel University College of Medicine on Saturday, September 14th from 9a-12p to hear Drs. Jim & Thanh Kirkpatrick speak to us on the art of making wise, God-honoring transitions.

We’ll take a freewill offering for future Intermeds during the event, and, for those who are able, go out afterwards for lunch.  We hope to see you there!

Our Favorite Time Of The Year

As I write, we’re in the thick of what we call ‘startup season’, the time when our students from our eight campuses are returning.  We’re touching base with leaders, meeting the first-years we prayed for and generally feel like we’re riding a roller coaster without a seatbelt.  It’s our favorite time of the ministry year!

Although it’s busy right now, we wanted to briefly update you and ask that you pray for us during this exciting time.  Here’s are some selected highlights and areas where we need prayer.

  • helping our leaders as the year begins.  As the year begins, our leaders are coming off of their ‘last free summer’ and then diving right into the start of their year.  Over the summer, but especially now, I touch base with each campus, helping the leaders to carry out and adapt the plan they developed earlier on.  At Penn Dental, for example, I joined the leaders for a half-day planning and vision retreat and had the opportunity to lead a bible study to help set the tone for our time together.
  • meeting new students.  It’s so exciting to meet the first-year students that we prayed for!  Each of them has a unique story of God’s faithful calling into medicine and it’s our privilege to start helping them on this stage of the journey.
  • hosting brunches.  Our home bible study brunches are a special opportunity to host the students and serve them physical and spiritual food.  This fall, we’ll be studying passages from the Book of Numbers and meditating on what it means to walk with God ‘in the wilderness’.  In addition to offering nourishment, the brunches are also a great opportunity for students to connect with others in their situation from around the city, and, meet our family more personally.
  • planning for key events.  On September 14th, we’ll be holding our annual ‘Fall Intermed’, a gathering of local healthcare students and professionals for worship, teaching and fellowship.  My role is probably best described as a hybrid of project manager, consultant, and pastor.  In truth, the actual event is icing on the cake of getting to work with and influence our very best students as we prepare.  Later, on Oct. 12-13, we’ll be holding our first-ever student overnight retreat.  Dr. Josh Uy and I will be speaking on the theme of ‘Rest For The Weary’, but we’ll also allow plenty of time for fellowship and recreation.

So, there’s a short sampling of what we’re up to right now.  Thank you for standing with us during this intense, but wonderful, time of the year.

Bryan & Sharon

For prayer & praise:

  • praise God for the many fantastic students he’s brought to our city.  Praise also for our ministry council that works so faithfully alongside us, supporting us and ministering to the students.
  • pray that the Lord is deeply at work in students’ lives, drawing them to be part of our campus groups and faithful, local churches.  Often the academic intensity can be surprising and some Christians stop connecting with God and other believers.
  • pray that God would help me invest in, and help, our campus leaders.
  • pray for energy and discernment.  With so many campuses, this is a season of intensity for us personally and we need God’s strength.  We also need wisdom to know what each campus needs, and, who we should invest in.
  • pray for God’s blessing as we hold our brunches (first one is this Sat., Aug. 24th) and prepare for both Intermed and the overnight retreat.
  • praise God for a fantastic week away with Sharon in Quebec City early in the month.  After 15 years of marriage, we’re still best friends!

Looking Back, Moving Forward

Jon, one of our students turned resident, joins us virtually from CA!

Jon, one of our students turned resident, joins us virtually from CA!

Summer is here!  Our first-year students have finished with their exams, second-year students are either studying for ‘boards’ (comprehensive exams necessary to continue with third-year) or starting rotations, and, things are relatively quiet here.  Sort of like the shore at the end of the season.

But not quite.  There’s still plenty to do, like:

  • Give thanks for another great year of student ministry!  This year, in addition to supporting our 5 major campuses, we also started connecting with, and supporting, several new ones: Arcadia (formerly Beaver), Penn Dental, Temple Dental, and, Temple Podiatry.  We enjoyed discipling/mentoring many individual students, developing leaders and helping them reach their campuses, hosting students in our home for bible study brunches, and, provide relational counseling for couples.
  • Give thanks that our ministry ‘council’ (healthcare providers who work alongside me in ministry, also providing encouragement and accountability) doubled from 3 to 6.  This has been such an incredible encouragement and greatly increased what we’re able to do.
  • Hire a part-time ministry assistant.  God’s continued blessing has led to greater administrative and relational ministry needs, especially with our female students.  We hope to hire an assistant by August when our academic year begins.
  • Raise support.  Along with other increased costs, hiring a ministry assistant will require us to raise additional funds.
  • Hanging out at one of our brunches.

    Hanging out at one of our brunches.

    Prepare for fall Intermed and our first-ever student overnight retreat.  We’re asking God to use these events to refresh our current students, and, to enfold new students into our fellowships quickly.

  • Continue meeting with students.  While many students are away or busy with rotations, some have limited availability and we plan on taking advantage of that!  We’re also hosting 5 gatherings for the students over the summer as we study the Book of Malachi and the theme of spiritual refreshment.  This past Sunday, we concluded our study with ‘designer s’mores’ and great discussion on the patio late into the night!
  • Help our current leaders get ready for the new year.  Although we’ve already discussed vision and strategy for the first few weeks back, during the summer I will continue to touch base with our leaders so that we’re ready for this narrow, yet critical, window of opportunity.

As you can see, there’s plenty to do… and pray for.  Will you please join us in bringing these concerns before the Father over this next month?

Thank you for being a largely unseen, but so, so critical, part of our ministry.  We look forward to seeing you in July with another update!

With love,

Bryan & Sharon

God At Work: Fall Intermed 2012

Our speaker, Dr. David Suh

One of the most exciting things about our ministry is that God seems to know – and provide – exactly what we need at just the right time.  This was certainly the case at our recent ‘Intermed’ event, where 95 healthcare students, residents and professionals gathered for worship, teaching and fellowship.

At the center of our time together, Dr. David Suh (Cancer Treatment Centers of America) provided two excellent talks on what it means to receive, and then give away, God’s love.  In fleshing that out, his call to examine the ways we ‘put God in a box’ was incredibly challenging.  By sharing his own testimony, Dr. Suh helped us look at our own lives and see if we, too, often assume that God can’t or won’t do more than we can do on our own.  As a group, we tend to rely on our own intelligence and ability to get things done, so his teaching reminded our healthcare community that God intends to do ‘far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us’ (Eph. 3:20).

During the event itself, God ironically (and appropriately) did just that.  Throughout the second talk, God was powerfully stirring our hearts and

Intermed Small Group Time

we spontaneously decided to have a time of large group prayer, led by Dr. Suh.  It was refreshing to connect with God right there, repenting of sins that had been holding us back and asking Him for new power as we move forward.  As I visit our area campuses, I’ll be touching base with the students and seeing how God continues to work through our time together at Intermed.

Drexel Doubt Night

While it’s critical to reach students of faith on our campuses, we also want to reach out those who are searching.  Last Tuesday at Drexel, I had the opportunity to participate in a ‘Doubt Night’ with a local physician (Dr. Keith Herzog) and pastor (Rev. Steve Munz).  Together, God gave us the opportunity to field questions from the audience about why we believe Christianity is true.  While nothing dramatic took place, many good questions were asked and it gave the students and I an opportunity to follow-up with people afterwards.  I’ll be having lunch with one student who is seeking, something I’m looking forward to.

Regardless of who we’re interacting with, we’re thankful for you, our supporters, mindful that we are extensions of you in reaching Philadelphia’s healthcare campuses for Christ.

Warmly,

Bryan & Sharon

For praise & prayer:

  • Praise for God’s work at Intermed & Doubt Night!  Praise also for the many, many people who made Intermed a success, especially our student leadership team.  Please pray for ongoing fruit – that God would convict hearts about areas of growth, and, that seeds planted at Doubt Night would sprout.  Pray also that the Drexel students and believing faculty would be prayerful as we follow-up with those who came.
  • Praise for a still-forming group of male healthcare students from around the city who are eager to figure – and live – out what it means to live as a Christian man.  Please pray that God would give discernment for next steps.
  • Please pray also for a good year-end financially and spiritually with the students.  I want to help the leaders do a ‘halftime report’, seeing how things are going and making any necessary course corrections.  We also look forward to our last brunch for the semester on 12/8.
  • Finally, pray also that God would be preparing hearts for our annual CMDA Northeast Winter Conference 1/18-20.

Dr. David Suh’s Intermed Sessions

One week ago, Dr. David Suh, a radiation oncologist at Cancer Treatment Centers of America, spoke at our recent Intermed event.  His two talks covered receiving and giving away God’s love.

If you missed the talks, you can access them below.  Here’s how:

1 – click on the link below, which will take you its stored location on Google documents;

2 – click “file”, then “download” (see bottom of drop-down list)

3 – either click “open with” your default media player (i.e., Windows Media Player) to listen now, or, “save file” to download so you can store/listen to the file on your computer/MP3 player later.

Friday evening’s talk

Saturday morning’s talk

Many thanks to Pilgrim Church for hosting the event, and to Drew Batzell and Stephen & Lauren Campbell for recording the sessions.

Another Great Start

It’s hard to read the words, but these are index cards the Jefferson leaders used to map out their ministry vision for the year.

 

It’s hard to believe, but already another year is well underway!  This year, I’m spending time at 7 different campuses, so this has been an especially intense, but wonderful, season of ministry.  Here’s a quick roundup of what’s going on.

 

How Are We Going To Strengthen This Ministry & Reach This Campus This Year?!

Since we experience 100% leadership turnover on each of our campuses every year, helping our leaders develop and carry out a vision for their campus is a critical, and significant, part of my ministry.  Although many issues – like outreach – occur at all of our campuses, the key issues tend to take on a specific flavor at each one.  At Temple, we’re beginning to partner with local healthcare providers and pastors in an effort to holistically reach the surrounding community.  At Penn Dental, the students are re-launching the chapter after a few years of relative inactivity, so we’re wading through what that means.  Drexel is trying to reach their campus community more actively, hosting a ‘Doubt Night’ and possibly participating in a forum on abortion.  And Penn (Med) is asking what it means to include other believing healthcare (i.e., nursing) students in their ministry, but with an eye to helping them launch their own, independent ministries in time.  I really enjoy coming alongside the students and helping them meet the particular challenges, and seize the specific opportunities, that God lays before them!

Building Relationships

For this first month or two, it’s so important to build relationships with new, and returning, students.  As the cliché goes, “people have to know you care before they care what you know!”  The primary way we care for the students is simply by “showing up” on campus, or, inviting students into our home.  Already, we’ve hosted two Saturday morning brunches, with 20-25 in attendance each time.  I’ve been to each of our campuses, some a few times, for their activities fairs, large group meetings, leadership meetings, individual discipleship times, and, just to “hang out”.  Sharon and our kids have also joined me as they’re able so that students can start connecting with them, too.   As we build these relationships, trust grows and ministry moves forward.

Intermed

As you may remember, each year (sometimes twice) the students gather for a citywide time of fellowship, teaching and worship through song.  This fall, it’s been my privilege to put together, and guide, a phenomenal team of students as we get ready for this effort.  While at first summer breaks and busy schedules made coordinating calendars challenging, God has given us real momentum and things are moving forward nicely.  God led us to a theme of experiencing, and giving away, His love.  This is our passion and prayer.  But more than the event itself, the process leading up to the event is an amazing ministry opportunity to invest in our very best leaders and help them learn how to think about, and do, ministry so that they too will be ready to guide ministries on their own someday.  We want to raise up leaders who will raise up others leaders, the chain continuing until Christ returns.  This is how the Kingdom moves forward!

So, there’s a quick snapshot of what God is up to.  There’s so much more to share, but we’ll say more in future updates.  Thank you, as always, for your love, prayers and gifts that make this ministry possible.

With deep gratitude,

Bryan & Sharon

For prayer & praise:

  • praise for so many new students; pray that they keep coming out, and, that God shields them from getting consumed by their studies.
  • praise for faithful leaders at each of our campuses; pray that God helps us discern where we need to provide guidance at each campus, and, how.
  • pray for new discipleship relationships for Sharon and I to form with the incoming (first-year) women and men (respectively).
  • pray for Penn Dental in particular as they re-launch their ministry this year.  Each class (there are four) has different schedules, making coordinated efforts challenging.
  • pray for our Intermed team as we move toward our fall gathering (Nov. 2-3).  We need God’s Spirit to guide us!  Pray also that God will help me mentor our students throughout the process.  Our heart is that their vision for the Kingdom expand, and, that they will become equipped to teach others what they are receiving.  And, that God will be glorified in it all.

Journey to Jesus

As this academic year ends, I’d like to tell you (with his permission) about one student’s journey to faith in Jesus.

Toward the beginning of the year, Mat liked Christianity and its premises, but admitted that he was somewhat on the outside looking in.  Then, after returning to his apartment, he realized he lost his checkbook on campus.

Understandably upset, he returned to campus and ran into another student who could tell he was upset.  After Mat filled her in, she offered to help him look for the checkbook even though she barely knew him.  Although they were not successful, the student said she would pray for Mat and that really struck him.  He felt like God was becoming real in his life, the very thing he’d been hoping and praying for.

Two days later, on Sunday, he found a Facebook message from one of his fellowship’s leaders saying that the wallet was found and already back in his campus mailbox.  Beyond being relieved, he again saw God at work and becoming present in his life.

A few days later, though, doubts began to set in.  ‘Was that really God?  Or, was it just a coincidence?’  Mat continued to read his bible and connect with Christians on campus, but still, he hadn’t made a decision to follow Christ personally.

I can remember one meeting with him where I asked what was holding him back.  He reflected for a moment, then said, “I’m not sure.  It’s like a jigsaw puzzle with a few pieces missing, but I’m not really sure what they are.”  And so, I continued to pray with and for him for God to keep reaching out to him.

Perhaps a week ago, Mat and I met again for lunch.  This time, something he said made me think that his relationship with Christ had changed.  “Wait a second,” I said.  “Has your relationship with Jesus changed?!”

He then reminded me of a conversation we had where he shared about a Mark Driscoll sermon he heard a month or two ago.  The sermon, from Luke, said that at some point we need to be satisfied with the evidence we have and make a decision to embrace Christ personally.  Although Mat didn’t become a Christian when he first heard the message, he really thought about it and eventually decided he needed to ‘go all in’.

Although there were no ‘fireworks’ or a clearly-defined moment of faith, something very dramatic has happened to Mat.  Like Christ said, “whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24).  It’s been so exciting to see God’s faithfulness to Mat and watch his journey to Jesus.

He also understands that, in some ways, the journey is just beginning.  Thankfully, he’ll have a break from classes this summer, so we’re planning to meet together regularly to see what it means to be a disciple and keep growing in Christ.

It’s such a privilege for me to play a small, but real, role in the lives of students like Mat.  Thanks for your prayers and support that allows us to journey alongside them!

In Christ’s love,

Bryan & Sharon

Quick prayers and praises:

  • praise God for His work in Mat’s life and pray for that work to continue.
  • praise God for a phenomenal year of reaching students for Christ.  We saw so many changed lives and watched the students reach out with passion to their classmates!
  • pray for our summer: we will host a new bible study on 2 Timothy in our home and meet with many students individually for discipleship. Pray also that God gives us wisdom as we help campus leaders plan for the fall.  Also, many new students and residents will be coming to town, so please ask that we connect with them quickly and start forming relationships with them.
  • Pray also for me and our student leadership team as we plan for our fall ‘Intermed’, our gathering of students/professionals for worship, teaching and fellowship.  It’s a great opportunity for me to invest in many of our key leaders, and, for them to get hands-on experience that will prepare them for future investment as they become healthcare providers!
  • Finally, pray for this fall’s incoming students.  We are praying for many Christians, skeptics and seekers that we can encourage on their own journeys to Jesus.

One Month Checkup: What Did We Learn From Dr. Levy?

“Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”  (Jesus, John 13:16)

We see it all the time with patients.  Physicians ask them to take their medications, follow a certain regimen, and so on, only to see those patients disregard their orders to their own detriment.  Advice only works if we take it in the trenches of everyday life!  If we’re honest, of course, we know it’s easier said than done.

So, now that it’s been roughly one month since Dr. David Levy gave his Intermed talks in Philadelphia, I wanted to review what he talked about and see if we’ve continued taking the ‘medicine’ he prescribed.

In my mind, here are the main takeaways from Dr. Levy’s time in Philadelphia:

  • Who we are matters more than what we say.  Dr. Levy gave some of the best talks I’ve heard in a long time.  The content was tremendous.  But, the thing that made them so great is that they flowed out of his living, dynamic relationship with God.  Even though he’s a highly-trained neurosurgeon, it’s immediately obvious that he understands – really – that God is absolutely vital to every moment.  During our rides in the car to and from events, he would often spontaneously just offer short prayers of thanks or need.  And so, his talks were essentially just an outflow of who he is, and his walk with Christ, each day.
  • We need to make our relationship with God real and specific.  During each of his main talks, Dr. Levy invited his audience to imagine they were with him in his office.  He then walked us through exercises he uses with patients, such as a declaration of forgiveness.  The issues he addressed were important in and of themselves, but more generally he taught us to move beyond a vague, lifeless faith to one that is specific and (therefore) full of life.  For example, it’s very different to say, “Lord, I forgive Joe” versus, “Lord, I forgive Joe for the ways he keeps criticizing me and never returns my phone calls.”
  • Our hope lies in God, not our abilities.  In ways big and small, Dr. Levy really modeled that the difference-maker in our lives is God, not us.  We believe that on one level, but our lives often show we really don’t.  There was a moment where Dr. Levy mentioned a passage from Isaiah where God talks about revealing new things to his people for their benefit.  Reflecting on that, Dr. Levy mentioned that he’s been thinking, “You know, that’s what I need… for God to show up and show me something new, something I can’t come up with on my own.”  Dr. Levy has recaptured this idea that God can break into our lives at any moment and take us way further than we ever could on our own.

After listening to his talks, you may have your own takeaways.  The key, though, is asking God to help us start living it out.  (I’m working through the declaration of forgiveness pretty regularly).  That’s where life becomes exciting, where we go beyond information downloads to real-life change.  That should be true whether we’re listening to a talk, a sermon, or just looking around us (see Proverbs).  When we do that, each day becomes a new adventure.

What one thing is God leading you to start living out?

The Best Week Ever

Just this morning, Dr. David Levy drove off to New York City for the final stage of his East Coast trip.  It marked the end of a wonderful week of ministry in Philadelphia, so I wanted to provide you with a brief report of his time here.

Intermed

This was our biggest event of the week, with well over 100 in attendance on Friday and Saturday.  In addition to our usual student population, we made an effort to attract more residents and graduates this time, and we made good progress on that front.

Without exaggeration, the talks by author and neurosurgeon Dr. Levy were some of the best I’ve heard in a long time.  His messages on sharing faith with those around us, forgiveness and joy combined humor, real-life experience, Scripture and specific application in a very special way.   At the end of the sessions, he walked us through practical exercises on forgiveness and letting go of offenses that created an atmosphere that was, at once, both serious and light.

After the exercise on forgiveness, one student said, “Up until now, I’ve been angry with my mom, but I couldn’t really say why.  Dr. Levy’s practical examples helped me put words to my anger so that I could confess it and forgive my mom.”  She was almost giddy with joy as she shared, and many related similar stories.  God was at work!

Campus Events

In addition to Intermed, Dr. Levy spoke at the Temple, UMDNJ-SOM (Stratford, NJ) and Penn medical campuses.  These were exciting events, with an unusual mixture of Christians and others at various points in their own spiritual journeys.

At SOM, about 55 people came out to hear Dr. Levy speak over dinner.  Jasen, one of the student leaders, had attracted a unique group of believers and spiritually-open folks from the school and surrounding community.  One student said the presentation was the best he had heard the entire year!

Later, 12-15 of us went back with Dr. Levy to the Hrics’ home to continue the conversation over dessert.  Dr. Hric and his wife Susan have made their home a ‘safe place’ for people seeking truth, and our time together there was phenomenal.  Dr. Levy invited each of us to share our spiritual journey, starting with our experience growing up.  One student, honest about being agnostic, expressed his respect for the humility he’s observed in Christians.  He understands the connection to the Christian faith, where our God, though strong, came to serve the weak.  The next day, another student texted me, saying “last night was the most enriching night I’ve had in a very long time, possibly ever.”  I’ve heard testimony today that those came are still telling others and that there’s an overall buzz and excitement!

It’s really hard to communicate in an email how absolutely wonderful this week was.  Everyone who participated came away challenged and encouraged.  ‘Friendships with a purpose’ were created and renewed.  And, there has been a real synergy created by so many people coming together for a common purpose.

Thank you, thank you for your prayers!  Please keep praying that God continues working, and that we intentionally engage others, in the weeks ahead!

Amazed by God,

Bryan & Sharon