New Year Ministry Trifecta (Or, The CMDA Philadelphia January Update)

Winter Conf - group photo

Our 2015 CMDA Northeast Winter Conference Group!

Recently, we’ve been sending out monthly updates through MailChimp so that our support team can save a click or two.  In retrospect, though, I’m realizing that not using our website might make it seem like we’re not up to anything.  This would be – in the words of The Office character Dwight Schrute – ‘false’.  We may send out future updates in both places (here and MailChimp) to give you the best of both worlds.

Here, then, are some recent happenings since our last update in December.

Men’s Night

One of my (Bryan) passions is raising up men who are difference-makers.  Men who will change the world for Christ and make a mark for him wherever they go.

To that end, in early January we held our annual men’s night at ‘The Shabazz’, a home where 6 guys training for healthcare are living together.  (Although it sounds like a hookah bar, the home takes it name from Shabazz Napier, one of the guys’ favorite basketball players).

As the New Year rolled around, our topic was how to make – and actually follow through on – goals that change us and the world around us for Christ.  Toward the end of our time, I walked the guys through exactly how to do it and gave them the chance to set a goal right there.  Not to mention all the wings we consumed and fun we had.  One of the guys even suggested having another before this one finished.

Women’s Night

The very next evening, Dr Marcie Macolino joined Sharon in hosting our annual women’s night. The topic – how to balance life in healthcare with the rest of life – is always one at the forefront of everyone’s mind.  Although an exhaustive, once-for-all solution was not achieved, God gave the women a great discussion and tremendous food and fellowship.

CMDA Northeast Winter Conference

All of us want to make an impact for God’s Kingdom right where we are, everyday.  Have you ever felt, though, that you can’t?  Or aren’t?  I know I feel like this all the time.  We get overwhelmed, feel ordinary, and forget that God is at work.  And become isolated.

Our Annual Philly Area Denny's Run at Winter Conference!

Our Annual Philly Area Denny’s Run at Winter Conference!

These are the very things that our healthcare students and professionals are struggling with every day, and why we hold our annual CMDA Northeast Winter Conference.  This year, our theme was ‘The Extraordinary Life Of An Ordinary Christian in Healthcare: Lessons & Stories From The Field’.  We had a great turnout, with roughly 180 in attendance.  (In fact, we had to close registration early).

Without a doubt, this was the best Winter Conference I can remember, largely because our speakers were so transparent about their failings, yet pointed us to God’s work in and through them.  As we closed the conference on Sunday with a worship service and communion, there was a tremendous sense of God’s presence.  And, best of all, one of our dental students put her faith in Christ for the very first time.

Sharon and I were privileged to play a role in planning the conference, helping with logistics there, and, many meaningful conversations with the students.

In a way, you – our support team – were there, too.  Your support allowed us to represent you and your prayers were the fuel behind everything God did through us.  From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you.

With Christ’s love,

Bryan & Sharon

Please join us in these matters of prayer and praise:

  • praise for several fantastic events: our men’s and women’s nights, as well as Winter Conference.  Please pray that everyone would apply what God showed them!
  • I (Bryan) give God praise for Sharon.  She did so much for the women’s night and especially Winter Conference.  Everyone was raving about her work and she frees me up to focus on what I do best.  [End of bragging session].
  • Praise God for a solid December financially.  At the same time, our ministry account remains lower than normal at this time of the year, so please pray for me as I will be conducting more personal support appointments.
  • Please pray for these upcoming events – our home bible study brunches (2/7 & 28), focused on the theme of how to discuss faith with your patients, and, a wedding I’m officiating for two of our favorite medical students on Jan. 31st.
  • Finally, pray for our times with our students, the heart of our ministry. We need God to give us wisdom help us help them in their relationship with the Lord, and, impact others.

CMDA Northeast Winter Conference Update!


Worshiping together at Winter Conference

Thanks, everyone, for your prayers for this past weekend’s Northeast Winter Conference.  God really answered your prayers!

– We had over 190 students and practicing professionals in attendance, with roughly 30 from the Philadelphia area.  We heard several challenging messages from Dr. Shari Falkenheimer on the theme ‘The Life Cycle of the Christian Doctor’.

– This year, Dr. Elaine Eng offered physicians and dentists an ‘attendings track’ where professionals could enjoy times of teaching and sharing specific to their unique stations in life.

– Now that Sharon is our ministry assistant, she (and our children) joined me this year for the entire conference.  She had the opportunity to spend lots of meaningful time with our female students in particular.

– We were also excited to have Deborah Moss, a local nurse practitioner and council member, in attendance for the weekend.  She does a great job connecting with the students and has played a vital, visionary role on our ministry team!


Our late night Denny’s Run group!

– As always, our favorite part of the conference was spending time with those from our area, especially the students.  Late Saturday night, about 20 of us went out for our traditional ‘Denny’s Run’.  The guys and I sat in the infamous corner booth and had an extended conversation about what God had been teaching us over the past year.

Thanks so much again for your prayers throughout the weekend.  Only God knows just how vital you are to this ministry!

With love,

Bryan & Sharon

For prayer & praise:

  • Praise for a wonderful Winter Conference!  Please pray for lasting fruit among those who came.
  • Please pray for our campuses as leadership transitions will take place over the next few months.  Pray for me (Bryan) as I help new leaders come onboard and develop a vision for ministry over the next year.
  • Praise for all that Sharon is doing in her new role as ministry assistant.  She is such a blessing both administratively and relationally!
  • Finally, please pray for our Community & Relationships Seminar (Sat., 2/8). Together with Deborah and others, we hope to lay out a biblical foundation for relationships that is also deeply practical.  We plan on covering relationships and community in general, but also romantic relationships, which we hope to put in that larger context.

Winter Conference Starts Tonight!

The view from my window as the first students arrive.

The view from my window as the first students arrive.

As I write this short update, I can see the first students start to arrive for our annual CMDA Northeast Winter Conference.  As always, this weekend is one of excitement and anticipation as 150 healthcare students and professionals gather together for teaching, fellowship, worship and refreshment.

I’ll provide a fuller update next week, but for now, please pray that God:

  • gives us hearts that are receptive and ready to meet with him;
  • helps me connect meaningfully with those who attend, and particularly with those from Philadelphia;
  • that God empowers Dr. Joseph Harvey as he speaks on “Reverse Course: Backing Up To Move Forward”.  Using Genesis 50 as his starting point, Dr. Harvey hopes to challenge students and professionals to step back from the intense world of medicine, remembering God and His promises, so that they can again move forward with passion.
  • that the work God accomplishes here would not stay here, but rather be transforming as we return home.  Pray that God would give me discernment as I seek to follow-up in the weeks ahead.

We expect that God already has big plans for our time here.  I can’t wait to share with you how it all unfolds!



Winter Conference Recap

God gave us a great turnout!

Thanks so much for praying for our CMDA Winter Conference!  God really blessed our weekend.  In this update, I want to give you an inside look at the weekend through some “statistics”, pictures and snapshots of what God did.

Winter Conference By The Numbers

One of our group worship times.

Mere numbers can never capture the relationships they represent, but these quick “stats” may give you a unique perspective on my experience at the conference.

  • 160 students, healthcare providers and other attendees from Connecticut to southern Virginia
  • 53 hours from start to finish over 3 days and 2 nights
  • 3 hours of driving, 10 hours of sleep and 40 hours of conversations and logistics
  • conversations with 89 different people, many of which were in-depth
  • 30 new people met
  • 4 talks and times of worship with our students and healthcare providers
  • 2 car rides with our speaker and his family where we spoke at length
  • 1 phenomenal time of planning for a spring mini-retreat with other Philly students and physicians

Zooming In

Although Winter Conference takes place on a larger scale, in many ways it’s also about the many individual and small group interactions that God provides.  This is where some of the most intense ministry takes place, often unnoticed.  Here are snapshots of some of my favorite times at the conference.

The Penn students from this year's conference.

Throughout the weekend, I enjoyed sharing a room with three of the Penn guys.  After I agreed to help the Penn ladies pull a prank on them, I was discovered and wound up being pranked myself, with my reaction unwittingly captured on video!  These are the kind of rare opportunities to connect and have fun together that only happen at conferences like these.

Dr. Charlene Brock with some of the Drexel students

It was a joy watching two of our local council members, Drs. Charlene Brock and Jerry Hric, make it down for the conference.  Like everyone on our council, they have such a heart for investing in the students, and it’s exciting to invest in God’s work as a team.

God gave me lots of great conversations with students from Philly.  One shared about a new dating relationship he had just begun and ways in which God was helping him re-engage spiritually and relationally.  In between sessions, a leader asked if we could talk about the lower turnout from his school, and what we could do to strengthen involvement at his campus.  Another leader mentioned that her campus had significant involvement from first-year students, but that as of yet none seemed ready to lead for next year.  I was thankful for the chance to encourage these students and learn about important campus dynamics that I can follow-up on now that we’re back in the city.

During worship, Matt Redman’s “Never Once” became our theme song over the weekend.  Its words were, at the same time, our experience and prayer:

Standing on this mountaintop
Looking just how far we’ve come
Knowing that for every step
You were with us
Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did you leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

Some of the guys & I at Denny's

As the song mentions, the conference was a sort of “mountaintop” for many of us, a vantage point from which we could see all that God has done, particularly as we look back on where we were just one year ago.

One student, “Mark”, was wrestling through what it meant to be a leader during last year’s conference.  God blessed us with an important conversation then that He used (in part) to help Mark take important new steps of faith and courage that transformed him and the ministry on his campus.  It was incredibly gratifying to watch Mark – without any prompting on my part – take initiative in advance of this year’s conference to gather the Philly area folks there for a spring ministry planning meeting.  Even better, his vision is to provide direction while enlisting others to step up so the conference can be self-sustaining from year-to-year.  While God gets the credit, I’m thankful to have played – and continue to play – a role in Mark’s development as a leader who is beginning to develop other leaders.  This is how the Kingdom multiplies!

There’s so much more I could share, but I hope this view from the ‘mountaintop’ gives you a taste for what God did.  Thank you for making weekends like this one possible through your faithful partnership with us.  To God be the glory!

Bryan & Sharon

PS – A special thanks to Jefferson student Sharon Li for permission to use her (fantastic) pictures!