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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SMI Outreaches Starting NOW!

Students in small groups during yesterday's evangelism training

In just a few hours, we will hold our first Summer Medical Institute (SMI) Philly outreach of the year!  We will be offering free health screenings as a service to the Hunting Park (in North Philly) community, and using that as a bridge to share about Christ to anyone who will listen.

Here are some quick prayer requests for our outreaches and other aspects of the project:

  • Pray that the evangelism training I led yesterday would be helpful as we do the outreaches.
  • Please pray that our team of 20 students and other healthcare providers would trust in God, not ourselves, for every moment of the outreach.  Pray that we would not be fearful of rejection and not knowing what to say in difficult interactions.
  • Pray that we would be mindful of the spiritual battle all around us, and ask God for help ‘in the moment.’
  • Pray for the people we will meet on our outreaches.  Many of them are un/under-insured, in significant poverty, and facing many other challenges most of us have not experienced.  At the same time, this is a blessing because often a sense of physical need translates into a sense of spiritual need, and we have much to learn from them.  We long for them to know Jesus deeply.
  • Of the 20 students on project, only 4 this year are men, so pray that I (Bryan) would invest in Alan, Dan, Luke, and Sam deeply.  At the same time, I am so thankful for Sharon, who is spending a good deal of time on project and ministering to the women, so please pray for her as well.
  • Please pray for the many graduate healthcare “faculty” who will be joining us at various points throughout the project.  They will model for the students how to care for “the whole person”, but more importantly just “living life” with the students and investing in them informally.  Pray for us, also, as we do some teaching throughout the project, the next session being Thursday morning.
  • I’d like to express real thankfulness for Medical Campus Outreach (MCO), another medical ministry in the city, and Esperanza Health Center, a local Christian clinic, who are sponsoring SMI and have invested so much of their time and resources in this project.  So many people have come together to make this project a reality, and we are truly grateful to be joining them in this Kingdom work.  Please pray that God blesses them in every way.
  • Finally, I will be at SMI Texas next week (Monday 18th – Friday 22nd), serving in a similar capacity, before returning for the third and final week of SMI Philly. Please pray for my time at SMI Texas, where roughly half of the students are from the Philadelphia area.

As always, we are thankful for you, our partners in this work.  We have a deep sense that you are there with us through your prayers and gifts that make it all possible.  We can’t wait to share more with you as the project unfolds.

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

By God’s grace, this past month was another solid season of ministry.  Here are a few highlights, as well as a look ahead:

Men’s & Women’s Nights

God gave us two great nights with key men and women from around the city!  For our men’s night, I led the guys through a study in 1 Samuel 17, which you’ll recognize as the story of David and Goliath.  For our purposes, we were considering insights on what it means to be a godly man.  I chose this topic because we’ve noticed fewer men becoming involved, and especially taking leadership, at our local healthcare campuses.  We are incredibly thankful for the many women God has given us, but we want to see men stepping up as well, and feel that this was another important step toward achieving that goal.

During women’s night, Sharon led the ladies in a study on bitterness and forgiveness.  As she interacted with the women on this topic, it became clear that it was something everyone was wrestling with in ways that are very real and personal.  In His wisdom, God had matched those who came with what they needed to hear.

Intermed

Another key event this month was “Intermed”, a student-driven gathering for worship, fellowship, teaching and, of course, eating.  Although our ministry did not personally sponsor the event, a number of different ministries and ‘people groups’ came together in making it happen.

Our informal hope for the evening was that the students would come away with a picture of what their own futures in medicine might look like as they considered how God had led our two speakers.  They were incredibly different: one, a younger geriatrician (treats older patients) at Penn, the other, an older nurse practitioner in the Dominican Republic who practices medicine and also raises up national pastors.  At the same time, both these men are tremendously dedicated to serving Christ through healthcare, and the students came away inspired to follow Christ into their own futures.

I was thankful to have played a role in the planning process, in addition to having many significant conversations during the evening and in the days that have followed.  It was a tremendous time of connecting with key students, as well as meeting new ones that I hope to influence in the months ahead.

Upcoming Plans

In the next few months, I’m excited to participate in several important events.  The first is our annual CMDA National Convention in California.  It will feature some of the very best speakers in the healthcare field, and I will be traveling with one of our key student leaders.  Since he will be graduating in May, it will be one of my last extended opportunities to spend time with him, which I cherish.  At this year’s convention, CMDA is also rolling out its National Student Council, a student-driven group designed to shape the future of healthcare and CMDA, so I’m excited to get in on the ground floor.  And, as always, the convention promises to be a rich time of networking and ideas.

As the summer approaches, as usual, my family and I hope to participate in parts of both SMI Philadelphia (July 9-30) and SMI Texas (July 2-30).  If you’ve been with us for some time, you know these are medical missions projects that teach participants how to share their faith through medicine while living in community.  They’re absolutely critical in that they allow us undistracted seasons of investing in the students, something that simply isn’t nearly as possible during the academic year.  In fact, we get more time with them during project than we do throughout the rest of the year combined.  This is discipleship at its best!

SMI Philadelphia is easy for us to participate in since it’s so close (1/2 hour), but SMI Texas is naturally more challenging.  At the same time, we are passionate about it because it allows the students to truly get away from the city and out of their comfort zone.  It also affords our family the opportunity to live on site with them, which is key both for us and the students.  One of the ways we will decide whether we should go is by seeing if the Lord provides the needed funds (about $5,000).

And so, without any fanfare, we want to put this need before you.  If you feel God leading you to contribute, would you please let us know in the next two weeks?  This will help us be good stewards of the summer God has placed before us.

Regardless of your decision, we thank God for each one of you.

Warmly,

Bryan & Sharon

Please join us in prayer/praise:

  • Praise God for wonderful men’s/women’s nights.  Please pray for lasting fruit among the students.
  • Praise God for a focused season of prayer and fasting leading up to the Intermed retreat.  We believe that much of its success was due to this foundation, largely driven by the students.
  • Pray for my times of investing with key men from around the city: Sam, Erik, Dan, Burton, Shane, Loren and others.  My heart is that God will take these men and multiply their lives in those around them.  Pray also that God will continue introducing me to other key men around the city.
  • Pray for our medical evangelism (“International Saline”) training ‘taster’ at Drexel on 5/3, and especially that believers among students, residents and “attending” physicians would come and get excited for the full version training in the fall.
  • Pray for my time at the National Convention (4/28-30), and God’s wisdom/provision for SMI Texas.

Update on God’s Work

This update is a series of short updates on what God is doing through us.  You’ll find a short report, and prayer requests, under each section.

On Campus

As March draws closer, we are now solidly into the ‘core’ of the semester.  “The grind” of the academic calendar is starting to take its toll on many, bringing problems to the surface.  God has given me a number of opportunities to counsel students going through relational challenges.  These included thorny dating issues, and some tension on one of our campus leadership teams.  By God’s grace, all of these situations are heading in the right direction!

Campus leadership team transitions are also taking place.  This has already occurred at PCOM, and will happen at Drexel in early April.  Please pray that God provides momentum at PCOM after a slower start, and that God gives us wisdom in selecting excellent leaders at Drexel.

In a previous email, we mentioned our hope that a physician friend of ours would be coming to the area so that we could continue expanding our ministry.  In God’s wisdom, our friend will complete the next stage of his training in New York, rather than Philadelphia.  We view this as God’s wisdom, though, and already we’ve seen signs from believing physicians at Penn (where we had hoped to expand) that they are increasingly ready to step up and do more with the students.  Please pray for this effort, and one of our council members, Dr. Jim Kirkpatrick, as he provides leadership.

Pray also for an interfaith forum taking place at Drexel on March 25th.  Our speaker for the evening will be Dr. Paul Tripp, so please pray that God helps him present the gospel in a compelling and relevant way.  Pray also that the believing students follow-up with their peers, and that believing students from other campuses come out.  My hope is that each of our five medical campuses will get excited and do something similar in the 2010-11 academic year.

Support-Raising

The Lord blessed us with a phenomenal December, and we met our budget for the year!  THANKS SO VERY MUCH to all of you who contributed, and especially to those who were able to give something extra.  God has also blessed us with $650 in new monthly support since January 1st.

Please keep praying for new monthly partners, and contacts, as we continue progressing toward full-funding.

Summer Plans

This summer, our family is praying about several missions opportunities, both involving students from Philadelphia.  The two primary opportunities are the Summer Medical Institutes (SMI) in Texas (7/3-31) and Philadelphia (6/12-26).   While we have been to the project in Texas before, the Philadelphia site is beginning again as a pilot project that we hope to expand in future years.  (I have enjoyed serving on its planning team).  At this time, we believe that SMI Texas would be the best option for our family since we would be able to live onsite with the students for an entire month, whereas the Philadelphia project is shorter, and its housing cannot accommodate us.  However, the financial cost (approx. $7,000) for SMI Texas is significant, and it would take time away from our summer support-raising efforts, so please keep this matter closely in prayer.  We know that, however God leads, we will be blessed.

On that note, we consider ourselves blessed to have each one of you on our support team, regardless of the role God has led you to play.  Please know that we are deeply thankful for you!

Bryan & Sharon Stoudt