Being A Team Player: A New Summer Series

Photo by Eastop (stepheneastop.com).

Photo by Eastop (stepheneastop.com)

The signs of summer are all around us.  The first ninety degree day.  Exams completed. Some of our students heading home. Others starting rotations or residencies.  The Phillies are floundering.  (I wish that was a joke.)

Summer is also a great time for re-evaluation, an opportunity to get out of the ruts we find ourselves in.  I’m not sure about you, but sometimes I feel like I have two people living inside of me.  One person likes being complacent and wearing blinders so that I don’t have to face things I don’t want to.  The other person wants to face himself and move forward, even if it’s hard.  

This new series of summer blog posts is my attempt to move forward with you.

The theme – being a team player – I admit, is not entirely intuitive.  

About 15 years ago, when I was still in seminary, I was sitting with my wife in the home of one of our mentors.  I forget what we were talking about, but the husband said, ‘Who knows what God will do through you… maybe you’ll impact millions of people like [the famous preacher] Charles Spurgeon!’  I wasn’t dumb enough to say it, but I thought to myself, ‘Yeah, maybe… I can see that happening’.  (My wife, who was more humble, later gently pointed out that he was being tongue-in-cheek).

The point is that, like my younger self, we all tend to put ourselves at the center of the universe.  And think that we can ‘change the world’ by working hard, being intelligent and talented.  Or, after we sour on the idea of making a real impact, we become jaded and largely give up, opting for whatever small pleasures and comforts we can find.

Over the years, I’ve started to learn that I really can’t do it alone.  I’ve always ‘known’ that, but every day it becomes more obvious and less theoretical.  As that is sinking in, I find myself working more on teams – official or not – and making a far greater impact.  

Which is what I’ve always wanted – to make a real difference.  I’m assuming the same is true for you.

I’ve also observed, though, that working with others is way harder than I ever dreamed.  If you’ve ever lived with anyone for more than a week, you already know this.

So, the premise behind this series is simple.  To make a real impact, we’ve got to work with others – be part of a team.  But, it’s crazy hard because we – and everyone else – bring our own baggage with us.  In this series, I’ll try to bridge that gap so we can move forward together. 

Here’s what you can expect.  Each post will:

  • be relatively short 
  • be biblically-informed 
  • speak largely, but not only, to people in healthcare
  • challenge you (and myself) to take a small action step
  • be published on Wednesday (this being an exception)

If you’re alive, God has exciting plans for your life.  He wants to make a difference through you, right where you are, even with all of the distractions and problems going on in and around you.

One of the major ways he does that is by putting other people in your life.  Nearly 2,000 years ago, the writer to the Hebrews had this advice for people who were facing their own (much more serious) problems and distractions:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.  (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Over these next few weeks, then, I hope to encourage you to ‘consider’ what it means to live a life of ‘love and good works’ with the people around you.  Welcome aboard!

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Strengthening Our Foundation

Dr Jim Reynolds, sharing with the students during one of our last brunches for the semester

Dr Jim Reynolds, sharing with the students during one of our last brunches for the semester

Now that June is here, our students are either gone or engrossed with finals or board exams.  Thus begins our summer, which will last until the students return in mid-August.

Although we miss them tremendously, it is also a special season where God gives us time to strengthen our foundation, the part of our ministry that, although unseen, provides the basis for the more obvious, public parts of our work.  In this update, we’d like to let you in on part of that foundational work.

Our Council 

Without a doubt, the volunteer healthcare professionals that help us in our work are a critical part of our ‘foundation’.  Some serve on our ‘council’ in an official capacity where they play various roles – working with students, spear-heading new ministry efforts, and/or, helping me think through issues and vision on a more strategic level.  Over the summer, I check in with our council to see how they feel about the role they’re playing, and, how we might work together to put them in a place where their gifts, time and talents may serve the Kingdom best in the context of our ministry.  

Residents Ministry

One of those new offerings is our ministry to residents, those who have graduated from medical school but still have (approximately) 3-7 years of further training before becoming full-fledged physicians.  Working roughly 80 hours per week, they are busy, but need to continue connecting with God and other Christians so that, at the end of their training, they will be in a position to serve their patients and colleagues.  (And, simply be in a healthy place themselves).  

To that end, I’m thankful for Drs Alex & Kim Lin, who have agreed to take the lead with this.  We’re busy identifying residents in the area and will then invite them to a ‘welcome picnic’ on July 12th, where they’ll have the chance to meet others in their situation and hospital for future connection.  In addition, we’ve been asking them what would serve them best given their unique situations.  No doubt there will be lots of trial, error and adjustment along the way, but we’re excited we can take steps to support them in this critical time!  

Growing Our Support Team

This past year has been one of tremendous blessing, but it takes an increasing amount of resources as our vision grows.  Sharon, for example, has been serving as our part-time administrative and ministry assistant (focusing on our women) for roughly 9 months now. She has been such a blessing to our work that it would be hard to overstate her impact.  At the same time, her salary, in addition to normal donor attrition, has led to the need to increase our support base.

So, over the summer, we plan on asking you, our current supporters, for the names of a few others who might want to hear about our work.  It’s also a fantastic opportunity to catch up and hear how we can be in prayer for you and your family!

Well, there you have it.  A short, but representative, look at the unglamorous yet essential work on the foundation we tend to during the summer.  The truth is that you, through your quiet prayers and gifts, are also an important part of that foundation yourselves.  Without you, the whole house would crumble in a second!  But with you, each day God is adding to it in ways that only He can fully comprehend.

In Christ’s love,

Bryan & Sharon

For prayer & praise:

  • praise God for the conclusion of another year of phenomenal student ministry at our 8 campuses.  Many, many signs of God’s work in and through our students!
  • praise God for the blessing Sharon has been to our work as her role has expanded.
  • please pray for the informal summer gatherings on 6/22 & 7/20 at our home.
  • pray that God helps us to identify our Christian residents (they can be difficult to find due to busyness and isolation), that they can attend our welcome picnic on 7/12, and, that we can figure out how to best serve them throughout the year.
  • pray that God connects us with new individuals and churches who will support God’s work through us.
  • pray that God provides me (Bryan) with another car.  Mine recently died and we are working on a very limited budget in finding a new one.  (Let me know if you hear of anything!)

 

 

Summer Half-time Report

It’s hard to believe it, but it’s already past ‘half-time’ for our summer.  Although the students are scattered far and wide, many are in the area and we have been busy seizing the opportunities God is giving us.  Here are some first-half highlights!

Penn Dental

For years now, we’ve been trying to connect with our city’s dental campuses, Penn and Temple.  (After all, we are the Christian Medical & Dental Associations!)  However, with fewer dental students and professionals in the area, connections have been harder to come by.  Recently, though, we met Brianna and she brought 6 other Penn Dental students to our home for a night of connecting, sharing and dreaming about what it might look like to reach Penn Dental for Christ.  At the end, Brianna invited us to spend more time on campus and support them in the year ahead.

Bible Study Dinners

With so many students around, we decided to continue our bible study meals during June and July.  Although attendance is more sporadic with summer plans, we’ve averaged 15 and experienced the same great fellowship and significant interactions we’re used to all year.  This summer, our focus has been “The Things That Really Matter”, with 2 Timothy as our guide.

The Love Bug

Many of our students are in various stages of relationships, and recently Sharon and I have had the privilege of meeting with three couples this summer.  The first couple is getting married in a few days, the second is in a season of re-evaluation, while the third is somewhere in-between.  If I had to choose a theme verse for these times, it might be Proverbs 20:5: “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.”  Sometimes I’m not sure how much “understanding” we possess, but our aim is to shine God’s light on the ‘deep waters’ these couples are facing so that they can grow together in Christ.  It’s one of our highest joys to help them make sense of their relationships from God’s perspective.

One On One

This summer, we’ve really focused on making sure we get even more good time with students and physician friends one-on-one.  On campus, in our home, at local coffee shops… wherever it may be, personal relationships are at the heart of our ministry.  Let me share just a few examples with you.

In one meeting, a student shared about challenges he’s experienced in relating to his sister, an atheist-agnostic who’s ‘witnessing’ to him out of concern that his faith in Christ is damaging to him.  We also spent some time talking about assurance of salvation, something that’s important as he’s still a relatively newer Christian.

I also had the opportunity to meet with a physician friend who is active in mentoring students in the city.  I was impressed when he came with a list of things he wanted to talk about!  One of our key topics was talking about some challenges in mentoring relationships he’s involved in.  It was exciting not only to see him wrestling with these obstacles, but to have the chance to speak into them and give him suggestions for making progress.  This is one of the ways God is allowing us to multiply our ministry!

Thanks so much for making all this possible through your prayers, gifts and love.  We are very conscious of our dependence upon the Lord and you!

Bryan & Sharon

For prayer & praise:

  • Praise for a solid end to our fiscal year (June 30th).  Please pray for God’s faithfulness moving forward.
  • Praise for so many good meetings with students and physicians throughout the summer.  It’s been one of our best ever!
  • Pray for these last few weeks before the students return: follow-ups and planning with campus leaders so that ‘fall’ begins well; key discipleship times; things to come together for our fall Intermed (weekend of worship, teaching and fellowship).
  • Pray for wisdom as we continue to meet with the couples we mentioned above.
  • Pray for God’s grace in the lives of the first-year students about to arrive on our campuses.  Pray that many will seek Him, and, that those who already do will become connected to our campus ministries and good local churches.