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Summer Roundup

July 19, 2013

Summer Ministry

Since many of our students are unavailable during June and July, these are good months for getting to areas we ordinarily don’t have much time for, such as support-raising and ‘big picture’ thinking.  We’ve found this is critical to having a successful year of student ministry.

At the same time, God is still giving us many wonderful, personal interactions.  To take one example, we have continued summer bible study dinners in our home, with one more to go.  The Book of Malachi has been challenging us deeply on what it means not only to believe the ‘right’ things, but also to live them out.

God has also continued to bless our community development efforts near Temple.  This past semester, with some assistance from other community leaders and I, students from our Christian fellowship at Temple taught 12 science lessons for two seventh-grade classes at a local public school.  Recent budgetary cuts have left the school without any certified science teachers, so their efforts were especially welcome.  In addition to blessing the children, we are praying that some graduate with a vision for serving Christ in underserved, urban environments and believe this is already happening.  This is just a small part of what’s happening in this arena, so stay tuned!

Loose Ends

If you’re one of our donors, now you can access your giving history, print donation receipts and even update your profile history (such as current address).  Here’s how.  (Note: our Donor Tools website is cmdaphiladelphia.donortools.com).

Some of you have requested not to receive general mailings from CMDA, our parent ministry. You may contact Maggie Combs (maggie dot combs at cmda dot org) and simply ask to opt out.

We’ve also recently created a Facebook page and website for our CMDA Philadelphia ministry. Check them out and let us know what you think!

As August draws near, we’re looking forward to meeting new students and connecting with those who return.  Thank you for your prayers and gifts that make it all possible!

Bryan & Sharon

Please join us in lifting up the following prayers and praises:

  • Praise God for a solid end to our fiscal year and for donors who support us well.
  • Praise God for excellent summer bible studies in the Book of Malachi, and, pray for specific, lasting fruit in student’s lives.  One participant shared, for example, that God has been showing him how serious his sin is and how deeply he is in need of everyday rescue.
  • Pray for our student leaders to stay closely connected to Christ over the summer, and, to continue planning and praying for the fall.
  • Pray for God to be working in the lives of incoming first-year students so that they are receptive to our ministry.
  • Pray for wisdom as various leaders, students and I try to discern next steps in reaching out to the community near Temple.  There are many moving pieces and it’s clear this mission cannot be accomplished in our own strength.
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Looking Back, Moving Forward

June 18, 2013
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

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Going First, Getting Uncomfortable

May 9, 2013

People in the community just assume you’re here for you.  There are a lot of preconceived notions, but if you’re willing to get uncomfortable, they can be worked through.

2013-04-08_12-37-39_400[1]In November, I invited Pastor Larry Smith and Hakim Pitts, members of a church near Temple Med, to come to Temple’s campus fellowship and share about what it’s like to live in the surrounding, underserved community.

What they shared was, to say the least, eye-opening for all of us.  Seeing family members die at gunpoint.  Struggling to make ends meet.  Watching shiny new buildings go up across the street yet feeling that the people who work and study there don’t care about you.

At the same time, despite the many disconnections between us and the community, Hakim and ‘Pastor Larry’ gave us hope that things could be different.  That we could bless the community, and, that they could bless us… if we are willing to ‘go first’ and ‘get uncomfortable.’  (Sounds like Someone Else I know).

With that promise, we invited them to speak again recently, this time to a broader audience at Temple that included people from the administration and students outside our campus group.  While many who came don’t share our faith, they do share our heart for the community.  Toward the end, it was exciting to see many brainstorming about how we can specifically improve the school’s relationship with the community.   It also seems likely that they will return to address each year’s students.

This event is part of a much larger picture of what God is doing in the area – and – us.  The students in our campus group, for example, recruited 20 of their peers to teach science regularly at a local elementary school that has few resources due to city budgetary cuts.

In Jeremiah 29, God tells His people to ‘seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare’.  While there are obvious differences between the original hearers’ circumstances and our own, this passage certainly means that we need to care about the place where God has planted us, and, that our well-being is connected to that of those around us.

This is not how we usually think, of course.  It’s all too common for students to parachute in, get their training, and then get out, moving on to wherever they’re going.  This is entirely understandable, but it’s not a Jeremiah 29 approach.  Especially at a place like Temple, where the community’s needs are so clear and the opportunities to learn from it are so great.

And so, with God’s help, I’m committed to helping our students ‘go first’ and ‘get uncomfortable’.  My heart is that they will graduate not merely with clinical competence, but with God’s own heart for those around them.  It just may be that some of the most important lessons they learn during medical school take place outside the confines of their classrooms.

As we always do, we want to take a moment and say thank you for making all this possible through your generous prayers and gifts.  You are an essential part of this ministry!

Bryan & Sharon

For prayer & praise:

  • Praise for God’s faithfulness in all He’s doing in and through our Temple students.  And, further praise for the many others who are involved in other aspects of the work.  Please pray for wisdom as we consider next steps, and, for me as I help others implement them.
  • Praise for new leaders at our area campuses.  All but one of our new teams has at least four leaders!  Please pray for Penn, which would be blessed as others step up.  And, pray for me as I try to shepherd each team through this transitional season.
  • Finally, please pray for good times of mentoring over the next month, before students go home for the summer, or, move on to rotations.
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Investing Like Jesus Did

March 6, 2013

One of the most rewarding experiences in ministry is watching those we’re investing in invest in others.  Like Jesus, our deepest passion is that God would take our efforts and multiply them through our students.

More and more, God has been answering this prayer.  We’d like to give you an example of what that looks like through Tim, one of the local student leaders.

Over the past year and a half, Tim and I (Bryan) have been talking about the importance of pouring into others.  Tim has always been open to this, but over the past several months he’s truly taken consistent steps that are making a difference.  Here are a few excerpts from emails he’s sent me as I’ve touched base with him about ‘Johnson’, one of his classmates:

One of the things we talked about was how do you really know God as our Father. One thing he felt was that he knew the right things to believe, but hasn’t ever really felt it in his heart with conviction, hasn’t really felt like a real relationship with God… one thing that I shared with him was the importance of spending time with God, reading in his word, asking him to help us know him better, and then just laying down our expectations of whatever “experience” [we might have] and see how He shows up with us. So for some practical steps, Johnson decided to read 3 chapters each night going through Luke, and I’ve been helping to keep him accountable with that. And so we’re just praying for God to birth something new in his heart and that it grows into a real life-giving relationship.

In thinking through the way Tim has been relating to Johnson, I was impressed.  He did all the ‘right’ things: took initiative in the relationship, asked good questions in drawing him out, and provided encouragement balanced with practical steps for growth.  At their next meeting, Tim continued this pattern, the result being that Johnson decided to let his pastor in on how things ‘are really going’ so that his pastor can continue shepherding him.

If he weren’t going to be a physician, Tim would make a great pastor.  Then again, it’s precisely as a physician that Tim will have many opportunities to engage people just like pastors do – right where life and suffering meet.  This is what the Great Physician did and it’s exciting to see our students following His example.

Sharon and I would like to thank you for enabling us to invest in students like Tim so that they, in turn, will invest in others.

Serving the Great Physician,

Bryan & Sharon

For prayer & praise:

  • Praise God for Tim – and others like him – who are catching the vision for investing in their peers.  Please pray that many more do as well.
  • Praise God for those who have served as campus leaders since last spring.  Over the next month, our campuses will select new leaders to replace them, so please pray that those God is calling to serve will step up.  And, please pray that God grants me wisdom in helping the transitions go smoothly.
  • As medical schools are currently in the process of making admissions decisions, now is the time to pray that God gives special favor to those who already know, and, those who are seeking, Him.
  • Finally, please pray that God gives us grace as we start to plan for two new events, a fall retreat and relationships seminar for the students.  We’re excited and will share more as events unfold!
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Winter Conference Report; Looking Forward

January 25, 2013
'Ice fishing'! (see the overhead projection screen)

Indoor ‘Ice fishing’! (see the overhead projection screen)

Worship Time

Worship Time

Thanks so much for your prayers for our Winter Conference.  Now that the conference is ‘in the books’, I wanted to provide a short report on all that God did.

More than anything, the conference provides space for our busy students and professionals to come away and be alone with Christ and each other.  As we can all attest, the craze of daily life often makes it hard to slow down and connect with God as we want to.  Through our speaker, times of worship, and plenty of space for quiet and community, our retreat is designed to be the perfect remedy for a busy life and heart.  For many, I really believe that the theme of ‘Reverse Course: Going Backward to Move Forward’ was realized.

The highlight for me – as always – is the undistracted space I have to connect with those who come.  In many ways, the weekend is like one long, wonderful conversation.  To give you a flavor, here are some quick highlights:

  • A conversation with a recent student (new professional) where we discussed a painful relational breakup he recently experienced.  I had the chance to offer understanding, as well as a challenge to not shut down his heart toward the Lord or future risks.
  • A brief interaction with a student from NY who would like to hold a ‘Doubt Night’ (skeptics and seekers express, and receive responses to, their doubts about Christianity) at her campus.  We’ve already followed-up via email, and I look forward to seeing what the Lord does through the event!
  • A conversation with a physician about her struggles to be a witness at work and beyond when members of her own family are not walking with Christ.  Mainly, I was able to be a listening ear and let her know I would pray.  In this case, I think that’s all she needed.
  • I organized a late-night ‘Denny’s run’ with about 20 from Philadelphia, something that’s becoming an annual Winter Conference tradition.  In this more laid-back setting, it’s wonderful to start seeing a new side of the students and connecting with them more personally.  We covered everything from ‘best summer ever’ to ‘what you learned from the speaker’.  I also had a great time with one of our key leaders at Penn during the car ride there and back.

Thank you for your prayers.  We are so thankful for what God did and trust that He will extend the value far beyond our weekend together.  Your prayers are such an important part of that.

With Christ’s love,

Bryan & Sharon

PS Please pray for:

  • God to help us live out what He taught us over the weekend.
  • God’s blessing on our men’s brunch this coming Saturday.  We’ll start looking at key men from the Bible in an attempt to better follow Christ.
  • Sharon & I as we provide relationship mentoring for a key student couple.  Also, for wisdom as we evaluate the need for a seminar on relationships.
  • God to add members to our ministry ‘council’ (group of folks who minister alongside me, and help provide direction for the ministry).
  • God to provide new student leaders as our existing leaders transition out (March-April), and, that He would give me wisdom in assisting them in this process.
  • God to create a deepening sense of dependency on Him, and as a result, a greater commitment to prayer among our healthcare community.  We tend to be self-reliant but want to keep growing in this area!
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Winter Conference Starts Tonight!

January 18, 2013
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!

 

 

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God At Work: Fall Intermed 2012

November 14, 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.