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Another Great Start

September 12, 2012

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.
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Summer Half-time Report

July 26, 2012

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.
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Journey to Jesus

June 13, 2012

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.
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Ministry Seen & Unseen

April 26, 2012

This past month was another excellent month of ministry.  Here are a few of the highlights.

Engaging those on the journey

Not everyone I (Bryan) interact with on campus is a Christian.  Increasingly, God is giving me opportunities to talk to students still trying to figure Jesus out.  Recently, I’ve been meeting with one student who shared that, while he thinks that Christianity’s central message is true and sees much good in it, his faith is still “like a jigsaw puzzle with a few missing pieces.”  I told him that I will pray for God to bring clarity and encouraged him to join me.  Please pray with us!

Leadership transitions

With this year’s leaders starting to study for boards, we have now seen leadership transitions at all our area campuses.  I’ve been meeting with many of them to help them develop, and implement, a strategy specific to their campus and am always available as questions come up.  I also check in with our leaders to help them stay focused on the vision and maintain balance among their key priorities.

Ministering to couples, together

One of the greatest joys Sharon and I have in ministry is working together.  In addition to one couple we’ve already been meeting with for pre-engagement counseling, Sharon and I will be meeting with another medical student and her fiancé for pre-marital counseling.  Please pray that God gives us wisdom as we try to wisely “speak into” these relationships with God’s truth and grace.

Under the hood

If our ministry were a car, its body would be our ministry on campus.  It’s the essence of what we do and the part everyone sees.  And yet, like a car, its performance ultimately depends upon what lies “under the hood” – the engine, the transmission and other crucial, yet largely unseen, parts.  In our ministry, the engine and transmission are our council, campus laborers and supporters.  I’d like to lift up the hood for a moment and give you a quick peek inside.

Over the past few months, our ministry council, responsible for providing accountability and reaching our campuses with me, has lost two of its six members due to time constraints.  While these two members will continue serving on campus, they simply don’t have enough time to play a larger role in the ministry.  Please ask God to raise up additional members, and especially a chairperson.

Campus advisers are volunteer healthcare providers who are willing to share their lives with students as they journey through their training.  They provide encouragement, mentoring and a living example of what it looks like to walk with God in medicine.  Just this past week, I enjoyed an extended meeting with Jefferson’s campus adviser where we caught up on what we’re doing there, the leadership transition and how we can work together to see God’s work thrive there.  Quiet moments like these are vital to the campuses’ ongoing health.

Finally, our supporters are so crucial in providing the prayer and financial infrastructure that makes it all possible.  We received a major encouragement this past week when a significant donor committed to a sizable monthly gift, freeing me up to focus on the core work of our ministry.

Regardless of the particular role God has called you to play, if you’re receiving this update you are part of our team, a vital, if hidden, piece of what lies “under the hood”.  We want you to know that we see, and appreciate, all that you do on our behalf.

Warmly,

Bryan & Sharon

PS Beyond the requests in the update above, please pray for:

  • Summer gatherings, and times of discipleship, we’ll be having with those students who are staying around.
  • Details to come together for an overnight, fall retreat.  A great way to help new students get plugged into their campus groups up front!
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The Best Week Ever

March 15, 2012

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

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Three ‘Nights’ And Intermed Just Around The Corner!

March 5, 2012

Doubt Night

“So, when can we do it again?!”

That’s the response we received after holding our first Doubt Night at PCOM, one of our area’s medical campuses.

You may be wondering, though, what Doubt Night is all about.  (First, credit to liberti Church for giving me the idea some years ago).  In short, Doubt Night is a time where seekers and others with questions about the Christian faith can come and dialogue honestly with Christians about their concerns.  To facilitate this, I took part in a panel that also featured Dr. Keith Herzog and two PCOM students.  Throughout a 1.5 hour discussion, we heard questions dealing with:

  • heaven – is it real?  Is it right to be moral because we want to go there, or, should we act rightly because it’s inherently appropriate?
  • the apparent contrast between God in the Old and New Testaments – why does ‘the God of the NT’ seem more gracious and loving?
  • the trustworthiness of the bible – Christians put so much faith in the Bible, but what makes it more special or reliable than any other book?

Of the 15 who came, I’d say it was about a 50/50 ratio of seekers:Christians, which is what we were hoping for.  We look forward to continuing the conversation on campus, and, in future Doubt Nights!

Men’s & Women’s Nights

Later that week, we also hosted Women’s and Men’s Nights at our home on consecutive evenings.  Sharon led nineteen women in tackling the sensitive area of sexuality and how to live for Christ in a confusing, sexually-charged culture.  The best part about the night was that it provided a safe place to deal with the questions everyone has, but is afraid to ask.  We need to speak to topics like this!

For our men’s night, nine men joined me for an exploration of the topic of why men are so passive, and, what we can do about it.  We took a look at our culture’s portrayal of men, then surveyed key bible passages that help us ‘diagnose and treat’ not only the symptoms, but the underlying causes as well.

Both nights were greatly aided by Sharon’s baking, especially the flourless mocha cake and Ghirardelli brownies!

Prayer Needed for Intermed This Weekend

This Friday night and Saturday morning, MCO and CMDA are hosting Intermed, our annual gathering of local healthcare students and professionals for worship, fellowship and teaching.  But this is not our usual Intermed.  God has allowed us to invite Dr. David Levy, neurosurgeon and author of Gray Matter, to be our speaker.  Based in San Diego, Dr. Levy is going to speak to us at Intermed, but also at other medical campuses throughout his week in our area (March 8-15).

On Friday evening, he’ll show us what it means to talk about Christ with the people around us, as well as challenge us on what it looks like to let go of anger we harbor toward God and others.  More than just raw information, though, Dr. Levy has dealt with these topics very personally in his own life and medical practice.  As we minister to students and professionals, we’re excited about offering them one portrait of who we hope they’ll become.

As you can imagine, we very much need your prayers for Dr. Levy’s visit:

  • for protection from the evil one.  Already we’ve seen evidence of spiritual resistance, and need God to protect us.
  • for the Spirit’s power as Dr. Levy speaks.  His messages will be powerful, but lasting change only happens through Christ’s work in our hearts.
  • that weary people would come away not only changed, but refreshed!
  • for God to put together “divine appointments” for Dr. Levy in between speaking engagements.  He very much wants to minister to those who need what God wants to do through him.  Pray also for me and others as we interact with students at these events; I expect that God will be giving us similar opportunities in response to his work through Dr. Levy.  We want to be His instruments of healing and change here in the city!
  • pray for all the last-minute details that need to come together.  This leads me to praise God for our entire planning team (a collaboration of students, MCO & CMDA) for all the amazing hard work they’ve done to make this week a reality!

Thank you, dear friends, for standing so faithfully with us!

Bryan & Sharon

 

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Winter Conference Recap

January 18, 2012

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!