Just yesterday, 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 have 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 to come, 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 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, even though 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, knowing she will receive thorough, compassionate follow-up.
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. If there’s any ‘script’, it’s Him:
“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)
Although you may not be participating in a medical outreach today, I know that you, too, have situations that seem uncertain, areas in your life where you’d like a script but don’t have one.
What would it look like to give up control, and follow Christ alone, in your context? Why not take a moment now and pray about it as a small beginning?
Although change doesn’t happen overnight, as we trust God with each small decision, we can look back and see big changes, often in a relatively short time. I pray that you will join me in the adventure God has planned for you today.