by Dani C.

SMI 2022 was truly a surreal experience. Each day was spent growing in my faith, overcoming
hardship, and learning about God’s grace, love, and mercy. From the apparent struggles evident in the powerlessness of low income areas to the resilience of the locals living in Kensington, God prevailed, making his presence known to both our team and the community we served.

To be honest, my initial thoughts about SMI were far from positive. As a complete introvert, I
loathed the thought of meeting strangers and forming relationships with people that I knew near nothing about. Unfortunately, the first few days of SMI confirmed my thoughts, giving rise to
regrets of joining the program. Getting an illness on the very first day caused a delay in my meeting with the team. There were many awkward conversations between breaks, during meal times, and en route to the Esperanza clinic locations. I struggled to find my place within the group and dreaded each day. However, God answered prayers and knew of my struggles. It wasn’t long before I learned to adjust, quickly finding myself laughing with the others. God put such an amazing team together; we were all one giant family. It was a community that, towards the end, I, as a super introvert, could entrust some of my deepest questions and concerns.

Outreach, in itself, was truly a blessed experience. I had many initial fears about the
neighborhood but God quickly quelled any feelings of doubt. I met a diverse group of people:
non-religious, people who practiced witchcraft , people who left the faith, and people of
different Christian denominations. Each outreach was a journey that God had called me to
participate in. While on the outreach, I realized the power of prayer and wholeheartedly relying on God. By using us as a vessel, God touched hearts with some coming to faith and others feeling blessed by prayer. Even those who, at first rejected a health screen, opened up their hearts to the gospel. Eventually, I looked forward to walking down the streets that we had done past days in hopes of seeing the friendly locals that we had screened before. The joy of seeing
them wave back at us when we greeted them later was a feeling that couldn’t be described.
Looking back on all of the outreaches done in the past three weeks, I now see how God was
moving in everything I did. In spite of the many tough physical, emotional, and spiritual
moments, everything always seemed to work out. On the days that it was above 92 degrees I
would expect the worst, (I’m also not used to humidity!) but God would always place a cloud in
the sky, giving us fresh wind and shade. It was quite literally a miracle. On days where it was
100% expected to rain, we were shielded by God; it never really rained while on outreach. It
was only until we got back to the church did it start to pour. There were certainly difficulties,
especially spiritual warfare, but that only led us to rely on God more for strength and clarity.
God always made a way and planted seeds wherever we went.

I highly suggest doing the SMI program not only for its medical benefits but for strengthening
one’s faith. I had many doubts coming in, worried that I wasn’t competent enough or lacked
motivation for pursuing medicine, but am leaving blessed beyond compare. Hearing different
messages from medical professionals and pastors of all kinds provided clarity in what it means
to be a Christian and a Christian medical professional. Though I’m still not sure of my career
path, I now fully entrust it to God, leaving the steering wheel of my life to Him. SMI was more
than a “spiritually high 2022 Christian retreat,” but an experience that can be rarely found in this
world that discriminates against Christians, especially for those pursuing medicine or science. Some of the most important lessons I learned was that to be a true Christian means rejecting our natural comfort zones, choosing to be both of God and in the world, and reaching out to the people that God’s heart cries out for. God is constantly moving and it’s up to us whether we will follow him or abandon him for the materialistic goods of life. SMI 2022 Philly was inspirational and life-changing, not only encouraging my walk with God but in giving my life more purpose.