by Isaac L.

Howdy folks! This is Isaac reporting from SMI 2023 and the first week of SMI has finally come to an end! This week may have been one of the longest weeks of my life! No exaggeration. The program started off with lots of seminars from many medical and social workers who taught us the ins and outs of the city of Kensington a place affected by the extreme injustices of the world. There were also seminars from many pastors who taught us about the spiritual aspect of this program, and the main reason why we are all here for SMI. Coming into SMI, my heart was definitely not prepared for it, and the spiritual part of this program was really tough to ride along with. I felt like I had the street smarts of going into the neighborhoods, but I came to know that I really lacked the spirituality of all this. And this was the most important part of it. So to say the least, this week was pretty rough for me. The rigor in the devotions and the seminars blindsided me, but through God’s grace and the attitudes of fellow SMI students, they really gave me strength to push forward and keep fighting. 

The neighborhoods here, especially underneath the L train station, have been deeply affected by the opioid epidemic. Typing here does not do justice to what my eyes have seen, and what my nose has smelled. The drugs that are running rampant in this area are tremendous, and the people doing these drugs are in great need. However, as I process this, I realized that we are in the same need as them due to our own sins. Regardless of the sins each of us commits , we are in great need of the Lord. Each and every day is a constant battle with sin, and throughout these times, God is always there, working and moving his people of Philadelphia. 

It is easy to see the drugs and the gun violence and view Kensington as a broken city. But as our teams go door-to-door for these health screenings, God has completely changed my outlook on this city a whole 180 degrees. The community here is authentic, vibrant, and alive. Neighbors know each other, often have block parties, and they look out for one another. I met a family of siblings who were all grown up with their own kids, and it was amazing to see how even at their ages they were still so close-knit. They were making fun of each other and continuously cracking jokes the whole time during the screenings. This reminded me of my siblings and how close we are, and I pray that God keeps us this close until we are at the ages of those siblings I met here right in Kensington. God has shown me that these are His people and that they are a lot more similar to me than what I have previously thought of.

So even though it was a long and hard week, God’s blessings showered over me as I witnessed the work that God is doing, and the care and love He has for His people. Even though we are here for a short 2 more weeks, Jesus is making each and every health screen a way for us to share the good news of who He really is. He not only has opened the doors for us to do screenings, but He has opened the hearts of each person to share their experiences and vulnerability with me and the rest of my peers. God is a good God and regardless of location, HE remains faithful to his people. So it is our job to remain faithful and trust in the Lord with all of our hearts. All this work is not done by man but by the power of the Holy Spirit. As always, pray for SMI and our team for strength to keep going, and for courage to profess the great things that the Lord has done, is doing, and will do for His people. Soli Deo gloria <3