by Layo F.

When I initially applied for SMI and even up until when I arrived at the train station, I didn’t quite know what to expect from this experience. I had visited Philadelphia a few times but I had never heard anything about Kensington or its surrounding areas. When I arrived in North Philly, it was so easy to fall into the trap of focusing on the brokenness that I almost missed out on the light and beauty that lies in this community.

I am so grateful for one of the very first talks we had and the advice we received. The speaker advised us not to focus on everything that’s going on around us but to pay attention to how the people carry everything with so much strength and resilience. This is what I thought about as we would go out into the neighborhoods and knock on doors and pass by different people on the streets. It was always a blessing to speak with anyone who agreed to a screening and either invite us into their homes or had us complete the screenings outside.

It was through these conversations that I learned about the people of the community and heard about their stories. It was encouraging to hear the prayers and desires that the people had for their community and to also see the actions that they took to help their community. It was also heartwarming to experience the hospitality and receptiveness of the people and to have them pour into me. These encounters challenged my thinking and helped me to see life beyond what I am used to. I learned what it meant to serve, love, and care for others the way we are called to. I learned to look beyond the mess and see beauty in the brokenness and to know that God is always working through every situation. 

Through the testimonies of the people of the community, my faith has been strengthened and my hope revived. They shared their experiences before coming to Christ and now that they are in Christ, I am praying that many more people will experience God and also testify of His gracious love. God is here. God is in everything and wherever He is, there is love, beauty, hope, and light!