When I arrived at the house on Allegheny St. on Saturday morning, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. As soon as I opened the door, though, I already saw people bustling about the kitchen, organizing food supplies and utensils. This was going to be an industrious bunch, I thought–but that should probably have been a given, based on the sole fact that they decided to do this exciting but still as-of-yet slightly vague thing called SMI.
By 11AM, air mattresses were pumped, backpacks and suitcases were moved to rooms, binders were distributed, and we gathered for orientation. The first few days would mostly consist of medical training and spiritual preparation: learning how to measure blood pressure and use a glucometer, calculating BMI, educating patients about asthma. Learning about Esperanza Health and our partner churches. Practicing ways to invite others to spiritual conversations and church.
On Saturday afternoon we visited Esperanza’s Hunting Park location and met executive director Susan Post, who shared the mission and vision behind Esperanza Health. I had become acquainted with Esperanza through another summer ministry I attended three years ago, but hearing the story behind it is inspiring every time. As we walked through the building with a gym, cafe, and vegetable garden all designed and prepared with care to serve the community, I had a renewed hope for the ways in which Christ’s body could be a blessing for the world. Susan told us happily that they had been able to acquire a larger space for their Kensington & Allegheny campus, and she shared Esperanza’s big dreams to love and serve that area as well.
After worshiping with each of our group’s respective partner churches on Sunday, we spent the whole afternoon completing our medical training. Past SMI participants returned to bless and encourage us to serve with knowledge and skill. We spent the evening at Susan’s house, where we also met our community interpreters. I talked to Julia, one of our interpretors, and I could see how glad they were to walk with us, and how much they loved their community.
Monday arrived and went by swiftly. Our faculty filled our heads with even more information on asthma education, HIV education, and each of the numerous handouts packed into a bulky folder for future distribution. Andres, one of the chaplains at Esperanza, came in the afternoon to talk about sharing our faith and inviting residents to our partner churches. Andres reminded us of Jesus’s command to share the gospel, and the urgency and universality of that call. Together as a team we practiced sharing our testimonies and expressing our own fears and insecurities in doing evangelism. We are going to need to depend on the Holy Spirit’s work to prepare hearts and show us how to listen and speak, to give the reason for our hope.
These were our first days of SMI. Training has been long and tedious at times, but I know they were necessary for us to be able to serve well. It reminded me that at times acts of love are not grand or heroic displays of care, but are instead quiet and sometimes less-exciting, even mundane things. I’d like to think that God is present in the latter just as much as the former. I hope I may grow more in the likeness of such a love alongside my teammates.