From left to right: Nadeen Kamel, Stephanie Ko, Brian Schonewald


My name is Brian Schonewald, I am a second year medical student at Cooper Medical School and I am utterly unqualified for ministry.

Since high school, I have known that God is calling me into Medical Missions.  I have felt like God has made it very clear that he wants to use the gifts that he has given me, to send me to care for those in medically and spiritually underserved areas of the world. I saw SMI as an opportunity to do that in an area close to where I live in Philly.

It is very common for me to approach new opportunities in ministry with confidence. Often that can be confidence based in pride.  I knew that God had been leading me towards SMI for a long time, but I was not completely sure why or what he was going to teach me. I have been incredibly blessed by the people from Kensington, my fellow students at SMI, and all of the faculty and leaders from the community that have taught us so much. I could talk about that for a long time. However, for the most part, I have been deeply humbled by how little I know about ministry and how much I still have to learn.

As we go door to door on the streets of Kensington, the residents and community members have no reason to open the door for me.  I’m a tall, white, middle-class, medical student from the northern shore of Boston with next to no real-life understanding of what it is like to grow up or try to make a living in Kensington, Philadelphia. They have no reason to trust me, talk to me, or allow me into their lives, even for a few minutes.  But what I have discovered time and time again is that they do.  Hundreds of people have opened their doors to SMI in the communities of North Philadelphia. They have allowed us to conduct health screenings. They have opened up to us about the issues that they struggle with. Some have come to an understanding of their need for Christ. Their responses, their kindness and hospitality can only be attributed to the grace of God.

I want so badly to accomplish things by my own strength, qualifications, people skills, or whatever gifts I mistakenly believe that I have earned.  In medical school, God has been repeatedly reminding me that I cannot accomplish anything without him. SMI has been no different.  I need to be reminded every day that by my own strength I am completely unqualified for ministry and for medicine. Through my training alone, I could never know all that I need to love the people around me well. But those that God calls, he also equips. I am only qualified by the fact that God sent his only Son, Jesus Christ to die for my sins and has filled me with his spirit.  He is also the one who works in and through us. The Holy Spirit has been so present and so necessary in every moment these last three weeks.  Every door that opens could only be a movement of the Spirit, and I am confident that he has been leading and guiding conversations and allowing us to share the hope of Christ.  I pray that I will never forget how desperately I need the guidance of the Holy Spirit to love those around me.

“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” – Hebrews 13:20-21


– Brian Schonewald