Forever changed…

Anointing hands

As followers of Jesus, Pastor Doug Mann prays a blessing for the students in preparation to anoint them with oil for service.

It is Monday morning (July 15)…the clinic seems relatively quiet this morning.  It is missing seven amazing young people.  Caleb, Claire, Elias, James, Jane, Madison, and Olivia as their fearless leader wrapped up Siloam’s Community Health Immersion (CHI) this past Friday.

Monday mornings on the CHI were spent observing and assisting in a medical screening for 20-40 refugees who recently arrived to the U.S. and are being resettled in Nashville.  The refugees are here…but, we do miss the students!

A beautiful commissioning service was held last Thursday night where they were blessed and anointed with oil to be sent out to continue their faithful walks of service to God.

Anointed with oil

For the past six weeks, the students lived in an apartment complex among refugee families, engaged a local Hispanic church and Burmese church, observed multiple faith-based clinical settings and studied whole-person care from a Christian perspective.

As one student remarked, “My life and my outlook have forever been changed by those I have encountered…”

My hope is that they have left with a greater understanding of God’s call on their lives…and particularly how they can faithfully allow the Holy Spirit to use them to demonstrate God’s love and compassion through service.

Students - Caleb, Jane, Elias, Olivia, Madison, James, Claire

CHI Students (L to R): Caleb Huber, Jane Puntkattalee, Elias Manzella, Olivia Rolando (Project Director), Madison Brown, James Dolezal, and Claire Johnson

Not Translating but Interpreting

Most people aren’t aware that translating is the art of rendering written words into another language. Interpreter in actionInterpreting, however, is an extreme talent where spoken words are listened to, processed, and then shared out loud in a different language.  It is through interpreting (and some translating) that Siloam is able to operate the way it does.  Through the dedication of volunteers, bilingual providers and staff, and with help of a language line, refugees and immigrants can receive excellent health care.

Through my own observation and interaction with interpreters I’ve realized that interpreting takes a lot of patience and amazing listening skills, but also has the beautiful ability to express true living emotion.  This way of communicating, using  an interpreter, is slowly starting to become a part of my daily life.  I am learning how to appreciate the extra time during interpreting to see things in a brand new light.  I have time to let my mind wander and take notice of the patient’s body language, the clothes they are wearing, and any other social cues that I otherwise would have missed.

I went on a house call in which the language line was used to interpret our conversation with “Arun,” a Burmese man struggling with severe depression.  He has been suffering from very bad headaches and numbness since leaving Burma via Malaysia, and eventually arriving in the United States.  He is disappointed in himself for not being able to keep a job and feels he is missing out on the opportunities he thought America would be able to offer.  This is extremely hard for him to deal with, as he is not able to support his wife who is still in Burma.  We began to wrap up the house call by praying for him and we also invited the interpreter to pray with us, as well.  Although our interpreter did not pray, her voice became more somber and worked harder to mimic our inflection throughout the prayer.  We do not know our interpreter’s story, her religion or even her name but I do know that by communicating with Arun, we also impacted the interpreter’s life.

The bible is translated into many, many different languages and even more versions.  In its simplest sense it is God’s living word translated for us all to read.  It is these very words, God’s words, that bring us hope when we have none, share his never ending love and grace when we don’t deserve it, and gives us strength when we are at our weakest.  I feel that as Christians we should be God’s interpreters and just be still and listen to what God has to share with us and relay that message through our actions.

Madison Brown - CHI 2013 participantMadison is a participant in Siloam’s Community Health Immersion.

Eye Opening

Last Thursday morning the seven of us (Claire, Jane, Olivia, Caleb, Elias, James, and I) traveled to our first spiritual retreat with Debbie Smith at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church.  Bench  in garden - St BartholomewI wasn’t sure what to expect as we pulled up to the church’s rectory.  We sat around on retro couches facing a large window in the living room.

After introducing ourselves, we dove into reading and discussing an excerpt from Mudhouse Sabbath followed by an introduction to Lectío Dívína, a process that uses Scripture to listen to God.  However, it was the next session that was the most exciting and out of the box experience.  Debbie had shared with us how to combine praying Scripture and imagination to allow God to speak to us through the practice of gospel contemplation.

The seven of us left the rectory, as we had an hour and a half to spend with God in either the church’s sanctuary or along the gorgeous walking path.  I walked slowly as I opened my heart and soul to receive what message God had for me.  As I walked to my special spot, a bench just off the path, my feet reached the grass of the small meadow that the path surrounded.  I thought to myself how I didn’t want to get my feet all wet and grassy as it had rain that morning but I continued to walk further into the meadow.  To my great surprise, my feet were not getting wet as the grass seemed to be somewhat dry.  That’s when it hit me that God cares even about our smallest and non-significant wants and desires.

As I sat down on the bench, I began to read the scripture that was picked out for us, Mark 10:46-52 and I let my imagination run. Jericho started to come to life.  I smelled bread baking, heard children laughing and the sound of the wheels turning on the carts being pulled by donkeys.   I then saw Jesus surrounded by a large crowd as I began looking around for the blind man, I was surprised to find out that I was playing the role of the blind man.  This surprised me as I thought that I would have been someone off to the side watching what took place.  I began shouting, “Jesus, Son of David!” only to be hushed like in the passage.  When I made it to Jesus he said, “Child, what can I  do for you?”  I suddenly felt the challenge and oddity of this exercise and prayed for guidance.  I then re-entered my mini “movie” and Jesus said, “I heal you from your anxiety.”

It was at this moment I realized that my anxiety was holding me back in worship, fellowship, and in understanding God’s plan for me.  As the hour and a half came to an end, I felt God had said to me, “I OPENED your eyes now didn’t I? I do not work in the ways that you expect but trust that everything is done with a purpose and with my plan in mind.”  This brings me so much comfort in everyday life and with my journey with Siloam.

I am not going to understand all the cultures with which I come in contact, nor the suffering and hardships of the refugees, nor the health conditions of the patients but God knows their individual stories and is graciously weaving them all into my own story.

Madison Brown - CHI 2013 participantMadison is a participant in Siloam’s Community Health Immersion.

Engineering Whole Person Care

Jesus would have made an excellent engineer.paralytic lowered -

Matthew 8:1-9 tells the story of Jesus healing a man who was paralyzed. Although the story centers on the man’s healing from paralysis, Jesus did more than simply repair the nerves and muscles in his body. He also gave him new life in his spirit and mind. In verse 2 Jesus says, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” Jesus wanted to address a person’s deepest thirsts, instead of superficial ailments.

The discipline of engineering (my undergraduate training) emphasizes the identification of root cause when designing a solution. Siloam Family Health Center cares for the whole person (spirit, mind, and body) which enables them to identify root causes, instead of only symptoms. Whole-Person Care cultivates solutions that are not only effective but also efficient. By spending a little more time listening to each patient and their needs, they can address the deeper ailments of their patients.

I got to see this ideal played out during my first week participating in the Community Heath Immersion program at Siloam. I met “Rosita”, who had visited Siloam Family Health Center to see Lauren Smith, FNP, her primary care provider and staff member at Siloam. Since Rosita speaks limited English, Smith conducted her exam in Spanish without an interpreter. I was excited to have a chance to practice my Spanish listening skills. Rosita’s vitals were in the normal limits; however, she repeated a complaint from her previous visit of frequent, painful, and daily headaches. After a series of carefully chosen questions, Smith determined these headaches could be related to stress in Rosita’s life. Rosita shared, “I have three children, but my youngest is autistic.” Rosita showed that she cares deeply about the welfare her son.

Smith referred Rosita to see Rebecca Swift, LCSW, whose office is down the hall. Once in Swift’s office, Rosita appeared a bit more relaxed. Swift asked detailed questions about Rosita’s family environment. Rosita said, “The most stressful thing in my life is that I cannot communicate well with my youngest son.” Not only did his autism make conversation difficult, but her son spoke more English than Spanish as a result of his schooling here in the States. Swift was able to recommend some community groups for Spanish-speakers with autistic children in Nashville. Finally, Swift encouraged Rosita: “You are a good mother!”

Whole-person care is not simply an idealized scenario, it is vitally important for providing good healthcare!

Caleb Huber - CHI 2013 participantCaleb is a participant in Siloam’s Community Health Immersion.

Faith and Culture Fusion this Saturday

I originally just forwarded this link to a few fans of  South Asian culture, but after reading their website and viewing a short video, I am all the more fascinated with the kind of cross-cultural, biblically infused music this band is making.  My only regret is that I’ll be unable to attend their concert Saturday night!  Check out the website for yourself.  If anyone makes it, I’d love to know how it goes!



Aradhna in Concert

Saturday, Aug. 4 | 8 p.m. 

St. Bartholomew’s Church

Parish Hall
$15 door/$13 online

$10 with student ID.  

For more information, please contact Adam Wirdzek at

Please join us in a moving & memorable worship experience with Aradhna. With roots that extend to decades spent in India, Nepal and America, Aradhna has powerfully melded Indian classical melody, rhythm, and devotional lyrics, with the sounds of folk music and rock; an intimate, yet immense sound. You will not be dissappointed.Check out their music & videos, and purchase advanced tickets at: http://aradhnamusic

Integration of Faith and Health

Margaret Shoemaker writes…

A faith-driven clinic is an opportunity for those who work in one to tangibly demonstrate the love of Christ to the patients. Understanding a person as a whole, and recognizing spiritual life as part of the whole, is a unique strength of the clinic.  I’ve been able to watch and see the providers and staff interact with the people who come through the door in a way that Christ is glorified. I’ve seen that their position opens doors for talking about faith.

Each provider has a slightly different approach, but the goal is the same. They work to promote Christ and a Christian clinic gives them the freedom to do it more effectively. If a patient is open to it, a provider can move from the person’s physical needs to their spiritual needs and share the truth of God with them.

Part of our time at Siloam includes taking a patient satisfaction survey. I see that by far and away, the thing most recognized by the survey takers is the attitude of the staff. Friendly, caring, loving, and respectful, are all words I’ve seen used many times to describe the people that work here. That comes from being a clinic centered on Christ. Christ’s love is what drives the people here and the patients see it. I think that is where the value of a Christian clinic comes from.

Fundraising – an invitation to support the journey

Olivia Rolando blogs…

Fundraising. That word instantly elicits anxiety in me. Maybe the anxiety stems from “the fear of the unknown,” admittedly having never directly fundraised for a personal project like, in this case, the Siloam Medical Immersion. I originally saw the Siloam Institute’s paragraph on committing to fundraising in their application for the SMI. Despite every inch of me doubting that I could successfully reach the financial goal, I signed the application acknowledging that I would be reaching out to people for support. What I didn’t realize at the time, is that facing this fear would bring clarity regarding “support” and a reinstallation of my sense of the “good” in this world.

Having already reached out to others, I have now realized that fundraising is not about gaining financial means to serve others. Fundraising meant to reach out to others to gain their commitment and support of your personal mission. This meant that they also saw value in the journey, the SMI, I had committed to, and wanted to be able to provide the foundation for me to do everything I can to competently serve others. I have been awed by the immense outpouring of love from those who support me, in any form. Sometimes this world can present tragedy, confusion, and pain. Yet, my commitment to serving others, and in turn the most generous support from some of the most amazing people, have truly renewed my faith in the greater good.

God is working through this project to bring four students together, all with support, to work on one common mission: to not only reach out to those of the greatest need, but to all that we come in contact with. God will provide the means for us to reach these fundraising goals; He wants us to be able to have this encounter. I know our journey will continue to be a reflection of God, as I have already noted thus far, and that grace will continue to guide and surround this mission.

For now, I pray that everyone involved in the SMI will continue to gain the support that God has willed. I know I can sense as if another set of hands is being laid in support on my back each time I find someone interested in what I’m working towards. This provides the confidence to move forward to persevere challenges ahead and the affirmation that many are there to be with you through the ups and downs of this set journey. Needless to say, the anticipation is killing me! I’m ready to take on the humidity and work with both my hands and heart. As always, 1 Thessalonians 5:25, Brothers, pray for us.