Greetings in Christ! Wow, its a new year already- hope that everyone is staying warm. Forgive me for not giving you an update sooner- I've been trying to get things organized for some of the upcoming events. First off, I wanted to share my Facebook post from this morning which tells the story about how God touched my daughter in the womb and seems to have healed her of a congenital hemivertebrae. It is a pretty remarkable story, I think and hopefully will encourage some of you.
Miracles. It is not a word that we toss around too much in context of the modern world that we live in amidst the science and technology which has afforded us all these advancements in our quality of life. And yet, we've all heard stories about things that happen that fly in the face of what our expectations and reality would seem to be. It'd be reasonable to be skeptical, I get it, but I just want to testify to something that I would label a miracle, that affected Sophia and my life recently.
It all started about 5 weeks ago- it was our 18 week ultrasound where we would be able to see Baby Girl Chen's anatomy, etc in a bit more clarity than we had before. After I left to go to work, the ultrasound tech left the room and got one of the maternal fetal medicine doctors to show Sophia an abnormality that they had seen on the ultrasound. Placing the wand in the gel laid upon her belly, they found the baby's back and showed her that they had seen what is known as a congenital hemivertebrae. They immediately converted the visit into a fetal treatment center visit with a genetic counselor and talked to her about the various possibilities that could result from this diagnosis. Most likely it was an incidental finding with little functional effect to the baby, however this finding can be associated with heart and kidney defects or scoliosis which were not seen on the ultrasound that day. The doctor recommended that we get a fetal MRI, a fetal echo, and a follow up ultrasound in 4 weeks.
Since I hadn't heard about hemivertebrae before, I went online to take a look and read a case report on Pubmed of a family who upon learning about their daughter with hemivertebrae decided to abort the child, with the resulting autopsy providing some of the clinic details of the possible diagnosis. (though to be noted, this baby was otherwise completely normal and probably would have lived a normal life, other than perhaps some scoliosis).
Sophia and I took this news as best as we could. There wasn't really much that we could do about it. A fetal MRI was inconclusive because that kid was moving too much. All the while we were praying that God would either heal the baby of her hemivertebrae or that He would allow her to live a normal life. God tells us in His word that that we can ask for healing- I do it fairly regularly, not because He always heals the people I ask Him to (or else Nabeel Qureshi would still be with us today, and not yet with Jesus), but because sometimes, I believe that God does- whether through things like science or medicine, or rarely by His mighty hand in ways that I can't understand.
In any case, though we didn't share this request on Facebook, we did share it with our community group and some close friends/family and they had been faithfully lifting our daughter in prayer. God has given us peace about things, through these past couple weeks.
Fast forward to last Tuesday, when Sophia went for her 23 week ultrasound and echocardiogram. I'll cut to the chase, the echocardiogram was normal and THEY COULD NOT FIND THE HEMIVERTEBRAE, though they looked and looked for it.
So here's the thing, I'm no neonatologist, but bone doesn't just spontaneously appear out of nowhere. Its not like it would just "catch up" in 5 weeks. There was half a vertebrae in repeated viewings, repeated angles to different people- and now, at least from what we can tell, there is a whole vertebrae. Something remarkable happened at some point during the past 5 weeks. Call it what you like- a previous false positive result seen on the initial ultrasound perhaps (though it would seem highly unlikely to see an abnormality repeatedly, at different times and angles)? We call it a miracle by a kind and faithful God.
God would have been sovereign had He ordained to give our baby a hemivertebrae. He would have been sovereign had He given our daughter a defective heart and took her to Himself before we even got to meet her in person. He'll be sovereign no matter what happens during the pregnancy. But for now, we celebrate what He has done and testify to the world that we serve a mighty God.
Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Isn't our God amazing? How wonderful it is to be able to be a witness to His mighty hand at work at a personal level. This is the God that we serve and this is the God that we declare to the nations- He alone is the God who saves!
So what does that mean for us? Especially in light of a world who thinks that we are either ignorant or close-minded for believing what we do? A lot of things actually- I want to list a few possibilities that we can consider.
Worship and Fellowship: I am tossing around the idea of having some times where we can gather together as a community to have a light meal, spend some time in worship and then breaking up into smaller groups for fellowship and prayer. Though we are all at different places in our lives, because of the shed blood of Christ, we can have community together, even with people who look different from ourselves, have different jobs than we do and whose situations they are facing are different from our own. Turning our eyes and hearts away from ourselves and towards the God who made us both in His image and "Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female" (Gal 3:28) helps us to know God better and can help us build community together. Stay tuned, we'll set some times and locations soon.
Share about Him: God calls us to be "fishers of men". I had a medical student from Case with me recently. She is a third year who also came to the retreat and had some questions for me about how it is that I brought the gospel to bear in my patient visits. Sara started out just watching me caring for my patients but after I encouraged her to consider giving it a try as the Spirit led her to have conversations with patients, she went and did it! And because she took the initiative and engaged a lady who I had kind of given up on as a typical American nominal "Christian", (because our conversations about the gospel hadn't seem to have gained any traction historically) I saw the gears starting to churn for possibly the first time as she began to realize that knowing Christ was better than anything she could try to attain for herself. What wonderful news that she didn't need to earn God's acceptance and love- but rather that Christ had already paid the price for her sins, but that she needed to accept that free gift of grace through faith. I was so encouraged by Sara's willingness to push her comfort level a little bit- evangelism is never easy, it is hard to tell people that they are a sinner who is in need of grace, just like we are. Yet, if we are to be faithful witnesses even to the ends of the earth, sometimes it means being willing to take a small risk for the sake of the Kingdom as well as for people's souls.
Speaking of the retreat, it was a wonderful time of fellowship by many medical students and attendings. Dr. Leslie Walker did a wonderful job of walking us through ways that we can prevent burn out as clinicians who follow Jesus. Here are some pictures from the event, for those who were not able to make it: Retreat Photos
The student groups that our ministry supports at the campuses of four medical schools in area are doing really well. It is exciting to see them growing in their relationship with Jesus and even taking steps to engage their classmates with the gospel. One area where our ministry has lacked organization and a plan has been in the crucial place of residency ministry. This is particularly sad for me because residents and fellows are probably the people who need the most encouragement as they slog through the painful training process. I'm thrilled to let you know that there is a fledgling Resident Fellowship group that has sprung up with the leadership of Drs. Brian Na and Mindy Strawser. (Both graduating Rainbow residents) I was able to attend their last meeting and it was a great time of sharing, fellowship and community- I hope that this trend can continue. They are planning on holding another event on 2/18- all residents and fellows are welcome to come, and attendings are more than welcome as well. Please write to Brian Na or Mindy Strawser to find out more and to get placed on the mailing list for the group.
Lastly, we have the date for Celebration 2018- it is going to be on Saturday, April 14 at Christ Community Chapel in Hudson. We are getting the details locked in now, but I promise you it will be a wonderful event. I hope that you'll save the date so that you can come and be encouraged in what God did during this past year.
God is faithful- time and time and time again, I am reminded of that ever present reality. He is the same in the past, present and always will be. Praise His glorious name. Glad to be serving Him with you!
Mike Chen, MD
p.s. we are looking for people to volunteer to be on the NEOCMDA board. Honestly, it isn't complicated or time intensive- it's just a group of people who love Jesus who I can turn to advice and counsel in terms of running this ministry. We are looking for some fresh blood, especially as some of our older faithful friends are transitioning from their clinical responsibilities. Please pray about joining me in this- I can't and shouldn't run this ministry alone, and I would appreciate others joining in on what God is doing. Your participation would help sustain me for the extended journey in leading this ministry that it appears that God is calling me to right now.
p.p.s. Though by God's grace, our ministry's finances have been steady through the years, some of those faithful givers who built this ministry are close to retirement and will understandably not be able to contribute financially as much as they have for years. This means that there will be a shortfall unless others who God has blessed with resources and the desire to use them for His Kingdom step up and give in their stead. Our ministry has three part time staff who do an amazing job of helping me get things organized and minister to the various professional schools that we care for. Your investments help to pay for that. Please pray about joining me in supporting this chapter on a regular basis. Thank you!
Dear NEOCMDA members,
Greetings in Christ! I hope that all of you are doing well. As all of us eagerly look forwards to the warm days of summertime, I've been reflecting on a number of things for a while and I wanted to share them with you.
First off, thanks to all of those who were able to come out to Celebration 2014 banquet last month. Over 170 guests were able to come and we had a wonderful time celebrating some of things that God had done over the course of the year.
There were a number of Muslim students there who repeated heard the gospel of God's grace through Christ. One even came to visit my church in the weeks that followed- I saw him taking pictures of the text of the projected worship music. Pray that God would continue to draw people in these unreached people groups to Himself.
During my personal sharing time at the banquet, I talked about God's faithfulness to my wife Sophia and myself as we walked through a struggle with infertility and a severe pneumonia which threatened both my Sophia and our unborn child back in February of this year. In my rush to try be efficient with the time, I didn't mention what happened at the end of the story- God healed Sophia's pneumonia and subsequent asthma exacerbation and she and our baby are doing just fine, currently at 33 weeks and due in July. We praise God for his grace on our family and can't wait to introduce our little Chen into the world.
Another piece of great news is that despite persecution of the Case Dental branch of the Christian Dental Association (if you may recall, the student council had denied the CDA the right to form as an official school group), God used a polite letter from J. Scott Ries, MD, Vice President, Campus & Community Ministries at CMDA national, to remind student council that there is freedom of religion in our country and that the students had every right to form a group, even one that read the Bible. I've attached the letter that they sent Scott along with this email. Glory to God and much thanks in this situation go to the National CMDA for the way that they were able to step in and write with the weight of a national organization. Our chapter is grateful for the continued support of Allan Harmer, Scott Ries and other brothers and sisters in Christ who help us manage our finances, etc.
Currently, much of the activity in the NEOCMDA is slowing down a bit, with the students taking the summer off, but we look forward to a fruitful fall. Our events will be kicked off by the Welcome BBQ at Mike and Debbie Joyce's house on August 16. Feel free to come and fellowship and possibly meet some of the new residents and students. Students in the past have told us one of the things that they appreciate most about the NEOCMDA is the opportunity to get to know medical professionals at a real down-to-earth level- to see how Christians in the workplace apply the gospel to their daily life. We are always looking for possible mentors or people who are willing to speak at student events. Please contact us if interested.
Finally, I don't know if everyone already know about this or not, but in April, three Christian American physicians working in Afghanistan at a Christian hospital run by Cure International were shot and killed by an attacker posing as an Afghanistani guard. Two of their names have not been released, but they were a father and son. Another one, Dr. Jerry Umanos, a pediatrician from Chicago who had been volunteering in the hospital for 9 years, was a man who was a passionate follower of Christ. Before going to Afghanistan, he worked at Lawndale Christian Health Center in inner city Chicago for 25 years. I didn't know the man personally but this statement, released by his friends at Lawndale gives a touching remembrance of what Dr. Umanos believed in and what he was doing when he gave his life in the service of Christ. His wife, in a beautiful picture of God's grace, released a statement that she and her family had forgiven the men who did this to her husband.
Jesus told us in his word that the world will hate his followers, just as it hated him. Paul reminds us that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. We don't always see that in our comfortable lives in America- but this is one example that hits close to home. Not all of us are called to go overseas in a hostile foreign country to share Christ's message of grace to those who are perishing. Yet we are all called to be faithful in proclaiming the gospel by our words AND our actions- to those who are perishing apart from God all around us. My challenge to you is this- our brother Jerry died doing something he was incredibly passionate about, sharing the good news of Christ and serving the poor in a place where no one could repay him.
What are you passionate about? Comfort? Stability? Honor? Respect? May God grant that we would have that same passion for the lost that we would not shy away from engaging our friends, family, co-workers and patients for the sake of Christ. This is our calling as Christians- and it is the most fulfilling aim that we could ever have, speaking and rejoicing in God's grace to sinful people like ourselves.
I close with this, one of my favorite quotes, from Jim Elliot, a missionary who was killed while seeking to share the gospel with an unreached tribe in Ecuador. "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose".
brotherly love in Christ,
Mike Chen, MD
p.s. please be praying for Jonathan Yang, one of our Case student leaders. He is going on a medical missions trip to the United Arab Emirates to a Christian hospital as he seeks God's will in possibly entering a life of full-time ministry. NEOCMDA will be supporting Jonathan with $750 towards the cost of his trip. It is because of the generosity of members like you that we can support this and other missions work. Thank you. If you would like to join me in supporting this ministry, please check out the NEOCMDA.com website, there you will also pictures of the Banquet and videos of some of the speakers, including Jonathan himself.