Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Western Student Retreat

Our Western and Eastern Student retreats are happening this month. With that in mind, we thought we'd highlight the reflections students shared from last year's retreat. To register for the Western Student Retreat email Shannon Friesen for more information.

Jon Chan, 3rd Year Dental Student, UBC

As a third year dental student at UBC, I can attest to the ways in which our secular institutions attempt to strip away our very spiritual foundations and drain the power of our faith, an insidious process that have consigned too many to a sense of spiritual defeat.  This is why this weekend of renewal was so incredibly necessary. There was something special as over a hundred medical and dental students gathered to worship and glorify our Father. As the beautiful cacophony of our voices and prayers reverberated across the room, the fears and struggles of our hearts were temporarily abandoned, overcome by an intimate sense of rest found in the presence of the Father.

One of my favorite moments was the chance to reconnect and spend time in fellowship with medical students from other schools across the country. Stress and studying gave way to deep conversations, hours of frivolous board games and outdoor activities. However, after the festivities died down, board games were abandoned for profound, meaningful heart-to-heart interactions. After hearing the trials and victories of various CMDS student chapters across the nation, we entered into times of prayer and encouragement. I have no doubt that God was present and speaking in our conversations. As we navigate the murky waters of medical school that teem with ethical issues such as euthanasia and abortion, it is of the utmost importance that we stand firm and stand together in solidarity. In this journey, it is encouraging to know that CMDS Canada is firmly invested in uniting students, establishing a network of support that spans the country.

The other highlight of my weekend was the time spent in worship and learning, where we were joined by Dr. Jo-Ann Badley from Ambrose University. As someone who had the chance to lead worship, the most authentic part of the experience came not from the music played but from witnessing the passion of the congregation as they sang their hearts out to our perfect Lord and Saviour. Through it all, I was once again reminded of the extravagance and depth of our good, good Father’s love that transcends and surpasses all human fear and understanding. There was something refreshing in learning from Dr. Badley’s wisdom and knowledge of the Scriptures. It was a much needed change from the hours spent haphazardly pouring over scholarly articles and textbooks. I realized that in order for my faith to flourish, I had to invest in moments like this, where my spiritual learning mirrored the depth of my medical education. This was truly a time for the rejuvenating and equipping of my soul.

My reflections could mention the time I spent frolicking in the snow, swallowed up by the beauty of God’s creation, or the sharing by a panel of doctors with a vast wealth of practical experience in integrating the love of Christ into patient care. However for brevity’s sake, I will abstain. In the end, the Western Student Retreat was an amazing time of fellowship, learning, worship and relaxing. As I shoulder the weight of my professional education, this was the perfect time to lighten the load, to walk with others on the same journey and to share in their triumphs and victories. In a vocational field that so often seeks to separate and subjugate, it is so relieving to experience the love of this community and to know that we do not tread this twisted yet beautiful narrow path alone.

Elise Van Brummelen, 3rd Year Medical Student, UBC

My first two years of medical school have been a challenging a journey, but the beautiful thing about journeys is that the multitude of perspectives and events you encounter along the way each leave their mark on you. For me, the CMDS Canada Western Student Retreat was one of those events that will shape the way I approach medicine and life in the future, and I realized there just how much effort CMDS Canada is putting into coming alongside and supporting students as God forges us on our paths. That support is a multi-faceted gift, and everything I experienced at the WSR was part of it.
For instance, attending the WSR gave me the chance to hear from doctors, dentists, speakers, and students who offered me new viewpoints, encouragement, and reminders of what is important in both faith and practice. During the panel discussion, I gleaned pearls from a number of professionals whose stories gave concrete examples of how they bring Jesus' love into their work. In addition, I needed Dr. Badley's timely reminders of the importance of prayer, scripture, baptism and communion, and how they relate to my daily life. Larry Worthen's update on physician-assisted suicide in Canada reminded me how diligently CMDS Canada is working to create a future where physicians of all moral convictions can practice freely. Ultimately, I was left with the sense that I am not alone in my journey as a medical student of faith - I stand in solidarity with other students and on the shoulders of spiritual giants who are preparing the way for us.

Unity was another theme that struck me at the retreat. Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Protestants – Christ-followers of many denominations – were able to stand together worshipping our God. One of the most powerful things I experienced was looking out on the crowd of future physicians and dentists during worship, seeing young people who will hold prominent positions and powerful influence in society, and seeing at the same time a community of hearts desperate for God and for his love to be applied practically in the world. We stood united despite our differences; in fact, our unity was made all the more beautiful because of our unique perspectives, complex systems of belief, different stages of learning, and individual destinies as practitioners and as people. Seeing so many different hearts alive in the love of God and realizing that I stand together with them brought me to a place of deep gratitude.

Over my weekend in Calgary, I experienced the WSR as CMDS Canada expressing Christ's disciple-making love, drawing me closer to him and showing me that I am not alone in my quest to share his love with others through medicine. Whether I was hearing from a speaker, laughing with other students, or strumming my guitar on the worship team, the way our desire to know and praise God brought us together impacted me. We forged connections with one another that will enable us, through our differences and the things we share, to support one another and raise each other up. It was a huge gift, and its effects will continue to influence me as I grow spiritually and clinically.

To CMDS, David Loewen, Larry Worthen, and everyone else who played a part in making the WSR happen - I can't thank you enough!­­­­­­

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