Almost 400 medical students and doctors from the UK and abroad attended this year's CMF National Students' Conference in Derbyshire, UK from 8–10 February. The Friday evening started with praise and worship, and the usual noisy welcome to each of the medical schools.
Power to be witnesses
CMF General Secretary Peter Saunders delivered the Bible addresses from Acts, written by Luke, the first Christian doctor. The theme for the weekend came from Acts 1:8:
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
These were Jesus' last words before his ascension into Heaven and the promise to the apostles applies to every believer today. We looked particularly at the power that Jesus promised:
- Why do we need power? To live the Christian life and share the gospel against Satan's opposition.
- How do we get power? By the constant infilling of God's Holy Spirit, present in every believer.
- What does the power help us to do? To have a Christlike character that will draw others to the gospel. God gives various gifts, all with the aim of building up other believers for mission.
On Saturday morning we swept through the middle of Acts, looking at the various situations where the apostles shared the gospel and the ways they tailored their message to the audience. We were challenged to know the key points of the gospel and be able to share them effectively – we will all become eloquent at discussing patients and diseases – how much do we work on communicating the gospel?
Finally, in chapter 17, we saw how even the great apostle Paul struggled to communicate the gospel to the Athenians, when his words and concepts confused them. We were challenged to learn to use words and concepts that people understand, instead of Christian jargon. We looked at how we can build bridges from contemporary writers such as Richard Dawkins and Phillip Pullman, to go on to discussing gospel issues.
A global perspective
I attended the 'Mission possible' seminar because of my interest in working overseas. Vicky Lavy, a palliative care doctor, and her husband Chris, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon, had recently returned from ten years in Malawi. They were involved in building Malawi's first orthopaedic hospital and setting up a national surgical training programme. Theirs was a truly compelling account of God-centred service.[1,2]
Chris also gave the conference address, 'What did you do for the least of these?', looking at global inequalities. I was ashamed to hear of the one billion children who live in poverty and that 400 million do not have access to safe water. The talk challenged me to reorder some of my meaningless priorities and consider what I can do to help. It concluded with the profound message that we should treat every patient as if they were Jesus.
Issues closer to home
The other seminars dealt with a variety of issues. As someone who is all too familiar with the arresting effects of perfectionism, I found the 'Juggling to perfection' seminar very helpful. Mark and Rachael Pickering outlined practical ways to assess one's level of perfectionism and steps to manage it.
John Wyatt, professor of neonatal paediatrics, discussed 'When is a person?' It was the first time I had heard a Christian doctor speak on the topic and he changed my thinking. He worked backwards from the adult to the zygote and asked, 'When is a person not a person in that process?' We do not cease to be a person at any point! The logical conclusion is that you are already a person at conception.
Time to relax
We were blessed with beautiful sunshine and crisp air as we ventured out for the Saturday afternoon leisure activities. Some relaxed beside the pond or strolled through the lush grounds while others played football in the sports hall. As an ardent reader, I was delighted by the variety of discounted titles at the bookstall!
The evening ceilidh brought together a multi-national group of students, an English ceilidh band and two Scotsmen in full Highland garb. Aided by my kilt and Scottish genotype, I glided gracefully across the dance floor during the Dashing White Sergeant! The less energetic could choose between the praise concert, University Challenge quiz or movie discussion.
A final word
The conference helped me become more aware of national and global issues. I left with a greater understanding of Scripture, equipping me to maintain a personal relationship with Jesus and to serve God through medicine. As I face the challenges of running our CMF group, I still remember valuable lessons I learnt.
I attended the conference with two other students from my year at medical school and the opportunity to witness became apparent when we returned to class on Monday morning. It is certainly hard to avoid when friends in your year know that you were away at a 'Christian conference'! I very much encourage you to go next year. It is really an amazing opportunity!