Sunday 5th September
We arrived to find beautiful weather in Krelingen; ice creams were very welcome as we stood in the sun queuing to register! After dinner, we were thrown straight into the deep end with the first, very challenging, keynote lecture given by Dr John Patrick, Professor of the History of Science, Medicine and Faith at Augustine College, Canada. He spoke about ‘What we all know about good and evil’, exploring the dangers of so-called tolerance and the risks inherent in a society that seeks to make its own laws, removed from God. He argued that Christians should instead be intolerant of evil and stand up for good.
Monday 6th September
After a quick breakfast at our youth hostel, we were whisked off by bus to the conference centre, in time for the first of three Bible talks given by Dr Chris Steyn of Healthcare Christian Fellowship International, Netherlands. Over three mornings, he related three of Jesus’ key teachings in the Bible to our lives as Christian medics. His first address focussed on ‘Our Lord’s Calling’ - Jesus’ explanation of his mission in Luke 4. He used this to demonstrate how Jesus related to those who came to seek his help - his ‘patients’- by telling them the good news and healing them. He related this to our own clinical work, emphasising the importance of maintaining our vertical relationship with God.
There were about 30 different seminars on offer covering a huge variety of topics from postmodernism and the importance of objective truth, to career advice and growing a CMF group. The first were held this afternoon.
Review groups were a highlight of the conference for us, small gatherings of students from different countries who met together to discuss the keynote lectures. It is challenging enough to discuss ‘what we all know about good and evil’, but doing so via translators proved especially tricky! However, the groups provided a great opportunity to build friendships that transcended our communication difficulties.
As well as plenty of Bible teaching, there was time built in to relax together and enjoy both the sunshine and the lovely countryside. Monday night also saw the conference’s international fun night, which consisted of a selection of acts from delegates to give us a flavour of their culture and country: these included songs and computer presentations. The British delegation (‘Team GB’) excelled themselves by performing ‘A Rough Guide to Great Britain’, involving several sketches illustrating aspects of life in the UK. The Hungarians impressed upon us the importance of knowing their language - the phrase they taught won’t be quickly forgotten - ‘both of them were afraid of the bunny’ - thanks guys!
Tuesday 7th September
Today was a taxing day, packing in two lectures and the final two seminars. After another Bible talk in the morning, the second keynote lecture swiftly followed, given by Spanish psychiatrist Pablo Martinez, author of the book Prayer Life. Packed with simple, practical tips, he particularly stressed the view of prayer as coming into the presence of our Father. Many of us automatically associate prayer with a sense of guilt, but instead we should see it as a wonderful opportunity for refreshment and renewal.
The evening slot was for news and initiatives from different countries. This included mentoring schemes, evangelistic programmes, CMF’s summer teams and juniors’ open house meetings, as well as a Russian language Christian medical website (www.cmserver.org/eng/). This was all followed by an uplifting time of praise and worship.
Wednesday 8th September
The final day of the preconference started with the third of Chris Steyn’s talks, examining the beatitudes in Matthew 5. The last of the keynote lectures was given by John Wyatt, professor of neonatal paediatrics in London and author of Matters of Life and Death. His talk, entitled ‘How to walk the talk’ outlined the importance of living out our biblical and ethical principles. We should avoid ‘spin-doctoring’ Christianity, not trying to sell a glossy package but instead telling the truth in love. We must also avoid ‘spiritual schizophrenia’, an attitude that seeks to separate our ‘spiritual mode’ on a Sunday from our ‘medical mode’ the rest of the week.
Over four days we heard some tremendous lectures and God taught us a great deal. Perhaps the most inspiring feature of the conference was the powerful witness that the conference presented: meeting 250 students and junior doctors from right across Europe and hearing about the amazing things God is doing in their countries. It was, for us, perhaps a little glimpse of what heaven is going to be like. When we heard how one group had battled for days to get visas, and then spent over 48 hours on a bus travelling to the conference, we felt more than a little guilty about moaning that we didn’t get lunch on our 90 minute flight!