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Great is Thy Faithfulness: My Journey Into Medicine

John Shin
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On Friday evening, Dr. Shin will share his testimony of how God led him into medicine.


John Shin

Physician-fellow of oncology and hematology, Mayo Clinic- Rochester, Minnesota




  • August 5, 2016
    7:00 PM


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Heavenly Father. We are so thankful for the blessing of your Sabbath hours we all had busy weeks in different ways. But Lord now it help us to just cast away the burdens of the world and lay them at your feet and Lord as I share my story of your faithfulness in my life I pray that you'll please help those who hear my words to see a vision of you and what is possible. If we would all simply commit to having your way in our lives. So we thank you Lord for this opportunity to talk about you in Jesus' name we pray. Amen. So it is a real honor for me to be here tonight to kind of share with you my story and I really appreciate Debbie young giving me the introduction but I would like to classify myself as one of those people who you know would sit in the audience and hear testimonies of people who have strayed far away from the church and then talk about how the Lord brought them back and it would always inspire me but I realized that it didn't connect with me because I didn't have that experience where I fell away and then I came back or at least I didn't think I had that experience because you see now looking back I realize truly that the most effective way to be lost is to be sitting in a pew and my testimony tonight is a testimony of how God had to wake me up in those pews and show me that I had to have a living relationship with him. You know Revelation twelve eleven says and they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony and they did not love their lives to death. You see the word of the Lamb the blood of the Lamb in the word of their testimony are the two ingredients that we need to stand in times of trial and so it is my privilege to share with you my testimony. So a little bit about me I was born and raised in Maryland and as you heard from my introduction. I'm currently in medicine but initially I had no interest in going into medicine at all. I actually in college I majored in computer science and finance and in addition to some engineering courses I went ahead and completed my pre-med courses. And for those of you who've been through college. That tells you that I was very confused in college. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and so I decided if I just did a little bit of everything eventually something should be useful and I should be able to use something right. So when I graduated finally in two thousand and six after five years of college it was so fun. I took five instead of four years. I even took the M can which is the medical college admissions test you need to take before you apply to medical school and I got a decent score on it but my heart wasn't in medicine. So I decided I wasn't going to apply. Instead I started working at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and bioinformatics research because I thought that melded my passions of of the dry sciences and the wet sciences together. But after six months or so of that the only thing atop me was that I was not passionate about that kind of research. So then to do something completely different. Again I went ahead and started working as a patent examiner at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and at that time I got involved in starting my own online business and I didn't say to myself in so many words but really at that time of life. My goal was to simply to make as much money as I could and as short a time as I could to buy back my time to retire young retire rich. Maybe write some checks with several commas for good ministry causes and to pat myself on the back and to live my life that way. And you see that's probably where I would still be today had not God intervened. Because you see in May of two thousand and eight. My father was diagnosed with brain cancer and it came as a shock to all of us because there's no history of cancer of any kind in our family you know he came down with a facial droop and we thought maybe it was a mild stroke and went quickly to the hospital. We got a C.T. of his head done and showed a mass in his right parietal lobe. And this is right around the time that Senator Ted Kennedy. If you remember also was diagnosed with a very similar lesion in his brain. And when that happened when we had the cancer diagnosis. It changed my life forever. Suddenly everything I was doing in my life was unimportant. So I took a leave of absence from work I let my online business go and I became a full time caregiver for my father because I wanted to beat this I could not accept the fact that I would be losing my dad you know this was the greatest test of faith. I had gone through up until that point and part of being a cultural Christian is that you don't take the promises in the Bible to the bank. Up until that point I had never really held God to the promises that I read in Scripture and. So when my father was diagnosed with cancer. I was determined that for the first time in my life now. I was going to put it to the test. Mark eleven twenty four says. Therefore I say to you whatever things you ask when you pray believe that you receive them and you will have them. Have you have you ever truly pray that prayer because I know I had him up until that point but I was praying then James one six through eight says but let him ask in faith with no doubting for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind for let not that man suppose he will receive anything from the Lord He is a double minded man unstable in all his ways. So I prayed and I exercise. My faith like never before and I was determined to not let my lack of faith be the reason why my father wasn't healed. Have you ever prayed really earnestly for something only to see the direct opposite of what you prayed come to pass because that's what happened to me I prayed for healing every single day but Week by week I could see my father's body deteriorating something else was going wrong. He was getting weaker and I refused to admit it in words but I couldn't help shake the feeling of God are you there are you really listening this Bible that I've told everyone I committed my life to is it really trustworthy. Are these pretty verses just bad just pretty words. So one morning my father saw me doing my devotionals and he looked over at me and he said John. How do you do your devotionals in the morning and that struck me as a really odd question because my father what he had been a Christian all his life as well. An elder in the church and so I asked him you know dad. What do you mean you know I rescript her and I pray and. And he said you know I'm ashamed to say and I've been in the church all my life but I don't know what it means to have a personal relationship with Christ and when he said those words it really struck me because my dad was my hero and I looked up to him for everything and I just assumed that he was a spiritual pillar of our family but when he confided that to me it really shook my world and I think I decided at that point that every morning when I do my devotionals I would do it with him. So from that point on we would pray together we would rescript or together we would sing hymns together. And some of you may be able to relate to this but my father was a very stoic man a man full of dignity and up until that point I think I've seen him cry once. Maybe twice at most of my whole life. But when I started having worship with him in the mornings after every prayer. I would open my eyes and I was a tear. Streaming down his face. We would sing a hymn and he would cry. We would read this verse of scripture and he would cry and it was as if those words had a new meaning for him for the first time in his life. I remember there was a time when he was hospitalized because he was having intractable brain tumor headaches and we were at Johns Hopkins and it was communion Sabbath and because we couldn't be in church our pastor brought the bread and the grape juice to have a private communion says such and just for my dad and I remember he gave the bread to my father to read the scripture and prayed and we were all eating it. But my father wouldn't eat it. He would just stare at him and I looked over at him and I asked him you know is something wrong and he looked at that piece of bread and he said you know this is what I've been missing all my life. It was as if the meaning behind that beautiful symbol. Was called Lessing in his mind for the first time and I can tell you when you sing that it really took on new meaning for me as well. So although it was evident that the cancer was ravaging his body and that his physical health was declining in a strange way his spiritual life was blossoming in front of my eyes. You know up until that point all the physicians who took care of my dad I wouldn't say all. But the majority. Of them had me convinced that I had made the right decision in not choosing to go into medicine and I realized that they came in and they were interested more in the disease and the person and I was so jaded about medicine but towards the end of my father's illness course the last doctor who took care of my dad was a true Christian physician and he was an admin assistant and what he would do. Was he would sit at my father's bedside and he would talk to him more than about his disease he would talk to him about his depression. His trust in God His faith in his hopes for the future and he would end every session. By kneeling at my father's bedside taking his hands in his and praying for him and our whole family and it would bring us to tears every single time and even though what this physician did didn't cure my dad. There was a lot of healing taking place and because of his influence my father decided to dedicate his life to Christ and to be rebaptized. You know unfortunately the day before he was scheduled to get rebaptized he actually suffered a grand mal seizure that hospitalized him permanently but you know like the thief on the cross. God knows the heart of my father and they're passing away on October eighteenth two thousand and eight at the age of fifty four. And although it was one of the saddest moments of my life. It was also one of the most sacred because I realized that up until that point I kept asking God to heal my dad. And I was so frustrated with God because I thought he wasn't listening to me but before my father passed away the Lord help me to realize that he had healed my dad on a far deeper level than I had known to ask. And so when that happened even though I lost my father and it hurt so much. I couldn't help but to bend my knees and. Thank God for His wisdom because truly Isaiah fifty five eight three nine says for my thoughts are not your thoughts. No Are your ways my ways says the Lord for the heavens are higher than the Earth. So are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts and I said Lord thank you for not answering my prayer and for looking deeper and giving me something better because I know I will see my father in eternity. So friends. What this convinced of this experience convinced me that God is a God of love and that he has her best interests at heart and that he is so loving and so merciful that in His mercy He sometimes refuses to give us what we ask and I said to myself you know what I can trust a God like that I can dedicate my life to serving a God like that and seeing the impact that his last position had on his life and my life I thought to myself I need to reconsider this whole field of medicine. So I've owned more copies of the ministry of healing throughout my life than I care to recount but I've never opened it and read it so for the first time after my father passed away I read that book and it changed my life forever through that book I became convinced that God was calling me into medicine. But I was very nervous at this point understandably because I was three years out of college. And I said Lord I don't know what my chances are of getting into medical school but if you are calling me down this path. I will go ahead and apply and so I went ahead and cast my net wide and I plied to twenty four schools across the country and I figured that should cover my bases right. And thankfully what I was most concerned concerned about was that remember when I graduated in two thousand and six I took my dad. And I was concerned that at that point my Empat might be too old for the schools to accept but thankfully they all accepted my M.P.I. they said is just old enough we can still take it and every school told me that except one Loma Linda. It was six months too old for them. And I said Lord thank you for narrowing it down to twenty three. Because if that's not a clear sign that that's not the school I meant to go into I don't know what is Have you ever made a decision in your life and then felt like God was looking at you from heaven just shaking his head. That's how I felt I couldn't shake the feeling that you know I said John. If you are praying for God to choose your medical school for you. But you don't put into running the only medical school that has medical ministry as is found and that at one point had used the ministry of healing as his textbook. How can you honestly say that you're giving God every opportunity to lead you. And I'd like be quiet. I don't think that's like that. You know. Before I couldn't I couldn't deny it anymore and I had no rest and I said Lord OK fine if you want me to retake the empath you know what's going to happen if this if I don't score at least as high as I did fresh out of college when I was at the top of my games elastically. It would spell certain doom for my application. So I will retake the empath But this is in your hands and it filled me with terror and peace. Right afterwards when I said amen. And I gave it up to God I had such relief that restlessness they had dog me for weeks went away. So up until that point my plan. Because we all make plans. My plan was to continue working at the patent office as. I interviewed for medical schools and if I didn't get in. No harm done. I still have a stable job. Life is good. To a monkey wrench in those plans. Because in order for me to be able to brush up enough to retake the empath I would have to study full time for over a month so I had to quit my job and I had to just study like crazy and that was burning the bridges. But God let me know that he was being faithful you know why. As I was studying my practice and cats and taking his practice exams. I realized that I was actually scoring higher on my practice tests than what I had scored fresh out of college and I had no idea where this was coming from I said Lord I cannot believe I recall this material that I was sure had decayed somewhere in the far recesses of my brain. And when the time came to actually take my it was tough but I had that calm and sense of peace to let me know that God was near and when I when I walked out of that exam I said Lord I don't know how I did on that test but I know you were with me so I think you no matter what score I get I know you are with me. So thank you. And sure enough several weeks later I got my score and I was shocked because it was the lowest score. I had ever gotten on any of them cat practice or real and with that score every school proceeded to reject me except Loma Linda I think it's funny how God works sometimes it doesn't end. Here I am at the start of it feeling competitive for twenty four schools saying Lord you pick the one for me which of these prestigious schools is going to be. And here I am knocking my knees saying it's either Loma Linda or bust. And I realize that this was actually good for me because. God had to humble me in this process you see he takes us on a journey to mold our characters. All throughout my life. You know I studied hard I got good grades. I had a competitive. You know academic background. So I felt like I was God's gift to medicine. Here's John he finally decided that he's going to pursue medicine. You may all stand up and share in our Yes you know which of you lucky schools will be able to accept me among its membership. And that's kind of how I felt. And now I was just desperate to get an interview from Loma Linda. So here I am all my hopes hanging on one school. It made me think of the story of Joseph and Potter first wife because when you pray for something and it doesn't come through the way you would wanted to you're tempted to think god. Aren't you listening to my prayers because he can answer your prayers in an unexpected way right. What happened when Joseph refused the advances of part of his wife. What was his reward. He got thrown in prison now I can only imagine what Joseph was thinking in prison. He's thinking this is what I get for being true to you in a foreign land. Can you imagine the things that were going through his mind but he had no idea that he needed to spend the time in prison in order for God to use him in a palace. You see. So the desire of age is page to twenty four says God never leaves his children. Otherwise and they would choose to be led if they could see the end from the beginning and the stern the glory of the purpose which they are fulfilling as coworkers for him. So I realized that God knew what he was doing even though I couldn't tell yet but he let me know that he was being faithful to me because first of all he granted be an interview with Loma Linda on the first day of the interview season when they ONLY in. They're top candidates and I had no business being there because my my application was very late as a result to be having to retake my M. can. I also had two interviews there one with a student and one with a faculty member and they both went fairly well. So at the end of that I said lord. It's in your hands. But if you choose to not open the door to ministry for me the only other option. I'm sorry if you don't choose to open the door to medicine for me the only other option I can see myself going into is Ministry. So I applied for the amazing facts center of evangelism four months later ministry training program also known as Africa and I decided well I'll do Africa and of God makes it clear that he's not getting me into medicine. I was just going to ministry. Well my first week in Africa. I got a phone call from Loma Linda and it was very exciting because if you know anything about medical schools they do not call you to let you know you've been rejected because send you that been on the open the mail. But to get a call from them can only mean one thing. So when I pick up the phone with a lot of excitement. The voice on the other line said John. We would like you to come back for a second set of interviews. And I don't know what to think about that because you see if they like me they wouldn't bother with a second round of interviews right. But if they didn't like me they wouldn't bother with a second set of interviews right. So what could this possibly mean. And rather than play mind games I said when do you need me and they said can you come this Friday and I said Yeah sure I can clear my schedule. So here I am headed down on the wings of much prayer of my new classmates going down for a second round of interviews went there met with two physicians the interview be back to back and there's a lot of details in here that time won't permit me to go into but I felt that God was guiding in those interviews and here I am back after oh told the Lord Lord. It is completely in your hands. Or so I. God Because you see I was telling God Lord medicine or ministry medicine or ministry. I don't care which one it is medicine or ministry. But as the weeks went on and I didn't hear from Loma Linda I started getting very anxious and I started wondering to myself Do I need to take these bible personal Bible study courses a little bit more seriously because it seems like God is kind of closing that door and as I felt that I could feel that in my heart I was really clinging to medicine because you see I had told him I give it up to you whatever you want me to do but I realized that in the back of my mind it was Lord if this is either this or we're going to have to have a long conversation. Have you ever prayed like that where you're praying not so much to discern God's will but to receive affirmation of a decision you've already made in your heart. I am so guilty of that and I realized that at that point. But then February eighteenth two thousand and nine happened and what happened on that date was it was our first day of our reach at Africa where fifty six students who had little experience descended on Sacramento to knock on doors and ask for bible studies and what we lacked an experience we made up for in prayer. Believe me. And as we fumbled our way through asking for bible studies in the span of just three hours that afternoon our little ragtag class accumulated a hut. Over one hundred sixty Bible studies. And at that time the coordinator for this outreach was a West peppers and I believe he's here at A.S.I. this weekend at least he was presenting one of the seminars. So he knows exactly what I'm talking about. So when we came back from the event. We spent that entire night just recounting testimonies of how God gave us divine appointments on the streets and goddesses Bible studies and poured out His Holy Spirit and we would intersperses with him his and songs and it was a spiritual highlight of my Africa experience. The next morning I woke. I got on my knees and I said lord. I am so sorry that in my heart I was insisting on medicine because I realized that as long as you're using me to touch lives like you did yesterday. That's all I need. I don't care if you get me into medical school or if you use me as a minister or a mechanic or anything in between just use me to touch lives for you and it was the first time I meant it that morning I went to lunch with my friends and as is our custom we gather in a circle and hold hands and pray at the end of every meal and during that time my phone rang. And after prayer I called back and before I called back I looked and it was a Loma Linda number and I couldn't help but the think a third interview. But when I called back the director of missions was on the other line and he said John. I am happy to tell you that you have been accepted to our School of Medicine. And that sent shivers up my spine because friends. I know that it was not an accident that on the day that I finally gave up medicine to God is the day that he chose to open the door to medicine to me. It was as if he was waiting for me to learn this final lesson where I gave it up to him and I said Lord I don't care how you use me just that you use me. And that's when he looked down from heaven and said Now you are ready to become my physician and so he drill that point home. You know as I began medical school. I realized that it could quickly dominate your life and make you very one dimensional it's intense to academic rigor of medical school and many students sacrifice everything including health relationships with family and friends and even their relationship with God on the altar of academics. I remember I was studying in the library and I had one classmate who studied in the same area with me all the time and one day he walked up to me and he said John. I have decided that I'm not going to church anymore. And I said why. And he said I'm aiming for a very competitive medical specialty and everyone else was aiming for the same specialty studies around the clock seven days a week. I cannot be competitive in the cell one day and so that's a decision he made and he stuck true to it. He got stellar scores and you complicate everything he wanted to. However at what cost. I wonder I looked at him and I saw him drifting away from everything that spiritual. And I thought to myself what a high cost because you seem regardless of what you do if you pursue success at the expense of your faith. You'll be building for yourself a foundation of faithlessness and you'll set a precedent of making things happen by your own strength on your own terms and you'll be able to feel a need for God in your life and if this is the case. How could it not breed pride because when you attribute everything you've done to yourself. There's nothing left but pride. However if you step out in faith and I really want to address the young people in the audience. If you step out in faith. Especially when you study and you ask God to guide you in every step of the way your accomplishments that come there after will simply serve as testimonies of God's faithfulness in your life. And you'll be building for yourself a legacy of faithfulness and your ability to trust in him will grow same outcome competent physicians but to trust a CLI different characters. So in this sense the journey is just as important if not more important than the destination. So I decided you know what I will never study at the expense of my faith and from that moment on I promised myself to always pray before I cracked open a textbook to acknowledge that unless God helps me I cannot help. I cannot hope to understand the material in here. In the midst of my studies I also got involved in ministry because I thought this was my way of giving back for my after training. So I was teaching. School lessons I was giving personal bible studies. I even got involved in the schools as their chaplain and I thought this is this is me giving back. But at the end of doing that I realized it was actually God's way of preserving my faith in the face of a rigorous study schedule. The steps of Christ page eighty says if you will go to work as Christ designs that his disciples shall and when souls were him. You will feel the need of a deeper experience and a greater knowledge of divine things and will hunger and thirst after righteousness those who thus devote themselves to unselfish effort for the good of others are most assuredly working out their own salvation and that was so true for me then and it's very true for me now as well in residency when the time came to do my clinical rotations in medical school. My big question was Lord what specialty. Do you want me to go into and through a long chain of events. He convinced me that he was leading me into internal medicine because he brought me into contact with physicians who practice whole person care who prayed with patients. One of those physicians I bumped into this morning in the hallway here Dr X. and Martell I don't know if she's in the audience but I was so blessed to learn from these doctors and I couldn't shake the feeling because I had so many divine appointments during my internal medicine rotation that God was calling me into internal medicine. So that's where I applied to see. So during my fourth year when I was putting my applications together for residency. I decided that I wanted my fate to be the centerpiece of my application. And I prayed for God to use my application as a filter. I wanted him to reject the wrong programs and to make it appealing to write programs but when my advisor saw my personal statement and how I crafted together my application. They said you know John. This would work great for Loma Linda. Maybe Kettering Florida hospital but if you want to have a shot at any other place. You may want to tone down the religious verbiage a little bit you know. One of my office advisors also told me hey your personal statement. It spans two pages. No reviewer is going to take the time to read two pages you need to really condense into one page so there's this beautiful story you wrote about a patient encounter you had those very meaningful from a spiritual standpoint. Why don't you just summarized in a sentence or two and just cut that out but I talked to a godly physician mentor of mine and he said John reviewing your application this story is the only thing in your application that serves as a testimony to those revealing it. So I would leave it in and when he said that I said done it. Stane. And if they get turned off by it. They don't have to read it so I had no impressive extracurricular activities on my C.V. I didn't do any impressive research all my spare time. Honestly went to ministry but I was happy with my application because it accurately reflected who I was and what I was passionate about. So I ended up interviewing at seventeen different programs in nine different states and that's a lot and time won't permit me to tell you all the all amazing things that happen on the interview trail but let me just highlight one incident and that was at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota. First of all when I went there and I spoke with the other interviewees I realized that I had no business being there. It was very clear that I was the least qualified applicant at least on paper. And hearing them talk about the things that they've been doing made me wonder why am I here. The first person who interviewed me was oncologist and because of his background. He was naturally very interested in what happened to my father and we started talking about spiritual care in the context of oncology and terminal illness. And we had a great discussion and that evening he emailed me back saying John. After I spoke with you today I went to my clinic that evening and I just took a mental note of every time an opportunity for spiritual care came up and I realized it was with every patient. This is such a. Crucial issue in medicine. I hope you will choose to come to mail. That was his email to me. My second interview was with the program director and she started off by saying John. I just want to let you know that your personal statement was one of the most impressive. Well written personal statements I have ever read and trust me I bred a lot of personal statements and she proceeded to highlight. Actually my patient story on the second page and how it really touched her and that I couldn't help but to think at that point that was exactly the portion that I was advised to remove and in talking with this program director I realized that what impressed her most about me was my conviction for spiritual care and whole person care much more than any research item or extracurricular activity could have impressed her on my C.V. and it really made me think of Jeremiah nine twenty three twenty four that says the Lord let not the wise man glory in his wisdom. Let not the mighty Mangalore in his mind nor let the rich man glory in his riches but let him who glories glory in this that he understands and knows me that I am the Lord exercising loving kindness judgment and righteousness in the earth for in these ideal light says the Lord. So friends if there is one way that you want to differentiate yourself from others. It should be in the degree of your love for God. And he will add everything else to you. So after much prayer and fasting what happens is you take all the programs you interviewed at then you make a rank list from the program you like most to the program you like least you submitted to a computer. All the programs do the same thing with the applicants that they have interviewed and they submit them to the same computer and it's kind of like I.E. harmony of medicine in the background and try to pair you up with the best match so that a program you like in a program that likes you can be paired up together and after much prayer and fasting I decided that God was impressing upon my heart. The Mayo Clinic number one and I have to tell you friends. This took a lot of soul searching because honestly I was wondering if I was putting that up there and ranking at number one for the wrong reasons. And I said lord is this me or is this you. But after talking to a lot of godly physician mentors. I realized I had peace with it and I said Lord no matter what happens the glory goes to you and if if I'm misinterpreting you then override my rank list and get me into the program that you would have me to go to and he brought me to the point where I said Lord whatever program I matched you. I know it's going to be your will for me so I thank you so then magically came March twenty one twenty fourteen. My wife and I have the conversion the room where they're passing out. And what happens is every student gets a novel up and then we do a countdown like New Year's Eve and at the same time we all tear open our arms and find out where we're going for residency. And as peals of screaming erupted from all around the room. My wife and I hugged each other and we said a small prayer and we held that and we said lord. I don't know where you're sending me but I know that this is your choice for me. So we thank you. Amen. And we open that and to my shock. It was the Mayo Clinic and when I give this story a lot of people say John wow you got into the Mayo Clinic and when they say that I know that Mrs Davis understood the true point of my testimony. Because the major point of this testimony is not that God got me into the Mayo Clinic but that he brought my heart to the point where even it was the most smallest unknown program in the middle of nowhere. I would've been happy because I knew that that was his choice for me. So friends and especially young people. Dedicate your life to him being full commitment to him and say Lord I give it up to you. I don't care where you use me I don't care how you use me just use me to add souls to your kingdom and. When he does that when you watch him because your life will never be the same again. Let us pray Heavenly Father. I thank you so much for a beautiful testimony. Each of us. And just one of many numerable amount in this room. Lord I pray that you give us the faith to cling to you and to your promises to completely give up our will to yours. My audience is layman's services and industry. If you would like to learn.


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