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History of CMDA Richmond

The following interview with Ed and Debby Read was featured in Today's Christian Doctor volume XXXVI, No. 2 of Summer 2005.

From Medicine as a Practice to Medicine as a Ministry

When did you first see medicine as ministry?

Jack, a third year Family Practice Resident and his wife, Kathy, were used by God to begin the process of drawing our hearts to medicine as a ministry. The year was 1977 and Ed was a first year Family Practice resident. This couple, despite their busy lives, reached out to us with the love of Jesus. We came to know Him and grew in our new faith with the help of their mentoring. Ed was shown how to treat patients with compassion and Debby was helped with the transition from full time RN to full time Mom (and often, single parent). We personally experienced the difference a Christ-centered marriage makes as we grew closer and sadly watched half of the residents in Ed's class end their marriages over the next five years. This gave us a desire to reach out to other struggling couples, not because we had it all together, but because we experienced many of their same issues and wanted to share what God was teaching us.

What led you to increasingly see medicine as ministry?

God began to give us opportunities to reach out to others as He moved us around the world with the Navy (paying back time for Ed's military scholarship to pay for medical school). After serving for eight years, Ed began to practice Emergency Medicine in Pennsylvania. Our involvement in our church there led us to teach a couples Bible study and do pre-marital/marital counseling. God continued to equip us and refine us through our five children (the two youngest adopted with attachment issues and special needs) and the stresses of a career in medicine. The unique challenges and joys of a medical marriage began to draw our hearts to minister to physicians and their families. A bi-monthly outreach Bible study and times of fellowship were used by God to change hearts and lives. It was a great opportunity for us to minister together and to watch God at work. Our hearts were drawn to do this more purposefully and to devote more of our time to encouraging these healers who often needed healing themselves. It was a blessing to see what a difference it made to invest in the lives of these individuals and couples...especially those early in their marriage and career years.

How did you make the decision for the transition?

We believed God was using us where we were (and we loved our friends and our community there in State College), but really sensed His will for us was to be involved in the lives of students, residents, and practicing doctors. That opportunity with students was not available where we lived, so we asked God to show us where He wanted us. The next two years were spent praying about and seeking to discern God's leading.

Where did God lead you?

Ed desired to practice Emergency medicine part-time to allow teaching and relationship building opportunities, we desired to work together in ministry to those in the medical field, and we desired to use our home for fellowship, refreshment and encouragement for whomever God brought our way. Our family had fond memories of lake vacations and sightseeing in Virginia, so this seemed like a good place to start our search. God opened doors in Virginia to all three of these desires we sensed He had laid on our hearts.

How did you get involved in ministry with CMDA?

As a life-time member already familiar with the ministry of CMDA, Ed contacted the VA Community Based Minister, Lem Howard, to see if there might be an opportunity in Virginia. Lem shared that he had been praying for years for a Doctor to work alongside of him in Virginia. In particular, there was a great need for a Richmond Area Community Based Ministry Director with all the students at the Medical College of Virginia and the many doctors in the area. Ed then contacted the Director of the MCV Emergency Department who was surprised and said "it is interesting that you would call us now, because we have a need for a Board Certified ER physician to work part time." He was pleased that Ed wanted to work with students and residents and do some teaching. The job seemed like a good fit. We were delighted when God provided the third piece of what we sensed He was laying on our hearts to do. He provided a home on our favorite lake that we could use for hospitality. God confirmed this was His will in many ways (including our children being thrilled and our church family seeing it as a perfect fit). We became the Richmond Medical/ Dental Directors for CMDA. Together we share a full-time position with each of us working part-time. It has been a joy for us to minister together, to co-labor with so many godly people in Richmond CMDA, and to see God confirm this is where He wanted us.

How did you raise support when making this transition?

Ed is using his practice buy-out option from the ER group he belonged to in State College to enable us to support ourselves for three years. The money goes to CMDA headquarters and they pay each of us our part-time salary. Our hope and prayer is that over these three years we will build relationships with people who will desire to partner with us and support us financially and prayerfully. God is already causing this to happen.

What results have you seen in your lives and the lives of others?

The love and appreciation we have received has been humbling and uplifting. God has done incredible things in Richmond since we arrived 18 months ago. The weekly student Bible study has grown in attendance from twelve to fifty, a monthly graduate and student fellowship has been started, we are individually mentoring students, hosting fellowship events and yearly leadership retreats at our home, encouraging marriages, doing premarital counseling, taking students on medical mission trips (a team of five went in 2004, a team of twenty went in 2005) and whatever else God brings our way. We are fully aware that what is happening is a result of God's grace and the faithful prayers of the men and women of Richmond CMDA. The leader of the local graduate council, Dr. James Anderson recently wrote, "Richmond CMDA brought this fellowship to a certain place but Ed and Debby Read have brought it to the next level for which we are thrilled and excited and blessed. We had plateaued at a level of activity for 2-3 years. Now we are at the place to impact student health care workers and graduate health care workers in significant numbers. The medical and dental school campuses are a gold mine of leaders and there is no better way to impact our world for Christ, national and international, than by raising up and affirming servant-leaders in the next generation of health care workers". We often feel inadequate, but God only asks us to be willing and be open to be used by Him. Working with the medical and dental students has been a blessing beyond our wildest hopes. We have LOVED being with them and are so amazed by their desire to grow spiritually and use their profession as a ministry. The graduates have been an inspiration to us and we hope we can be a support to them. Comments from students are a great encouragement, such as Gina saying "Thanks for all you do to make our time in Richmond so enriched with God's purposes. I really do appreciate the fact that there are people like you to look up to...you guys make such a great difference." and Amy saying "I had some good quality time talking with my parents about the latest updates in my life and I couldn't help noticing how many times CMDA came up while sharing God's goodness. I am so thankful that I can study medicine and continue to grow in Christ, encouraged by the fellowship on campus and by you (Debby) and Dr. Read." God knew these students would need someone to come alongside them in their walk with Him. How thankful we are that He is allowing us to be those people. We marvel at how blessed we are with the privilege of being involved in the lives of students, residents and graduates here. There is much still to learn and God continues to show us that our dependence must be on Him as we minister here. The task is beyond us, but He is faithful to supply all that we need.

What is your hope for the future?

God is the one making the difference in lives here. It gives us great joy to have this opportunity to grow with and share our lives with people in the medical profession and their families. We know what a difference Jack and Kathy made in our lives and we are so blessed to be able to pass their example on to others. They showed us the way to God and how to allow God to use our professions for His purposes. Now we have the incredible opportunity to bring others to a personal relationship with God, to encourage them in their faith, to help them keep priorities balanced so there is time for God, family and friends, to come alongside of them in their struggles, and show them how to practice medicine as a ministry. Hopefully, we are modeling to them how to pass all this on to others whose lives they will touch. In his second letter to Timothy (verse 2:2), Paul says, "Pass on what you heard from me to reliable leaders who are competent to teach others." These men and women we work with are reliable leaders in their homes, communities, and our nation. God, in His goodness, is allowing us to pass on what was passed on to us. We pray this cycle continues with those whose lives we are investing in.