February 12th 2021
The EMT’s quickly wheeled Devante Taylor into the Emergency Room at Toronto’s Sunnybrooke University Hospital—his odds of survival minimal.
The bullet lodged in his neck, by a random act of gang violence, needed to be delicately and skillfully managed by the trauma team on duty that evening. Over the next 48 hours, the team channeled their energy and expertise to save the young man’s life.
That evening, the trauma team happened to be led by Dr Steven Ma, a capable and experienced trauma surgeon and also a man deeply motivated by his Christian faith—and he’s a huge fan of UrbanPromise Toronto.
Actually, Dr Ma is such an admirer of UrbanPromise that wears UrbanPromise t-shirts while on duty—hoping to inspire his staff with a Bible verse or make a connection with a family member experiencing trauma. When there’s a connection, Dr Ma calls the UP Toronto team for prayer and possible ministry to a family in crisis.
And that’s what happened that fateful night in 2017. Devante grew up at UrbanPromise. “He started with our camps at the age of 8,” shared UP Toronto executive director, Shawn James. “He’d also been a StreetLeader and was a semester away from graduating business college.” Driving his 3 year old cousin home one Sunday afternoon, Devante’s car was ambushed and riddled with bullets. His cousin unharmed, but Devante’s life changed forever. He survived because of the adept medical treatment he received, but was left paralyzed from the neck down.
This is why Dr Ma continues in this work. Besides his numerous medical accomplishments( he even holds a Master’s Degree in Theology from Tyndale College) he chooses to be on call 6 nights a month as the attending staff trauma surgeon so he can deploy his extraordinary gifts for God’s purposes. “I exchange money for time,” he shared to a reporter in a University of Toronto interview for aspiring medical students. Time to serve his community—time to use his vacations to perform volunteer surgeries at a missions hospital West Africa so missionary doctors can take a vacation. Faith defines the way Ma spends his time.
Dr Ma’s desire to integrate faith into all aspects of his life reminds me of a quote by pastor and writer Brian McLaren. “I often say that one of my favorite parts of being a pastor for 24 years was pronouncing the benediction each week,” he muses. “It wasn’t that I was glad for our gatherings to be over; rather, I was thrilled to be deploying people into the world to live out their faith between Sundays.”
It’s “faith between Sundays” that is needed in our world right now. Not a showy, dogmatic, I need-to-win-my-argument kind of faith. But the kind of faith the biblical writer James talks about—faith that becomes real in our world through acts of healing, justice and compassion. Faith that creatively infuses every aspect of our lives—even if it means wearing a t-shirt sending subtle signals of hope to an overly anxious medical team or creating God-conversations with families in the throes of an existential crisis.
This past week, Dr Ma popped into my mind. A couple of years have passed since we last communicated. I wondered about his UrbanPromise t-shirt supply. Serendipitously I pinged him an email—minutes later:
“My wife was teasing me about my dwindling supply of UrbanPromise t-shirts,” his enthusiastic email began. “I have been worried because I’m down to 2 shirts. The rule in our home is that whenever a hole appears anywhere in the T-Shirt, daddy has to throw it out or allow the girls to turn them into PJ’s.”
He continued, “I wear UrbanPromise t-shirts everyday at the hospital. The messages on the back encourages many nurses and other staff. They’ve opened doors for many conversations and prayers with patients and their families.”
“Here’s another way to put it,” says Jesus, in a popular colloquial version of Matthew 5:16, “You’re here to be light, bring God-colors into the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this.” Sounds like faith “between Sundays” to me.
I’m off to the Post Office with a box of t-shirts—special delivery to Canada.
PS. Please watch this inspiring video of Devante who was recently featured in a micro-soft commercial. This young man continues to be a light and inspiration to others.