This semester, I have discovered that estimating in advance the number of attendees for our 4D Dinners is an inexact science, to say the least. Factors such as the weather, students’ exam schedules, and an unforeseen wave of late-breaking enthusiasm can dramatically impact student turnout. Some weeks, we prepare dinner for 30 and only 20 students are able to come; other weeks, the tables are set for 20 and then 30 students attend.
Our last 4D Dinner of the semester on November 21st was one of those unpredictable Mondays. It was a cold evening on a short week of class, the day before many students were set to depart Chapel Hill for Thanksgiving break. Taking these things into account, we estimated 25 students would attend and we cooked and arranged the place settings accordingly. At 5:55 pm, I noticed a burgeoning crowd of new faces congregating by the front door. I went out to welcome these visitors and discovered that two different student small groups from Chapel Hill Bible Church had decided to attend the 4D Dinner as their group’s fellowship time for that week. I then met several Medical students who had heard about the dinner from a classmate and who had made the trek to the Study Center for the first time because they had a particular interest in that evening’s speaker, Dr. Wesley Burks (Executive Dean of the UNC School of Medicine). After 15 minutes of meeting and greeting these guests, we finally circled up to bless the food, and then everyone transitioned into the dining room.
I was reminded of Jesus’ miracle of five loaves and two fishes that evening as somehow our meal prepared for 25 was able to comfortably feed the 40-or-so attendees. Paul’s exhortation from Romans 12:10 to “prefer one another” came to mind as several Study Center regulars willingly gave up their seats to first-time visitors, and instead sat on couches and even the floor. The dining room was hectic, but also alive with conversation and with new acquaintances being made. It was a beautiful sight to behold and a fitting end to a semester of wonderful Monday night meals.
At 6:35, I introduced Dr. Burks and handed him the floor. He proceeded to give an excellent address which included a brief overview of his life story along with a more detailed account of the discernment process that led him to the realization that God was calling him to the vocation of medicine. He shared about his experiences practicing Pediatrics and also in university administration with UNC hospitals. He brought along a copy of Every Good Endeavor, a book co-written by Tim Keller and Katherine Alsdorf, and he recommended it as a particularly helpful resource for students with questions about how their faith relates to their vocation. One of the practical pieces of advice that Dr. Burks shared that evening was that he strongly encourages pre-Med students (and other students planning to go to graduate school) to take at least one year away from school after undergrad to get some work/life experience before continuing on in their field.
After he concluded speaking, there was 10 minutes of question and answer time and then we prayed for Dr. Burks to draw the evening to a close. Several students stayed beyond 7:15 to continue getting to know one another or to ask Dr. Burks a personal question. The evening was an excellent reminder to me to trust in the Lord’s provision in every circumstance (especially when we seriously underestimate our number of dinner guests!). We’d like to thank Dr. Burks for closing out this semester’s lineup of 4D guest speaker dinners; we are already looking forward to the return of these dinners and to new speakers next semester!