Many of you have probably heard that Matt and I went to Urbana a couple weeks ago, and some of you might be wondering, “what’s an urbana?” That’s a valid question.
Urbana is a missions conference that InterVarsity hosts once every three years. It’s been going on for the past 70 years, and has been equipping and challenging students to live lives of mission and even serve in long term missions for quite some time (even students like Jim Elliot went to Urbana!) This year almost 16,000 students gathered in St. Louis to attend.
The video below will serve as a great intro, to give you a glimpse of what Urbana was like…
While at Urbana, students got to hear speakers like David Platt (author of Radical), and several missionaries, church pastors and non-profit founders, all involved in God’s global mission. One evening when students were expecting a main session speaker, IV partnered with World Vision to answer the prayers of AIDS caregivers in Swaziland, Africa, by assembling 32,000 kits with basic medical supplies. Students got to hear from one of the actual caregivers named Shorty who came from Swaziland to speak about the need of her community, and students were able to humbly respond through prayer & action.
Seminars were held during the afternoons so that students could hear about a wide range of topics from Spiritual Warfare in Missions, to Women in Academics, to What it Takes to Transform a City. They also gathered each morning to study the Gospel of Luke in traditional IV form through an Inductive manuscript study of the Scripture. Urbana also hosted a couple hundred various missions organizations & seminaries that students could visit and talk with about future partnerships and opportunities. The worship even challenged students to think about what it will look like one day for every tribe, tongue and nation to be worshipping the Lord together in Heaven, and to experience a tiny taste of that here on earth.
Near the end of Urbana, many deep commitments were made by students:
- To serve at least two years in missions – 4,224 (2,676 in 2009)
- To lead an evangelistic Bible study – 6,434 (5,034 in 2009)
- To follow Jesus for the first time or to make a recommitment – 96 & 3740
Alec Hill, President of InterVarsity USA said about Urbana, “While we can’t fully comprehend the extent of the Spirit’s work among us, my sense is that this was a very special Urbana. I suspect that twenty years from now, Urbana 12 participants will be spreading the Kingdom of God all over the globe – proclaiming the Good News, healing infirmities, fighting injustice, and discipling new believers.”
Amen. I went to Urbana as a student in 2009, and was deeply moved. I came back to Urbana as an IV staff three years later, and was again met deeply by the Lord, with a renewed call to His global mission on campus, and thirsty for students & faculty to be transformed, campuses to be renewed and world changers to be developed.