Conference seeks to enlarge student perspectives and focus individual purposes
News | Jon Westmark
Thousands of students from all over the country worship together at Urbana 2009. | Courtesy of Nicole Wriedt
How does the largest student missions conference in the country communicate something as personal as God’s call for individuals? It starts small — it starts with 12.
The triennial Urbana conference in St. Louis, Miss. will bring around 18,000 students from around the world with the express purpose “to compel this generation to give their whole lives for God’s global mission.”
The theme for this year’s conference is “It starts with 12.” According to Associate Campus Pastor Matt Runion, who coordinates the event for Bethel, this is an important aspect of what Urbana is all about. “I think the theme goes back to the disciples,” he said. “It is a personal journey in a global community.”
The focus on the individual is central to the conference’s structure. There are seminar series and various tracks tailored to fit a variety of interests, ranging from poverty and justice to the mission of healthcare. If students have multiple interests, they are encouraged to “mix and match to build [their] own series that reflects where God may be calling [them].”
According to Runion, realizing an individual calling is one of the best things about the conference. “It might not be ‘now I know I’m supposed to be a career missionary’ and now we’ve created 18,000 more career missionaries,” he said. “It’s more about engaging and participating in God’s global mission, whether it’s to give more generously, to go short-term or mid-term after graduation, or possibly long-term.”
Students are also able to meet face-to-face with hundreds of mission organizations from around the world.
Each morning students meet in small groups to discuss the passage of the day. This year’s texts will come from the Gospel of Luke. After the Bible study, the students will converge on the Edward Jones Dome to worship as a community.
For Runion the multicultural communal worship is also a life- changing experience. “This is a great place to discern God’s call, to be inspired, to learn and to hear from leaders around the world in a setting where there are people from a lot of different walks of life,” he said. Runion looks forward to listening to keynote speaker Calisto Odede, Senior Pastor at Nairobi Pentecostal Church.
“It was a glimpse of heaven,” said Patty Lin, a senior who went to Urbana 2009. “There was unspoken community among strangers for the sake that we were brothers and sisters in Christ.” Lin plans to attend her second Urbana this winter.
This year’s conference runs from Dec. 27-31. Bethel President Jay Barnes and the executive leadership team will be chartering a 55-passenger coach bus from Bethel to the conference.
Students can register for the conference at Urbana’s website for $399. Bethel is offering a limited number of $100 scholarships on a first-come, first-serve basis. Students interested in applying for scholarship should contact Matt Runion in Campus Ministries before registering.
On Oct. 8, Campus Ministries will hold a reception for Adam Jeske of the Urbana Leadership Team from 3:45-4:30 p.m. in the Alumni Lounge of the Brushaber Commons.