I recently got back from a global missions conference called Urbana held in St. Louis, MO (more on Urbana below). Of course, the first question people ask is: “How was it?” Also a given is that saying, “it was good” (I’ve never been a fan of one word answers) is not a comprehensive answer to any five day event (especially when each day is packed from 8:45 a.m. til midnight). So in an attempt to both process through what happened the past few days and answer that question, here are some of my thoughts.
Disclaimer: This post isn’t completely comprehensive review of everything that happened/went through my mind at Urbana 2015. These are just a few things that I came in with/learned/committed to at the conference.
What is Urbana? For those of you who are unaware/unfamiliar, Urbana is an global mission conference held every three years by an organization called InterVarsity, a campus ministry that seeks to transform our campuses by the love of Jesus (click here for more about InterVarsity). Traditionally, there are about 16,000 students from across the globe that gather for this five day conference. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of opportunities to engage at the conference from different organizations to talk to to get involved, a book store to get equipped, and many seminars to enrich your learning experience (click here for more about Urbana).
Background, coming in:
Before getting to the meat of Urbana, I probably should start with some background.
I am planning on graduating in Fall of 2016, and although I’m not entirely sure what I wanna do or where the Lord will lead me after graduation, I would like to start working full time (or possibly go to grad school — not likely though) starting in the Summer/Fall of 2017. That leaves the whole Spring and possibly Summer of 2017 open. I’ve always wanted to go abroad for a mission trip that would last longer than a week or two, and this time frame would present a great opportunity to do so.
I know that I came in with this “vision” that I wanted to see fulfilled or confirmed by talking to people at the ministry fair/exhibit thing, but I didn’t prepare myself very well for that. I should have looked up more ministry information and came with an idea of who I wanted to talk to. However, with the busyness of school and burn out after finishing finals, this search was just another thing that added to my list, and I ended up not completing it.
My heart wasn’t in the “best” place entering Urbana. I was a little burned out from a long semester (it was harder than I originally thought it was going to be), and I don’t think I took the proper measures to recover. Going hand in hand with this feeling is just that I noticed myself being really irritable as the semester went on, and it continued into Urbana.
I learned that the average adult could really only take in and internalize about three big ideas from a conference like this one. Here are two of the big things for me.
This commandment is one I’ve heard and recited since childhood (yay, thanks AWANA and Sunday School). This commandment, however, isn’t one I can say that I’ve lived out. I’m not talking about not loving others, but more so a focus on the latter part of the statement.
“As yourself.” If you know me, you know that I do a pretty poor job of loving myself. Often times I’m hyper critical, and I will usually refuse to let someone bear a burden if I can do it for them— whether it’s choosing to have my hands freeze so other people won’t have to suffer, or staying up an extra hour to make sure something gets done, or volunteering to clean a dirty bathroom, just to name a few.
I learned (or maybe re-learned) in a seminars I attended that the act of self care is not only wise and life-giving, but it is also biblical. God the Father took a day of rest after creating the world. Let me tell you taking rest was not because He needed it. He sat back and enjoyed His “good” creation (Gen. 2:1–3). Maybe it’s time I took a note from the creator of both the world and life, cause He probably knows how to do it best. Jesus regularly removed himself from the crowds and people to be alone with the Father, to reconnect with Him and to rest (Mark 1:35; Matt. 14:22–23; Luke 5:16). Jesus took time to spend it with others and reflect. Jesus took care of Himself. Maybe it’s time I took some notes on how to do life from the only person to live a perfect life here on earth, cause He also probably knows how to do it best.
(Application): Maybe it’s time I take Sabbath seriously and trust that God will provide me enough energy to be productive on the other days.
God is a God who cares about all people (all nations, all ethnic groups, all people).
I’ve known InterVarsity supports the idea of multi-ethnicity (learned from serving and being in the ministry and especially going to SAUP — a spring break mission trip to serve the urban poor in San Antonio. Also, shameless plug for SAUP — GOGOGO!). I was certainly reminded of this pillar when at Urbana.
Activities at Urbana reflected this thought: we worshiped in many different languages and according to different cultures, we had a night where we prayed for the nations (particularly those where there is heavy persecution), we listened to many stories of people of different backgrounds (yes, including a speaker who talked about #BlackLivesMatter — more on that in another post), and we heard how God was moving in various parts of the world.
It is clear that our God is a God of all nations (Rev. 7:9), and He loves each and every person dearly (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). Learning about God’s heart for all people has only encouraged me more in my desire to love, serve and know Him and out of an overflow, to love and serve His people and the people He wants to save. Knowing God’s heart has encouraged and reminded me that there are people in the world that do not know or have access to the Gospel, the good news, and His desire is that people hear it.
On the last day at Urbana, we were asked to fill out a commitment card. Here are the commitments I made with short explanations of the commitment and what it will look like for me moving forward. Please feel free to follow up with me and ask how I’m doing with these things!
I submit to Jesus those aspects of my life which prevent me from participating in God’s global mission.
I think this one sounds like a gimme/obvious one coming from a missions conference/church event. It usually includes a notion along the lines of “I’ll stop sinning in this area.” For me, I believe it takes place in the form of actively seeking God’s heart — learning His heart for all people that will remind me to love the way He loves and to pray and beg for the salvation of all people.
I will gather others to learn and live Matthew with me.
I get the opportunity to do this with a new friend, who is an international student staying at my house this school year. Further, as my small group picks up again next semester, I plan on inviting more friends to join in our Matthew scripture study.
I will tell the gospel story in my context.
I’m hoping to use the platforms I have to engage with students around campus in spiritual conversation and talking about faith. My life (and lifestyle and actions) will also hopefully reflect the person of Jesus and the gospel story.
I will serve in a global or cross-cultural setting (short-term: less than one year).
As I mentioned above, I would like to go on a short term mission trip (most likely right after graduation). Hopefully it will happen during the Spring of 2017 to the Middle East or North Africa region using Chemical engineering — meaning I would get a job in the that area and partner with a ministry or missions team already church planting there.
I will regularly pray and intercede for the global church.
The goal is to pray for all the nations through a book called, Operation World. I can imagine this being a difficult and sometimes burdensome task, but I want to be reminded of God’s heart for the nations as well as see Him change our world. I believe prayer is one way for me to partner with Him in doing so. Accountability will be needed. Let’s go SnarfSquad (you know who you are, hehe).
Sorry if this post is a little long. And as I said at the top, this isn’t super comprehensive (and that’s intentional). I should be adding more as time goes on and as I get to process more (particularly with the whole #BlackLivesMatter stuff). If you want to know more, I’m always down to have a conversation!