Next Generation of Missionaries
God at Work - Across the world

God at Work

Next Missionary Generation Gathers
at Urbana 09

By Bill Bray

ST. LOUIS, MISSIOURI (ANS) -- Although exhausted students were still arriving all day on Monday, over 16,200 ardent potential Christian workers are now fully engaged in the largest missionary recruiting event in North America.

A packed Urbana conference

On their first night in the giant indoor dome of the Edward Jones stadium (home of the St. Louis Rams) they raised their hands in worship before a 60-foot wall of light and sound. The convention opened with a throbbing hip hop jazz presentation of “Bringing in the Light of God” based on John 1.

Each night pushes the limits of Christian music and dance, featuring tribal dancing from American Indians and program elements in languages from every continent.

However the convention is much more than huge sound, light and video shows. It is designed to change the language of apologetics and evangelism for the 21st Century, equipping the students to begin a new era of multi-cultural missions at Urbana. From the first night, students were challenged to go back to their campuses and begin dorm Bible studies.. The evangelistic studies are based on the first four chapters of John’s Gospel, the chosen scripture text for the week.

Urbana Director Jim Tebbe promised the students an “eye opening, life-transforming, commitment-producing call to join God’s mission” and Urbana 09 is already delivering.

Students are being urged to join one of eight “action tracts” that include Gospel outreach based on: Advocacy and Poverty, Business as Mission, Domestic Poverty, International Poverty, International Students, Canadian Student Leadership, USA Student Leadership, or Pastors and Church Leaders.

The students themselves form “family groups” in 14 downtown hotels, beginning and ending each of the five days with prayer and sharing. During the day there is an ongoing inductive study of the Gospel of John, plus seminars and time for interviews with nearly 300 mission agencies and seminaries on the “Global Connections” exhibit floor..

The convention is catering to the new diversity based on the indigenous missions’ movement. It has multi-ethnic and special interest lounges and designated housing that caters to special interest groups such as Arts and Media Majors, Black Students, Canadians, Catholics, Greek fraternities and sororities, Pan Asian North Americans, Latinos, Native and indigenous groups with special emphasis on high school students, filmmakers, journalists and alumni groups.

International student groups are broken down into continents, countries, tribes and language groups.

The largest missions’ bookstore in the world displays over 1000 titles on featuring Christian apologetics, evangelism, missions and self-guided Bible study and building relationships.

Urbana 09, like the 22 Urbana Missions conferences before it, is a continuation of the most effective missionary recruiting movement in the USA and Canada since WWII. It began in 1947 in Toronto before it moved to the mid-western plains of Illinois.

For most students this event is a once in a lifetime (and once in a college career) experience where they come face to face with God’s claim on their lives.

The logistics of the event are mind-boggling including hundreds of buses, vans and feeding dinner to 16,000 people each night in less than two hours.

Bill Bray is a frequent contributor to ASSIST News Service and also serves as president of the Overseas Students Mission based in Charlottesville, Virginia. He is currently in St. Louis on assignment for ASSIST News to report on the Urbana 09 student missions’ conference.
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