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
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.
A packed Urbana conference
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
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’
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