URBANA, Ill. – Once again, thousands of college students have transformed their lives to be committed to Christ through Urbana, the world’s largest mission convention for college students, sponsored by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, the Madison, Wisconsin-based; InterVarsity Christian Fellowship of Canada; and Groupes Bibliques Universitaires et Collegiaux du Canada.
The Urbana convention is held once every three years. Almost all students who attend the convention say Urbana motivates them to serve God. Students who attended this year’s Urbana which was held Dec. 27-31 on the campus of the University of Illinois at Champagne-Urbana, made an unforgettable impact on them. More than 10,000 students made commitments to become missionaries during Urbana 03.
"Students in the 21st century will be the greatest missionary force the world has ever seen," said Jim Tebbe, director of Urbana. "Urbana helps students find their place in God's global mission."
Indeed the 19,000 student participants, missionaries, and church and campus leaders turned the state university campus into the world’s biggest mission school during Urbana.
The fives days of the conference went by fast, providing the students most meaningful time of their lives.
The students who participated in this event came from diverse cultural and religious background. The organizers reported that about half of the students were Asian, Hispanic, black or American Indian, and the rest white, coming from 120 different countries. Some were already Christians, some were not. Through this one event, 87 non-Christians became Christians.
Students lifting their voices and raising their hands in the air calling out God, praying earnestly as a big group, are the common scenes one could explore at Urbana.
Speakers challenged the students by sharing the stories of God’s work and missionary life, revealing their true passion for Jesus. They gave out encouraging words of doing mission but at the same time they also shared the real challenges of cross-cultural and world missionary life. They warned that God may call on some in the audience to suffer or give up their lives or the lives of their family members.
Many participants said that as they listened, asked questions and prayed, God opened their hearts and minds, giving them direction to how to carry the new commission.
Urbana challenged the students to think about how they would lead their lives:
"Am I going to set up my own kingdom where I choose what my future career holds, who I marry, where I live, and what I do with my money?" an article in the convention newspaper Urbana Today asked. "Is my culture going to tell me what is real, or will I look for how God wants to rule my culture, affirming some things, judging and redeeming others?"
According to Religion Journal, “each morning, students gathered in small-group Bible studies in their dormitories, then walked in the unusually warm weather or rode buses to the Assembly Hall, the university's basketball arena, where they heard general-session teachings based on the Gospel of Luke.
”During the afternoons, students fanned out to choose from among 300 seminars, and made their way to the cavernous exhibit hall, where they interacted with missionaries from more than 325 missions agencies, graduate schools and seminaries.
”Each evening offered more general-session talks on the importance of proclaiming Jesus Christ across other cultures and faiths. Small groups met again in the dorms before bedtime.”
The convention's final evening included a hip-hop worship concert that scintillated the entire crowd of young students. A solemn time of Holy Communion was followed by a New Year's praise party. It was also announced that the collection taken up during Urbana came out to be $1.1 million and it would be used by 11 mission agencies to serve the poor around the world.
In addition, the leaders of various student organizations including The Navigators, Youth for Christ, Campus Crusade for Christ and Young Life prayed for one another on stage during the last night of the convention in unity.
Religion Journal reports that InterVarsity, which has 810 chapters on more than 565 college campuses in the United States, is part of a network called the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, which has links in 150 countries and is developing contacts in other parts of the world.
The largest IFES affiliate is in Nigeria, and the largest campus is in Rwanda, at the national university of Butare, where 1,500 meet in a stadium on Saturday nights and 500 attend daily prayer gatherings. The smallest IFES gatherings are in countries that cannot be named for security reasons.
(The full webcast of the general sessions of Urbana is available at www.urbagan.org_u2003.cfm)
Courtesy of ReligionJournal: www.religionjournal.com