Borthwick’s Urbana 2012 TOP TEN
After Urbana 09, I wrote a list citing my “top ten” memories, experiences, or interchanges. Three years later, I’ll try again – both because recording these things help me to process the experience and because of high demand that I write these again [truthfully, the “demand” came from only one source – but he (Tom Lin) is the Urbana 12 director and VP of Missions for Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship – USA!!].
So here goes. Readers should keep in mind that this was my 11th Urbana so some of the things that stagger a first-timer (like the amazingly efficient registration process or the administration of communion to 16,000 people in an hour) might not make it in my list even though it might appear on yours.
10) Western Christians in Global Mission as a “Book of the Day”: I’m sure I’m the only person who would list this in their top ten (since Christie was not there) but to have my book, which has been many years in the making, featured and graciously endorsed by Urbana emcee Greg Jao, was a wonderful and affirming experience.
9) The privilege of participation. The Urbana Student Mission Conference is primarily for students. Even with the age being slightly extended into the later 20’s, I am three decades away from the target audience! So that’s why I was once again delighted to be involved – whether participating on a panel with the Pastor’s Program (which was as large as I can ever remember), leading seminars for passionate students (who filled seminar rooms even until the last day), or endorsing the ministry of IFES to the “Special Guests” program.
8) The World Vision HIV/AIDS medical kits project: the amazing organization of this first-ever service night at Urbana – where attendees assembled 32,000 medical kits to correspond with World Vision’s work in Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Swaziland – will be a lasting memory. It provided a vivid image of what can be done when the Body of Christ works together to alleviate suffering in the world.
7) Convergence. Similar to my experience in 2009, God deeply encouraged me by helping me see how the ministry of developing leaders with Development Associates International (DAI) serves the other networks we touch – like Grace Chapel, Gordon College, Gordon-Conwell Seminary, and Urbana. At Urbana 12, I met the college-age children of our peers and DAI support team. I saw former and future Gordon and GCTS students who are preparing for overseas service. I interacted with leaders DAI has served or will soon be serving from Kenya, Nigeria, India, Nepal and more.
6) Hearing David Platt and seeing student response: I’ve read Radical and I’ve followed David’s ministry from a distance, but his messages were intense. More significantly, however, was the attraction of the students to his radical message. To see 1000 students waiting in line for 75 minutes to go to his added seminar (and skip dinner) excited me about the commitment level of this generation of college students.
5) Multi-cultural Worship and Leadership. As in past Urbanas, the people on the platform provided a true kaleidoscope of cultural diversity (Revelation 7:9). We were led in worship by a multi-cultural team who led us to different cultural “meals” to correspond with theme of being “invited to the table.” North American speakers and teachers came from ethnically diverse heritages. The Bible expositor came from Kenya. A testimony came from Malaysia. Ram (see #2 below) came to now Jesus from his Indian culture and his past allegiance to Hinduism. Attendees came from all of the states and provinces of the USA and Canada and from more than 100+ countries.
4) Old and new global friends. At Urbana 73, I was introduced to the global student ministry of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES). At Urbana 12, I met with Calisto Odede (the Kenyan Bible Expositor) who I met at Urbana 87. I shared time with Daniel from Chad, Femi from Nigeria (who wrote the forward to #10 above), Victor from Ghana, Mark from Martinique, and Gideon from Hong Kong. I met new IFES friends from Ukraine, Russia, Armenia, and India. These people remind me that we are part of a huge global family brought together under Jesus.
3) “Tragic but not a waste.” One of the gentlest speakers at Urbana 12 remains nameless in my report because of the volatile area in the world where she has served. A veteran of decades of cross-cultural service, she was widowed in 2010 when her husband and 9 others were martyred. She challenged us to give our whole lives to Jesus, and she reminded us that something can be tragic without being “a waste” in God’s economy. God’s purposes are sure.
2) Ram’s impassioned presentation of the Gospel. At every Urbana, there is a platform address that articulates the Gospel and invites student to respond. Some students have come because they have been attracted to the beauty of the Christian community on their campuses (Inter Varsity calls this “belonging before believing”). Others are passionate about global issues (justice, empowerment of the poor, anti-trafficking, etc.), but they’ve not yet made a personal commitment of faith. When Ram preached, more than 900 stood to indicate their decision. They were given glow sticks which they held high as they walked out of the assembly hall to a room set aside for counsel and prayer. Unforgettable!
1) Jung Chul “Joe” Nho. Like Urbana 09, I was privileged to have one of my Gordon College students as my roommate. Joe just completed his studies in December 2012, and he came to Urbana already zealous for the country Jesus has laid on his heart – North Korea. Through interactions with people and a providential encounter with another person living in North Korea, Joe returned more committed than ever. I wept as I saw him stand on commitment night dedicating himself (and his wife and two kids) to serve the people of North Korea long-term.
Years ago, I heard an Inter-Varsity leader describe the Urbana Student Missionary Conferences as “Inter-Varsity’s gift to the mission world. Indeed it is. Thank you Inter-Varsity USA, Inter-Varsity Canada and GBU Canada.
Follow more of Urbana 12 at https://urbana.org/urbana-12/after-urbana/resources
January 15, 2013
• My post Urbana 09: (http://innovationinmission.blogspot.com/2010/01/friends-review-of-urbana-09.html)
• Tom Lin’s Top Ten from Urbana 12: http://www.tomandnancylin.com/post/40445754196/top-10-personal-highlights-from-urbana
• FOR ALMOST ALL URBANA 12 SESSIONS (including some music), go to https://urbana.org/urbana-12/videos