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IFES prayerline: Urbana

Dear friends

This week’s prayerline comes to you direct from the last day of Urbana 09, InterVarsity’s 22nd missions conference, in St Louis, USA. Over the last five days, 17,000 students, staff, supporters and missions agencies have gathered here to worship, pray, and consider the theme ‘he dwells among us’.

A few weeks ago we asked you to pray for Urbana – that delegates would be challenged by the spiritual and physical needs of the world. Thank you for your prayers – God has been mightily at work here. We have been challenged to see mission as incarnational, following the model Jesus set before us. Thousands of students have committed or re-committed their lives to Christ, thousands more have declared their intention to serve in cross-cultural mission.

Now please join us in praying for everyone who has heard God’s call on their life this week – that the seeds sown here at Urbana would be nurtured in the coming days, weeks, months and years. Please pray that God will raise up workers for his harvest. nd praise God with us for the faithful service at Urbana of staff, organisers, speakers, volunteers and so many more. To hear more about how God has been working in the lives of IFES delegates here at Urbana, we invite you to take a look at this short film.

Thank you for praying with us in 2009; we look forward to seeing what God will accomplish through the prayers of his people in 2010.

Andy

Andy Moore
IFES Global Communications

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For more prayer news, see www.ifesworld.org/pray

The International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) is a fellowship of students, staff and supporters right around the world. A third of a million people praying, working and giving to see a vibrant gospel witness on every campus in the world.

urbana day 3

It was chilly again in St Louis today, as the Urbana ‘tribe’ went about their daily routine of bible study, teaching, worship, seminars and receptions. Everyone seems to be figuring out quicker ways to do things now – quicker to file in and out of the massive Edward Jones Dome, quicker to find the way to food at mealtimes, quicker to connect with people and get talking. Urbana is getting efficient!

But amidst the growing speediness of the day, there is more and more that is drawing us to stop and think deeply. In the morning bible study, which focussed on John 2:13-25, Ramez Atallah reminded us of the enormous shifts that have taken place in how we think about mission over the past few decades. He recalled the courage and risk-taking of Rene Padilla, Samuel Escobar and John Stott at the Lausanne Conference in 1974 which encouraged evangelical Christianity to move  beyond the past injustices of the missionary movement and seek to engage in holistic mission. He asked us to pray for next year’s Lausanne Congress in Capetown – “that it would challenge the Christian world to reach out with a holistic gospel.” Ramez also challenged us to guard our integrity in mission, amidst a results-driven culture.

The focus of the day began to shift to money: how to give, what to give, stories of those who have given sacrificially for mission. In the evening meeting, after talks from Shane Claiborne and Oscar Muriu, Urbana was called to contribute to an offering. The target total for the offering is $1m, which will be given away to mission causes, including future IFES mission conferences.

I’ve been trying to make these blog entries fairly generic: to give a taste of what’s going on here to anyone in the IFES world who would have liked to be here. But I guess it’s also OK to write as myself, as one individual among thousands.  I have been finding the sheer spectacle of Urbana – crowds, technical wizardry, big personality-driven moments – amazing but hard. I find it hard to meet with God in carefully orchestrated ‘moments’. So tomorrow my challenge to myself is this: shut out the spectacle, and seek God with all my heart and all my soul.

urbana day 2

It’s the first full day of Urbana 09, and already it feels like everything is settling into its rhythm for the week. In hotels across St Louis, students and staff began their day with manuscript bible studies, before gathering back at the Edward Jones Dome for the morning session with teaching from Ramez Atallah, and more audio-visual treats and thought-provokers. The teaching revolved around the story of Nathaniel’s conversion in John 1: 43-51, concluding with this thought: “Go and make known the one who knows you.

After an ingeniously planned lunch break (to make sure none of the city’s restaurants had too many thousands of hungry students arriving at once!) we were back into an afternoon of seminars, meetings and times for reflection. Delegates are invited to choose from a huge range of themes from Domestic Poverty to Environmental Stewardship, Business as Mission to World Religions.

By the early evening, the hallways of the America’s Centre were thronging with dinner-seeking students, and the catering operation to get 17,000 diners through in 2 hours had to be seen to be believed! We then gathered once again in the Dome for an eye-opening evening.

We heard the testimony of Cheryl Bear who is travelling around the USA and Canada in a motor-home to share the story of Jesus with all First Nations communities… Patrick Fung, director of OMF, shared his thoughts on living to be forgotten… Ruth Padilla DeBorst spoke passionately on forced migration, and challenged us: “love does not reach from afar – it demands incarnation.”… we saw a film on the statistics of trafficking and forced labour… York Moore spoke movingly about his ‘conversion within a conversion’ to the fight against modern day slavery at Urbana 2000… we witnessed a powerful dramatic monologue about Rahab… we left once again full of thoughts and challenges to bring before God… and Day 2 of Urbana 09 came to an end.

urbana day 1

Since yesterday, the quiet streets of downtown St Louis have been undergoing a dramatic transformation. From all corners of the United States (and the world), thousands of students, staff workers, exhibitors, media and more have been arriving for InterVarsity’s 22nd Urbana Missions Conference. Among them are 40 IFES delegates – here to teach, encourage, learn and grow in God’s plans for them.

It’s hard to describe how big this conference is. Main sessions are taking place in the Edward Jones Dome at America’s Centre – a 21-storey tall arena which can seat up to 67,000 people. Around 16,000 Urbana delegates gathered there for the first main session this evening but the space felt full as God’s people joined together in worship and thankfulness after some difficult journeys.

The theme of Urbana 09 is ‘He Dwelled Among Us’ – we’re exploring the idea of incarnation, of God ‘moving into our neighbourhood’ – and what this means for mission. After a rousing introduction from Jim Tebbe (Director of Urbana 09), Ramez Atallah took to the stage to explore John 1. His message for the week about incarnation is this:

  • it is the means by which God reaches out to us
  • it is the message God wants to communicate to us
  • it is the model for how we should minister

As well as teaching and sung worship, the evening session included a fantastic word and movement piece based on John 1 by Urbana’s Theatre Arts team and film pieces by InterVarsity’s 2100 Productions. As the night drew to a close, thousands of students spread back out across the city to where they were staying with heads and hearts full of images, impressions and inspiration. Urbana 09 has begun.

an unexpected evening in Chicago

It sounds a lot grander than the rather more mundane reality.

With heightened security at Heathrow – following a failed terrorist attack on a United Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit – and a generous helping of snow in Chicago and across the mid-west, our connecting flight to St Louis has been cancelled, and we now face the unexpected and exciting prospect of a night spent at O’Hare International Airport.

By this time I had anticipated having checked into our hotel and the opportunity to enjoy a restful evening in preparation for the start of Urbana tomorrow. Instead I am left wondering how our other colleagues from Oxford, and around the world, are faring in their travels.

Ah well, it’s adventures like this that remind me that life, despite our best plans, is often not straight forward for many of our IFES friends around the world. This is very little hardship compared to what some students will endure to get to Urbana, and the reality many face on a daily basis, for the sake of the gospel.

I wonder what lessons God might be teaching us through these minor inconveniences, and will be teaching us in these coming days.

the international urbana movement

Urbana has been an event that has changed many lives across North America, and indeed the world, as students hear God’s call to be involved in God’s work, where he has placed them – be that in the office, on campus, or living cross-culturally in another country.

I wonder how this fact sits with students as they plan to come to Urbana – how is God calling you, and to where?

The international impact of Urbana is felt amongst other IFES student movements, who run similar missions conferences around the world. Two years ago I was privileged to spend time in Rwanda, as the IFES Region of Francophone Africa held its first regional missions conference. You can read more about that here.

In a press release from earlier this year, the impact of Urbana in spawning similar events around the world was considered:

The influence of InterVarsity’s Urbana student missions conference, the longest running student conference in the world, is being multiplied by a wave of new Urbana-type conferences in many other countries. What began as a movement of North American students in 1946 in Toronto is being increasingly owned by university students from Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America.

Urbana 09, InterVarsity’s 22nd triennial conference, will be held in St. Louis December 27-31, 2009. More than 20,000 attendees are expected to come to Urbana to learn more about God’s mission in the world and how they could be a part of it.

The number of men and women who have gone onto the mission field, or even the number of lives that have been redirected, because God spoke to them at Urbana, is uncountable. Some began preparing for their mission immediately after their Urbana experience, others answered God’s call only after years or even decades had passed. But in recent years a multiplier effect has been observed. Some who have attended Urbana came to see how they could replicate the conference in their own country.

Lindsay Brown, former General Secretary of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES), has stated that “The spin-off of other conferences may have a greater impact on the spread of the gospel than all of the American missionaries sent overseas from Urbana.” These conferences are growing in number, frequency, and impact.

The missions offering taken at each Urbana conference has traditionally been directed towards student ministry in other countries. Sixteen percent of the $1.2 million offering from Urbana 06 was dedicated to nurturing other student missions conferences. Here are some of the conferences that benefitted from the Urbana 06 offering.

Nigeria: The Nigeria Fellowship of Evangelical Students 2007 Missions Conference was attended by 6,000 students and graduates.

Rwanda: The Francophone Africa Missions Conference over Christmas 2007 drew more than 400 students and staff from 14 countries.

Kenya: Commission of FOCUS Kenya met over the Christmas holiday in 2008. The conference was delayed one year after the horrific events following the 2007 election; it was enthusiastically attended by over 2,500 students.

Nepal: The South Asia Student Leaders’ Missions Conference, scheduled for Bangladesh in December, 2007 was relocated to Kathmandu, Nepal in January, 2008, due to devastation caused by tropical cyclone, Sidr. Sixty student leaders from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India and Nepal attended.

Mexico: VIVE 2009 was presented by the IFES student ministry, COMPA, April 4-9, 2009, in Guadalajara, Mexico. About 700 students from Mexico and neighboring countries, gathered along with 200 professionals and church members.

Indonesia: Indonesian Students for the Harvest, held in July 2007, called on over 500 participants to make local missions their lifestyle and part of their daily walk with God.

Germany: The Mission-Live 2006 Conference was held in Herrnhut, Germany. Students attending Mission-Live came from eastern Germany, the Czech Republic and elsewhere in Europe. About 350 attendees decided to become missionaries.

Argentina: The second South-American International Mission Conference, CIMA2010, will meet in Cordoba, Argentina next January. The organizers, CEC (international and inter-denominational workers among local evangelical Latin-American churches), anticipate 2,000 students attending from countries in the ‘Southern Cone’ of Latin America.

urbana: the tradition continues

Next week, we will be joining 17,000 students at InterVarsity’s 22nd Urbana convention.

Urbana is the missions conference for North American students, hosted by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA and Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship of Canada.

Generations of college students have gone to Urbana to hear about cutting edge issues in missions and to respond to the call to participate in God’s global mission. During the five days of Urbana, participants will experience multicultural worship and drama, dynamic speakers, in-depth Bible study and prayer. They will also be encouraged to explore short-term and vocational opportunities as they interact with representatives from more than 300 mission agencies and educational institutions.

I will be attending Urbana as an IFES delegate, primarily in my role as Digital Services Manager, as well as helping to host the other IFES delegates who will be travelling from all over the world. During the conference I aim to post updates to twitter and this blog, and to include some video updates too.

I hope to learn lots, not just about North American student culture and the work of InterVarsity/USA and Inter-Varsity Canada, but also to gain an insight into how digital services are used to cover an event as big as this. The last Urbana was in 2006, when facebook was still in its infancy and twitter just a distant dream. I will be interested to see how the event organisers, students and exhibitors will make use of social media at an event like this. I have already connected with SIM USA via twitter, and look forward to meeting with them at the event; it sounds as though they have quite an interesting digital strategy.

Do keep an eye on this page, and let me know of any areas of the conference you would like to know more about, or see covered in various ways.

Here is the latest press release from Urbana:

College students want to change the world, today more than ever. The study-abroad statistics from the Institute of International Education indicate a growing desire for a global perspective. More than 262,000 Americans studied abroad in 2007-2008, an increase of 8.5-percent from the previous year and four times the number of just two decades ago. Changing the world is what Urbana 09 is all about.

Urbana’s Global Perspective
The growing number of students with global experience who will attend InterVarsity’s Urbana 09 Student Missions Conference is reminiscent of the returning veterans who attended InterVarsity’s first Student Missions Conference in 1946. They had acquired a global perspective as they traveled across the globe during World War II and were preparing to return overseas, taking the gospel message with them.

In the years since 1946, as student populations have changed in many ways, InterVarsity’s triennial Student Missions Conference has maintained its global perspective. In 1948 the conference relocated to the campus of the University of Illinois, where it came to be called Urbana. Then in 2006 it moved to St. Louis, Missouri, for Urbana 06. Urbana 09 will also be held in St. Louis, December 27-31, 2009 at the Edward Jones Dome and The Americas Center.

Not Just Another Conference
Since that first conference 63 years ago, more than 240,000 Urbana attendees have been challenged to consider God’s call to global missions. Urbana has become one of the longest-lived, regularly scheduled events within evangelical Christianity, and its impact on each generation of college students is widely known and well respected. Pastor Rick Warren, the author of the best-selling book The Purpose Driven Life and a speaker at Urbana 06, said, “You can’t afford to miss Urbana. If you are serious about not wasting your life, do whatever it takes to get there.”

Urbana is focused on mobilizing men and women for global missions, but the conference’s influence is broader. Author and theologian John Stott, who spoke at six Urbanas, said, “In my travels I have met many missionaries and other Christian workers whose lives were profoundly changed by the Urbana experience.”

Urbana’s Ripple Effect
In a growing number of countries the Urbana conference has been a stimulus for Christian student groups to sponsor their own student missions conferences in locations as far-flung as Nigeria, India and Ukraine. “These events represent a growing missionary vision across the world,” said Lindsay Brown, former General Secretary of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students. “There’s no doubt in my mind that Urbana has contributed to this vision.” About two dozen international guests will be on hand at Urbana 09 to gain an insider’s perspective on hosting their own student missions conference.

The best way to experience Urbana is by attending the multitude of seminars, and by developing new contacts and new friendships. But today the explosion of electronic media and the internet means that the message of Urbana 09 will be shared in many new ways.

Urbana and Social Media
Videos of the general sessions will be posted online at www.urbana09.org within hours after each session. Audio files from general sessions and news conferences will also be made available, as well as news releases. But unofficial, participant-produced reports from Urbana will also be populating online social media, on sites such as YouTube, Facebook, and Flickr. Urbana 09 will be the first Urbana conference that can be followed on Twitter (use the hash tag #urbana09).

“At a time when students are thinking globally and are open to what it is that God may be saying to them, we’re showing them what God is doing in the world, and then inviting them to be a part of that,” said Jim Tebbe, the director of Urbana .

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship is an interdenominational ministry to university students in the United States, with over 32,000 students involved on 550 campuses nationwide. InterVarsity is a founding member of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, which is advancing Christian student work in 150 countries.

the 10-year-old digital native

An interesting article over on the Guardian website, on “Murdoch’s diverting tiff with Google”.

I found the following paragraph quite striking:

And then there is the demographic change that is about to bear down on us like an enormous tidal bore of obliteration – the rise of the 10-year-old digital native. Children under 10 are our first generation who will grow up in a predominantly screen-based interactive culture. The first generation who will have grown up with high-speed broadband access in their houses, whose educational experience will struggle to keep pace with their own new learning strategies and make sense of their new communication techniques.

You can read more at: http://bit.ly/6C7eYq