Urbana Missions Message Intensely Impacts Lives Lovingly!”
Senior Staff Writer
First of all, one of my favorite bands is following me on
Twitter now. At Urbana, our morning Bible study leaders encouraged
us to answer specific application questions, and to tweet our
responses, which would be posted in the main room before the morning
sessions. I signed up for Twitter to be part of that interactive
media bit. After I got home, I tweeted up an article by Jon Foreman,
and the next morning I woke up to an email saying that Switchfoot
was following me on Twitter!
If I could define my Urbana experience in one sentence, I would say
that the Lord opened my eyes to the world's needs, more than I have
seen before, and to His amazing and unchanging grace. I watched
thousands of students commit their lives to Christ, to short-term
missions, and to long-term missions. I listened to people share
stories from around the world (Afghanistan, Japan, and Latin
America, to name a few) about how our God is powerful, and full of
mercy! I realized that my life is short, and that I have an
opportunity to witness in my career in science and research, and
that even I can join efforts to translate the Bible or walk beside
victims of injustice. The opportunities are endless for those who
want to follow God and share His heart and what better time to begin
than right now.
The Lord used several people to encourage me to go to the Urbana
Missions Conference, and I wanted to thank them specifically: Ramesh,
for being persistent in asking me if I signed up yet this fall;
Pastor Ed, for entertaining my ideas about signing up without a
group the night before the early registration deadline; Calvin and
the PCCO-OIF scholarship committee for their contribution for my
hotel and meal expenses. My parents and my sister also contributed
toward my food and transportation costs. I thank Andrea and
InterVarsity leaders for helping me connect with the Pittsburgh bus
group, and Brian Hu for reserving all our hotel rooms. And Josh,
thank you for driving me to and from the bus site, and for listening
to me ramble on the phone throughout the week about being lost in
downtown St. Louis!
OVERVIEW OF THE WEEK:
I arrived Sunday morning, December 27, after an overnight bus-ride
and checked into the Crowne Plaza hotel, which was next to the Arch!
(Great choice Brian, by the way :) I checked in, ate lunch with a
fellow former missionary kid (whose parents are involved in missions
to the Arab world), then attended the International Student track
The main evening session started that night, a routine which
continued through Thursday. Each day of the week, morning Bible
studies took us into the Gospel of John (chapters 1-4) in smaller
groups, where we explored how God came to dwell among us- which was
the theme for the week. The inductive Bible study style encouraged
us to observe things about the passages that stood out to us, and I
was surprised how God spoke to us through His word every morning.
John 1:14 reads, "The Word became flesh
and dwelt among us,"
and I continue to ask myself, just as Christ
dwelled among us, how do I dwell with my neighbors and friends,
knowing God's love?
How do I live as a child of God in Pittsburgh
and as a member of the global community?
It was difficult for me to choose which elective seminars to attend
throughout weekday mornings and afternoons, which would help equip
me for different kinds of relationships and for growing in my walk
Did I want to learn more about worship,
international poverty, domestic poverty, homosexuality,
cross-cultural communication, or the Church in Africa or in Asia?
I felt like there wasn't enough time to
devote to topics that I wanted to explore! Early on, however, I
sensed the Lord saying that the week would be worthwhile no matter
which seminars I attended, as long as my primary goal was to know
Him better. Amen!
Since I originally signed up under the International Student Track,
I had the opportunity to attend a couple sessions with international
ministers, as well as students from 79 nations! My purpose in
attending these sessions was to gain a better understanding of the
international student experience and to grow in my ability to relate
to other cultures, since many friends in Pittsburgh come from
international backgrounds. We worshiped in Haitian Creole, Korean,
Mandarin, Spanish, and French! We explored topics ranging from
"Dwelling Among Your Own People" to "Dwelling Among People Who Are
Different" and how Jesus can be Lord of our lives. I was blessed to
meet several new friends who were studying in different parts of the
One morning, Lisa Espinelli Chinn (Director, IV International
Student Ministries) asked us, "Do we
pray for our people?" and I realized
that I didn't know who "my people" were! Apart from the family of
God, I do not hold too much identity in one nationality. This is
maybe typical of many Americans, since we are the "melting pot!"
But what is my unique culture, and how
might God want to use me to minister to it?
Lisa referred to the Old Testament story of Queen Esther, telling us
how God used her to save her people, the Jews, at a time when they
were facing death at the hand of the government.
I wonder how God might use me even on a
smaller scale, since I am obviously not royalty, to care for a
specific people group?
As I think about my cultural identity, I
know that I am proud of my French grandmother and the courage she
showed in immigrating to the US. As the daughter of missionaries, I
also have a natural bond with people who have traveled and who
sometimes take on an identity of other cultures. I am curious about
the rest of my family's English and German histories, too...so maybe
"my people" on an ethnic basis are European Americans, or just
Americans in general.
Through other sessions, the Urbana Missions
Conference reinforced to me that my relationship with Christ will
impact how I view social justice, reconciliation, and prayer.
-How am I showing compassion for
displaced people groups, for undocumented immigrants, and for
victims of human trafficking?
I was inspired to contact the International Justice Mission about
how I might be involved with their work. Please hold me accountable
to this, since I haven't done it yet.
-How am I caring for the environment?
I was inspired by a woman from Trinidad and Tobago, who is a
professor and researcher there. She spoke about her commitment to
influencing Caribbean policy with her environmental research. Here
was a woman deeply committed to God, to her family, and to science!
-How can my career in science be
I hope that my work in bioengineering can bring glory to God and be
used for His kingdom.
-How do I handle money?
Pastor Shane Claiborne from
Philadelphia challenged us by asking,
"If credit card companies can be creative in getting people into
debt, how can Christians get creative to get out of debt [and be
creative with their money in general]?"
He also talked about how God's way
was incarnation, as Christ left the unity and awesomeness of heaven
to live among us. God's way wasn't a special advertising campaign,
neither marketing nor branding. Christianity is not like product
placement, where we want instant results and fame. We cannot lord
ourselves over the poor.
Love is not cheap! Christ's way is about humility, patience,
powerlessness, compassion and reconciliation.
I was encouraged by a Rwandan pastor, who spoke about his
commitment to showing God's love to the very people group who had
murdered many of his own.
A Korean pastor shared his past struggle with anger toward the
Japanese, among whom he now lives and shares the gospel. He even
asked forgiveness from any Japanese members of the audience for his
former attitude, and I heard one man in front of me start to cry
when he was speaking these words.
Both pastors emphasized God's reconciliation with us-through the
cross-as the basis for any reconciliation we can have with others.
HOW TO PRAY:
I was also encouraged by nightly "family groups" when I met with my
roommates from Pitt Intervarsity, to reflect on the day, share what
each other was learning, and pray together.
When I attended a seminar on how to pray through scripture, the
Canadian pastor who was leading it just wept when he saw the crowded
room of students who came. He spoke boldly and encouraged us to pray
not only for ourselves or our friends' needs--which can keep us
focused only on ourselves--but to pray for the advancement of the
Gospel through the answers to these requests for healing: "God,
please heal Nancy so she can keep spreading Your word."
The pastor read through Psalm 115, showing how we can pray by using
some of the words as ways to thank God, to praise Him for who He is,
and to pray that we would be more like Him.
Since then, I have experienced the pleasure of praying through
sections of scripture, allowing the words to soak into my heart and
mind. As I reflected on what Christ's love means, and the fullness
that we have in Him, I was brought to tears by this passage:
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole
family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of
his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his
Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts
through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in
love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how
wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know
this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the
measure of all the fullness of God.
Scripture really is "living and
active," as Hebrews 4:12 says.
I want to end by just saying that it was wonderful to experience the
different "neighborhoods" that the worship leaders introduced to us
in music: We worshiped with the style of an African American
community, Latina culture in the Bronx, French Canadian and Hindi
One of my favorites was taught in Swahili, entitled "Hakuna Mungu."
The first line declares, "There's no one like Jesus!" and I could
see some similarity in the language to Haitian Creole, which I
learned as a kid.
We ended the week by celebrating the New Year together. We took
communion, sang, and danced. I don't know if I will experience
anything like it again until heaven: people of every tribe, tongue
and nation coming together to say, "Jesus Christ is Lord!"
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