Blog

Greetings in Christ. Urbana 18 is now history. Over 10,500 students, staff and exhibitors from 69 countries gathered in St. Louis for the latest Urbana conference. There were 5,500 fewer in attendance at Urbana this year than three years ago. Urbana is sponsored by Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. The Urbana conference is held every three years. Urbana helps us understand how to better relate to university students today. We served as volunteers.

  • The theme for Urbana was Faithful Witness. Bible expositions were brought each day from the book of Revelation.
  • One highlight for me was talking with students during dinner. Everyone that I talked with is praying and seeking how they can serve God in the future. Some have specific plans already and others are still in school and want to serve the Lord long-term.
  • During one of the morning sessions a call to commitment and trust in Christ was given. Each person standing was given a white flag, symbolizing surrender to Christ.  At this Urbana over 300 made commitments to Christ.
  • The general sessions are available to watch. https://urbana.org/urbana-18. One of the challenging and controversial sessions happened on Sunday morning, where the topic of Babylon was role played and students were asked to come to the main floor. To hear the message go to https://urbana.org/video/scott-bessenecker.
  • One workshop that I attended “Engaging North Korea Through Humanitarian Service & Business” was especially interesting. A group called Ignis Community has been in North Korea for 11 years. Today the community is made up of 31 adults and 21 kids. They have three projects: humanitarian relief, a shoe company and teaching in a medical school. Up front they share that they are Christians. North Korea has let them come into the country to live and to serve. For more information, buy the book Discovering Joy by Joy Yoon. It is their story of ten years in North Korea.
  • Three years ago, Urbana was especially controversial in the manner in which there was a focus on racial reconciliation and “Black Lives Matter.” I was especially struck by the importance of social justice issues that continue to be raised in different workshops and mentioned even in passing by different conference speakers.
  • Some books of the day included: Crossing Cultures with Jesus by Katie Rawson; From Cairo to Christ by Abu Atallah and The Power of the 72 by John Teter.
  • Urbana ended with a commitment card to commit to living under Jesus’ authority, to commit to growing as a faithful witness and for support and accountability I will tell______.
  • For churches, who had Urbana attendees, it would be good to have them share with your mission team what they experienced, learned and committed to do.

Blessings,
Steve Austvold