At Urbana 15, 5,000 of you committed to serve short-term in a global or cross cultural setting, 2,000 of you committed to serve mid-term, and 2,400 of you committed to serve long-term. Praise God for your commitments! Your paths to fulfilling these commitments will look a little different for each of you. But no matter what your specific path looks like, plan for it to include these eight steps.
1. Be gracious to yourself.
This is a journey. And it can be a long one. Regarding the common attitude toward the spiritual journey Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (philosopher, paleontologist, geologist, and Jesuit priest) says in this poem that “We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.” He continues:
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.
While it would be fantastic to know the destination of your journey and even to be there already, truthfully, the destination isn’t really the point. God’s work happens here on the journey. But for many of us, that can be difficult to accept, much less enjoy. So be gracious to yourself as you try to be patient and as you sometimes make faltering steps along the way.
2. Share what you learned at Urbana.
Share with a pastor or other older, wiser believer who can encourage you in the commitments you have made and the decisions you’ll be making. If your home church gave you some scholarship money for Urbana, ask the pastor or elders for the opportunity to give a report at a service if you haven’t already done so.
3. Join a campus evangelistic group (if you’re not a part of one already).
Urbana is hosted by InterVarsity/USA, and Inter-Varsity and GBU of Canada, so let me first encourage you to join or start an InterVarsity chapter on your campus. (You can find our more info about this at intervarsity.org). If not InterVarsity, then seek out Cru, the Navigators, Chi Alpha, RUF, SBU, or an evangelical church-sponsored group on your campus. You’ll learn tons about ministry to others, and you’ll grow in your own spiritual life as part of a campus fellowship.
4. Start praying for missionaries.
Does your church or campus fellowship support a missionary? Find out about them; write to them; ask them what their prayer needs are and pray for them.
5. Learn more about the world.
Learn about the state of missions and ministries in the world through books like Operation World and its abridged, sister volume Pray for the World. These books show you the facts, the state of Christianity, the needs, and the prayer requests for every country of the world.
6. Go on a mission trip.
Spring break, summer-long, with your campus group or church, urban or international, whatever; just get yourself out of your ethnic and cultural comfort zone and go somewhere else to help someone else. Even if you are not planning to be a long-term missionary, a short-term mission trip is invaluable for your growth as a Christian and as a person. Check out InterVarsity’s Urban and Global Programs at missions.intervarsity.org.
7. Follow up on connections you might have made at Urbana.
Did you sign up for more info at one of the exhibit booths? Welcome them when they contact you and build an ongoing relationship with them. Were you afraid to sign up but at least you got their email address and literature? Is God nudging you to get back to them? Do it. If the missions agency is worth their salt they will non-threateningly walk with you on your journey of discovering God’s calling on your life.
8. Go and serve!
Your part in God’s story will continue to unfold over your life. And it begins right now! Whether you see them or not, God has opportunities for you to participate in his mission each day. This could be as obvious and expected as sharing what you know about Jesus with someone whose path crosses yours. But it could also be taking the next step in a process that may take years or even decades—including your own ongoing sanctification! Do the daily work of staying open to God’s will and God’s leading, wherever that may lead and however long it may take.
Image from Dermot O'Halloran under the Creative Commons license