To you, as you enter your first round of tests and papers, Urbana is far, far away. You can’t see it because of the mountain of textbooks and study guides on your desk and the never shrinking to-do list on your phone. I’m with you. Urbana is 800 miles from the University of Houston, both literally and figuratively.
But I keep thinking about the Gateway Arch (and not just because I’m an architecture student who really likes pioneers and history). In the 1800s, St. Louis was a key city in the westward expansion of the United States. Many pioneers and homesteaders would travel from the east, stopping in St. Louis to gather supplies before beginning their journey west. By 1900, these pioneers had completely changed the nation and the American population stretched across the continent. In fact, the impact of the city on this expansion was so incredible that in 1965 Eero Saarinen designed a great memorial arch to commemorate St. Louis’ role in the transformation of the United States.
I look at that arch and am reminded that our country looks the way it does today because of this city and the people who came there to be equipped and outfitted for their journey west. And then I think about Urbana. I think about the stories of people who traveled to St. Louis from all over to be equipped before beginning a journey of following Jesus and taking his story to the world. I think about my parents and the journeys that followed their Urbana experiences. I think about my own experience at Urbana in 2012, and the adventures that I have been on because of it. And I think about you and what God might be preparing at this Urbana to train you and send you out on a great and marvelous journey.
I’m not sure exactly what God might have in store for me or for anyone else at this Urbana, but it excites me that perhaps we will be able to look back on the St. Louis Gateway Arch for the rest of our lives and say that in 2015, St. Louis was a key city in the expansion of the Kingdom of God because at Urbana, we were equipped and sent out on an adventure following Jesus that has transformed our world.