I first heard about Urbana in college.
I wasn’t in InterVarsity and honestly don’t remember even knowing about it as a college student. But a friend gave me the legendary book Shadow of the Almighty by Elisabeth Elliot, and I devoured it. This testimony of the author’s husband, Jim, and how he fully laid down his life drew in me all the way. The book mentioned that Jim attended Urbana and how the vision he gained at this student missions conference opened a door for him to live out his God-given calling. Needless to say, Urbana was on my radar after that.
Seventy years after Jim Elliot went, Urbana is still doing the same thing for all kinds of people—inviting them to give their whole lives for the gospel across the whole world.
In 2015, I was invited to help lead the Urbana’s first hackathon, #Hack4Missions. At this point, I had worked on thousands of hackathons and been on scores of missions trips. I had a lot of experience in training people for missions and also equipping communities to build new technologies to help solve real problems. But I had rarely seen environments that did both on a large scale, in a sustainable way, and to the specific end of long-term mobilization. When we put together #Hack4Missions, we wanted good products, sure. But even more than that, we wanted to develop fiery, mission-minded technologists who were committed to new approaches and new tools for God’s age-old purpose of making all things new.
And here’s the thing: #Hack4Missions worked. It worked gloriously! Each leader led out of their gifts and calling. Every person who was part of this community pushed past their comfort zones, welcomed each other, and tried new things. Every team established an ethos of respect and trust, listening and serving one another to accomplish so much more together than they ever could as individuals. The reality of a kingdom-ordered community took what we could learn and do together to a whole new level. And we were permanently impacted by what we experienced.
So naturally, we’re doing it again. There’s no more missions as usual. We’re taking what we started with #Hack4Missions and making it even better than before. We’ll have hardware, software, mobile app and data visualization projects, all prepared by and for real workers on the mission field.
We often think that only specific people can be used for missions: preachers, teachers, translators, and doctors. But in the 21st century with more and more missions organizations relying heavily on technology to innovate and run their operations, the need for technologically-gifted, mission-minded servants has increased exponentially. #Hack4Missions gives you a glimpse into how God could be calling you to join his mission using your passion for technology.
Join us! Any registered Urbana participant can apply for the hackathon as their afternoon program commitment. We invite everyone from advanced technology experts, to developers at any level, to designers and digital natives who are just really comfortable working online, and anyone in between. We’re all part of this community. Applications are open until October 27.