This time last Urbana, Whitney McCollum wasn’t sure she’d be able to make it to Urbana 12. Whitney has always known she is “called by God to be a servant of his people.” At Urbana, she hoped to learn about different ways to fulfill this call. “For some reason I just knew that God would speak to me there.” But she was having difficulty raising the funds to attend.
Rather than give up, she brought up her concerns with those around her, including her InterVarsity staff worker, Ms. Skip. Looking everywhere for God’s provision, they were able to find funds to cover both the registration fee and the hotel. But then there was the challenge of getting to St. Louis for the conference.
Unfortunately, Whitney and her sister (who was also attending Urbana), didn’t get all the money they needed in time to reserve a space on their regional charter bus going to the conference. So they started looking for other options, anything that would get them to the conference at a reasonable rate.
After much research, they found the cheapest transportation option was boarding a Greyhound bus. The tickets, though, costs twice as much as the regional charter bus option. They saved all they could and again asked their parents if they could help at all, but they weren’t able to. Whitney and her sister still needed $150 beyond all they were able to save and raise.
They decided to pray, asking God to make a way for their travel to Urbana like he had for their conference fees. Eight days before Urbana, Whitney and her sister decided to pawn their laptop and use the funds to secure bus tickets.
But the day after Christmas, the weather forecasts weren’t looking good. “We called the bus station and were told that we may as well stay home. There was a great chance that we could get stranded at one of our bus connection points. This news was horrible. We thought about all that would be wasted if we didn't go to Urbana: Ms. Skip's efforts, scholarship money given, three whole paychecks, and a pawned computer!”
“We called the bus station and were told that we may as well stay home. There was a great chance that we could get stranded at one of our bus connection points. This news was horrible. We thought about all that would be wasted if we didn't go to Urbana: Ms. Skip's efforts, scholarship money given, three whole paychecks, and a pawned computer!”
They decided to go anyway. They made it to Georgia but after arriving, were told the Department of Transportation wouldn’t allow a bus to travel from Atlanta to St. Louis because of increment weather. They were offered free tickets for the bus headed back home the next day.
“Since we had been there for several hours and the Greyhound employees were predicting that buses wouldn't start back running to St. Louis for at least two more days, we took the tickets. We thought that we had exhausted every attempt to get to St. Louis and failed.” As they sat, stranded in the Atlanta bus station, Urbana was beginning without them.
But after being stuck in Atlanta for close to 24 hours, the Department of Transportation cleared the buses to run north again. “We were able to switch our tickets back and we were off! God made provision again! Even though we were a day late for the conference, we were so grateful to make it to Urbana!”
Whitney is in graduate school now, studying social work, learning to “leverage everything I am to love God and his people.” Looking back at Urbana 12, she says,
“I learned that loving God means loving his people in word and in deed. This must be done even at the expense of ‘the American Dream’ that I have been taught to idolize. I even think having to pawn my computer was a part of this lesson. God called me to serve, which means surrendering my plans and my future to his will. …At Urbana God taught me that his Kingdom is huge, inclusive of literally people from every nation and tongue, and that if I want to be a part of advancing this Kingdom I will have to lay down some of my own aspirations.”
Are you having difficulty getting to Urbana 15? Whatever your obstacle, know that God is powerful enough and loving enough to overcome it. Listen for God’s voice; persevere as you seek his provision. Pursue every possible path and even the ones which may seem impossible now. We follow a God who has overcome death and the depths of separation to bring the whole world back to himself. We follow a God who can get you to Urbana.