We do Urbana because there is a need for Urbana. As we look around the world, there is urgency in challenging this generation to engage globally, to grasp biblical foundations of mission, and to discern vocational calling in the midst of the world’s needs.
The Persecuted or Missing Church
We do Urbana because of the impact it will have on the places where there is no church, or where the church is persecuted. The news cycles are increasingly filled with stories of those being killed, kidnapped and otherwise violently persecuted for following Jesus.
ISIS has forced over 125,000 Christians to flee Iraq alone and is systematically destroying artifacts of the Christian faith that had endured centuries. In recent months, 148 Christians were targeted and killed at Kenya’s Garissa University, 21 Egyptian Christians murdered, and several churches in Pakistan and Syria bombed.
Jason Gaboury, InterVarsity’s New York/New Jersey Regional Director says:
“Urbana is not a cool conference for students to attend; it is a holy moment where the desire of the nations crashes upon the consciousness of students.”
We do Urbana because of the impact it will have on nations where there is no church or where the church is severely persecuted, where injustice goes unchecked, and the marginalized suffer.
Majority World Church
The global Church is no longer centered in the West. Most Christians are Latin American, Asian, or African. We do Urbana to mobilize Western resources for those places where the global Church is requesting our partnership (and friendship).
The Urbana 12 offering (of $800,000) made a huge difference at the Commission Conference, a conference in Kenya similar to Urbana which was started by Calisto Odede in 1988 after he attended Urbana 87. The 2015 conference gathered almost 5,000 participants, the most ever. They gave credit to the lower registration fee they were able to offer due to the scholarship money which came from the Urbana 12 offering. Mobilizing these financial resources is perhaps just as important as the human resources we may send. (Urbana 12’s offering also supported Nigeria’s Missions Conference, Caribbean’s Student Missions Conference, and several others!)
We do Urbana because we’re part of a global community, mobilizing resources from North America to other parts of the global church. Both financial and people resources are still needed even in places where there is a thriving and growing church, such as in Kenya or China. Moreover, because we’re part of a global community, Urbana also receives from the majority world church. We receive world-class teachers and leaders who speak prophetically into our North American context, and who also sharpen our understanding of God’s mission. I consider the most recent three Bible expositors—Ramez Atallah, Calisto Odede, and Patrick Fung (Urbana 09, 12, and 15, respectively)—to be among Urbana’s closest friends.
Almost 4 million refugees have left Syria in the last five years. Syria used to be the second largest refugee-receiving country but is now the second largest refugee-sending country! With the arrival of so many Syrians, about half of the population of Lebanon is now comprised of refugees. The country—and particularly churches there—are under great strain, as care is given to new neighbors.
We do Urbana because we believe this student generation is also called to love the most marginalized and the most displaced people groups in the world, whether they be in Jordan or refugees and immigrants in our cities here in the United States.
JD Payne says, “Something is missionally malignant if we make sacrifices to travel the world to reach people but are unwilling to cross the street.”
We do Urbana because we’re passionate about not just the small percentage that go outside North America, but 100% of Urbana participants finding their calling and living out their calling. As we move towards Urbana 15, InterVarsity is preparing to see God compel all Urbana 15 participants to give all of their lives for God’s global mission.
Today, perhaps there’s greater urgency for Urbana than we’ve seen in recent years. There are unprecedented needs and opportunities on our campuses here in the United States and in the world around us.
We do Urbana to make God’s glory known among the nations; may God use Urbana 15 to catalyze this generation in mission.