So many of you have asked me about Urbana, so I decided instead of posting this multiple places, I'd start a brand new topic.
For those who don't know, Dec. 27 to 31, I attended the InterVarsity Urbana Student Missions Conference, which is held every three years. 16,000 people, mostly age 17 to college aged converged on St. Louis and there were international missions speakers, "small group" (read 200 or so) Bible Study in the mornings, and seminars in the afternoon. And there were over 200 missions agencies who had booths there, like a "job fair" for missions.
Here's the summary I wrote out.
Urbana was challenging, but amazing. My favorite activity and probably one of my favorite nights among all three Urbana's I've attended (2006, 2009, 2012) was on Saturday night. As a group of 16,000, we made 32,000 caregiver kits to be given to people in Africa who care for people with AIDS. The kits included latex gloves, washcloths, cotton pads, water purification tablets, antibacterial soap, petroleum jelly for dry/cracked lips and skin, and an anti-fungal cream. One of the caregivers was actually there at Urbana to speak, and she was one of two who got a standing ovation (the other I cannot reveal anywhere online for security reasons).
One of the seminars I really enjoyed was about music, and how you can't just translate songs and expect them to speak effectively to other people groups. And he gave some examples of what you should do. We also sang "It is Well" accapella. (sp??) Which was cool.
Speaking of worship, that was amazing too. We sang in at least 7 different languages: English, Spanish, French, Mandarin, Hindi, an African language (Congolese) and Korean. Korean took on special meaning to me, because we have a large Korean population at my church, not all all through our own doing. We are even translating one service into Korean now, we have a bilingual adult Sunday School class, and a Korean Bible study during the week. So that was a lot of fun for me. We sang "Revelation Song" and sang the chorus in four different languages (the first four I mentioned) and at the end, we repeated the first line of the chorus (Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God almighty, who was, and is, and is to come) and we kept layering and adding so that by the end, as a group, we were singing in four languages at the same time. It was amazing, and a bit of a taste of Heaven, I do believe! We also sang "Come Thou Fount" in four part harmony with only a string quartet and one worship leader singing.
Then we rang in the new year by sharing communion and worshiping God with 16,000 people. Truly an amazing experience!
At the conference, 4,000 committed to serving God long term (3+ years) in missions, and 96 made first time commitments to Christ. And there were a bunch of rededications too. Urbana "alter calls" are the best. The give everyone who commits or rededicates their life to Christ a glow stick and then they all raise them up. So you look around the stadium and see hundreds of glow sticks all around. It's so cool.
So that was Urbana in a nutshell. Physically, I did okay. I had a folding cane I borrowed from someone at my church, and I used the cane one day, and probably should have used it more. I was very slow getting around, and with my big backpack, I felt like a multicolored tortoise.
I'd be walking down the hallway and 200 people would pass me. (Probably not at all an exaggeration, seeing as there were 16,000 of us there...) But yeah. To summarize, it really was amazing. Totally worth it, and I can't wait to go back, as a volunteer, if nothing else, in 2015, Lord willing.