Urbana is a four-day-long missions conference sponsored by the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. It takes place every three years, and this year was held in Indianapolis at the Indiana Convention Center. Over Christmas break, about twenty members of Northwestern had the great opportunity of attending the conference to learn more about missions work and grow in their faith.
This year’s conference focused on the book of Acts, specifically Acts 8 where it states, “and you shall be My witnesses to the very bounds of the earth.” The influential speakers showed students how they can do this by demonstrating faith through words, actions and attitudes. The other main focuses at the heart of Urbana included discernment, discipleship and worship, all of which, the students got to experience first-hand during their time.
Every day followed a similar schedule. The morning would begin with a plenary where students would have time for worship and the opportunity to hear from speakers about their experiences in mission work or even students who are integrating faith into their own colleges. After the session, students would go straight to a small-group Bible study. Most students were in groups with other students from their own school, but some had the chance to make connections with new people. Following Bible study, there was some free time before going to seminars for the rest of the afternoon. The seminars allowed students to dive into their own passions by giving participants many topics ranging from “Discerning our Vocation” to “Migrant Ministry and Immigrant Injustice.” Following the seminars, students would take a break before attending another plenary to end the night. Students had the chance to sing songs in different languages, have insight into various cultures, and hear life-changing stories.
One speaker, Alejandra Ortiz, advocate for IFES student ministry in Mexico, spoke about how we can truly show discipleship by rising up in love and witness. Ortiz told the attendents to, “rise up as women and men loved by God, created by God and called by God to live as whole-life whole-world witnesses.”
Sara Van Zee, director of missions at First Reformed Church in Orange City, Iowa, was an influential member of this trip. She became a role model for the students as she was so open with them and excited for each individual on their journey. When reflecting on the trip, Van Zee said a big takeaway from the trip for her was, “watching college students as they figure out what they are going to do in the world and gain a passion for their area of strength.” This was very evident in her as she made an effort to engage with everyone about what their biggest takeaways from the trip were on our journey back to campus.
If you know someone who went to Urbana, you should ask them about their own. If you want to learn more about InterVarsity and Urbana you can find them online along with recordings of the plenaries and seminars to get a taste of this experience for yourself.