Friday, January 30, 2004

Your kingdom come, your will be done...
First of a series from Urbana 2003

Urbana was a conference held in the city of Urbana-Champaign, outside of Chicago, from December 27 to January 1. It is a conference about global missions, challenging all Christians to follow God's will to "go and make disciples of all nations".

This was actually my second time. I went back in 2000 (they only hold it every 3/4 years) although at that time, I can't say I got very much out of it for a number of reasons... but this time, my heart became in the right place (well, better than before, and not right off the bat either), and I was able to take the messages and challenges to heart.

So for the past few weeks, apart from the long first two weeks of January, CNY celebrations, the chaos caused by the snowstorms... I'm still trying to process what happened in those four days in my head... although the long drives to/from work as a result of the snow were somewhat instrumental in allowing me to think. =)

Some initial impressions of Urbana: Worship is always up there on this list. It is a result of the sheer volume of people in one place at one time... but another part of the volume that makes it amazing is the diversity. To see so many people of different backgrounds come together and worship together is just awesome.

Speaking of diversity, it was really refreshing to have a small group with people from different backgrounds. [We are assigned small groups by the room arrangements in the dorms for evening sharing and morning Bible studies. ] My small group was generally from the American Midwest, a bunch of them were home-schooled, from very small towns, and they are studying a number of different subjects at university. At my first Urbana experience, my small group was generally, Asian (female) from Toronto.

It was cool to see people who did *not* look to complete their education as a first and foremost thing in life. "What? You took two years off to go on a missions before finishing your undergrad?" It was inspiring to hear people's stories and see their faith lived out in their lives.

It was also cool to see people who did *not* take a technical approach to reading Scripture (they were all Artsies =p), and to see how they immediately look to applying Scripture to their lives.

Another thing, it was very, very nice to share with people who opened up immediately... unafraid of being vulnerable upfront. That is rare in my experiences with sharing time, but I know that it is difficult for me to do. Somehow I think it has to do with Asian face... and definitely my facade...

The last initial impression that stood out to me was unity. The conference is huge, but it seemed like all the speakers and seminar leaders had some scripts to reinforce each other's messages. I remember this being significant to me the first time around too... and the effect to me is just incredible, to show that IVCF is in full force training and encouraging people to follow God's will as their sole objective... it's no wonder that they can put on such a conference. Amazing.

Until next time, this is Gladys Yam.

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