by Lynda Macgibbon
Eighteen students from the University of Manitoba. Twenty-six from New Brunswick. Fourteen from each of the cities of Saskatoon and Edmonton. A record 70 students from British Columbia. And 297 from Toronto.
All through December, Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship campus ministers have been reporting on how many students are heading to the Urbana Missions Conference. With every update, I rejoice. Every number tells a story. Every number represents a life of a student about to be changed by God through Urbana.
I know this to be true, not just because I’ve attended a lot of Urbana conferences – seven, if memory serves me correctly.
My first Urbana is the one that underscores for me the life-changing nature of the conference. I was 17 years-old and in my first year of university at Grenfell College, Memorial University’s campus in Corner Brook, NF.
I had never heard of Inter-Varsity or Urbana but my mother had and she thought it would be a good idea for my sister and me to attend.
Urbana 79 was a truly life-changing gift and I’ve always been grateful to my mom for releasing us at Christmas time. I know it’s not something parents find easy to do.
Growing up in small town Newfoundland, I’d never before been among 17,000 peers who not only believed in God but were passionate about figuring out how to follow Jesus for the rest of their lives.
The experience so solidified my faith that when I returned to my campus after Urbana, I put up a sign at my university inviting fellow students to a Bible study. It was the boldest step I’d ever taken to identify myself as a follower of Jesus.
Urbana exposed me to voices from the global Church, expanding my worldview. North American Christianity no longer became the benchmark for what following Jesus might look like in my life.
Words spoken at that Urbana continue to resonate. Chief among them is that poignant line God speaks at the end of the Book of Jonah: “Should I not be concerned for that great city?”
Thirty-six years after hearing John Stott teach from the book of Jonah at Urbana 79, that question keeps surfacing in my mind, pushing me to love the places I live in ways that are about more than my own comfort and happiness.
On Dec. 27, nearly 2,000 Canadians will land in St. Louis Mi. for the 24th Urbana Student Missions Conference. They’ll be part of a cohort of 16,000 peers who will forever be changed by God as they listen and respond through the five days of the conference.
Every number tells a story. At Urbana 15 God will write thousands of new ones.
Lynda MacGibbon is the Communications Director for Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. Faith Today features a Canadian’s Guide to Urbana. If you’ve been to Urbana, or are going, Faith Today has a special deal for you.