Today was the first full day of Urbana 2006. The hotel we are staying in is quite a long distance from the Edward Jones Stadium. Even so, our hotel was full this morning with college students meeting together to pray, study the Word and fellowship. There were many seminars and small group activities throughout the morning and into the afternoon. The exhibit hall was busy (but not as busy as it will be in the next two days).
What do students want to know when they approach an agency representative? Usually the first question is, “What does your organization do?” The next one is usually, “Where do you work?” Most of these students are not ready for full-time ministry and are interested in summer ministry opportunities. For the few that are getting close to graduation the questions are more specific and earnest.
I spoke with students from many schools, including the University of Central Florida (close to my home), from a community college in Spokane, from Harvard, and from Texas A&M. There were freshmen and one woman who is a professor and a PhD. They represent a great diversity of backgrounds and races.
The evening plenary session featured African Oscar Muriu. He spoke about the rise of the African church (and the two-thirds world in general). Highlighting the new theologies of this new Christian majority he challenged the North American church to partnership with them. He called for reciprocity and the need to receive as well as send missionaries. He suggested that when we send one person to Asia, we should receive one as well. He argued for interdependence. He concluded by saying that we must always learn before speaking when we are entering a new culture.
The plenary speaker was followed by a great drama on prayer and racial reconciliation.
The 2nd speaker, Brenda Salter McNeil, looked at Genesis 11, the Tower of Babel story, as a prelude to the Abrahamic Covenant. She presented Babel as a story on God’s desire to see diversity (man gathered in unity at Babel). The infusion of language was a diversifying act. Abram would follow to be a man who would fulfill God’s call (in contrast to those from chapter 11). Terah settled in Haran while Abram went on to Canaan (the family’s original destination). Abram said “yes” to God and she challenged the students to also say, “yes,” to God as well. The evening finished with a time of worship and praise.