USA (MNN) — 25,000 people die every day from hunger-related causes (U.N.). Over 2 million children are exploited in the sex trade every year (UNICEF). Over 963 million people are undernourished worldwide (U.N.). The link between these shocking numbers lies in one word: poverty.
"Poverty spawns violence and human trafficking and child labor and malnutrition and infant mortality. These things, I think, are antithetical to the Kingdom."
Scott Bessenecker is the associate director of missions for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. This December he is heading up the Poverty Tracks at this year's InterVarsity missions conference Urbana 09.
"We're wanting to engage students missionally around the ideas of poverty and the ugly things that come out of that kind of desperation," says Bessenecker. "And students have the kind of gall and mobility and idealism to make a change."
Urbana 09 is focused on turning college students into world changers. This will be done in a variety of ways, but one way is for students to choose a specific track or focus they'll join for the week-long conference in St. Louis, Missouri. The Poverty Tracks have been split into three separate focuses: International Poverty, Domestic Poverty and Advocacy & Poverty. Bessenecker encourages students to check them out.
"Being able to hang out with a couple thousand students who care about engaging the issue of poverty from a missional standpoint: that's just unique," notes Bessenecker. "There are not a lot places where North American university students from both Canada and the U.S. can get together in those kinds of numbers and hear from world-class teachers on issues that are pertinent to the mission of the Church and addressing and eradicating poverty."
Students who join these tracks not only will be with about 2,800 other students who are also specifically interested in doing something about poverty, but they will hear from practitioners who have been faithfully working on the field. Students will also have some hands-on opportunities while at Urbana regarding human trafficking, fair trade and other issues. Hundreds of ministry representatives will be at Urbana 09, many of whom deal directly with the issue of poverty. Groups include World Vision, Servant Partners, Word Made Flesh, International Justice Mission, Sojourners and many more.
Bessenecker has been working with InterVarsity for years and is excited to see hundreds more students start making a difference for the Kingdom on this issue.
"Jesus and the apostles, a lot of the saints through history were in their twenties when they did the sort of crazy things that they did in order to bring the Kingdom to the very edges," says Bessenecker. "I think poverty represents one of those edges on the earth today. And I think students are a great impetous, a great energy in bringing Christ and His Kingdom to some of the most desperate places on the planet."
Urbana 09 will be held in St. Louis, Missouri, from December 27 to 31. Urbana is specifically for college students, especially those who are serious about their faith and the Kingdom. To learn more about Urbana 09, click here.
To learn more about the Poverty Tracks, click here. To learn more about Bessenecker and his thoughts on poverty and other issues, click here and visit his blog.