International (MNN) — The 23rd annual five-day Urbana conference will be held this December in St. Louis, Missouri. And others like it are popping up all over the world.
"Urbana has helped, I think, to spawn national mission movements among many countries now. So we have countries like Nigeria, and Mexico, and Argentina having large
conferences for their own students," said Christy Chapel of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, a student-centered ministry. In this way, they can present missions in
their own context. The missions offering taken at Urbana each year is typically given to help such growing international conferences. Some of the conferences that benefited from that donation include ones in Rwanda, Kenya, Nepal, Indonesia, and Germany. Attendance
numbers at those conferences range from 60 to 6,000.
The reproduction of Urbana-like conferences could be its greatest contribution to the mission field yet. Urbana has been the starting point for many missionaries, but with each
spin-off, the number of missionaries sent out will multiply. That means a vaster spread of the Gospel message will result.
Urbana is held every three years, the week between Christmas and New Year's. At its inception, it was held in Toronto in 1946, and from then on it was held on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Today, it is held in St. Louis, which creates a more conference-type feel than the university setting. It offers more space for a larger gathering as well, especially with the number of people attending this year's Urbana expected to be around 20,000.
"It's really designed to present to every generation of students, what is going on in the world in terms of missions and Global issues, and challenge students and recent graduates with how they can participate more fully in God's mission," said Chapel. This year's main topic will be "Jesus living among us." Topics covered will include global poverty, Christians and the environment, human
trafficking, and other issues of redemption.
This year's list of keynote speakers is an international team, including Shane Claiborne, a popular author among college-age students.
With the conference only being held every three years, you may want to participate this year. By registering before June 30, you can save $50 on the
registration fee. There is a non-student rate as well.
Stay tuned for regular updates on Urbana 09. To register, go to Urbana09's website. The fee covers the cost of conference programs, and breakfast and dinners. Attendees are responsible for travel, lodging and any other food costs.
The conference is open to college age students and high school seniors.