Urbana poverty tracks offer hands-on learning

By December 9, 2009

USA (MNN) — Students of this generation seem to be more and more aware of social injustice, and consequently more and more passionate to do something about it. But what can an 18 or 21-year-old really do to help?

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship Urbana missions conference is designed to get students involved and in tune to God's call on their lives. Urbana 09 has a variety of different tracks for students to choose from, ranging from a Business as Mission Track to an International Poverty Track. Three of the tracks this year are focused on poverty.

The introduction of this many poverty tracks is reflective of the hearts of the students who will be attending Urbana. Students see the results of poverty at home and abroad, and they want to do something about it. Participation in the International Poverty Track, the Domestic Poverty Track or the Advocacy Track at Urbana 09 will give them that chance.

"Each of the poverty tracks will give students the opportunity to engage the issue of poverty in a hands-on way," says Scott Bessenecker, who has been key to developing these tracks. "Students today need that kind of pedagogy for learning to take place."

Consequently, each track will engage students in specific, hands-on projects. The International Poverty track will run a slave-free world market from the Urbana bookstore, and teach their peers about those who are being helped by their efforts. Students in the Advocacy Track will work with organizations like International Justice Mission, World Vision and Sojourner's on a "Human Wrong" project, raising awareness about human trafficking.

The Domestic Poverty Track is focused toward urban poverty in North America. Since Urbana is being held in St. Louis, Missouri (one of the poorest cities in the U.S.), students in this track have a unique opportunity.

"Students will hear from pastors who are living and working in some of the challenging neighborhoods of East St. Louis, Illinois or St. Louis, Missouri, taking them on prayer walks to pray for and engage poverty at a face-to-face level." Pray that students would also have a chance to share their faith as they go.

Each track is designed with the goal that students will continue on in their efforts toward justice in the name of Christ.

"We have very specific goals for the three poverty tracks at Urbana," notes Bessenecker. "For the International Poverty Track, we are asking God that one third of those participants will relocate into the slum communities of the developing world as agents of change and transformation, as symbols of hope. Likewise in the Domestic Poverty Track, we're hoping that half of those students relocate to high crime, high poverty neighborhoods in North America, again as agents of transformation and as pictures of hope in those communities."

Students in the Advocacy Poverty Track will be asked to consider planning and executing an advocacy campaign in their sphere of influence. Bessenecker says the hope is for at least half of the students in this track to do that, and for at least one quarter of them to begin engaging elected officials on the issue of child trafficking.

Urbana09 will host over 16,000 students from December 27 to 31, 2009, in St. Louis, Missouri. If you're registered, but not signed up for a track, there's still time to do so. If you are not registered for Urbana at all but would like to go, you can still do that as well. To sign up for a track, send an e-mail to [email protected] To register for Urbana09, click here.

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