Morning began with most of the SEND crew having arrived…Amy still stuck in Chi-town, Dan still driving in from VA…we rolled on over to the exhibit hall to register and set up by mid-morning, and wandered through the floating snowflakes. Unloading the van in the cold was, well, cold.
The SEND crew got registered and the booth set up, and the doors opened to students at 3 PM. For three hours various members of the crew hung out by the booth connecting with students. Amazing to see how many students came through already today, looking to see what God might have for them to discover this week.
Over the course of the afternoon, it wasn’t uncommon to see a SEND exhibitor talking with students, taking them over to the opportunities peg board to pick a card or two, then stopping to pray with them before they left.
In the kick-off session for the week Jim Tebbe, the director of Urbana challenged us to think about our neighbor, both next door and around the world. Ramez Atallah, the Bible expositor for the week, challenged us to imagine any middle class couple choosing to have their baby in the slums outside Cairo – no medical care, dirty facilities – and reminded us that God sent His Son to be born in a dirty manger among the poor of the earth.
Urbana Day 2 –
Amy made it in! We celebrated her arrival by singing “Happy Birthday” to Tom, about 10 times over the course of the day, in every public venue we could find…
Students have dreams…a girl we met wants to start a school in Japan, another a bookstore. A missionary kid is discovering how God has prepared him to reach international students at his university. A couple is searching for how their gifts in carpentry and administration can be used on a field. All of these students with dreams spoke with SEND reps today. Conversations led to connections, connections to prayer.
One of the most exciting parts of the Urbana experience is the opportunity to connect with students who are seeking God’s direction. There’s a board at the SEND booth that students can sign on which is written a simple prayer of commitment: “I will go anywhere to do anything, at any time, at any cost.” There are signatures beginning to fill the white space, students who are willing to commit themselves to God’s call, without agenda or plan.
Three years ago Drew met Ron at the SEND booth at Urbana. Drew was in college, interested in missions, and looking for a place to serve. Today, Drew came back to the SEND booth. The colors of the display have changed; the location in the exhibit hall is a bit different. Drew is now a graduate student in seminary; Ron's grandkids have grown a little older.
But the mission has not changed. There are still people who need the gospel, still people groups who have no evangelical witness. There are still young people seeking God's mission for them. There are still mobilizers who desire to equip those young men and women and mentor them through the process.
Drew and Ron spent time talking and praying together this afternoon. Drew spent two of the last three years on a short term experience overseas and is thinking about going back long term. There are decisions to be made, and things to consider. He doesn't know exactly what God's next step for him is, but he is trusting God's leading. And he knows that Ron is there as he walks this journey, available to listen, to mentor, to pray.