by David Armstrong
We were very tired as December 31 came to a close. Yet after four days of great conversations with hundreds of students, we could not have been more encouraged! M-DAT was in St. Louis for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s Urbana conference. Designed for US college students, this conference has been held every three years since 1946. We are committed to connecting with and coaching students (and others) in their mission journeys, so we go to Urbana – by far the biggest gathering of students interested in missions – to meet them face-to-face.
I have been to four Urbana conferences. When it comes to interaction with students, this was way better than any of the others. The average length of our conversations doubled from previous years. We helped many students find answers to their mission questions and connect with mission organizations that matched their interests. One girl was interested in using a veterinary degree in Africa. A musician wanted to know about opportunities to use his musical abilities in missions. A young man wanted ideas on how to pray more effectively for missionaries.
I enjoyed standing in the aisle handing out resource cards about our web services, telling the students “Here is what you have been looking for!” One young lady’s eyes lit up as she realized what I’d given her, saying, “Wow! Thank you very much. God bless you!” as she clipped the blue M-DAT carabineer to her purse. Another student, a young man, plans to use the site to find a mission trip for a group from his church.
We don’t just go to Urbana to promote our own resources. Learning what other ministries have to offer also helps us coach and come alongside those we serve throughout the year. I enjoyed visiting with several of our newer partner agencies to get a better feel for the services they offer. I connected with one group that offers a professional evaluation, two to three days long, to help participants know what they need to focus on to be emotionally and spiritually prepared for thriving overseas. I was also pleased to discover half a dozen new, hands-on-training opportunities for those considering going overseas for a couple years or more. They vary from three to twelve months in length, and couple classroom teaching and interaction with hands-on-overseas supervised experience. Immensely valuable!
We pray that conversations and connections from this Urbana conference will continue to bear fruit. May God be glorified among the nations because of his work in this generation of students.