Ironically, the rigors of Urbana can serve as a preview to the stress of missionary life. Although we were spared blizzard conditions this year, students in the International Student Track were learning to operate with minimal sleep by the end of the week.
When I went to meet my friends for morning Bible study, Barnabus, from Kenya, was sound asleep on his bed, even though the study was supposed to start in a few minutes. His roommate was barely able to get him to stir. When I went next door with Rudy we found the Bible study leader face down on the bed. He had not even been to sleep the previous night. The fellowship of the previous evening was just too good to bring to an end.
As the three internationals from Sudan came in, we learned that the African evening prayer group had gone extra long the previous night. They did not get to bed until 5:00 AM. (That shed some light on Barnabus’s condition!) The evening prayer groups in the International Student Track were organized by country or geographical region. In addition to prayer, many of the groups had singing in their native tongue and, in some cases, dancing. In particular, the infectious rhythms of the drums and the dancing in the African prayer group made it difficult for some non-Africans to refrain from joining them.
So what was it that made John late to the study? He had been up until 4:00 AM talking with another Chinese student that had just come to faith this week at Urbana. They learned this news at their evening prayer time. John, himself, had just come to faith a little more than a year and a half ago and talking with this new believer was both encouraging and exciting.
Although they seemed to be a little on the sleeping side, they were fully aware of what God has been doing this week. These are some of the thoughts that were shared as the morning of December 31.
- “I have been really affected by those I have met here. The people I meet don’t just have words, but actions. They have a mission to do, something for God.” — Sudan
- “God has his timing and way of touching people. I was challenged and convicted about many things that I thought I had previously committed to the Lord. God is gathering the harvest and he connects people together to gather the harvest.” – Vietnam
- “I have an ambition to do God’s work. Before I came here, I wanted to teach new Christians. But now I have come to this convention and I hear many people who do their mission abroad. I ask myself, ‘Can I do the same thing? Do I have the same ability?’ I want to be used by God.” – Taiwan
- “I just didn’t expect how wonderful this conference would be to worship with so many people. It’s amazing. It was the first time for me to hear people pray in other languages. We were up until 4:00 AM because a Chinese became a new believer. My faith has been strengthened. I think that God brought me here to the United States to accept him. People have different gifts and ways to serve God and I think I have a better understanding about how I can serve God. It is not enough to accept God’s blessing. We must work to serve him.” – People’s Republic of China.
After studying the text of Luke 19:11-27, they asked themselves, “Are we willing to take a risk with kingdom business? We don’t know when the master will come back.”
Read more about International student experiences at Urbana 03.