Urbana 06: The Move is a Success


(Madison, WI) — Urbana 06, InterVarsity’s 21st Student Missions Convention, has been declared an overwhelming success. The convention was held December 27-31, 2006 at the Edward Jones Dome and The America’s Center in St. Louis. This was the first time the Urbana convention had been held anywhere other than Urbana, Illinois, since InterVarsity’s first Missions Convention in 1946. Urbana Director Jim Tebbe reports that registrations from over 22,000 people, from more than 140 countries, were recorded.

Attendees heard from speakers such as Rick Warren, Brenda Salter McNeil, Oscar Muriu, and Ajith Fernando. They were challenged to consider how they fit into global missions and how they were each called to Live a Life Worthy of the Calling, the theme of Urbana 06, taken from Ephesians 4:1.

Joe, a student at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, said “Urbana was awesome! After leaving I thought that no price could ever be put on an event that changed my life, and these last few days will be a catalyst in my life!” This was the sentiment echoed by thousands of attendees at Urbana 06.

“It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced, and my life will never be the same,” wrote Hervict Jacobs on InterVarsity’s student website StudentSoul.org. “But one thing stands out the most for me — Urbana takes students seriously.”

Attendees worshiped God with worship songs in eight different languages during the plenary sessions and participated in morning inductive Bible studies of Ephesians. Hundreds of seminars were available each afternoon for attendees to delve deeper into areas such as Africans in missions, the arts, media and culture, missions to those with HIV/AIDS, business as missions, urban poverty, and much more. At times, the seminar rooms were overflowing, and people were seated on the ballroom floors and in the halls to hear about specific mission’s issues. When not in seminars, attendees were able to browse the Global Connexions exhibit hall and interact with representatives from over 270 agencies and schools, offering missions and training opportunities.

A highlight of each Urbana convention is the call to commitment, and this year was no exception. A total of 152 attendees acknowledged that they made a first-time decision to follow Jesus Christ at Urbana 06. In addition, 9,000 people committed to use their vocation to serve God’s Kingdom purposes globally and/or cross-culturally. In the Urbana missions offering, students generously gave a total of $1,247,608. This entire amount goes to ministries around the world who are meeting the needs of the spiritually and physically poor.

Urbana director Jim Tebbe says that the message of Urbana 06 had a powerful impact on attendees. “I believe that God came and showed His glory and showed His presence at Urbana,” he said. “It exceeded our expectations in the way it came together.” The Urbana message continues to influence viewers on the internet, at www.urbana.org. Between December 27, 2006, and February 15, 2007, there were over 535,000 views of Urbana internet video.

Lisa Espineli Chinn, the director of InterVarsity’s International Student Ministry, reports that feedback from Urbana attendees shows the many ways it is influencing lives. One pastor said that he would never preach again without first doing a manuscript Bible study of his text. (Attendees studied the Book of Ephesians in-depth through manuscript Bible study during Urbana.) A convention center employee said “I can’t wait until 2009, for the next Urbana.” The employee had a floor assignment and got to experience the whole convention, on-the-job.

“God spoke to everyone through different means,” Lisa says. A student from Sri Lanka had come to Urbana looking for a way to serve God that best utilized the student’s talents and gifts. The student decided that God’s call was to go back to Sri Lanka and work for an end to the civil war that has divided the country for decades.

At Urbana, students from Japan and Korea worshiped together and experienced an emotional healing of cultural tensions that go back to the World War II era. That event spilled over into further reconciliation, between Taiwanese and mainland Chinese students.

As stories filter back to InterVarsity staff about the influence of Urbana, it is clear that the convention is not just about five days at the end of December. Urbana is about changes that continue on for weeks, months, and years in the lives of attendees. “It’s not only what God did at Urbana but what God is doing after Urbana,” Lisa says.

For more information on Urbana 06, contact Christy Chappell: 608-443-3671