By Abi Christian

Calisto Odede to Take the Stage at Urbana 12

You may have never heard of Rev. Calisto Odede, but he’s helped thousands of students to consider God’s calling on their lives and in the Church.

After participating in Urbana 87, Calisto returned to his home in Kenya to join the Fellowship of Christian Unions (FOCUS), and directed the first three COMMISSION conferences, Kenya’s triennial Students Missions Conference, which now brings together students from more than 16 African countries.

Today Calisto serves as Senior Pastor for Nairobi Pentecostal Church and has given Bible expositions at numerous conferences, including the third Lausanne Congress, Capetown 2010.

This December, Calisto will speak on God’s global mission with nearly 20,000 participants at Urbana 12 (click here to register). Recently, Calisto shared with us a few thoughts on missions, the Church in Kenya, and Urbana 12:

How has involvement in God’s mission shaped you and your church?

The greatest fulfillment one gets is to know that you do not live for yourself but for Christ Jesus. That life acquires true meaning when you pour it out in service for Christ and others. My involvement in missions has given me this heart for others that is a propelling force in my life. It has given me the vision to see the work of God across the nations. When a church is involved in serving others, we are saved from an attitude of only looking inwards that brings stagnation in a congregation. A church that is only inward-looking shrinks and does not overflow in blessing others.

Why are you excited to speak at Urbana?

This will be my fourth Urbana to attend. It was at Urbana 87 that I launched into missions, returning back to my country and mobilizing young students for missions. We have seen hundreds surrendering to the call of God in their lives and making a difference to the nation. Having spent 21 years working with students, I look forward to Urbana conferences where people who have a heart for missions gather together and people who do not have a heart for missions are envisioned with what God can do through them to change the world. I praise the Lord that I am a part of this great move of God.

What role do you see Urbana playing for the North American and global Church?

As a person who comes from the majority world and who has been involved in mission circles, I must confess that those who are under forty from North America and involved in missions are a threatened species. They just aren’t there anymore as they used to be. People are caught up with up-scaling their lives and fulfilling the American dream, and missions sometimes takes a back seat. An event like Urbana is not just a conference where people attend and go home. Urbana ignites passion for Jesus and for his global cause. It brings renewal and fervency for serving the Lord in the Church. The shortage of church workers in America and globally is met as people encounter Jesus at Urbana.

What benefits do you think college students and recent grads will receive at Urbana?

At Urbana lives are transformed. Perhaps the organizers should put up a disclaimer “We are not responsible for what will happen to you after Urbana!!!” This is not necessarily negligence, but people will have been impacted so much that some of them will change their careers and their lifestyles to align themselves with the will of God for their lives. Those who come can go back to “life unusual” not life as usual. They will receive a heart and burden for God’s world. They will realize their roles in God’s global agenda. It is important that students and recent grads should come.

Why would you encourage the North American Church to send young adults to Urbana?

I certainly would encourage the North American churches to send young adults and missions pastors to Urbana, because not only will it be a place for networking, but the commitment level of the young people who attend will be noticeable. They will make greater contributions to the ministry of the church.In the end, the church will be the beneficiaries of the transformation that will take place at Urbana. My prayer is that as many churches as possible will support their young people to attend and that young people will seek all ways and means to attend because it will be worth it.

Abi Christian serves as a Writer and Social Media Curator for InterVarsity's Communication team.


I really agree with everything Calisto has mentioned in this interview for three reasons: First, it is in Commission 88 organized by FOCUS and directed by Calisto that I responded to the call to serve God in full time capacity, or should I say, changed my career. Secondly, I not only served with him at FOCUS for a while, but also watched him walk the talk of missions. And finally, I'm privileged to be a close family friend and can testify about his comments on church & missions to be true - that a church that is inward looking is a shrinking church. I now serve as a missions pastor in a local church in Nairobi and could not agree more. Luke Jaoko Missions Pastor, Nairobi Chapel

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