I am finding it hard to believe Urbana is already over a week old. I seriously wonder how long it will take before my spiritual “high” wears off. I remember having the same type of experience in 2003, and it was about a month or so and I was cooled down. I believe there are several reasons for this, including:
1. Lack of Community: 16,000 people who love missions 24/7 and being around the same co-workers constantly day after day has a way of building amazing community that is not easily duplicated in the "real world".
2. Sin: For me, its much easier to get back into sin patterns when I am in the routine of my daily life.
3. The Real World: Worshipping, learning, and encouraging God’s global cause is extremely awesome…and extremely rare! But sometime I had to go back to Philly and stop learning in order to start applying what I learned…that’s tough.
4. Laziness/Loss of Tenacity: I had some magical time with the Lord, and felt His presence during the Urbana week that is hard to duplicate. Having time focused away from God (i.e. everyday life) towards other things dampens my spiritual awareness.
5. Time: They say, time heals all wounds. Why is that? Because time has a way of making us forget on many levels. This will undoubtedly chip away at my high.
So the battle is ON! The question isn't whether or not I will lose this spiritual intenseness, but when. I am fully aware of that. However, until that happens I am tuned into God like I haven’t been in a while and am fully convinced He will teach and show me a lot in 2010.
God has given me some time to process and pray about the Urbana event. I wanted to share some highlights, but more than just my voice, I have also included insight gathered from other Urbana attendees. The amazing thing about Urbana is that it touched people in many ways. I thought for sure everyone would be moved to incarnational, missional ministry and learn about God’s heart for justice. But, as always, God is bigger than that…let me share.
Urbana is the largest North American missions conference. Students, missions staff, businesspeople, etc. all gather under one roof to concentrate on global missions and the challenges and issues surrounding the 21st century. So, I fully expected to learn only about missions and how to apply it to my life devoted to the undertaking. Well, this may have been the case for me…but for others, God touched them in different ways. One Urbana attendee mentioned that they heard from God and came away from Urbana with a renewed understanding of what it meant that Jesus came to “dwell with us”. “The theme, He dwelled among us, was a powerful and heartening message to me. To have the reminder that He lived here on earth as a human interacting with other humans in similar situations is overwhelming. This emphasized to me that He is here and understands my life experiences!” stated the attendee. Here I thought this conference would only speak to missions…yet this person heard God speak through such a personal, intimate encounter. God was bigger than my assumptions.
One dear sister decided to sign a commitment card saying she will do long-term missions. She is 1 of 2,500 who would make such a commitment. What a calling! She is dedicated to making Christ known among the nations. Could there be a better calling, a better commitment? I think not! She said, “I remember being at the Sending Center in August when I met you (Grant), I was so depressed and sad and bitter towards God for calling me abroad and then bringing me back that I was kinda done with it. But I'm so thankful you invited me to Urbana. So to start, I remembered my heart at Urbana, that I do care about global missions, that I have a calling in my life that I can't ignore.”
This was my second Urbana event. I am confounded on how much I have changed in the last 6 years since attending the 2003 event as a delegate, and equally as confounded about how little I have changed! I have definitely been challenged to start addressing areas in my life that need addressing. Another attendee who had also been to 2 different Urbana’s phrased it brilliantly, “(I am) being called out on my desire to be a part of everything while actually contributing nothing. In other words, wanting the results without the sacrifice. This covers many areas, from facilitation ministry to advocacy, but in reality it is all the same root problem.” I couldn’t agree more. I do a lot of reading, thinking, posturing and very little time actually contributing. This is something I fully expect to tackle head on in 2010…and I will encourage this other dear sister to do likewise. This is a beautiful aspect of Christian community: accountability.
So, God showed up…did you think He wouldn’t?!?! For some, He was the loving Father showing the enormity of the Incarnation. For some, He moved the Spirit inside of them to continue in this magnificent call of bringing the Gospel to the nations. For others, He showed us we aren’t alone being concerned for social justice issues. And others, He showed us areas we need to grow in.
“I feel like my time in Urbana was probably the closest thing to heaven I have ever experienced. To worship and come to the Lord's table with 16,000 others, singing songs in multiple languages. It was a taste of what to hope for. And the best line of the whole conference was when Greg Jao said "it's time to leave" and then when everyone moaned, he said in a serious tone, "FOLKS, if we stay here, we have failed as a conference. The point is to GO." The vision of our worship made me more inspired and gave me more of a purpose to GO, to participate with God's redemption of the world as He brings Heaven to Earth,” stated the Urbana 2009 delegate.
The Word Became Flesh and Dwelled Among Us. Urbana 2009. A Piece of Heaven on Earth.
Part II to follow…..