I spent the week between Christmas and New Year’s at the triennial Urbana Student Missions Conference. 16,000 students descended on downtown St. Louis to explore the ministry and missions calling God may have for their lives. Many of these students are looking for a next step in following God’s leading into missions.
I was invited to give a seminar at Urbana called Mormonism: Cult or Culture? A Contextualized Approach to Ministry Among Mormons. On Monday afternoon, I shared for about 35 minutes and opened the floor for 25 minutes of Q & A. You never know what turnout to expect, but this session was packed! Just over 300 students crammed in. Many had to stand. Others were turned away at the door. I spent 45 minutes afterwards talking to students and answering questions. Many more came by my booth that afternoon to talk. Because of the popularity of the session, the Urbana team made a spot decision to offer it again on Wednesday afternoon. Without little advance publicity, about 120 students came. The attitude of students in both sessions was great. They were thoughtful and caring. Many of these students have close friends who are LDS. They came to my session to learn how to understand their Mormons friends and how to share their own faith with them.
I decided to invest in a booth in the Urbana Exhibition Hall to share the work of Utah Advance. I was one of 250 missions and ministry agencies seeking to connect with interested students. The booth was open every day from 1 to 6 pm, staffed by myself and my assistant Chasen (a student a Utah State University). It became a great place to meet up with students who had attended the seminar. At the booth, we invited students to come to Utah for a ministry internship. I met a number of young people who are seriously considering this option next summer or after graduation, or who otherwise have a significant interest in Utah. I’m not sure the booth would be fruitful for Utah Advance if I wasn’t also speaking. But in tandem with the seminar exposure, the booth was a good tool.
During the week I was able to meet with several people involved in ministry in Utah, particularly those affiliated with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. I met local students and interacted with campus ministry staff. In a few cases, I was able to have significant input in helping to solve life and ministry issues.
I’m taking pains to keep in touch with people who expressed interest. I’ve had three great interviews with students since Urbana, and one student has already applied for an internship. I’m praying that God will create a pipeline of people coming to Utah to serve over the next several years – many of whom will decide to stay.