Dreaming God’s dreams for this world.

Written by Steve Colby, Director of Inter-Varsity Missions.

In just under 300 days, the largest megaphone for missions in North America begins – Urbana 15.

Why GO?

When I was a student I was already committed to missions. I’d led three trips to Mexico and had my own plans for mission work set in stone. And yet, as I found myself walking into the hall at Urbana, I heard some challenging words from a Brazilian missionary:

“Don’t dream the wrong dreams. Dream God’s dreams for this world.”

Uh oh…

Were the dreams I was dreaming God’s dreams for my life, or were they my own? As I listened to Dan Harrison talk about the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the new opportunities that were emerging in Eastern Europe, I began to wonder at the wide window God had opened. I thought it was a great opportunity for students who spoke Russian, but didn’t think much beyond that.

Until my wedding day.

At my wedding, I overheard some friends chatting casually about their upcoming trip to Bulgaria. It was a pleasant, innocent enough conversation, until I heard my new wife Susie chip in and say, “We’d love to go!”

Um… Hello? Are we not going to talk about this first? “For richer for poorer, in missions, in sickness or in health,…” Where is Bulgaria anyway? And how do we know we are called to go? Abraham may have heard a voice — but what about us?

I didn’t hear a voice. I didn’t respond to a dream. But I did remember that speaker at Urbana talking about “Dreaming God’s dreams for the world.” And I realized that this is the sort of thing God is all about: sending folks without a lick of language ability or geographical knowledge to a foreign country to share the gospel.

Steve and his wife, Susie at the Rila Monastery, Bulgaria (1991).

Steve and his wife, Susie, at the Rila Monastery, Bulgaria (1991).

He did the same thing with an ancient man from Sumeria. “By faith Abraham went…though he did not know where he was going,” Hebrews 11 tells us. Abraham’s story captures our interest and draws us into his unusual pilgrimage of faith. He heard God’s voice and he went, and God reckoned this as righteousness.

But why is going so important? And what if you are called to stay?

Abraham’s own father Terah demonstrates why staying put is often not enough. Terah uprooted his family from Ur, intending to go all the way to Canaan, but he stopped short and settled in Haran. Why? Terah had even named one of his sons ‘Haran,’ but by the time they arrived in Haran this son had died. Was it the grief that stopped him, or the difficulty of leaving Ur and relocating with Sarah and Lot?   Or did he always intend to leave, but just never got around to it? Years of intention finally gave way to the familiar, making it harder and harder to uproot and leave again.

Brenda Salter-McNeil summarized the story of Terah at the Urbana 09 conference by saying, “Where you settle, there ya gonna die!”

The call of God to His mission involves a key response: Our going.

You might be called across the world or you might be called across town. It’s not about accumulating frequent flier miles in missions. It’s about saying “Yes” to God’s invitation wherever He takes us. We leave our familiar world and enter an unknown community, seeking to know and make known His gospel.

At Urbana 15 more than 16,000 students from all over North America and the world will gather in St. Louis, MO to hear from God and find their life in His global mission. Go and learn of God’s dreams for the world, and then live them!

You can find more information and register for Urbana 15 at www.urbana.org.

 

 

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24-hour prayer reshapes ministry at University of Regina

Fran Purvis knows first-hand that the best way to learn how to pray is to do it.

It’s a lesson she learned during her time at Ontario Pioneer Camp, and it’s one that she and fellow Inter-Varsity staff at the University of Regina have been trying to put into practice.

“The past few years we’ve be praying that we would become men and women of prayer,” says Fran.

If that statement sounds self-fulfilling, it’s because Fran knows that prayer is a practice that demands participation. You can’t learn to pray by reading a book or being taught about it, in the same way you can’t get in shape by reading about exercising or watching someone run a marathon.

Fran and Kyle

  Campus Ministers Kyle McLean and Fran Purvis

   (far left) and students spread the word about

Inter-Varsity on their campus.

 

Last year, Fran noticed the practice of prayer was lacking in her campus community at the University of Regina where she is the team leader for Inter-Varsity’s Undergraduate Student Ministry.

“Community and scripture felt like strengths, but prayer and witness felt less natural and prayer is something we wanted to press into more.”

In response, Fran decided to host a 24-hour day of prayer for her Inter-Varsity group on October 17th, joining thousands of others participating in the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students’ World Student Day of Prayer.

The day of prayer was hosted at a nearby home known as The H.O.G. (or, “House of Guys”), a student house near campus that is home to six Inter-Varsity members. They turned a room in the basement into what Fran calls a classroom for prayer and focused most of their prayer specifically on international issues. They hung a world map on the wall alongside profiles of different global communities and set aside time to pray for issues like the Ebola outbreak and conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine.

The 24 hours of dedicated prayer helped raise awareness of world issues, but it also created a hunger for even more prayer among the group. In response to this hunger, they recently hosted another full day of prayer January 29-30th, this time focusing more on their own campus and their desire to share the Gospel.

“This time around, we spent a lot of time praying for the university, taking time to pray for each faculty,” Miranda, a third-year Education student says. Being a Christian on a secular campus comes with obvious challenges, where faith is often disregarded or minimalized.

“We prayed for wisdom to know how to stand up for our beliefs, and to be able to do it graciously,” says Miranda.

Following the two 24-hour days of prayer, Fran and fellow Campus Minister Kyle Mclean started a daily half-hour of prayer on campus. They hope prayer will become more and more a part of everyday ministry. Fran is already seeing a shift.

“The Lord is softening our community to prayer, freeing us to hear from him and talk with him… It feels like we’re just waking up to the reality of prayer; that it is powerful, that it is substantial, that there is more to prayer than we thought.”