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.
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.”
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).
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.