Urbana 18: Thousands of students commit to a life of faithful witness
What kind of impact could one university graduate have on the world if they said “Yes” to Jesus’ invitation on their life? What about ten thousand?
Two minutes before midnight, as Urbana 18 came to a close, ten thousand students sang out,
“Jesus, the only true and righteous King,
Faithful unto death
We give our lives as a testimony
Faithful unto death”
Their voices straining as if they hoped the whole world could hear their committed declaration.
Did they mean it? When thousands of them filled out cards mid-week committing to serving God in his mission with their whole lives, did they know what kind of a promise they were making? When more than 350 students raised white flags surrendering their whole lives to Jesus earlier in the week (14 of them for the very first time in their lives) did they know what that visible action meant?
Throughout the conference, it was apparent the students understood the cost – and the freedom – of whole life commitment to the way of Jesus and to his Lordship over every aspect of their lives.
During the corporate worship times, students would grab the hand of the person sitting next to them in their row and run together – I mean really run – to the front of the stage to join in the throng belting out thanks to God for his healing and hope. The world’s promises in generations past of riches, wealth, pleasure and instant gratification have produced the fruit of loneliness, isolation, high rates of anxiety and depression in this generation. They need something different and they know it.
One seventeen-year-old attendee from an InterVarsity High School group in Ontario, began to weep when he reported what he learned during his week at Urbana. He talked about his friends from high school – friends he loves so deeply that he has not wanted to talk to about Jesus because he knows it may cost him the friendship. But he wept because he realized he had something precious that they needed. For him the cost of telling them about Jesus could be isolation in his school. But for them, he knows the cost is far greater. He has grasped this with a conviction I do not see in some of the most seasoned of Christians. Through his tears, he spoke of God’s invitation to tell them about Jesus. He said he didn’t know if he is strong enough, but he has said yes to this invitation.
These students are uniquely positioned in the world today to understand the deep need for a healing God and living water. They also experience a compassion for the world as they see peoples of many tongues tribes and nations reaching with desperation for a hope they do not yet know. God’s consistent invitation at this Urbana was for them to be faithful witnesses to his hope in Jesus despite the great cost – even the cost of their lives. They are saying yes. Not a blind yes – swept away by the hype and emotion of a great conference. But a sober and sure yes, believing that what God holds for them and the people of this world is so much better than what they can attain without him.
Many of you have prayed and given generously to this Urbana to see students continue to boldly choose to live out mission with their whole lives. Thank you. Below are a few stories of how this particular Urbana has impacted students and moved them to courageous next steps. Be encouraged. These young people are the fruit of your faithful witness, generosity and hope. And this is just the beginning!