Billy Graham once observed that half of American missionaries can trace their vocational call—at least in part—to the Urbana Missions Conference. With 18,000 people expected, 262 missions agencies exhibiting and the largest Christian, missions-focused bookstore in the world, the twenty-third Urbana Missions Conference, to be held December 27-31 at America's Center Convention Complex in St. Louis, is designed to equip and send out the next generation of missionaries and church leaders.
"Since 1946, Urbana has engaged over 250,000 students through 22 student missions conferences and continues to serve as the largest student missions conference in North America," says Tom Lin, director of Urbana and vice president of missions for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. "Over the years, we have discovered that God has uniquely used Urbana to enable students to discern God’s calling for their lives."
InterVarsity Press and Urbana work together to help students discern their calling in a number of ways. For instance, IVP authors Sandra Van Opstal (Mission of Worship) and Lin (Pursuing God’s Call) will be keynote speakers for the conference. Twenty IVP authors will also serve as seminar speakers, track directors or part of the worship and performing arts teams.
The InterVarsity Press–sponsored bookstore, featuring more than 1,000 unique titles from IVP and other publishers, is a key component in sending attendees out after Urbana. "When people respond to God's call they need information to activate their response, from being better equipped in specific missions issues to being better prepared spiritual and theologically for missions," says Lin. "InterVarsity Press's long-term commitment to campus mission and global missions, and its commitment to diversity (over 40 percent of Urbana participants are ethnic minorities), make it a wonderful partner for Urbana."
InterVarsity Press publisher Bob Fryling shares Lin's appreciation for the partnership between the two organizations. "Urbana and InterVarsity Press began 65 years ago and since then have provided synergistic visionary leadership and in-depth resources to the church," says Fryling. "IVP serves the Urbana delegates with probably the largest mission-related bookstore in the world while Urbana is a strategic time for IVP to expose its wealth of missions, evangelism and discipleship books to a new and dedicated generation of Christian students."