While visiting Ann Arbor on my week off after Urbana, I attended AIV’s large group. It was a great time to see my old students and colleagues, as well as hear some of their stories from Urbana. Here are a couple of the stories that were shared that night:
Thank you so much for providing generously to allow me to attend Urbana 09. For someone oriented toward scientific research and development, mission work was something that I did not really see myself pursuing. Once arriving at Urbana I realized that God had many good things in store for me. Surprisingly the things I learned related more towards my relationship with Jesus and with the world than my call to missions. Coming out of Urbana, I have a few major takeaways that I would like to share with you.
1. A vision of justice in the world. At Urbana, I learned about poverty, human trafficking, and injustice around the world. My learned response is to feel bad and be pressured into sending money, but at Urbana I learned that there is value in identifying with the people who suffer these injustices, that there is value in providing a voice to the voiceless, and that there is great power in prayer. I learned about a God who has come into the middle of history to redeem the world and make all things new. I learned about a God who hates injustice and I learned about some of the practical ways that injustice is being combated. Specifically, I learned about advocacy campaigns and the role of politics in bringing about God's work. It made me realize that I may not be William Wilberforce, come to set the slaves free through politics, but I might be someone who nudges a new Wilberforce to set the slaves of the world free. Practically, I'm hoping to help out with bringing the Human Wrong campaign to the University of Michigan campus, as well as get the ball rolling on a city-wide, week-long campaign to raise awareness, voice, and funds to help end human trafficking.
2. A new take on prayer. At Urbana I realized that my prayers often sound like they are being read off of a prayer request sheet. I've learned about praying like the Bible shows us, and I have learned the importance of the voice that I am given. The ability to communicate with a holy and powerful God never seemed real to me, but I have grown a great deal in this understanding.
3. A worldwide vision. At Urbana I was struck by the phrase, "get to know the world God so loved." In our fellowship's Large Group gatherings I have sensed that we have become ingrown. In response to this, I'm putting together a new segment titled "Get to Know the World God So Loved." We'll have testimonies from missionaries, send letters of support and encouragement, and pray for countries that we learn about. It is my hope that I can bring the world-wide vision of Urbana back to campus and enable others to explore their call to overseas missions.
4. Local mission. I was struck at Urbana, by the sheer number of people making commitments to long term missions, but I then realized that almost all of us had made that commitment when we chose to follow Jesus. I've realized that my apartment, my family, and my friends are all unreached populations who need Jesus, and I am positioned quite well to be a tool to allow that to happen. I hope to invite my family to church, invite my friend to study John 1-4 with me and to reach out to my apartment mate and bring him to an AIV small group.
Again, thank you so much for enabling me to attend this conference. I hope that you can now share in some of the wonderful and hopefully life changing experiences that I was able to be a part of.
Jesus said that we are to love our enemies. I always thought, “Sure...I love my enemies - I don't really hate anybody.” But two speakers at Urbana09 opened my eyes to what Jesus spoke of. Both men began with their stories of pain and oppression by another group of humans - one as a Tutsi, the other as a Korean. Although they began in very different places, both of them ended up in the same place - realizing that the reconciliation that Jesus spoke of was hard but necessary. Although it was difficult, each man spoke about how reconciling with someone you hated (with cause) brings the only way to point to God together. I realized that I do have enemies that I hate: people who oppressed me, people who hated me, people that I thought I could hate because they did me wrong. But God said I was once alienated from God and was an enemy because of my evil behavior.
As a senior about to graduate with a piano performance degree from the University of Michigan, I entered Urbana09 hopeful and expectant for God to reveal more of his plan for my life. He did not disappoint, although He responded in ways I didn’t expect. (Praise be to our surprising God!)
Instead of calling me forward into global missions work, He led me inward and homeward – back to the places I had come from. “Come and see,” He said to me. “You cannot carry the burdens of far-flung territories yet, for these places need you first.” At Urbana, God showed me that at least for the next few years, I must consider it my calling to be a cross-cultural missionary to the very culture I come from. Now equipped and immersed in the culture of our Lord Jesus Christ, I must learn and understand the deep-rooted brokenness that handicaps my family. Furthermore, I must discover creative and loving ways to demonstrate the holiness, truth, and love that Jesus proclaims.
His word never fails to be a light unto my path. Thank you for your contributions to the workings of God’s eternal kingdom. Peace be with you.