Mar 19, 2018


4 Reasons Not to Miss Urbana 18

Kale Uzzle shares four reasons that you should start planning now to take students to the Urbana Student Missions Conference in St. Louis – December 27-31, 2018.

I was nineteen years old the first time I ever rode on a city bus. My little town in Southern Illinois did not have much by way of public transit and I remember feeling particularly nervous about where to put my money – do I give it to the driver or somewhere else?

But, my friends and I, all away at college in Saint Louis, were headed to a conference called Urbana and this was our only way downtown. Little did I know that the short climb up the bus steps would be the first of many risks Jesus would ask me to take that week. Two days after Christmas 2006, we said goodbye to our families and made our way to the Edward Jones Dome for what would be a life-changing experience.

I have attended every Urbana since 2006 and plan to attend every one until I die or Jesus comes back. I heard God speak to me in that football-field-turned-sanctuary-space and I am still following his voice to this day because of what happened to me there at nineteen.

God speaks at Urbana. I have no hesitation in declaring that boldly because I have heard his voice there and know dozens of people who have encountered him there.

Of course he can and does speak anywhere at any time but there is something holy and powerful about 16,000 people from all over the world gathering together, eager to hear his voice and surrender their lives to it. Come to Urbana because you want to hear and say yes to the voice of Jesus.

Let me give you four more reasons why you shouldn’t miss Urbana:

Reason #1 – Take Part in the History

The Urbana Student Missions Conference happens every three years and this year’s gathering (December 27-31) will be the 25th since its inception in 1946. Urbana was created as a means of both sharing the Gospel with college students all across North America and deploying them all over the world as missionaries.

Is this not the vision we all carry as collegiate leaders – to see students both saved and sent by the Gospel?

Over its more than 70-year history, the Urbana stage has hosted such luminaries as Billy Graham, Elisabeth Elliot, Tom Skinner, Nikki Toyama-Szeto, and Brenda Salter-McNeil. The late Dr. Graham once speculated that half of North American missionaries can trace their call, in part, to the Urbana Conference.

Come to Urbana so that you and your students can be part of the next wave of missionaries sent from this historic event.

Reason #2 – Join in the Global Church

The evening after my first bus ride, I was in for another round of disorientation. My friends and I shuffled into the plenary space and found a few seats among the crowd, which I quickly noticed was unimaginably diverse. I grew up in a town that was 91% white and a church that was even more homogenous. I had no idea what the body of Christ really looked like, much less what they sounded like when they worshiped in one place together.

By the end of the first two-hour session, I had sung in Swahili, danced (!) to a Spanish chorus, and heard friends nearby crying out to God in Mandarin. We spent the week studying Ephesians under the exegetical teaching of Ajith Fernando, a Sri Lankan Bible teacher. I remember hearing about the work of the International Justice Mission for the first time and realizing how broad and deep was the Kingdom calling God has on the lives of his people.

It can be challenging for us as collegiate leaders to create opportunities for students to see the Global Church. I would argue there is no better opportunity in this country to do so than at Urbana.

Reason #3 – Network with God’s International Movement

One of my favorite parts of Urbana is the Exhibit Hall, where more than 250 missions organizations and seminaries set up booths to resource and direct students toward opportunities to say yes to the voice of Jesus right on the spot at Urbana. I have had a handful of students over the years commit to spending 1-3 months on the mission field and find an opportunity to do so within hours of signing that commitment card at Urbana. If nothing else, imagine the swag bag you could compile from spending an hour in a room like that?

Have you heard about the partnership God is orchestrating between Cru and InterVarsity to see every campus in the U.S. reached with an expression of student-led Gospel ministry by 2025? The folks from will be at Urbana and would love to connect with you and empower your ministry to reach even more students as we labor together to see unreached American campuses move from 1800 to 0 over the next seven years.

Come to Urbana to invest in your students and in your own discipleship and to connect the dots with what God is doing all over the world.

Reason #4 – Discern Your Own Life

The theme for Urbana 18 is “Discern Your Place in God’s Global Mission.” Every word in that theme could be expounded upon but let me once again highlight the idea of discernment. God speaks at Urbana. Don’t just come to Urbana because it’s another conference where students can have a good time without a ton of prep work. Come because you want to hear Jesus speak to you. Come because you need to hear your calling affirmed once again. Come because you are hungry for a fresh word from the Lord for yourself.

Is God calling you to lifelong collegiate work? Come and join with hundreds of other collegiate workers who will be eager to meet you and share stories.

But what if He has something else in store for you? What if the next place he is sending you is somewhere you’ve never considered or can’t even pronounce just yet?

Come to Urbana with your eyes and heart open to the Lord and your mouth eager to say yes. You will not regret it.

about the author

Kale Uzzle

Kale Uzzle serves as the Director of Campus & Community Engagement with the Saint Louis Metro Baptist Association, helping local churches more effectively reach college campuses. Before taking this role, he spent nine years as a Campus Staff Minister and Associate Area Director with InterVarsity in Saint Louis.