ST. LOUIS -- More than 16,000 students have descended on St. Louis from across the U.S. and Canada. Their purpose: To learn more about missions and God's calling on their lives.
They're part of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship's 22nd Urbana Missions Conference.
A Fresh Take on Evangelism
"At Urbana what you're seeing is a large number of students who are serious about their faith and serious about how their faith intersects with global needs," InterVarsity's York Moore explained,
Today's young people are thinking about missions in new and fresh ways. They're concerned about social justice issues as well as evangelism. They're also strategizing about how to reach emerging communities such as Muslims and gays.
Andrew Marin is the president and founder of The Marin Foundation, a non-profit organization which ministers to the gay community.
"College students are the most hungry group of people to build bridges with the gay and lesbian community," Marin said. "Because it is getting thrown in their faces five days a week, eight hours a day on the campuses no matter where you go no matter where you turn."
More than a thousand students packed Marin's seminar on reaching out to gays. Thousands more are choosing seminars on social justice issues such as poverty and AIDS.
For many, it's a unique opportunity to learn more about global needs - and where they might fit in.
"I've done missions in Mexico, enjoyed it but feel like there's a lot of need at home in my city--there's a lot of need, especially with refugees," Urbana attendee Elaine said.
Lisa said, "I just want to get some focus on what the next step is and also hear from other people that have gone before me,"
InterVarsity leaders say they'll challenge students to commit this week. For some, it may be a first time decision for Christ. But for many others, it will be a commitment to missions - and wherever that takes them.
Moore said, "We're going to see a generation of students called into modern-day missions."
"At this convention," he said, "you're going to see students make the decision throughout the course of their lives to make a lifelong commitment to missions."