The Blog of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

December 30, 2012

Discerning God's Will at the Urbana 12 Exhibit Hall

By: 
Greg Hsu

On any given afternoon, thousands of students will pass through Urbana’s immense Exhibit Hall—one of the trademarks of the conference. Representatives from over 250 missions organizations, graduate schools, seminaries, and training programs are eager to meet Urbana participants.

Exhibitors love Urbana because of the kinds of participants who attend. Dwayne, from Samaritan Ministries, said, “I’ve been to lots of other conferences, and sometimes the participants just wander aimlessly. At Urbana, they’re wandering with a deep drive, for that piece of information or conversation that will further their calling. And all the exhibitors—we’re ready to nurture the students; we’re caring for them and not just getting their info!” The exhibit director at SIM (Serving In Mission) similarly said that they’ve really enjoyed not only informing students about SIM’s opportunities but also just listening to and praying for participants right there in the hall.

Amazement and Inspiration

Students who walk through the Exhibit Hall span the spectrum from just beginning to discern God’s call on their life to ready to go where he’s leading. Ellenie, a sophomore at the University of Buffalo, didn’t have any specific organizations in mind but was still eager to collect information and speak to the exhibitors. She shared how overwhelming Urbana has been but added, “To see these thousands upon thousands of people seeking the same thing—it’s been amazing.” This gave her courage to explore the Exhibit Hall even without any clear idea of what to look for.

Others, like Sarah, come with a passion or skill set they want to use for God’s global purposes. A junior at the University of Virginia, Sarah is in a special accelerated Master of Teaching program and visited several of the teaching-based missions groups. She found herself drawn to those that utilized teaching English as a second language (ESL) for their ministry. She confessed, “I felt like all these exhibitors have it all figured out, but once we started talking and I heard the missionary’s personal story, it helped me feel less scared, and it was compelling!”

Similarly, Elle, a graphic design major from Oklahoma University, said that she was inspired by the amazing video, art, and design work done by twentyonehundred productions (InterVarsity/USA’s multimedia department). “As a design major, it made me so happy!” she said. She’d been considering college campus ministry stateside or overseas but decided she should also look into using her artistic training and gifts for mission somehow.

Asking and Waiting

Even those who know what they’re called to still have questions. James, an engineering senior from Rochester Institute of Technology, carried a bundle of booklets and materials from various agencies and schools. He knows God is calling him to be a pastor—but when and where and how are all things he’s still discerning. And Lydia, also from the University of Virginia, is passionate about the issue of global sex trafficking—and even has some dreams about how to make an impact—but isn’t sure necessarily about how to get there.

Hungering for Jesus

With every animated conversation and visit to a booth, it’s clear that students are here at Urbana and specifically the Exhibit Hall with intense purpose and hunger to follow Jesus wherever he’s calling them to go.

Greg Hsu is a campus staff member at the University of Virginia, where he helped plant the Asian InterVarsity chapter. He's also serving on the social media team during Urbana. Follow @SuperHsu to keep up with him.

View the organizations exhibiting at Urbana. Where might God be calling you?

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