I aim to live life without regrets.
My high tolerance for risk typically leads me to jump into things kind of brashly. Not many good opportunities drift past me unexamined or unexploited.
I finished college a while ago, back in 2000. I had started following Jesus in high school. Already, I was passionate about living the right life and making the right choices, wanting other people to experience truth, freedom, happiness, and love. International issues and other cultures fascinated me, starting with watching Gandhi in my Cultural Geography class in high school.
During my actual college years, I got involved with a church full of very smart folks, mostly involved as grad students and faculty at the University of Wisconsin. I was also involved with a campus ministry eager to share the great news about Jesus. I ended up majoring in Spanish with a minor in Religious Studies.
I took a trip to Guadalajara, Mexico, to help build houses and teach kids about Jesus. I spent a week in Valencia, Spain, living on croissants, espresso, and prayer. Back on campus, I met this woman as passionate as I was about justice and poverty issues. Chrissy and I got married after my junior year (and no, I don’t regret that). We graduated and started years of service in Nicaragua, China, and South Africa.
Sounds good, right? Well, it was. But I have a major regret.
I never went to Urbana.
Chrissy and I never quite fit anywhere. We were pretty intense, once voted Most Likely to Give You Their Last Dollar by our campus ministry. We wrestled with what this crazy Jesus had said:
- Blessed are the poor.
- No one who does not give up everything they have can be my disciple.
- Go and make disciples of all nations.
- If anyone loves me, they will obey my teaching.
We wanted to follow well. We wanted to go. We wanted to live lives that mattered, that honored Jesus. We wanted to be a blessing to people in hard places.
But we didn’t know how. We didn’t have role models. We didn’t know what opportunities were out there. Our church was kind and supportive but didn’t really have the wherewithal to train and send us. Our campus ministry had a particular model of overseas work that wasn’t what we were called to.
I wish I’d known about Urbana.
Held for five days every three years, Urbana is a huge gathering, with 18,000 people, 250 missions organizations, hundreds of practical seminars, multiethnic worship, in-depth Bible study, and leaders from around the world. It is the best place to consider what and where God is calling you to, whether Azerbaijan or Tallahassee, sending or sowing, boardroom or slum.
I missed out. Urbana 96 was after my first semester of college, and I’m not sure I even heard about it. The next one was pushed back a year (Y2K!) and by then I already was in Nicaragua, with giardia in my guts and a brave bride at my side. Years later, we went to Urbana 06, to network for an organization we were serving with, and then Urbana 09, to volunteer.
At one point, we stood in the back of the Dome during a main session, with hard truth being preached, the God of grace being worshipped, and practical insight being shared. “It would have been so good for us to have come to this…” Regret.
Urbana only happens every three years. This year, it’s December 27-31. And it costs real money—$339 for students, plus travel and hotel. That means for some people it ends up costing close to a thousand dollars. Every time I hear people question the cost (and InterVarsity, the ministry that puts on Urbana, is not making any money from it), I want to ask a couple questions.
- How much do you spend for tuition for a single college class?
- What would you have to do to find the money to get there?
- How are you asking God to “send out workers for the harvest”? And what are you doing about it?
- What is it worth to you to know your calling, find the ministry God wants you in, or get on the right trajectory for the rest of your life?
I missed out. But you (and others wanting to live for Jesus and the good of others) don’t have to. The early-bird price goes up June 30th (this Saturday!), so sign up, sponsor a student or twenty-something to go, and spread the word.
Or you’ll probably regret it.