IIS Reaping Urbana ‘79
With the 12th InterVarsity Student Missionary Convention approaching (Dec. 27-31 at Urbana, IL) , mission leaders are again reminded of the urgency of a follow-up program. For the first time, IV will have its own "Urbana Onward" conferences in various parts of the country. These will be mainly for those students who wanted to go to Urbana, but couldn't because of lack of space. As with Urbana, these conferences will be largely inspirational in tone, providing the highly necessary impetus which moves the students to commitment.
The Urbana Conferences have always culminated in a challenge to be willing to serve the Lord overseas. Mission societies were electrified when the "Commitment Card" was signed by 5000 students in 1973 and then 9000 in 1976. Norval Hadley, Director of Church Relations at World Vision, projects that this year at least 10,000 will sign those cards. Yet "if history repeats itself," he says, "perhaps less than 500 of the 10,000 will ever make it to the mission field." Other mission executives are even more pessimistic
The problem is not in Urbana, nor in what mission agencies do or do not do. It is simply that once back on the college campuses, the students are deluged with other interests, other concerns, and other career possibilities, and the seed planted at Urbana is simply choked out of their lives. Mission agencies can do little unless the student comes to them. World Vision is preparing a book it hopes will help which outlines the steps toward a missionary career. But there is still the gap between card signing, indicating willingness, and the point at which the student feels "called" or in some way has decided to go.
After Urbana 1973, Dr. Winter sensed that something else was needed--something that would provide the students with hard data about the world and about missions. "God does not call in a vacuum," he insisted. That was the beginning of first the Summer Institute of International Studies and now the all-year Institute of International Studies. Since then over 500 students have studied the course and transferred the credits back to their own colleges (both secular and Christian). During the calendar year 1978-1979 over 200 studied on the Pasadena USCWM-WCIU campus alone.
The IIS program in Pasadena is unique in that it is designed to fit the student's schedule.
A month-long course (Jan. 7-31) provides 4 semester units of credit. The semester (16 units) begins on Feb. 4 and the quarter t.12 units) a few weeks later on March 24.
Thirty different professors, all well known and exciting lecturers, contribute a few days each. Alumni testify constantly to the tremendous learning experience as well as to the valuable time of interaction with people like Dave Howard, Elisabeth Elliot, etc. In January 1980 there will be 33 attending from South Africa as well as a party from the Swedish organization, Mission SOS. The campus can hold as many as 500 at any one time.
Statistics prove the vital role Urbana plays in stimulating missionary vision. But it takes an IS-type course to reap what is sown in those few short days at Urbana.