Symptoms of a New Thrust
Urbana 1979 was something else! It had the usual huge crowds of students, booth after booth of mission displays, addresses ranging from good to excellent in workshops and from the platform.
But there was something new about this Urbana. Long before those 16,000 (or so) out of 18,000 rose in one great whoosh in response to Billy Graham's challenge to go anywhere or do anything that God would ask of them, you could sense that these students were already committed to. God's will. They were waiting merely for marching orders.
Something else was different. This time Inter Varsity itself was better prepared for follow up. John Kyle, head of Inter Varsity Missions, announced a new series of "Urbana onward" conferences to take those 16,000 students (and others) beyond this initial commitment into studies about the world and prayer about their unique role in its evangelization. Hot from the press was a new book by his assistant, David Bryant: In the Gap What it Means to be a World Christian A magnificent summary of where we are and where we have to go in missions, this book was understandably a 'book of the day'. It was written for college students by one who is himself not too many years beyond them.But the message at Urbana was also different this time. More than ever before the unreached frontiers were stressed. The burden of Elizabeth Elliot's moving address was on total, complete abandonment to the will of God. Yet her opening scene was the Auca frontier where in memory she awoke to the sound of jungle Indians commenting on every move she made in her thatched¬roof home without walls.
Gottfried Osei Mensah, another speaker, laid upon those students the claims of the 16,750 peoples without a witness among them. Luis Palau challenged them with the thought that even such a harvest is not too big. We can do it if we will, by the year 2000.
Speaker after speaker referred to the 2.5 billion, those the Center for World Mission calls "the Hidden People." Some had ideas on how to reach them.
Take Ruth Siemens, for example. She electrified the students with example after example of how they could support themselves as "tent making" missionaries in frontier areas. Within thirty minutes of the close of her address, all 200 copies available of 3 Christy Wilson's new book Today's Tentmakers were sold.
When asked to identify the greatest mission problem in the 80's, Billy Graham unhesitatingly replied, "The 2.5 billion people still beyond the reach of the gospel," with some additional words on the sacrifice in lifestyle which reaching them would require of all Christians.
Only one criticism of Urbana 1979 was heard from the students: "We need more facts. We've got to know more. How do we get the data?"
John Kyle was ready for even that question. At one point he held up the USCWM's Institute of International Studies brochure and told the students to find out about that program and that of its sister organization, the Summer Institute of International Studies. He referred to Johnstone's Operation World and urged the students to buy it and use it as a prayer guide. They were also urged to pick up their free copy of the new student mission magazine Today's Mission available only at the USCWM booth.
Yes, this Urbana was something new. Many mission representatives commented on the new excitement about the world that they could sense among these students. While the newspapers outside were screaming about the hostages in Iran and the Russian takeover of Afghanistan, inside the assembly hall these students bowed in prayer, awed by world events yet determined that under God somehow their lives would make a difference.
Already a number were speaking about the possibility of another Student Volunteer Movement for Missions such as swept our country at the turn of the last century, and a reprint of that first meeting in 1891 was available at Urbana to tell them how to do it. Already plans were being laid for a "Haystack Commemoration" meeting in 1981 to honor the first five American college students who insisted that God wanted them to go across the world to seek the lost sheep.
Things are moving. There is a new wind in the student world, strong and fresh. The world has never been more needy, nor more ready for these students. God grant that they will be ready to go in time and that the older ones who have gone before will know how to point the way to new frontiers.
"Teaching English" - Passport to the World
A growing tide of students have increased the potential of their ministering in "closed door" countries through WCIU's TESL program (Teaching English as a Second Language).
The WCIU has chosen to give particular attention to the development of TESL because of its distinctiveness as a "nonprofessional" missionary skill. Working for a multi national firm does not permit the same control of one's time or location.
"The Apostle Paul ran his own portable tentmaking trade," says Dr. Ralph Winter, who helped pilot the Afghan Institute of Technology in the early 50's. "TESL is just as portable as Paul's tentmaking and is quite distinct from the conditions of working for Exxon, for example."
While other TESL programs exist, no other program is structured specifically for the missionary candidate. "We have designed the TESL program so that the student will always see his skill in a crosscultural missionary context," states Irving Sylvia, Director of the WCIU TESL program. He points out that the Certificate program (one semester) and the Master's program (one year) combine the missiological studies of the Institute of International Studies, TESL methodology, linguistic theory, and practice teaching.
The addition of Sylvia to the staff supplements an experienced missionary faculty as he adds his years in the Middle East to the field experience of the teaching staff in India, Africa and South America. Until the recent revolutionary outbreak, he was on the faculty of a university in Iran whose student body is 95% Muslim.
Sylvia and other evangelicals on the faculty of that university attempted to attract evangelical TESL teachers to fill ten openings in that school during 1978. "We could find no one," he stated. "And all of the posts were eventually filled by non Christians. In a country where one needs a good reason for his presence, it is critical to understand TESL as one of the most appreciated and understood ways to operate without suspicion."
The WCIU TESL program emphasizes practical field work rather than merely presenting theory. "It's been key in my own level of confidence," says Alan Leach, a seminarian who taught English in a Japanese institute for four months immediately upon graduating. "The community and on campus practica were instrumental in my own ability to draw up lesson plans and schedule my time," he adds.
While the program expects a spring enrollment of 30 (double that of the fall), its alumni have already begun to tramp the globe. Turkey, China, the Middle East and South America are only the first of many countries to be reached by this program's alumni. The "closed door" countries do not seem to offer the same resistance to those who have the TESL skill.