I’ve been blessed to assist several student mission conferences with evaluations and planning research. But until last week, I’d never actually attended one in person. Not as a student. Not as an adult.
So, my impressions of the Biola Missions Conference 2012 come unjaded – but also with no basis for comparison. Take them as you will.
Here’s what stood out to me:
- The amazing level of creativity and production values of the young adults. I have often heard people talk about the sophistication of today’s young people in regard to media. They have highly developed filters, they are tough to impress, etc. But that’s about their reaction to content produced by others. Last week the content that students created themselves was on display. And I was impressed.
Dance, drama, visual art, poetry, film, music, oratory, cuisine, fashion – creativity seemed to be everywhere, all the time – and always expressing a passion for God and for mission.It’s one thing to attend a professionally produced plenary session with creative stage lighting, choreographed dance numbers, moving testimonies, etc. But upon leaving the assembly hall, I walked past sidewalk artists in the process of creating scripture-based chalk drawings, then past elaborately decorated booths to advocate for and educate about peoples in unreached lands. I caught the aroma of African food in the air as I walked to the end of campus. There, the line stretched around the building for Global Awareness, a series of interactive role plays where participants might find themselves in the midst of a Somalian hostage crisis or a Chinese house church.
Now, wowing a guy who barely falls on the fringe of Gen X may be a low bar. So, check out these examples of their work and tell me what you think.
Biola is close by Hollywood, and I met at least two students who hope to shine their light in the entertainment industry after college. That may have had something to do with the emphasis on art and production. But I’m still amazed that the whole thing was pulled together in the spare time of people taking a full load of classes.
- A student-run event has its glitches – but it also has great educational value. I encountered half a dozen bumps that would never have happened at a professionally run event, but each of them represented a lesson in project management that won’t soon be forgotten. And the event staff were accessible and eager to address issues when they arose. They don’t deserve a complaining spirit from me.So, I’ll mention only one incident, and that just to share the smile it brought. During the Welcome Tea for mission agency reps, a student leader said, “For those of you staying on campus, I hope you remembered to bring bedding.” Note for next year’s conference: consider including that detail in the pre-event info packet. As it turned out, my student host (and I think many others) provided sheets and pillows for their missionary guests, generously trading their beds for four nights on the floor.
- Staying in the dorms is a bit of an adventure for a 40-something guy, what with students’ odd hours, having to climb over a bookshelf to get into the loft, and sharing a bathroom with 30 people. Still, I would do it again in a heartbeat – and not just to save money on a hotel room – because several of my best conversations with students took place there. Definitely a shot-in-the-arm to interact with talented, God-fearing men with big dreams and passion for the Kingdom.
If any Biola students or others considering long-term cross-cultural service are reading this post, I’d be honored if you would be willing to give your opinions a few times a year on mission-related issues. Sign up for our Mission Research Panel here.
It’s also a great time for college students who want to apply their skills, passion and creativity in mission research for a few months to apply for a GMI internship. Send your resume to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Looking forward to attending and speaking at Biola again next year!