Students share their most meaningful takeaways from the missions conference
Words: Eliana Chow ’21
Photos: Courtesy of Urbana22 Attendees from Wheaton College
Wheaton College group photo.
Last December, about 100 Wheaton College undergraduates attended the four-day Urbana22 conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. All students received subsidized funding toward lodging and conference registration fees, bringing their total trip cost down to $200, compared to the $700 normally spent just to register for the conference. These funds were collected from former World Christian Fellowship and Missions in Focus cabinets, family and friends of students, the Torrey B. Johnson Scholarship Fund, and contributions from President Philip Ryken ’88.
Following the conference, several students shared brief reflections on how they saw God move that week. Their responses are collected here.
Elisabeth Scharf ’26
The Urbana conference framed the conversation about missions as an invitation to come. To come means to be invited, because there must be a place and a people to which we come. To come means that there is already a place prepared for us, a place the Lord has established for us to join him in his work and a place that he will prepare in the hearts and the homes of the people into whose culture we come as guests. When we come, whether it be to a people group in a remote place or a different neighborhood within our city, we come in humility so that the Lord may work through us and the relationships we build with the people he has placed in our lives. God is already at work in powerful ways, and we have the privilege of being vessels of his love when we choose to come.
Hunter Benson ’24
One of the highlights of the conference for me was the opportunity to connect with other believers from all around the world. I had the chance to meet and talk with students and young adults from different cultures and backgrounds, and it was a valuable reminder of the unity that we have in Christ despite our different cultures and backgrounds. It was also a great opportunity to learn more about the work that is being done around the world, and it helped me to see that the gospel is being proclaimed in every corner of the earth.
Janelle Goon ’24
One of my favorite things about Urbana was the worship. Amazing. It was a glimpse of heaven, worshiping with so many people in all different languages. After leaving Urbana, I have not stopped listening to the playlist of all the songs we got to sing. I loved being able to learn languages in worshipful ways that allowed me to see the diversity of the kingdom of God. I wish that more churches would worship this way.
Rome Williams ’25
My time at Urbana reshaped how I view God’s work in the world today. One of my biggest takeaways was the role of spiritual warfare in the West, which made real the God and the spiritual world that I study here at Wheaton. There is a difference between the ability to quote Matthew 8:18—“Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven”—and the knowledge that I can actually bind or denounce pain, fear, worry, lust, shame, and the enemy in the name of Jesus. And in his name, these things actually go. But don’t take my word for it. Speak Jesus’ name when the Enemy attacks with these things. I’ve experienced miraculous physical healing, peace of mind, and confidence in God’s personal work in my life, at Urbana and since Urbana. Wheaton has taught me to think; Urbana has taught me to speak.
Anna Ritzema ’26
I had very few expectations coming into Urbana, but one that I certainly did not have was how intensely personal the entire experience would be for me. When I came to Indianapolis with thousands of other college students, I expected to become just another nameless face in a sea of people. I was not prepared for the new friendships I would make within and outside of my Wheaton small group, the connections I would form in the programs and community groups structured for people just like me (shoutout to the TCK room!), the incredible conversations I would have in the Connections Hall with missionaries passionate about their ministries, or the countless seminars that spoke on topics that were close to my heart. I was surrounded by so many people from so many backgrounds, united by our common faith and drive to make God known, yet Urbana was somehow also for me personally. That experience was incredibly precious.
David Nemetz ’24
My favorite part of Urbana was being able to debrief every day with my roommates and discuss what we were learning or what questions we had. There was so much information to take in every day, so going over it with other people was super beneficial. Another thing I took away from the conference was my friendship with an older couple from a specific booth where they do ministry in southeastern Asia. They encouraged me not to stress over the call to missions, but instead to be patient with the Lord’s timing, trusting that He will lead me overseas when the time is right. This was much-needed advice for me because I was quite overwhelmed by the various opportunities to explore while at the conference. Their encouragement to trust God with the timing of it all is one I will remember for a long time.
Hannah Mullins ’24
I approached Urbana with uncertainty. I had questions for God: What is my particular calling? Where am I called to do that work? How much longer will I wait to know? I could only trust that the Holy Spirit would guide me. Repeatedly, I was encouraged to practice “engaged imagination” and visualize encounters with Jesus. I saw Jesus. He spoke to me. And in these moments, I realized I was allowing my questions for God to occupy my mind rather than letting God himself enter in. Yet he was present with me. As hundreds of students came to Christ and raised white flags in surrender, I was overwhelmed with joy in Jesus’ faithful presence. My questions were left unanswered, but God has always been faithful, and I am certain of his continued faithfulness. All it took was a moment to close my eyes and look for him to know it.