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Mission Conference Challenges and Inspires Students

By Sally Jongsma

For the past eight years, Dr. Wayne Kobes has been taking students to the Overseas Ministries Center in New Haven, Connecticut, in January for student seminars on world missions.

"It's a good way for students to encounter Christians from a wide range of Christian traditions," says Kobes, a professor of theology at Dordt College. Christian students from Africa, India, Southeast Asia, and around the world are represented, many of them currently studying in the United States. Students participate in seminars and engage in discussions with Catholics, Pentecostals, Anabaptists, Presbyterians, and others. This year students heard North Koreans talk about the difficulty the church has getting a foothold there because of severe government restraints on meeting. They also heard about an indigenous African mission movement called Millions for Christ where poor families set aside a little bit of rice each day to later sell to raise money to support missions. And they listen to well-known speakers like Harvey Cox from Harvard Divinity School.

"The week allows students to confront very concretely important issues in the church and be able to talk about what they believe," says Kobes.

Many of the students who go have some interest in missions as a career.

One student wrote, "I am very interested in World Missions, and I wanted to get a better idea of what is going on in different parts of the world. I wanted to know the countries' struggles and what they are trying to do to bring the gospel. I learned that if you sincerely give up your will God will do incredible things. We, as Westerners, are very individualistic, and we like to have our own goals and maps of our lives. I was challenged to lay all of my desires before the Lord and seek Him and follow after Him."

Another student wrote, "The seminars gave us a chance to push open the doors and see what life is like on the missions field. It was a joy to listen to the African missionaries and to learn from their culture and their endearing passion. There was this constant optimism that there will always be work for those with a passion for sharing Christ with the world."

Whatever concrete impact the conference has on the future careers of individual students, their deepened understanding of the church universal will forever remain with them.

"Some come back changed; all are inspired," Kobes says. So he will continue to accompany any students who are interested in attending the conference in years to come.