The antiphonal hallelujahs crescendoed to blazing lights which I thought would explode from the joyous singing. It was the last night of Urbana and we ushered in the new year with a 16,000 strong multilingual, multicultural worship service. It was incredible.
I attended the missions conference with my sister (who wrote about her experience here) and met friends like MIT Media Lab RA Nate Matias (who posted his track notes here) and speaker Christopher Yuan who led packed sessions on the topic of “A Christian Response to Homosexuality“. The sessions were good (I wept for joy when Ram Sridharan preached the gospel from Luke 15), but I particularly thank God for connecting me with believers who share my passion for technology entrepreneurship for the gospel (direct message me if you’d like to join the group).
Who I Met
Urbana was organized into four tracks: Urban Poverty, Pastoral Leadership, International Students and Business Changing the World. In the business track I got to meet professionals, entrepreneurs and investors who created companies and products that advance the gospel in the marketplace:
- I had lunch with Chi-Ming Chien, principal at DaySpring Technologies a gospel-centered software consulting firm that funnels profits into urban poverty ministries through the local church (see here for my notes from his talk).
- I chatted with Josh Kwan co-founder of social entrepreneurship accelerator Praxis Labs who also ran the Urbana Launch Labs to help young entrepreneurs refine their gospel-minded ideas and get seed capital.
- I met Sonny Vu, co-founder of AgaMatrix and Misfit Wearables who built his company’s culture on the biblical principle of servant leadership by practicing it and adding it to the corporate bylaws.
- I had breakfast with Nathan Sigworth, CEO of PharmaSecure (one of Inc. Magazine’s 30 under 30) whose unplanned trip to India launched his counter-counterfeit drug company serving the developing world.
- I met Dr. Tod Allman a software engineer whose passion for Bible translation led him to spend the past 20 years refining a machine translation system for the Scriptures.
I came away refreshed by my conversations with these people and many others. It’s invigorating to be part of a community creating technology and doing business to advance the gospel in word and deed.
What I Learned
Here were some of my key takeaways from the conference:
Faith First: I went not knowing what to expect and left overjoyed by many serendipitous connections. I usually try to figure out the cost/benefit of decisions and think everything through ahead of time, but I’m beginning to accept the wisdom of Proverbs 3:5-6; it seems that Jesus requires us to trust him first and think things through second. Like Abraham who left his homeland for a land God would show him, we must first believe that God is good and in believing we can respond and in responding we can think through where he is calling us to, how to get there, and what to do.
Cherish People: Being task oriented, I tend to view relationships in terms of my goals and responsibilities, but at Urbana I had the pleasure of simply enjoying people: hearing their stories, sharing mine and praying with them. Ram’s message reminded me that all my heart’s desires are met in Christ and that despite everything I’d like to do for God, the real satisfaction is being with Him. I hope this carries over to work where it’s easy to become so task focused that legitimate opportunities to deeply connect with people are neglected.
I’m Not Alone: I formerly felt like no one shared my passion for technology entrepreneurship for the gospel. Being at Urbana changed all that not only by giving me access to likeminded people, but also by renewing the joy of God’s invitation to all people to feast at his table. Instead of wallowing in isolation, I should seek out and cultivate diverse relationships with others since I’m not as different/alone as I might think.
Don’t Resist the Spirit: There were two occasions when I felt the Lord lead me to do something and I resisted. The first was an internal voice telling me to pray for a woman on crutches. I avoided her, walking deeper into the stadium ostensibly looking for my sister, but couldn’t resist. I walked back and asked, “Excuse me, but–could I pray for you?” She replied, “uhh–okay”. I was afraid it would be awkward. But when I asked, “what happened to your leg?” she shared that she had knee surgery and accidentally dislocated it afterwards. When I learned she would be on crutches another 8 months, my awkwardness was washed over with compassion and I joyfully prayed for her healing.
The second case was in the prayer ministry room where a woman next to me started weeping and I felt led to say, “God’s peace be with you, your sins are forgiven in the name of Jesus”. I questioned this inclination thinking, “Who am I to say such things? I don’t know her and what she is going through.” But I realized that God knew and if he wanted me to speak, who was I to resist? So I put my hand on her shoulder, whispered the words, and left the room.
Upon reflection, I’ve probably resisted the Spirit a lot, which may be why I’m reluctant to pray about certain things…I don’t really want to hear an answer. This experience may sound weird to some, but I am simply trying to honestly recount my experience. Testing these inclinations against Scripture, I find no reason to believe they were not from the Holy Spirit.
Don’t Wait for Perfect Motives, Wait for the Lord: During a Bible study session on Peter’s calling, I tweeted: “Feeling unworthy to try great things for God because I can’t handle the pressure of living up to people’s expectations”. Two InterVarsity staff members, Steve and Carrie, prayed with me on separate occasions when I shared my personal tension between being a witness for Christ at work and pursuing a vision of enabling multilingual churches to flourish and become the norm. Maybe I wanted to stay in place out of fear or maybe I wanted to pursue this idea out of selfish ambition. Steve said that I cannot wait for pure motives because we always have mixed motives and can only continually repent of the wrong ones and cultivate the right ones. Carrie reminded me that waiting on the Lord is not passivity, but faithfulness and that I need not rush to decide since the Lord would act in His time.
How About You?
I have reams of notes on what else transpired at the conference and many awesome experiences remain unrecorded, but I hope this taste has been enough to whet your appetite for what God has in store for you this year.
- Are you procrastinating responding to God by overanalyzing instead of trusting Him?
- Who can you listen to and love instead of merely transacting dialogue with?
- Can you join/start a community that will stoke the flames of your passion?
- In what areas of life are you resisting God’s leading?
- Is there a desire you need to wait on the Lord for? Is there a God-given desire you need to act on instead of waiting for pure motives?