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Urbana is a major Christian missions conference sponsored by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship for college students. This event is designed to inform Christian students about current issues around the world that missionaries face, to declare the biblical mandate for cross-cultural missions, and motivate them to participate in missions. The first Urbana was held in 1946 in Toronto, and since then, it has generally been held every three years. From 1948–2003, Urbana took place at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, with the primary venue after 1963 being the Assembly Hall (now State Farm Center), the school's basketball arena. Because of insufficient space at the University of Illinois campus, Urbana 06 was moved to St. Louis, Missouri, at The Americas Center and the Edward Jones Dome. Urbana 09 and 12 were held at the same location.
Each Urbana lasts for nearly one week at the end of December and ending with a final communion on New Year's Eve. At Urbana 2006, nearly 22,500 participants attended (in contrast with 575 attendees in 1946). The conference is not known for bringing famous Christians to speak, but in the past has featured Billy Graham, Luis Palau, John Stott, and Ravi Zacharias. In addition to the main speakers, participants are offered a choice of dozens of elective classes offered throughout the week, relating to specific topics within the general theme of university and international missions. Worship is also a major highlight of the conference; special attention is paid to incorporating diverse worship styles, even including songs in foreign languages. An "International Student Track" was first offered at Urbana 2003, offering special housing options and electives to international students interested in spending time with other students from their respective countries. Urbana 06 again held a track for international students, as well as tracks that focused on the global HIV–AIDS pandemic, the growing business as mission movement, and the needs of the world's largest slum communities in the developing world. Major and tracks at Urbana 09 included International Students, Arts and Media, Advocacy and Poverty, Business as Mission, Evangelism, Jesus and Justice, The Mission of Healthcare, and The Church Around the World.
Urbana 06 speakers included Rick Warren, pastor and author of The Purpose Driven Life; Ray Bakke, a professor and specialist in urban ministry; Bono from the band U2 (via video); and Ajith Fernando, a well-respected Bible teacher who is the director of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka. Urbana 09 speakers included Ramez Atallah, General Secretary of the Bible Society of Egypt; Shane Claiborne of The Simple Way in Philadelphia; Ruth Padilla DeBorst, General Secretary of the Latin America Theological Fellowship; Sunder Krishnan, Senior Pastor of the Rexdale Alliance Church in Ontario, Canada; and Patrick Fung, General Director of OMF International. Oscar Muriu, Senior Pastor of Nairobi Chapel, Nairobi, Kenya, spoke at both Urbana 06 and Urbana 09.
Urbana 12 speakers included Calisto Odede, Senior Pastor of Nairobi Pentecostal Church; David Platt, Pastor of Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham AL; Chai Ling, founder of All Girls Allowed; Daniel Bourdanne, General Secretary of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students; Ziel Machado, former Regional Secretary of Latin America for the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students and current member of the pastoral team at the Free Methodist Church in São Paulo, Brazil; Geri Rodman, President of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship of Canada; and Terry LeBlanc, Director of the North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies. Urbana 12 also included a Caregiver Kit Build: the 16,000 attendees assembled 32,000 Caregiver Kits which were then shipped to volunteer caregivers who work with AIDS patients in Swaziland and other African countries. Videos from the above speakers, and other videos of Urbana 12 can be found on the Urbana website.
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