Missions conference materializes late Tuesday night

The 74-person staff and hundreds of volunteers brought the 84th annual Missions Conference to life late into the night.


Sophomore Lisl Ruckert works diligently on a sign for the Marketplace located at Flour Fountain. Ruckert is one of hundreds of volunteers that worked through the night on Tuesday. | Ashleigh Fox/THE CHIMES

Heather Leith, Writer

Ashleigh Fox/THE CHIMES

They’ve been dreaming about this day since October. Right now, it looks like unwrapping 32 boxes of lights and hanging up 250 individual photos in Chase Gymnasium. It looks like detailed lists to refer to throughout the night and 85 yards of fabric to cover the walls. It looks like an 11 p.m. prayer with a 74-person staff and hundreds of volunteers, eyelids drooping but hearts alive with anticipation of the 84th annual Missions Conference.

“Tuesday night is kind of the big night,” said sophomore business major Austin Champion, director of photo and design for the sessions. “You go to classes on Tuesday, you go back to your dorms … then you come back to school on Wednesday and everything is completely changed.”

Across campus, Missions Conference staff and volunteers are hanging installations, preparing rooms and praying over the event that will kick off in the morning.

A different view of the conference

For Champion and the rest of the sessions team, the transformation of the Gym is in their hands along with Events Services’. At 7 p.m., the Gym is astir with staff and volunteers putting up decorations, lights, flags and stage components.

“I get to see the heart, the passion of some of these people that have spent months preparing,” said Kenny Miller, a junior business major who works for Events Services.

Miller started working Tuesday at 4 p.m. and predicted he’d finish between midnight and 1 a.m. Although working throughout the three days rather than experiencing the conference like everyone else can be difficult, he sees his role as a method of serving.

“That is my way of enjoying Missions Conference,” Miller said.

Global Awareness rooms come to life

Across campus in the the McNally courtyard, sophomore communication disorders major Kelly Patterson is checking in set-up volunteers for the Global Awareness rooms. Floodlights illuminate the flurry of students signing in to receive conference credit, and Patterson shares that more than 100 people are there helping.

“I didn’t expect us to be this far at 11,” said junior business major Michael Beatima, Global Awareness coordinator.

Inside the Haiti room, tents are being pitched — literally. Volunteers crowd around a camping tent as they collectively bring to life the vision of the staff. In just a few short hours, the ordinary classroom has begun to look like an impoverished tent village. In a few hours more, it will be filled with dedicated actors and contemplative students being led through the room by a volunteer tour guide.

Beatima walks from station to station, praying with the room leaders over the room that they have spent months envisioning. Around him, volunteers decorate backdrops, hang black paper over the windows, arrange and rearrange furniture and try on costumes. The air is thick with anticipation as the long night wears on. According to Beatima, the Lord is there.

“I just feel like God has been really encouraging to us and just giving an extra sense of his presence,” Beatima said.

Adorning a peaceful prayer room

In the Student Union Building at 11 p.m., the 24-hour worship has begun as the prayer and worship staff puts the finishing touches on the room. Staff members drape blue fabric on the walls, paint wooden signs with painstaking attention to detail and carefully create a cozy and relaxing environment for the many people that will use it to connect with God during the three-day conference.

“I want people to engage God in worship and through prayer,” said sophomore intercultural studies major Hugo Palomares, who is in charge of the 24-hour prayer and worship room. “I really believe that when there is an honest and true environment of worship, prayer can be done very easily and very simply.”

The calm before the conference

Just up the stairs in the Student Missionary Union office, conference directors Rebekah Davis and Keaton Tyndall are going over the final details for the conference that they have been envisioning since May. Coordinators dash in and out to do last-minute tasks before running back out to their diligent staffs, but Davis and Tyndall are remarkably calm.

“We just had our final meeting with facilities and they’re all good to go,” junior business and intercultural studies major Tyndall said. She and senior communications major Davis detailed the status of the various setups happening on campus — they know exactly what is going on where.

Earlier that day, she and Davis finally got to meet Timothy Liu, a session speaker they booked from Singapore.

“It’s so humbling to have them call you on your cell phone,” Tyndall said. “This is unreal that I’m speaking to people who are literally changing the world in the name of Christ. I don’t feel like I should be the one getting to talk to them.”

Although uncertain speaking arrangements caused worry for the co-directors a few months ago, Tyndall and Davis are assured that the speakers are exactly the message-bearers God wanted at the conference this year. Davis feels silly for ever worrying about the speaker lineup coming together.

“We’re thrilled in hindsight,” Davis said.

They’ve been dreaming about this day since May. Right now, it looks like resting in the knowledge that God will take their hard work and use it for his glory.

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