Missions conference steps away from tradition

This year’s Missions Conference aims to bring a fresh perspective to the annual event by focusing on “missional living.”

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Missions conference steps away from tradition

After Jimmy Seibert's message on Friday morning, students kneel near the stage to receive prayer. | Ashleigh Fox/THE CHIMES

After Jimmy Seibert's message on Friday morning, students kneel near the stage to receive prayer. | Ashleigh Fox/THE CHIMES

After Jimmy Seibert's message on Friday morning, students kneel near the stage to receive prayer. | Ashleigh Fox/THE CHIMES

After Jimmy Seibert's message on Friday morning, students kneel near the stage to receive prayer. | Ashleigh Fox/THE CHIMES

Steve Day, Writer

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The 86th Student Missionary Union Missions Conference, which begins on March 11, will take a step back from traditional missions to look at the basics of who Biola is, what the community believes and what missions actually is in the context of those things. The directors aspire to achieve this by bringing in different perspectives on the idea of missions from those who are daily living with a missions-orientated outlook.

The popular worship band “For All Seasons” will be headlining the musical side of Missions Conference and will also be releasing a brand new single, specifically for the conference. As graduates of Biola, the band has garnered considerable success recording and touring during the last two years.

The directors will reveal the conference theme at chapel on Monday, March 9, two days before the event begins.

“Our hope is that everyone will be invited into the theme, not just those who want to be missionaries,” said Alex Middleton, senior biblical studies major and Missions Conference co-director.

““It’s not just global missions, it’s missional living,” said Amber White, junior communication studies major and Missions Conference co-director. “We have a current NFL football player coming, a high-up Chick-fil-A speaker and a Pepperdine law professor who is doing missionary work in Uganda…highlighting the diversity of our speakers.”

In the past, there has almost always been an extensive range of seminar choices for students; however, this year the team opted to narrow the options to four different seminar speakers per session — eighteen in total. The decision to push for quality over quantity comes after the larger number of options led to many scarcely attended sessions that are beneficial to neither the students nor seminar speakers, Middleton said.

A number of missions organizations were upset by this decision to narrow and focus the content, because they wanted an opportunity to speak, White said. However, there are a series of events, such as an ice-cream social, ethnic luncheon and missionary luncheon, which give different missionary organizations the opportunity to mingle with students and other missionaries in a more natural setting.

The goal of all the events is to provide more interactive and engaging opportunities for both students and missionaries, since in recent years they have been neglected. This was most noticeable last year, when the missionary tables were relegated to the bottom level of the parking structure in a creative but ultimately unsuccessful move, White said. This year, the missionary booths will be relocated to the middle of campus, replicating the aesthetic of the grad and clubs fairs, which dominate the walkways surrounding Fluor Fountain during semester.

Short-term missions will also be a major focus for the conference, with global awareness’ four rooms being used to highlight the destinations of this year’s SMU summer missions teams — Turkey, Spain, Sweden and India. The rooms will facilitate a better understanding among students as to what those missionary teams will actually experience.

“Sweden and Spain have presented a little bit of a challenge, because obviously we want [the experience] to be foreign, but a lot of the struggles in those countries are similar to here,” said Johnathan Burkhardt, senior  journalism major and global awareness coordinator. “We’re hoping to make the rooms enough of an experience, so that we do take the students out of here and give them that authentic, out-of-country feel.”

Global Awareness will also feature an original film for the first time — an innovative and creative new facet of the experience. Burkhardt is aware that while the concept is exciting for the team, they certainly do not want to diminish the interactive nature of the overall experience.

At a post-conference event on Thursday, March 26 at 9:30 p.m., students will be able to reflect on the conference and hear from another keynote speaker.

“The reality is that two weeks after conference a lot of people have already forgotten about what was discussed,” Middleton said. “So we want to provide a reminder of what has happened and help students to process everything.”

“For All Seasons” will again be playing at the event, and students will receive chapel credit for attendance.

“We want the theme to be so integrated into their lives that change happens,” White said, “And we believe it will.”