Urbana 96 Focused on the Unreached Peoples of Joshua Project 2000

by AD2000 Media and Communications Director
AD2000 International Office Staff who attended Urbana 96

Urbana 96 finished two days ago and now that the dust has settled I can see evidence of many answered prayers. Luis Bush encouraged me six months ago to offer to the Urbana planners materials on Joshua Project 2000 if they were looking for ways to present an unreached peoples focus to the delegates. All my attempts had met with initial interest but finally I was given an "I'm sorry" from Urbana staff and it was decided that Joshua Project 2000 wasn't going to be a big focus of Urbana 96. So that day I took my concerns to the 30 minute prayer time we have each day at the International Office. I told them that I had failed at my job and could they please pray that God would present the Unreached Peoples at Urbana if that would be His will.

The next day Luis Bush watched a plane before him in Chicago get canceled and one of its passengers was seated next to Luis on the next flight. The seat mate was Dan Harrison director of Urbana 96. Through that flight Dan and Luis hatched several ideas that, praise the Lord, came to fruition this last week at Urbana.

Every one of the 18,000 delegates received a color two-page prayer profile for one of the 1,739 unreached peoples on the Joshua Project 2000 list. Each of the 1,800 small groups of 10 students each was assigned a different people group to pray for (61 unreached peoples were repeated). At each of the four seminars I spoke at, I asked students to raise their hands if their small group had taken that prayer assignment seriously. Almost all hands were raised. I would guess that this last week more prayer for more different unreached people groups was offered than any other week in the history of the world. On the reverse side of the profile was a list of agencies focusing ministry toward that unreached people. I was encouraged to see students carrying their profile into the exhibit halls looking for agencies we had listed. It took the AD2000 International Office staff two months and Luis Bush had to raise funds to pay for half the printing and shipping costs (Urbana paid the other half). From my perspective, it was worth every penny and every minute of work. Thanks especially to all for the late nights this took.

Also in the registration materials that all students received was a color map of the Joshua Project 2000 Gateway peoples which was made by Lee Stewart in the International Office. This map went along with the Praying Through the Window III prayer calendar that each student received in the book entitled, "Next Steps After Urbana." In each of the three exhibitor booth halls there was an Urbana computer with a sign "Unreached Peoples Information here." These three computers held the entire AD2000 World Wide Web site files with all the unreached peoples listed and which agencies are working among them. These computers were in use all the time the exhibit halls were open. If a student was particularly interested they could go to the Caleb Project booth and get all the AD2000 Web site information for free on CDRom.

On opening night the arena was filled to capacity and Dan Harrison had 1,739 delegates stand who were holding large placards with the names of each of the Joshua Project 2000 unreached peoples. I overheard many references to that moment throughout the remainder of the conference. Visually seeing those 1,739 cards set the pace for the rest of the conference in my mind. At our AD2000 booth when we wanted to explain what Joshua project 2000 is all we had to do is mention the opening night card display and a student would quickly understand what we were talking about. Thanks to Doug Lucas who not only has blessed us with the Brigada e-mail conferences but provided those cards for Urbana to use.

George Verwer woke up the road-weary students that first night with his typical zaniness. When he made reference to Joshua Project 2000 and unreached peoples, I realized that Joshua Project would get the label as something "cool" from the Urbana students. Unreached peoples were the cool thing at this Urbana. I asked Greg Parsons, USCWM executive Director and veteran of several Urbanas, for his thoughts, and he felt that unreached peoples had been focused upon at this Urbana perhaps more than any other. George Verwer invited me to help lead his three seminars on Joshua Project 2000 which were attended by a total of 360 students. George showed the 13- minute Joshua Project 2000 video and together we answered students' questions. At one of these presentations I illustrated a point by mentioning the Qashqai nomads of Iran who are perhaps the least reached of the large groups on the JP2000 list. An Iranian student came up to me afterwards and said quite emotionally, " I was born in Iran and am a convert from Islam. I wasn't planning on attending Urbana. I didn't even know what this seminar was about but I saw a line forming so I just got into it and as I was ushered into this room I was given a Bethany World Prayer Center Profile on an unreached people group in Iran. Then when I saw the Iranian Sam Yegnezar on the JP2000 video I knew God was trying to tell me something. I have met Brother Sam before, but at that time knew his training program for Iranians was not for me. Now I want to let you know that I am going to seriously pray about going to Iran as a missionary to an unreached people group there. I know that many Iranians are prejudiced against the ethnic minorities in Iran but God has given me a heart for them."

I was asked by the Korean American Center for World Mission to speak about Joshua Project 2000 to a special-interest group of Korean students attending Urbana. Six hundred students listened attentively to every word of my 25-minute presentation. I challenged them to use their bicultural skills that they have learned living in America to join the Korean missionary force to unreached people groups. At the end of my talk, Dan Harrison along with several other Urbana dignitaries gave greetings to this group. It was clear that Urbana planners knew the strength of this group of 600 Koreans and their strong focus on missions. I was encouraged that these Koreans chose to make Joshua Project 2000 the focus of their precious meeting time. Afterwards I was given a brochure in Korean that beautifully showed the eight unreached people groups that a single church in Korea adopted for prayer and church planting as a result of being challenged at GCOWE 95 and the follow-up Joshua Project 2000 launch in Korea. The daughter of Dr. David Kim pastor of Seoul's Hallelujah church spoke with me after the meeting and said she had never heard of Joshua Project 2000 before that meeting but that she was now going to return to the church where she is mission director and organize an on-site research team to an unreached people.

Several of the 300 exhibitor booths had direct connections to Joshua Project 2000 in their displays. The Frontiers booth was the most popular with at times 20 students lined up to speak with a recruiter (and to get free henna painted on their hands). I heard that a Frontiers representative exclaimed that he had never seen such interest in Muslim peoples than at this event. The AD2000 International Office staffed two booths. One booth was for distribution of Joshua Project 2000 materials which was quite a success with over 3,300 copies of the JP2000 unreached peoples list being distributed to interested students along with JP2000 brochure, response sheet, a sample Bethany Prayer profile and a catalog of the 200 available profiles from Bethany. Gabriela Araya from Bethany World Prayer Center helped us staff this booth and she was encouraged in peoples interest in obtaining these profiles for prayer. In the workshop that Gabriela led on "how to use prayer profiles" she reported that participants were touched to the point of tears as they pondered the significance of praying for unreached peoples. My wife Mary led a workshop on "how to organize an on-site research team" and was encouraged by the full classroom of eager students.

Our second booth was staffed by Doug Lucas and Eric Derry and was an Urbana unreached peoples adoption center for the Joshua Project unreached peoples. When we arrived at Urbana we saw in the registration materials that Joshua Project 2000 was mentioned on the instruction sheet that went with the final response form that all delegated filled out on the second to last night. Option number 8 read "Join or form a team in order to serve in an unreached people group." This is where the real fruit of our months of work toward Urbana will be seen when all those 18,000 cards are tallied. At our adoption center 51 students registered adoptions of unreached peoples, many of which were the ones they were assigned in their small groups. Responses were as follows: 18 people chose an unreached people for they want to form a research team to visit. 41 people chose an unreached people to pray for and to try to get others praying for. 7 people chose an unreached people for which they will become an advocate for and try to recruit church planter for. 11 people chose an unreached people and stated their intent to seek out an agency to send them as long-term church planters to that people. 3,200 adoption response forms were given to interested students so please pray that many read it and respond.

Did you know that Luis Bush was an Urbana speaker? His name wasn't in the program but on the morning of day three Dan Harrison went to the microphone and announced that Luis Bush was live on the phone from the Latino America 2000 conference in Panama and the conference in Mexico was also on the same conference call. All 18,000 students went crazy with cheers when they heard Luis Bush say "Urbana are you there"? Then the cheers turned to laughter when for the next 3 minutes everything was in Spanish with Dan Harrison not knowing how to respond. Luis' challenge to see "a church for every people and the Gospel for every person" was heard by all the students who cheered. This live teleconference served to make the students feel connected to the non-North American missions movement which was the desired effect.

Let me conclude with a few quotes from the Urbana Today newspaper quarter page article entitled "INTEREST HIGH ON UNREACHED PEOPLES." "One main goal of Urbana 96 has been to emphasize the need to reach the 1,739 unreached people groups with the gospel. ... Early on Dan Harrison, Urbana 96 director, shared his dream of trusting God for 1,000 teams to be mobilized from Urbana to these unreached peoples groups. ... An AD2000 booth worker said she met one man from India who became a Christian four years ago. 'He was from an unreached people group,' she enthused. 'He's adopted his own people group, and is becoming an advocate for them!'"

Please pray that the 1,000 teams to unreached peoples will be long lasting fruit of Urbana 96.

Back to theAD2000 home page