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As tens of thousands of young people converged on St. Louis after Christmas, one of TWR’s most pressing priorities got a major boost.

Twenty thousand people attended Urbana 12, InterVarsity’s triennial student missions conference, Dec. 27-31. The majority of the participants were students and recent graduates exploring an interest in spending their lives carrying the gospel around the world.

TWR’s Human Resources team always attends Urbana as an important part of its ongoing recruiting responsibilities. This task has taken on added significance today as the media ministry strives to meet personnel needs arising from new outreach opportunities and upcoming retirements.  

The HR team returned to the Cary, North Carolina, headquarters excitedly reporting an impressive record of engagement with prospective missionary candidates. Forty preliminary questionnaires (the first step in the application process) were submitted, and 150 people submitted their contact information. That’s a single-event record for the organization.

Heather Johnson, TWR missionary mobilizer and leader of the team in Urbana, also reported that TWR’s display was one of the most prominent and well-received among the 250-plus exhibitors. The team was especially pleased to note the strong showing of technical backgrounds such as engineering and computer science that are always needed but often hard to attract to media ministries such as TWR.

“We had four interactive kiosks with three running various TWR videos and one set up as an ‘application station,’” Heather said. “By the last day, we had to convert ALL FOUR to application stations, plus we had to pull out personal laptops to meet the demand for all the preliminary questionnaires that were being completed.”

Working alongside Heather in Urbana were her husband, Chris, TWR’s U.S. media development and services manager; Anne White, another missionary mobilizer in HR; Alan Lawton, internship coordinator; Philipp Ruesch, a member of the TWR Europe HR team; Lebo Pooe, a TWR radio presenter now attending Moody Bible Institute; and Tyler Gates, global video coordinator.   

Participating in Urbana gives TWR exposure to its next generation of media missionaries, Chris Johnson said.

“It helps to show students who never knew they could use their training and gifts for ministry purposes,” he said. “It shows them how they can be used to reach the world for Christ though finance, through engineering, through graphic design, and it opens the eyes of the young people.”

Heather Johnson added that along with mobilizing prospective missionaries, Urbana gives TWR the opportunity to publicize who the media ministry is and what it does. A number of factors can be credited for TWR’s especially strong showing at Urbana 12, she said:

  • Three years of prayer focused on the event.
  • Dynamic team members serving alongside her to represent the ministry.
  • TWR leaders’ willingness to invest in an exhibit that “unequivocally represented” the ministry’s nontraditional character.
  • A beautiful advertisement created with the help of graphic designer Charlene Abdo and published in the conference handbook to attract prospective applicants.
  • Plenty of networking with other ministries done prior to the event, making them aware of TWR’s purpose and personnel needs so they could help direct potential prospects to the TWR exhibit.

Heather vigorously expressed her deep appreciation for the Urbana conference. She loves the fact that thousands of young people gather in one place to be challenged, loves the unity and collaboration fostered among missions agencies, loves the opportunity to “get TWR’s name out there,” and loves helping individuals do extraordinary things for the gospel with their ordinary skills.

“Urbana is a ton of work,” she said, “but every moment is worth it when you see a shy computer programmer’s face light up when he realizes that there is a strategic place for him in missions!”