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Collegians challenged to pierce darkness

MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP)–Most college students are familiar with the frenzy of cramming all night before an exam or a term paper deadline. That same sense of urgency should guide their hearts when it comes to non-believers, a former missionary told college students at a conference hosted by Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.

“If time is short, it’s not business as usual, right?” Eddie Pate, director of the Southern California campus of the seminary and a keynote speaker at the conference, asked about 160 students. “If you have ever stayed up late to finish a paper, you know this. If night is coming, and Jesus told us it is, then we have to be focused on Jesus and the Gospel.

“We have to be not about theological debate but about doing the work of Christ,” Pate, who served for 11 years as a Southern Baptist worker in North Africa and the Middle East, said.

The theme of the 46th annual missions conference at Golden Gate was “Night is Coming,” based on the words of Jesus in John 9:4: “As long as it is day, we must do the work of Him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.”

One of the speakers was Carrie McDonnall, the lone survivor of an attack on five International Mission Board workers in Mosul, Iraq, in March 2004.

“I had heard about being a light all my life,” McDonnall, whose husband, David, died in the attack, said. “I’d been taught it. I’d sung the songs. But it didn’t hit home until I went to a people who live entrenched in darkness. Light in darkness, my friends, is a real thing.”

McDonnall warned the students that “darkness is not just the absence of light. It is also a living and breathing presence. Know who your real enemy is. And I will tell you, it isn’t ‘those’ people.”

Considering the turmoil in Iraq and terrorism worldwide, McDonnall said she often is asked how she could go to those people and places. Her answer is, “We are just like them — sitting in darkness before Christ came into our lives. There is no ‘those people.’” McConnall exhorted the students to “be light among darkness, not light among light. Go into the darkness. This is where your calling is.”

Seminar topics included a crash course in Christian eschatology, touching on both personal and cosmic eschatology; the issue of child soldiers in Africa and how volunteers can minister there; engaging unreached people groups in Africa, the Middle East and worldwide; and a question-and-answer time with McDonnall.

Charla Lincoln, a graduate of California Baptist University, said she was especially grateful for the chance to talk with McDonnall one-on-one for advice on being a single woman ministering to Muslims. Lincoln is preparing to work with Wycliffe Bible Translators in Chad, Africa.

Matt DeRoest, who attended with 11 other students from Western Oregon University near Portland, went to the seminar on child soldiers in Africa.

“It’s amazing the trivial things we fight over, like Eddie said tonight,” DeRoest said. “When there are children being used in warfare, it’s insanity that we sit around arguing about theology. I’m really glad they put some focus on this stuff. And I’m really impressed with the level of experience the speakers brought to the table.”

Conference leaders encouraged the students to be on mission where they are and to consider overseas missions.

Chanwoo Choi, from the University of Utah, said he was taking their words to heart.

“People have been talking about things I’ve been thinking about,” Choi said. “I’m getting the feeling you can go on missions as long as you have the heart, like maybe you don’t have to have this huge calling. It was also interesting hearing about how missions is related to the end times.”

Seminars, speakers, missions conferences, even Willie Nelson songs can all be used to persuade people to pursue missions. McDonnall shared how she tried to ignore God when He first began leading her to missions.

“You know what God does when He wants to get through to you?” she asked. “Suddenly you’re surrounded by the same message. Your pastor starts talking directly to you in his sermons — or at least it seems that way — and your friends and your youth pastor and your Bible study groups … everything gangs up on you to drive it home. I even heard the Willie Nelson song ‘On the Road Again’ and felt convicted. God can use anything.”

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