By Sharon Gartland

Taste of Urbana 09

I stood each day of Urbana 09 in the darkened “bullpen” next to the stage, filled with joy at the sight of thousands of young people worshiping, praying, and soaking in godly wisdom from the platform speakers. InterVarsity’s Triennial Missions Conference, hosted in St. Louis, Missouri, is one of the most hopeful events I have ever attended. Eager attendees, one of whom was my own college-age daughter, were given the opportunity to dig into the amazing truth from Scripture that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. I wish all of The Well readers could have joined me.

Photo: Speaker Ruth Padilla DeBorst.

I had the privilege of serving backstage as a pastoral presence/prayer minister to the many musicians, dancers, actors, and speakers who offered their gifts during the plenary sessions. All of the content is worth revisiting, but I would like to highlight a few presentations that are particularly relevant to women in the academy and professions. Allow me to give you a brief tour of the archived videos available from Urbana 09 web site.

The first thing not to miss is the rich presentation of theater and dance that was available each session. The opening number, an artistic interpretation of John 1 with tap dance, rapping, drums, and more, was compellingly performed by a young man named B’Jon Carter along with the rest of the arts team. Another must-see arts offering was a poignant dramatic portrayal of Rahab by Jenny Vaughn Hall. This gifted actor brought Scripture alive and left many of us in tears.

Being Director of Women in the Academy and Professions, it is no surprise that two of my favorite plenary speakers were some of “our people.” Dr. Denise-Margaret Thompson, a professor at the University of Trinidad and Tobago, warmed my heart as she talked about using her education and intellect to care for God’s creation. My backstage conversations with her led me to hope we can hear more from her at The Well. I was particularly encouraged by her perspective on singleness, marriage, and trusting God as you are faithful to Him. Keep a lookout for more from her, and in the meantime enjoy her strong word of challenge and reminder to the Urbana audience that God desires to redeem the whole world, both human and non-human.

The other speaker I particularly enjoyed was Ruth Padilla DeBorst. She lives in San José, Costa Rica, and serves as the General Secretary of the Latin American Theological Fellowship. In her talk she used stories from the Bible to challenge attendees to tear off their blinders and see the world as God’s “transnational family.” She is currently working on a doctoral degree from Boston University School of Theology.

These two women exemplify my hopes for the women we will help to send out into the world through our blessing and support at The Well. They live out the reality of being Christ in their neighborhoods and in the world, in the unique ways that God has called and equipped them. Take some time to be encouraged by their example and enjoy the riches that were offered at Urbana 09.

About the Author

Sharon Gartland, OTD, OTR, is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Occupational Therapy Program at UW-Madison where her specialty is in developmental disabilities.  She enjoys the combination of teaching, administrative and clinical responsibilities that makes up her job. She is the former national director of Women in the Academy & Professions and continues to participate in the ministry as a volunteer and frequent contributor. She is married to Craig Gartland, a local church pastor and former long-term InterVarsity staff and leader. Together they have four children who are gradually getting launched into the world as functional adults but continue to store a lot of their stuff in the basement. She believes strong prayer practices and a supportive faith community are key to flourishing in career and family life. 

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