Back when Jeff and I were in Ann Arbor, we spent every spring break bringing students on an "urban plunge" in Detroit. Later in Chicago and LA, we got to experience similar programs with undergraduates. When I joined Grad and Faculty Ministry 2.5 years ago, my hope was to plan a weekend version for graduate students that immersed them in a weekend in the city of Los Angeles, studying scripture, and seeing where God is at work. This weekend was our first experiment with this idea here in California.
What is the L.A. Urban Dip?
Ten graduate students from six different campuses spent their President's Day/Valentine's Day weekend "Falling in Love with God's Work in the City." Six staff who are helping me lead the students and learning about how to run this type of weekend also joined us. As I planned our trip, many alumni mentioned to me how significant these trips have been to them.
Our speakers were Christian faculty members coming from UCLA and Loyola Marymount University. They teach and do research on issues impacting urban neighborhoods as well as give their lives toward matters of justice. It's a joy to work with faculty world changers and to think of the future potential of these graduate student world changers.
So, how did it go?
My highlights included Dr. Cooper's talk on education reform and a prayer walk that started with 30 minutes of personal journaling and reflection before walking around the city. God really met students in the experiences and the quiet and also helped some students with very specific applications.
For example, one PhD student from USC who will soon defend his dissertation shared with the whole group that the talk on education reform solidified a calling to teach at a university that particularly focuses on serving the underserved in our education system. A PhD student from UCI talked about giving up $30/hr to tutor affluent kids and giving that time with his church to tutor those with socioeconomic limitations. A UCLA Masters student in Education loved seeing her own professor speak from a Christian worldview and felt renewed encouragement for her calling to complete the program in principal leadership in urban education. She said the reality of urban education can be so depressing that she needed to hear that talk to keep her perspective on Jesus and his ability to overcome the impossible.
Lastly, we had Masters students from Cal State-LA, Cal State-Dominguez Hills, and Cal State-Fullerton where we do not have graduate fellowships yet. They were in a small group together and some of them are thinking about gathering folks from their program together for Bible Study back on campus.
Where do we go from here?
Please pray that this trip and the applications that follow will continue to develop world changers. We are all still chewing on the thoughts from our panelists and on Isaiah 58.
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?" (Isaiah 58:6)
Is Urbana right for you?
To learn about missions opportunities for graduate students, read about the program offerings, audio, experiences, and reflections of InterVarsity students, staff, and faculty who attended Urbana '15. MBA students connected with like-minded students in the Business Track. A separate track was created specifically for International Students. Follow the links for general GFM information and other GFM-recommended seminars that offer a good fit for graduate students hoping to answer a call to missions while in school. Be sure to check out the GFM Urbana resource page as well!
About the Author
Lisa Liou has served with InterVarsity on campuses in Michigan, Illinois, and California since 2002. In her current role, she serves as co–Area Director of the InterVarsity Graduate and Faculty Ministries team in Southern California.
Photo Credit: Justaslice on Flickr.