Since its inception, the University of the Nations has been a global university commissioned upon the word of the Lord. Therefore, to maintain coherence between each part of the worldwide family of the UofN, staff from all around the world gather bi-annually for a week of meetings to seek God and renew their commitment to fulfill His mandate to disciple all nations. This year the meetings were held at YWAM San Antonio Del Mar, Mexico in early September.
Arrival day was marked with squeals of delight when friends were reunited and people gathered at the entrance or in one of the many nooks and corners to catch up and share stories. Just over 700 co-workers, alongside no fewer than 150 helpers, convened with the expectation that God would speak corporately and personally, revealing His plans and desires. This year, as He has done before, God did not disappoint us.
The program was designed around the theme of EXPAND Intimacy and Impact. Each day offered corporate devotions, a keynote message, optional workshops and opportunities for networking and fellowship. We also recognized the achievements of those graduates who have faithfully and diligently completed a UofN degree since the last Workshop.
At the opening ceremony on the evening of Tuesday, 3rd of September, the UofN President, Markus Steffen, offered a warm welcome and introduced and explained the theme of the Workshop: EXPAND, Intimacy and Impact! In his address Markus challenged us ‘to expand by following Jesus the Master Teacher’s example of having compassion for those we lead and thus impact those we meet.’
Sean and Janet Lambert, leaders of YWAM San Diego/Baja, welcomed participants from approximately 50 nations. Janet recounted God’s promise when they dedicated the campus five years earlier. He showed them that it would be a place where the nations would come. She said, “They’ve been coming in a trickle…more and more each year; and now you are the flood!
During the Workshop we were invited into the presence of God in each meeting through worship led by Kristy Wilke and the team from YWAM Montana. Their ministry laid a platform upon which the presenters could stand and allowed all participants to be challenged by the Word of God. As we worshipped God, and throughout the opening and closing ceremonies, Mauricio Palacio (a Mexican YWAMer) interpreted the messages artistically. As a result there are now five outstanding pieces of art, which have been gifted to YWAM San Diego/Baja.
Over the course of the week, we had time to ‘Meet with Jesus, Worship and the Word,’ facilitated by Maureen Menard, UofN Vice President. Maureen’s opening comments emphasized that we aim to be a mission and a university that lives and loves like Jesus! She posed questions for us to consider in groups as we delved into the life of Christ and pursued intimacy with Jesus. As a prompt to our study and discussions, Bruce Kuhn brought the Word of God to life with dramatic representations of each scripture passage.
Following the morning devotions we had a keynote address. On Wednesday our guest speaker, Bruce Wilkinson (best selling author of the Prayer of Jabez), used the Parable of the Talents to address the topic ‘Knowing God as the Master Teacher’, and reminded us that Jesus is interested in numbers. Many participants responded with humble hearts and asked God to help them to be diligent in multiplication, and not to just be content with addition.
David Hamilton, UofN Vice President, presented his keynote address, ’Knowing God through His actions’, on Thursday morning. He reported on the SphereView Bible Project and introduced a new vision, the VerbView Bible – the inspiration for the session title. David also welcomed Dr. Scott T. Carroll, (Former Professor of Ancient History at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan.) Dr. Carroll shared briefly, and then presented a portion of an Old Testament scroll for us to examine up close. What a treasure!
Thursday evening was our regular UofN Workshop celebration: the Graduation Ceremony. This year twelve graduates received AA, BA or MA degrees from one of six colleges: Arts & Sports, Christian Ministries, Communication, Counseling & Healthcare, Humanities & International Studies and Science & Technology. They represented the 80+ degrees conferred by the Board of Regents since the 2011 Workshop held in Kona, Hawaii. Three of our 2013 graduates took more than 20 years to complete their studies while working full-time in their YWAM mission responsibilities. Unfortunately one graduate was unable to attend at the last minute due to a motorbike accident and hence her degree was awarded ‘in absentia’ and we also awarded a posthumous degree to Tuihalakamu Finefeuaki (AA, Christian Ministries), a Tongan YWAMer who passed away in August 2013.
On that evening, UofN Provost, Tom Bloomer, gave an inspiring and impassioned message “The University of the Spirit”, charging us to impact the spheres for God’s glory. Tom’s address was preceded by each participating graduate testifying to the leading, guiding and support of the Spirit throughout their individual academic journeys and each concluded with a statement of faith about their future. It truly was a fun, formal and festive occasion.
After considering the bigger picture of Jesus’ view, our biblical foundations and Holy Spirit’s enabling earlier in the Workshop, we turned our eyes on Friday morning towards the nation of China. We were presented with a collage of pictures of the current situation and were privileged to hear from one of China’s foremost Christian house church leaders. Pastor Xu shed the light of ‘hope in Christ for the future of the Chinese church.’ We responded to the vision presented and recognized corporately that although it is a huge task to ‘reach China’; it is not beyond God’s capacity. A reminder that we each need to take our place and do our part!
On Saturday morning, our last day together, we completed our devotional time with an offering to cover outstanding costs and to
bless three ministries: Homes of Hope, Scholarships for UofN Chinese students, and Bible distribution in Costa Rica. The generosity of spirit meant that costs were covered and each ministry received financial blessing. After a break we reconvened on the soccer pitch to pray for the nations and worship the Lord on a 4k map that covered the field. We prayed for God to take us to the nations, interceded for the nations of our birth and simulated the waves of Chinese believers moving back towards Jerusalem, which is a vision of the Chinese Church. David Hamilton prayed that UofN training, acts of evangelism and mercy ministries would occur in every Omega Zone as a declaration of faith that we would impact nations.
That night as we were closing our time together, Markus Steffen, with Tom Bloomer and David Hamilton commissioned a new program within the UofN: the Extension Studies Program. The program will make it possible for us to structure our courses in different ways so that more people could be actively involved in studying with the UofN. After that, Loren Cunningham (YWAM/UofN founder) brought us a final message supported by a moving video “I am a Missionary”. Loren’s message included significant markers of the way God had led the development of the UofN which Loren likened to the stones Israel were commanded to have in place to remember the faithfulness of God. One stone was the revelation Loren had of the spheres of society, and another the vision of the birthing of the twins of the University and the Ship ministry. As he concluded his message Loren commissioned us saying that we would be ‘going and growing faster than we have ever gone before!’
Each afternoon and two evenings, participants could attend optionals (elective seminars) covering topics relating to the University of the Nations and degree tracks, as well as ministry opportunities such as human trafficking, aquaponic farming and sports evangelism.
The Central/South American flavor of the Workshop was acknowledged during the lunch and dinner breaks with a YWAM World Cup Football Tournament. Teams participated with enthusiasm and camaraderie. Meal times also had a strong Mexican touch with two Taco stands, but also a pizza stand, Chinese food and Hamburgers served with Fries providing nourishing food for our bodies.
Alongside the scheduled program there were opportunities for participants to engage with different ministries and UofN representatives in the Exhibition Tent. Not only were people there to answer questions, but many booths had brochures and website information for further consideration. And, of course, networking and fellowshipping made up the balance of the available waking hours! The campus facility offered many beautiful spaces for people to gather, by fountains and firepits — with views of the ocean, the hills and other YWAMers!
The theme of EXPAND Intimacy and Impact was woven deftly through the events as only a master craftsman could. We may see the workings of the back of the cloth, but once revealed, the handiwork of God will be evident in the tapestry of the 2013 UofN Workshop. At the close of the Workshop, an invitation was extended to all YWAM staff and UofN students to gather again in two years time in Townsville, Australia from September 8th to 13th for the 2015 UofN Workshop. Let us be prepared for what God may unveil for the UofN at that time.
Go to http://www.uofnworkshop.com for more photos and full video reporting of the 2013 UofN Workshop.
Report by Allana Hiha