How One Life-Changing Event Changes Life Forever

ST. LOUIS, MO (January 10, 2013) – Dennis Carlson knew that when he helped some of the 16,000 attendees to the Urbana 2012 conference cross the street to get to the Edward Jones Dome, he was helping them on a path that will help them change lives of people around the world.

Carlson’s own life was forever altered when he attended the grand-scale missions event in 1976. “It was the closest thing I have ever had to a ‘lighting bolt’ experience in my Christian faith,” Carlson says. Within months, he had moved halfway across the country to work with the Slavic Gospel Association, a further exposure to missions he would live out in countries ranging from Hungary to Mexico and what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Carlson, who serves as associate pastor of Faith Covenant Church in Farmington Hills, Michigan, and his wife Mary Lynn, were among a number of Covenanters who helped make the triennial conference held after Christmas a huge success. Others included Peter Cha, Trinity Theological Seminary associate professor of theology; Larry Thiel, associate director of campuses in California for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, who also teaches philosophy and political science at the University of Pacific; Kevin Blue, pastor of Iglesia de Redentor (Church of the Redeemer) in Los Angeles, California; and Lina Herrera.

Cha facilitated a workshop on reconciliation, Blue led the “Pastors & Church Leaders” track morning Bible study, which had more than 200 people, and Herrera was in charge of the 230 members of the prayer team that ministered to leaders and participants throughout the conference. “It was an amazing experience,” Herrera says. “God answered so many prayers,” including guidance for one individual’s future.

Like Carlson, Herrera had her life changed at a previous Urbana conference as an attendee. This was the fourth conference at which she worked and the first for which she guided the prayer team. Planning began at least a year and a half ago, she says.

Carlson touted the “Xtreme” worship that featured leaders and music from around the world. Having served in Congo, he was excited that one of the “greatest hits” was “Yesu Azali Awa” (Jesus Is Here), a popular song in the African nation sung in Lingala.

Carlson believes the young attendees will look back at the conference as a pivotal moment. “Even more than the specific missionary call I received at Urbana, I can remember vividly how the witnesses of men like Billy Graham and Luis Palau (describing how they met personally with God day by day through a committed devotional life) shaped my own daily walk with God. The Bible teaching of John Stott back then, likewise, helped form my own love for Scripture and its timeless message of Good News and God’s love for all the people of the world.”

Urbana is a large-scale, empowering missions event held every three years and is the most diverse gathering of students, recent graduates, missions practitioners and church leaders in North America.




  • It’s wonderful to hear these stories of life transformation and how God continues to use this missions conference for his kingdom purposes! Urbana96 is a significant part of my faith journey, and has continued to remind me of God’s call on my life, initially as a short-term missionary to now an ordained Covenant pastor.

  • Thanks for this testimony of God’s presence at Urbana. It is the same testimony of hundreds -plus – of students who have heard God’s call to ministry in their career life. In the 50’s and 60’s I was at 5 Urbanas and was privileged to bring students from Western NY and First Covenant, Jamestown, NY when I was teaching at the Community College. We had the amazing Bible studies by John Stott (now with the Lord) who could keep students (and me) glued to their seats and trying to write down every word for an hour at a time. The Lord has blessed IVCF with a vision for students that has continued since the days of Stacy Woods in the 40’s.

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