Ben Edfeldt said when the lights were turned out after Pursue 2023, the stories had only just begun.
“I heard about one student who is pursuing being a Journeyman with the International Mission Board after what God did in her heart at Pursue,” said Edfeldt, director of the office of collegiate and student ministries at the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions. “Others are now thinking of being sent as summer missionaries.”
Growing in faith
Each year, Pursue — an event put on by Edfeldt’s office — aims to help students grow in their faith and grow as disciple makers. But every third year, Pursue focuses specifically on God’s call to reach the unreached and how students are a part of that mission.
“We partner with First Baptist Montgomery for that, and it’s been a partnership we’ve really enjoyed,” Edfeldt said.
Because this year’s Pursue — held Feb. 24–25 — ran alongside the church’s Global Missions Celebration, Edfeldt’s team had the opportunity to involve missionaries in conversations with students during meals. Missionaries also led breakout sessions on topics ranging from discerning God’s call on their life to learning how to share the gospel to dealing with mental health on the missions field.
“It was an opportunity to not only hear about God’s global call to the nations but also to see practitioners of that and be able to engage with them,” Edfeldt said.
About 500 students and leaders were gathered as speaker Jay Sanders, Baptist campus minister at the University of South Florida, challenged students to consider their ambitions and be ambitious toward what God has called them to.
The Friday night main session was organized in partnership with the International Mission Board as part of their REV 7:9 tour, an event geared toward moving students closer to engaging in international missions.
Then on Saturday, Pursue focused on North America and their local campus. Steve Turner, senior director of next gen mobilization for the North American Mission Board, shared about opportunities to serve during school breaks and after graduation.
Speaker Jeff Lewis, an author and global activist, challenged them to see their campus as a missions field.
“He told them that if we say we worship Jesus, a natural response to proper discipleship is a life with a missions component to it,” Edfeldt said. “He challenged students to think deeply and look at the Word.”
Lewis also talked about the awakenings that have been happening recently at Asbury University and on other college campuses and told students that historically every real awakening has been followed by life change. For these revivals to be authentic, they would be followed by that too, he said.
“He said if discipleship and missions aren’t there, if they don’t follow an awakening, it was just a long meeting, it wasn’t really an awakening,” Edfeldt said.
Chris Mills, SBOM student missions mobilizer, said his team is already seeing fruit from Pursue.
He said the event is always a highlight for both students and leaders, but this year’s focus on mobilization provided a challenge to students to go to their campus and to the world, and they responded.
“We’ve had dozens of applications for summer missions come in since the conference and numerous conversations with students about what their place of service is beyond college,” Mills said.
“I’m encouraged by how the Lord is working among Alabama college students to make Him known on their campus and across the globe.”
During Pursue, students also gave more than $2,800 to support missionaries doing ministry and sharing the gospel in the midst of the war in Ukraine.
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