COMMENTARY | While many college students were using summer break to relax and catch up on some much-needed sleep, one group of undergrads dedicated their downtime to proclaiming the name of Jesus throughout the city of Chicago, one of our country’s biggest mission fields.
The North American Mission Board started a program a few years ago called Generation Send. They identified 32 cities in great need of laborers and then sent students out to work in them. This past summer almost 400 youth showed 16 of these cities the love of Christ as they learned what it meant to live a life on mission in an urban context.
Students from Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, and Tennessee were excited to come and serve in the unique and diverse community of Chicago. They arrived at the beginning of the summer with few expectations for the coming months but to see Christ glorified.
Chicago contains 77 neighborhoods filled with people from across the world. It is the third largest city in the U.S., but less than 10 percent of the population is involved with an evangelical church. They are in desperate need of the gospel and for people to come and serve in the name of Christ.
Two of the student leaders through Generation Send, known as mobilizers, were returning to Chicago for the second summer in a row. They had become extremely burdened for the city and wanted to continue sharing that passion with others. Looking beyond all the glitz and the glamour, Chicago is still a place where people have real needs and individuals are desperately lacking gospel truth. Realizing this firsthand has a way of leaving an imprint on one’s heart.
Four mobilizers led teams of 3-10 people in four of the 77 Chicago neighborhoods. Students engaged business owners, college students, young professionals, different ethnic groups, families, and many others for the gospel.
Every week a Generation Send student would encounter someone who needed to hear God’s truth. And many times they were receptive to it. Less than halfway through the summer, students couldn’t bear the thought of going home and leaving these people behind.
In July when it was time to say goodbye, one team had the privilege of leaving Bibles with a Muslim family who owned a restaurant that they visited several times a week. Another team came alongside a church planter and his family and helped them prepare for their first Sunday preview service. In a matter of only six weeks, these students from Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, and Tennessee were completely broken for this place that desperately needs Jesus.
One mobilizer has now made the commitment to move to Chicago. In September she will move from her quiet, small town in Louisiana to the chaos of the Windy City, all to further the gospel. Another student is also praying about becoming a church planter there in the coming years. Many others have already committed to bringing teams back next summer and will continue to pray for Chicago throughout the year.
All throughout scripture we see God’s people burdened for cities that were in need of Him. In the book of Nehemiah we encounter a man who asked his King to return to Jerusalem, a city he once called home. He was so burdened for the people of Israel and for the city of Jerusalem that he wanted to make new again what was destroyed. The task was not easy and the burden was not light, but he was determined to obey and honor what God had called him to do.
This theme of being burdened for God’s cities continues today. God is calling his people back into the cities so that the gospel may go forth. Cities are considered the heart of our country and we need the people who live in them to have repentant hearts and put their faith in Jesus Christ. Please pray for Chicago and for students preparing to join the mission field there.
And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” Luke 10:2 (ESV).
Carrie Campbell is a teacher in Beardstown. She has served as coordinator for NAMB’s Generation Send summer missions program in Chicago for two years.