After graduating from Stanford with a degree in mechanical engineering, Nikki Toyama-Szeto worked part time as an engineer while volunteering for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. One day, her boss said he planned to bid on a $20,000 watch in an upcoming auction. Toyama-Szeto wondered if her hard work was going to the wrong things, thinking perhaps she'd "rather put my hours toward the kingdom in a more direct way."

Yet even as she planned to go into full-time ministry, she was entitled to $1 million to $3 million for a project she had worked on—if she would stay at the engineering job for one more year. She was tempted, but says the offer "made me stop and think about what I really believe. Do I believe in the power of money, or do I believe in the power of Jesus' invitation?"

Toyama-Szeto, coeditor of More Than Serving Tea: Asian American Women on Expectations, Relationships, Leadership, and Faith (IVP, 2006), opted to pass up the big bucks and went full time with InterVarsity, where she is now program director of the Urbana Student Missions Conference. For the event, she arranges speakers and artists—especially relatively unknown ones who might not have the financial resources or powerful connections to reach such a large, diverse audience, but who have something unique to offer the expected 18,000 people hoping to hear God's call at Urbana12 in December.

Question & Answer



How do you put Urbana in context?

It's mostly for North Americans, but there are lots of ways we confuse the gospel with American culture and values. When world leaders also appreciate the message we put out, I feel like we have hit on some of the core essentials about the gospel. We contextualize it for North Americans, but it's a good check ...

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