Urbana leads to digital missions
Editor’s note: Urbana 18 is happening now, from December 27-January 1. Hack4Missions is happening for the second time at Urbana.
For Wes and Leah Brooks, attending the Urbana Student Missions Conference in 2015 changed the course of their lives. The newlyweds, married in September, went with open minds, hoping to get guidance from God. “We were both asking God how He wanted to use our skills for the Kingdom,” Leah says. “Surely God can use us to impact the world; we just didn’t know what that looked like.” Wes was a growth hacker for a marketing agency and Leah was a solution architect for user experience. They didn’t know how those talents related to missions, but had been seeking something more meaningful.
Partway into the conference, Wes attended a seminar by Indigitous co-founder Simon Seow called “Hacking Is Priestly Work.” As a data scientist who had taken part in many hackathons, the title appealed to him. Leah was on her way to a different talk, but then felt the Holy Spirit telling her, “Go be with your husband.” She joined Wes and both of them felt God working in their hearts during Simon’s talk.
Simon shared about Indigitous, a community of people using their talents for God in the digital space, and talked about how God wrote digital into their story for a reason. “He used the term ‘digital missions,’” Leah says. “That’s what we had been looking for.” Wes agrees that the talk affirmed their desire to put their talents to use for God. “It was literally putting words to what we had been praying about throughout our relationship.”
Inspired by the talk, Wes and Leah went through the exhibitor’s hall, stopping at booths and asking how each ministry was using digital technology for the Kingdom. At the booth for Cru, someone gave them a brochure that lists the ministry’s biggest needs. The top two on the list were data sciences and UX, the very two talents that Wes and Leah were looking to apply!
After spending time praying over the decision, Wes and Leah quit their jobs and went into full-time vocational ministry with Cru, where Wes is the Growth Solutions Team Lead and Leah leads the UX Strategy team.
Using talents for God
Wes and Leah’s experience is not uncommon. After partnering with Urbana for Hack4Missions in 2015, Indigitous has gone on to host its own global missional hackathon. More than 60 cities in 32 nations across the world have taken part in Indigitous #HACK over the last three years, where thousands of participants have used their talents for God by working on projects of missional significance. “Hack4Missions at Urbana 15 changed my life,” says Drew Bronson, who hosted Indigitous #HACK Chicago in 2016. “Going into the missional conference, I had no idea that I could use my gifts with technology to serve the Kingdom.”
At #HACK Waterloo, participants tackled the problem of suicide. Noting that a Google search on how to kill yourself returned top results with advice on doing so, the hackers created a slick suicide prevention website. By utilizing key SEO techniques, that prevention website is now the top search result. “We wanted to build websites to help people that are in those very difficult situations,” says FaithTech founder James Kelly, the lead for that project.
At #HACK Singapore, participants sought to engage people involved in the nation’s red light districts. They created a platform called #HearMyStory that uses Artificial Intelligence and web-crawling technologies to find people looking for help and direct them to the right organizations.
Whether taking part in a hackathon, leading a Digital Outreach event, and more, members of the Indigitous global community are using technology to make a Kingdom impact. “God is blessing us,” says Adryana Diniz, the city lead for #HACK Rio de Janeiro, “because we are doing something important for the church.”
Thinking about his time at Urbana and how it changed his life, Wes offered the following advice. “Be open to whatever God has in store. Take the next step, whatever that is,” he says. “And be ready for change. Life change happens at conferences like Urbana.”
Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. (Habakkuk 2:2)
- Pray about how your talents can be used for God in the digital space
- Contact Indigitous about how to get involved