IVP - Strangely Dim - A Report on the Urbana 03 Student Mission Conference, I Mean, Convention

January 9, 2004

A Report on the Urbana 03 Student Mission Conference, I Mean, Convention

by David A. Zimmerman

Just after Christmas I traveled to central Illinois to attend the Urbana 03 Student Mission Convention—which is decidedly not a conference. People confer at conferences; at Urbana we merely convened. Keep that in your head.

As an employee of the convention’s major sponsor, I convened with less idealized intentions than most delegates: I went to sell books—specifically, the “book of the day.” You might think that selling a few books in exchange for free entry into a historic convention would be a sweet deal, and for the most part you’d be right. I heard speakers l’ve been eager to hear and met interesting people from all over the country. I had my vision for the church throughout the world expanded and my faith commitments stretched. Go to www.urbana.org and you’ll get a feel for what I mean. But it’s a week later, and my feet still hurt.

Selling the book of the day for me was a physical challenge. I was a floater; I would travel between selling stations and make sure people had what they needed to sell books. That included books, of course, so after each morning session my fellow floaters and I collected unsold books of the day and distributed the evening’s book of the day. In the evening we would repeat the whole process with the book of the day for the following morning.

You see, “book of the day” is what we in the bookselling business like to call a “misnomer.” There are two plenary sessions each day of the convention, and each session features one book. Somehow the math works out to two books each day being the “book of the day”:

2 sessions/1 day x 1 book/1 session – 1 idea (1 sales slogan) ≈ 1 book of the day

Just to add to the confusion, one such “book” was a video compact disk—which is decidedly not a DVD, by the way, although it apparently will play on some DVD players, though not all. Keep that in your head as well.

Anyway, moving the incredibly confusing inventory around was only part of the physical challenge I faced. Our team convened (and conferred) in a basement room I liked to call the Batcave and then dispersed to stations spread out on two floors. Floaters like me would go up the stairs, around the circular building, up the stairs again, around the circular building again, down the stairs, around the circular building again, and down the stairs to the Batcave. I found myself questioning the meaning of life by my third trip.

Let me tell you something: circular buildings are incredibly disorienting. My only clear landmark was a giant Yanni poster, which only compounded my bewilderment. Adding to that was mental fatigue from trying to explain to seemingly thousands of people before and after each session that there are two books of the day every day, that neither one was available all day, that each of them was available all week with the other books of the other days at the other building.

lf you could follow that paragraph, I’d like to recruit you for the book of the day team at the tentatively titled Urbana 06 Student Mission Convention, which, it has already been decided, will not be a conference. It will, however, likely be the most meaningful experience of walking in a circle over and over again that you’ll ever have.

Send your comments to dzimmerman@ivpress.com.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at January 9, 2004 9:53 AM Bookmark and Share

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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