Westmont welcomes eager participants to 2nd Santa Barbara Sending Conference

Jenae McInnes , News Editor

Last weekend, the Westmont Global Leadership Center brought together a plethora of people — high school students, post-retirement church-goers and Westmont students — clamoring to cultivate their discipleship through the Santa Barbara Sending Conference.

The conference was spearheaded by professor of Christian missions Dr. Farhadian, retired campus pastor Ben Patterson, current campus pastor Scott Lisea, and many other Santa Barbara and Westmont community members. Santa Barbara Sending is in its second year of operation and hosted nine speakers doing missions around the world including last Friday’s chapel speaker Fouad Masri of Lebanon.

The conference was intended to begin in 2020, but was postponed due to COVID-19. It aims to reflect what Dr. Farhadian named as the mission of both Westmont and the Church: “Christian mission is the reason for the existence of this college, and it’s the reason for the existence of the Church; the very nature of the Church is to be sent in the world as Christ was sent in the world.” The conference included three breakout sessions where attendees could choose to hear from one of the 11 diverse speakers, and three all-conference plenary sessions.

Dr. Farhadian commented that his hope for attendees was for them to see “the immense breadth of God’s kingdom around the world” through the conference speakers. He emphasized the fact that all of the speakers are doing different work, from Bible translation, to sports outreach, to working with domestic homeless populations. He hopes Westmont students in particular can see the many different ways to further God’s kingdom. “We are always hoping that students will understand that they’ve been called by God to use their gifts for his glory, and that that is the best way to understand their lives and their giftings. In a sense, to take what God has given them and offer it back to him,” Farhadian said.

One student who was inspired by the conference is third-year religious studies major Joy Sturges, who came out of the event with a heightened interest in Bible translation work. Sturges said she has felt a calling to mission work since her junior year of high school but that the breakout session with Bible translator Markus Kilungga of Papua, Indonesia taught her the importance of Bible translation. Sturges said, “ It is one thing to share your faith with others, but to truly bring about transformation, change and spiritual formation, and growth, we need the words of God which are present in the Bible. We need to make sure that they not only hear the words of God, but are able to see and read them as well for themselves.”

Sturges also added that Scott and Heidi Wisley— educators doing mission work in Indonesia —held a session called “designed for adversity” that was also formative in her conference experience. Sturges summarized the content of the session as being about “how God has designed us to be able to not only endure adversity, but to be able to use it as a source of strength and empathy for others, as well as God being able to use it for His glory and redemption of the world.”

Sturges remarked that Scott and Heidi’s stories about adversity in their own lives and work empowered and moved her, stating, “I hope to share these truths about who God is and what He is doing in our lives to bring others encouragement so that they know that even when we are in our deepest valleys, our God has not forsaken us.”

While Dr. Farhadian emphasized primarily the impact of the conference on Westmont students, he was also encouraged by his estimate that around 50% of the conference attendees were non-Westmont community members. Many of these attendees were local Santa Barbara church members of all ages, as well as Providence Christian High School students.

As Santa Barbara Sending Conference looks to the future, their hope is to continue to cultivate their reach outside of the Westmont community and show that “God’s mission is broad and deep by featuring people from different parts of the world, different ethnicities, different languages, that all have something profoundly common, but also are doing great works in particular ways.” 

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