By Cheryl Magness
The Beautiful Feet Mission Conference, held annually for the past two decades, provides an opportunity for college students to explore domestic and international mission work. In spite of the challenges of COVID-19, the 2020 conference still took place, proceeding under a hybrid model that included both online and in-person components.
The conference, which takes its name from Isaiah 52 (“How beautiful … are the feet of him who brings good news”), is planned by college students for college students and hosted each year on a different campus of the Concordia University System (CUS). When the in-person 2020 conference — originally scheduled to take place at Concordia University Chicago (CUC), River Forest, Ill. — had to be canceled, Anne Gonzalez, manager of LCMS Short-Term Mission Training and Engagement, and Julianna Shults, program manager for LCMS Youth Ministry, volunteered to coach a group of student leaders through the process of setting up a remote conference.
The student leaders decided to create a combination event where attendees would hear from breakout speakers, participate in chapel, and engage in small-group discussions online while also taking part in service projects and enjoying lunch in person on their respective campuses. Two one-day events were held — the first on Nov. 7, 2020, and the second on Feb. 20 of this year. Presenters included Gonzalez and Shults; the Rev. Dr. Steven Schave, director of LCMS Urban & Inner-City Mission and LCMS Church Planting; the Rev. Dr. Ryan Peterson, campus pastor and assistant professor of Theology at Concordia University Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, Mich.; Michelle Bauman, director of Y4Life with Lutherans For Life; Steven Nurre, director of Recruitment for Concordia International School Shanghai; and LCMS missionaries Ben Helge, Chelsea Irwin, Courtney Zalmanoff, Matt Wasmund and Ashley Lehr.
Jesse Muehler, a junior majoring in secondary English education at CUC, served as one of the student leaders on his campus. Muehler, who helped to build and maintain the event’s digital exhibitor hall, said, “It was such a blessing to be able to participate in this cross-Concordia event as we took time to focus on what draws us all together: Christ and His mission. Each Concordia has its own strengths and opportunities for outreach, but each one is also a mission field in and of itself.
“Seeing other students come to learn more about what it means to share Christ was very special. … There are so many people and places that need the sweet message of the Gospel, and we learned about ways to bring that to people in our backyards and across the world.”
The first Beautiful Feet conference took place in St. Louis in 1998. According to the Rev. Douglas Bender, associate campus pastor at Concordia University Wisconsin (CUW), Mequon, Wis., “The conference has had two objectives from its very founding: to inspire young people for mission service both now and in the future, and to encourage the formation of student mission groups on the various campuses.”
“Getting to oversee [CUW’s] Beautiful Feet chapter,” Bender continued, “has been such a blessing. … I’ve gained a great knowledge and appreciation for the work done around the world by faithful missionaries who answered the call to serve God at home and abroad. The zeal and passion our students have for sharing the Gospel on and off campus is inspiring, and I’m humbled by their bold desire to carry the saving news of the Gospel to those beyond them.”
Leah Federwitz, a senior majoring in elementary education at CUW, grew up in a missionary family in Papua New Guinea. As a student leader for the CUW conference, she helped organize breakout speakers, design conference T-shirts, assist participants during the event and arrange a CUW service project that consisted of writing notes of encouragement to Lutheran Bible Translators missionaries currently serving overseas.
Federwitz said one of the best things about the conference was “seeing so many young people … united under a common interest in missions and evangelism. …
“For anyone who has any interest at all in missions, I would say to go ahead and begin exploring options and get yourself out there, letting mission organizations know you are interested so they can begin reaching out to you. If God is calling you to missions, He will see you through all the steps you need to take in order to get there, and the Beautiful Feet conference is a great place to start that process.”
Posted April 20, 2021