By Laura McKillip Wood
In 2020, the International Conference on Missions (ICOM) planned to meet in person. Registrations numbered 3,000 to 4,000. But 10 days before the opening, COVID-19 spiked. Exhibitors began getting sick and pulling out, and ICOM’s team decided to switch the conference to entirely online. Even though support remained strong, the conference lost money.
This year, ICOM executive director David Empson hopes the plan to meet in person Nov. 18-21 in Richmond, Va., remains in place.
“Last year was good,” he says, “but traveling among the colleges and churches around the country, I get the message that people are eager to see it take place in person. Even if they cannot come to Richmond, they are happy to see it happening.”
As of now, plenty of people are planning to attend. Empson says he’s heard a large group of students plan to fly in from Boise and a bus full of people are driving in from Cincinnati. People are excited to participate in such an informative event, he said, and ICOM promises to deliver.
2021 president Pino Neglia of Italy will arrive in the United States next week; he plans to speak to churches and parachurch organizations in the weeks leading up to the event to help publicize the conference and generate support and interest among the churches. He has plenty to tell them!
ICOM has planned a special session at the start of the conference in response to the fall of several high-profile church leaders over the past few years. Stephanie Freed of Rapha International and the president of last year’s ICOM, Jeff Vines—a friend of Ravi Zacharias who was shocked at the revelations that emerged after Zacharias’s death—will lead the first morning session focused on accountability and transparency in ministry.
“At the end, we will offer a prayer of repentance to give people a chance to be accountable,” Empson said. “We want to offer the opportunity for people to repent, people to get help, and people who have been hurt to find healing.”
Among the many features of this year’s ICOM:
• Tyler Sansom of First Capital Christian Church in Corydon, Ind.—a church of just over 300 members—will share about the church’s robust digital ministry that reaches people around the world, including 10,000 inmates in Indiana.
• Shadonkeh Johnson, the head of New Harvest Global Ministry headquartered in Sierra Leone, will present his work as a pioneer of Disciple Making Movements.
• David Clayton will describe the prayer and fasting program he began in Nashville, Tenn., that has included 40,000 people from 700 congregations.
• Orpheus Heyward, minister with Renaissance Church of Christ in Atlanta, will speak on Saturday night. The a cappella church of Christ minister is a dynamic gospel preacher.
ICOM has seen some big changes the last year. Jacob Albrecht started as the new student director in July 2020, so this will be his first in-person conference as a staff member. Several other workers have also joined the team, making Empson one of only two staff members who worked for ICOM six years ago, when the conference last met in Richmond. Despite these changes, ICOM is on track for the conference, which will go off as planned, so long as Richmond remains open for such gatherings.
As of last week, Richmond had not restricted large gatherings. ICOM will encourage attendees to use hand sanitizers it provides and to wear masks. (Masks will not be required unless the convention center and/or local authorities change current guidelines.)
Those interested in attending can register for either the in-person or virtual conference at https://theicom.org/register/. Virtual attendees can participate in the preconferences, the main sessions, the virtual exhibit hall, and five different workshops per hour. The student portion of November’s gathering, SICOM, will also be available in a virtual format.
ICOM welcomes all attendees, in person or online, and knows they will leave excited about what God is doing around the world!
Laura McKillip Wood, former missionary to Ukraine, serves as bereavement coordinator and palliative care chaplain at Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha, Neb. She and her husband, Andrew, have three teenagers.