The first Missions Festival in Vancouver was held on January 1984. It all began in 1983 when six local churches from diverse backgrounds decided to work together with the common goal of raising awareness of the needs around global missions. The initial conference was intended to be the only one, but the organizers realized that something much greater had happened at it’s conclusion. They felt that God was pleased that this vision for the unreached around the world was being addressed in such a united effort. It was decided to hold another conference the following year.
Thirty four years later, Missions Fest conferences held in Vancouver are based on the founding principles of local churches working together to reach out to the world. It is completely outward focused and a small staff functions to coordinate the hundreds of volunteers from the sponsoring churches. The churches are in “the drivers seat” and they invite many denominational and independent missions agencies to work beside them in providing information exhibits and educational seminars.
The conference is open to the public at no cost due to the generous donations from sponsoring churches. Plenary speakers invited are people who work “in the trenches” and speak out of their own experiences and calling. At least one woman is part of this team, at least one non-Western and one with a strong Biblical presentation. The Vancouver conferences see an estimated three-day aggregate of over 15,000 attending.
Youth rallies and seminars are a strong component of Missions Fest. In Vancouver, 2300 young people crowd into the youth rallies while others attend the plenary sessions and exhibits with similar numbers. Christian schools participate in field trips that start moving in Friday morning after which Children’s programs continue throughout the weekend. Music is important during the large gatherings with local musicians sharing in the worship, but it does not preempt the purpose of the conference.
Over the past years, other cities have picked up on the vision and now hold similar Missions Fests. They include Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax in Canada. Missions Festivals have also been held in Perth, Australia, Pretoria, South Africa, cities in the United States and other key cities in the world. Missions Fest Vancouver continues to be held on the last weekend of January at the Vancouver Convention & Exhibition Centre, on Vancouver’s waterfront.