Campus Crusade uses satellite technology to help train hundreds of thousands of conferees.

As 1985 drew to a close, Campus Crusade for Christ was pulling off an unprecedented technological feat called Explo 85. The global training conference used a satellite hookup to join hundreds of thousands of Christians in 54 countries. Technicians in charge of the operation said the teleconference was a more complex undertaking than the international coverage of the 1984 Olympic Games.

Explo 85 was Campus Crusade’s most ambitious attempt yet to “accelerate the fulfillment of the Great Commission,” according to Bill Bright, the organization’s founder and president. The live satellite hookup used during the worldwide conference reportedly cost 9 to 10 million dollars.

During the last four days of December, an estimated 300,000 people from 150 nations met in more than 90 locations for training and encouragement in the task of evangelism. Nearly half the participants came from Korea and Brazil. Most of the others came from Third World countries.

In Pakistan, the Muslim government gave special permission for conferences at Karachi and Rawalpindi. Those meetings brought together four bishops, members of eight denominations, and representatives from the country’s eight major cities.

The number of people at the regional gatherings ranged from 50 in Dillon, Colorado, to more than 30,000 at the new Olympic gymnasium in Seoul, South Korea. Several thousand met in a huge thatched-roof structure in the Indian state of Kerala, and a few hundred gathered in a hotel in Thessalonika, Greece. Nearly half of the 560 people who attended the conference on the island of Guam came from other islands, some traveling more than 3,000 miles.

Local leaders at the 90 conference sites gave addresses and led seminars. In addition, the sites were linked by a daily two-hour telecast received from a satellite and projected onto huge screens. The telecasts included reports from Explo 85 gatherings in different parts of the world, musical numbers, and messages from international Christian leaders.

London’s Limehouse television studio served as the operation’s nerve center. With the help of British Telecom International and Visnews camera crews, live pictures and taped reports were transmitted to the London studio from more than 20 centers around the world. In the studio, those transmissions were interspersed with prerecorded material and live introductions from a team of Campus Crusade presenters.

In a room adjacent to the broadcast studio, interpreters provided instantaneous Spanish translation for more than 100,000 participants in Latin America. The broadcasts were translated into an additional 30 languages at various conference sites.

The mammoth undertaking was not without its glitches. In Colombo, Sri Lanka, the satellite receiving dish being used for the conference was blown down by high winds. Arthur C. Clarke, author of 2001: A Space Odyssey and a resident of the island, served as technical consultant for the Sri Lankan conference. He recorded the telecast on his personal receiving equipment and subsequently replayed it for conference participants. He then spent 24 hours helping to resolve the technical problem, and live pictures were picked up again halfway through the second telecast.

Each of Explo 85’s four days had a different theme: winning people to faith in Christ; building them up in their faith; training them to help others find faith in Christ; and sending trained witnesses to places where they are needed.

Bright traveled to four locations to deliver the keynote addresses on the four live telecasts. He gave the first address from Seoul, South Korea, then flew to Manila, the Philippines. From there he traveled to West Berlin. He finished the conference in Mexico City, completing 25,000 miles of nearly constant travel. In his final address, he announced that Campus Crusade is planning to sponsor a “greatly expanded” satellite conference in 1990.

“We are praying for 5 million people to join us …,” Bright said. “These 5 million trained disciples will soon be 50 million, and eventually hundreds of millions will be introduced to Christ.”

During the conference’s third day, participants practiced the task of evangelism by contacting thousands of nonbelievers on the streets. Many conferees also responded to the physical needs of their communities by providing food, clothing, and other items. In some areas, Explo 85 participants even donated blood. Red Cross officials in West Berlin said their target of 400 pints of blood was exceeded by 30 percent.


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