First Summer Bible Conference – 1886
This is where it all began. It was supposed to be just a Bible Conference, sponsored by the YMCA and hosted by the famous evangelist Dwight Moody at the Mount Hermon School he had recently founded. What actually happened was Northfield Summer Conferences became the engine of the first international student fellowship that by the turn of the century had spread all over the world.
The brainchild of Luther Wishard, the YMCA’s campus organizer, it was announced in April for July and even on such very short notice, 250 students showed up. Of those, in an uprising of interest in mission, one hundred of them who came to be called the Mount Hermon Hundred declared their intention to become foreign missionaries. Many followed through on that pledge.
Just as important as the students who left the U.S. for foreign mission fields were those from other shores who heard about Northfield and came in subsequent summers. In 1899, 700 Americans and 700 from other countries attended. Many returned home and started summer conferences in their own countries. By 1895 there were ten student conferences; by 1919, there were 123 attended by 19,700 students around the world.
By 1897, the conference included representatives from “six continents, twenty-four countries, and four races.”