An Italian Academic Experiences FEUER

I went to the FEUER conference! I might need to explain the name in order for you to understand what it is. The acronym stands for “Fellowship of Evangelists in the Universities in EuRope”, but it’s also, they tell me, a German word which means fire. And I must say that I did catch a bit of that Teutonic atmosphere, which is in referral to the fact that I attended the conference as part of those in an ‘academic track’, i.e. those who work within the University as teacher or those, like me, whose lives revolve around academia. There was quite an earnest atmosphere and at times it was fairly intimidating, mainly due to the German teachers present who often take things very seriously.

I’m kidding of course, but I can’t deny that I did make fun of myself thinking about what kind of impression we gave off to the other participants at the conference, almost as if we were a separate aristocracy whom they could catch a glimpse of while they ate (at separate tables!) or at the after-dinner plenary meetings. What also surprised me was that most of those taking part were men. This was due to the fact that six female teachers were unable to come. The fact is that spending three days from morning to night – including lunch breaks – with men who only talk about the fine tunings of the universe was really hard.

That said, I’m really happy that I participated. The meetings were very thorough and I was able to pick up some very useful tips on how to be a witness in academia and manage occasions when we may be called upon to speak publicly. In particular the presence of someone like John Lennox, who chaired most of the meetings, was a source of great inspiration. He shared his experiences with us and we had the possibility to be an insider and find out how he prepares and manages debates and public lectures.

When you watch him on You-tube it all seems very simple and natural, when in fact his proficiency is the result of many hours of laborious preparation. He also needs to be in constant awareness of showing respect to the other party and acting with a Christian mentality. Speaking personally, there were particularly useful suggestions on how to address and make the best use of your time and to dedicate questions and answers from the audience, which I find is usually a source of great insecurity.

The idea behind this ‘academic track’ was also to create a network among ourselves, in order to advise and help each other, as well as create an environment to process and discuss Christian apologetic issues. I think this is something we still need to work on, but this conference was certainly a good start. Personally, this experience was very useful. It helped me to strengthen my desire to serve the Lord in my professional context, and put myself at the service of GBU in Italy, within the limits of my abilities and my capabilities.


Nicola Berretta


A GBU girl at Formacion

Student Leadership Formacion is a 10 day conference organised by IFES Europe where participants face questions such as “What kind of person does God call to be a leader?”, “How can I feel or know that I’m being called?” and even “How can a leader grow without burning out”.5qjsq9yc

From the 4th to the 13th of August 2016, I had the honour of going to Poland, with 3 other GBU members, where we learnt, through the story of Moses, how to be good leaders in the church and in the ministry of IFES. I can say with certainty that it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life so far!

There were 140 students from 40 different countries who all had the same role as a leader-coordinator in university bible study groups in their universities. It was very encouraging to meet other students (all between 19 and 23 years old) from countries around the world who serve God and are as passionate as I am! It was great to be able to share with them faith experiences and the work they are doing within the university with IFES. I felt part of something very big and important and I returned home with a great sense of responsibility for my role and very enthusiastic and eager to start the new academic year.

The programme was packed and intense but never heavy or tiring. It was very well thought out, dynamic, original and interesting! We were only there for 10 days but we really learnt a lot and we grew a lot in our faith, as men and women of God, as loving brothers and sisters, as young leaders mindfully aware of our responsibility and to work effectively in a team in order to make God known in the best way!

vmgvfne2As well as growing with God, it was also an opportunity to grow with my christian family here in the world. I made many new friends who I bonded well with and created deep friendships in the name of God that I’m still carrying on today. I now have bothers and sisters in Serbia, Greece, Spain, Russia, France, England and Jerusalem!

Formacion also does much more. It makes you learn more about your personality and teaches you how to use that efficiently, it gives you the opportunity and time to reflect on your whole life to see where God has worked and which events have shaped you into the person you are today. It challenges you and encourages you to spend and entire day alone with God, a 20 km walk in the Polish hills with only a map at your disposal (the reason why my group, for a few kilometres, risked crossing the border and almost found ourselves in Slovakia). You eat lots and lots of soup, vegetables for breakfast and pancakes for dinner. It gives you the opportunity to learn the characteristics of other cultures in the international evening and it challenges you to overcome your difficulties and fears.

I am truly grateful to God for giving me the chance to take part in this unique experience which has changed my life.

Debora Oxenham
(GBU Roma Tre)