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Complete Joy

The day of the GBU Student Gathering (“Festa GBU”) had arrived.

The preparations to bring along the whole family and the expectations of having my husband and children enjoy the special atmosphere of the “Festa” with GBU groups from all over Italy fell through at the last minute. I found myself alone and having to make new travel arrangements, finding a ride with young students and friends I hadn’t seen in a while.

Many thoughts were running through my head: a sick child at home, a quarrel with my husband, two dear friends who were facing serious family problems, an issue to face within the GBU board, a members meeting I had to lead. I wasn’t feeling any joy. I wasn’t in the mood to talk to new students and get to know them, nor of having the burden of responsibilities and intense discussions. Yet, I had to.

I desired to have a special encounter with God, just like when I was a student. I whispered a quick prayer as I hopped in the car: Lord, I want to strip myself of all the emotional and physical baggage and let you lead me by your grace in these next days.

The first thing that eased the tension was the road trip: the kindness and pleasantness of my travel companions helped me get rid of the sense of inadequacy I felt due to the age difference.

Many small surprises followed, and touched me deeply. The stories of two students who met the Lord at university through the GBU, reminded me of how important it had been for me, at the time of my university studies, to meet a group of students who loved the Lord and read the Bible on campus. Thanks to them my life changed radically.

And what about the unexpected encouter with a former board member and life long supporter of the GBU? It rolled back the years of the history of the GBU movement, I could sense how alive and precious is the commitment of the people who believe in this mission because, just like me, they have received great blessings and benefits from the GBU. God wanted me to be a witness of the spiritual handover of the GBU, teaching me at the same time that He is sovereign over my life and the life of the GBU, that He knows best how to lead the people and the mission.

But the greatest joy was digging into the text of John 3:22-36, fully understanding what happened and being surprised at how a text I had read so many times was still communicating something very personal to me. What is my joy dependent on? On what others say about me? On being, or not being, acknowledged and appreciated for what I say or do? On what I have or, even more, on what I do not have? If it depends on all this, obviously my joy will be fleeting, it will come and go.

But my joy can be full and complete, when I cultivate my relationship with Jesus. And so it was for me, deeply experiencing in these few days that although I started in a #neverajoy situation, with Him I ended with one of #completejoy.

Barbara Buccinnà
(GBU board member)

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#maiunagioia

#maiunagioia (never a joy), this is the hashtag of the moment between high school and university students. The hashtag is ironically associated with moments of daily life where unexpected or improbable small things provoke a small amount of frustration and nervousness for the misfit students. While all this is tackled with great irony, it hides a real and profound generational discomfort. “Economic crisis”, “youth unemployment”, “uncertain future” are everyday expressions for students, expressions which they identify with and can identify themselves.

We find ourselves too, in front of generation #maiunagioia, made up of young people without goals and ambition in life, who are left to lose, who do not fight for anything, who are not passionate about what has a real ethical and moral value, but can however talk at great length about the latest episode of “Games of Thrones” or the latest results of reality TV. It is an inept and apathetic generation that has lost its compass, who does not know who to turn to and who does not know who to trust. It is a generation that does not believe. Neither in itself, nor in anyone else.

In this bitter description, which certainly does not include all the students of today, there are still a good number of students and young people (and adults) who attend evangelical churches. We see it in our GBU groups and, indeed, in our churches. How is this possible?

Doesn’t Jesus promise to give us his joy if we keep his commandments? Is there not complete joy in thinking that our names are written in the book of life? Is it not entirely comforting to read God’s promises and stand in his presence? Isn’t the Holy Spirit who dwells in us called the Comforter? And how many other questions like these could we ask …

Yet in fact many Christians live without joy. Why? I would say a lack of a true and authentic relationship with God. If this relationship exists, it is not possible not to enjoy it. Of course, it doesn’t mean that there are not moments of discouragement. These may come, but sadness cannot be the leitmotif of a Christian’s life.

The joy that the world offers is a sensation, moments of escape that make our hearts jump for joy. The joy that a Christian feels, however, is not a moment of happiness, an emotion, even if given by a particularly amazing and intense moment experienced in the church or at the GBU conference. Joy is a condition of life, founded not on experience, albeit extraordinary, but on the truth of the Word of God.

As a condition of life, we do not expect a Christian to be jumping around all the time, but we expect his life to be full of Christ, his peace and his joy, and that in difficulties that can make him suffer terribly, the joy given by the sacrifice of Jesus, by salvation, by the fact of having the omnipotent GOD as father will not fail.

Many Christian students know this truth, but they don’t live it out fully. And so their faith and hope in God becomes just a crutch that helps them to keep going in this sad, difficult and unsatisfactory life. This is often the faith that is shown to our friends and colleague and therefore a reason that they don’t come close to Christ.

I think of the power of the Gospel and I think that if students at universities were filled with this power, the Italian Universities would be hit like a tsunami. I think it is fundamental, therefore, that students realize the profound joy of belonging to Christ, the #veragioia (true joy). I believe this can happen if students start looking for an intense relationship with Christ. So more than organizing events or strategic evangelism, there will be students full of joy, zeal, and the Spirit to make the difference and to proclaim the Gospel message with conviction and effectiveness.

Domenico Campo
Staff GBU

This will be the theme of our National Student Conference at the end of April!

 

Translation from Italian by Emma Cooper

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TOGETHER!

Being together at the GBU Weekend Away… what a joy! Students from all over Italy (and even further) gathered together in one place to praise God and be encouraged to continue seeking to fulfil the vision which they work towards throughout the year – to share Jesus student-to-student. And that is exactly why, each year, I cannot wait for the weekend away.

As soon as I’d arrived at Poggio this year, I could already feel a sense of excitement and knew that the three days I was blessed to spend there would be full of joy, but also challenges to be faced. And that’s exactly how it was. Just a few days, yet intense ones, in which the word ‘together’ was not only a gift that God had blessed us with by having us all gather together, but it actually became the theme of the whole conference, leading us to see the whole event from a brighter perspective. Together we took part in study groups where we were able to learn more from certain Bible passages by discussing it altogether. Together we had the opportunity to attend seminars, each of which tackled a different topic. Often we students arrive at the weekend away with lots of questions: How can I speak about the gospel with one of my friends? How do I organise an evangelistic event at my university? How can I deal with trials and challenges from a Christian point of view? And so this is the moment in which we try to find answers to all kinds of questions, not just dwelling on theory but approaching a member of staff who can give us practical advice.

What’s more, there were plenty of opportunities to spend time together laughing, playing games and having fun during the evening events and, in addition, to hear real testimonies of those living out their faith in the GBU context. And I think that this last point is one of the best aspects because it shows you how God is really working through this unique ministry.

Thanks to the studies led by preacher Stefano Molino, we were able to reflect on how the first Christians in the book of Acts used to pray, the way in which they proclaimed the gospel and how they always made important and difficult decisions together. It was interesting to see how Christianity began together and how even today God encourages us to continue together. We saw the teaching in Acts applied to our own situation in the GBU, circumstances which are not always easy as there are times when we feel burdened by the responsibility to share the gospel, but the fact that we have been called to do all of this together is so encouraging. Throughout the weekend away, God reminded me of the importance of prayer and I think that this is a challenge for all of us in our local GBU groups. Before doing anything, we should find the time to pray and make the effort to join together, to share the burden and also the joys of our mission. We cannot do anything without praying together first. This is why, during the conference, I found the prayer room really helpful as a space full of prompts to encourage us to pray with and for others. Thanks to all of these things, during the three days at the weekend away we were able to enjoy an experience similar to that of the apostles – we received so much and I thank God for the opportunity he gave me of being there. But it didn’t all end there. Just as Jesus called the apostles to go and preach the gospel, today he still continues to call us, giving us the same challenge. Now it is our turn to accept that challenge and face it in our everyday lives and in our GBU groups.

“… to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.” Philippians 3:16 (NKJV)

Shanizee Scorsone
(GBU Milan)