IFES World Student Day 2017 – October 20th

Go to the IFES website to find out everything about WSD 2017 and how you can pray for students all around the world!

WORLD STUDENT DAY 2017

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GBU Student Leaders Training

It’s just a weekend…

If someone told me that in three days, God would answer so many questions and make me understand so much about my life, I wouldn’t have believed it. When I was encouraged to do the GBU Training Weekend, with the aim of becoming a coordinator, I already had the answer.

For almost any GBU event or activity, my head has had a plethora of excuses: “I’m too busy / I have to study / I have to do exams / I have to graduate / spend money / polish silverware / take my goldfish for a walk …!” As with any event, my head made this ‘useful’ list for me and the decision was obvious …

But thanks to God, he had a different answer in mind. As my head was saying “No,” before I knew it, I had already accepted the proposal and I had the strength (which until a few seconds before I thought I didn’t have), to make me want to begin this new experience right away.

God has plans bigger than I can have for me and GBU Training has given me the ability to understand it more and accept it. I was a little worried and wondered why I was there. Why me?! During these years within GBU, I have met so many coordinators and staff members and I admired their preparation, their seriousness and their organization … Why did God call me to do this?

Now choose life

At GBU Training, I have been given the opportunity to meet people from all over the world, with different ways of doing things, different characters and thoughts, but with the same motivation: to know and to be used by God.

As the feeling of how I could do this got stronger, I was also faced with the beautiful and delicate question – Who are you in God? Not according to yourself, not according to others, but according to God! I am His daughter; we are His children. God had spoken to me: each one of us was created in a different way, but in His image. Each of us has a function and a value that brings light to God’s service. We must leave room for God’s vision, not for our own. We need to understand who we are, not by ourselves but through God.

I still had a question, an uncertainty, and that is why I was very happy that the Bible study we looked at in Deuteronomy 27 – 30 covered this. I asked God that his will be done in my life, but would I be willing to accept it? To obey him? What would I receive in return?

I have seen how God is committed and engaging with me every day, how He blesses me and makes my life great. That is why I have decided to commit myself totally to God so that I can admire His beauty in the awareness that I cannot change by myself, but with the certainty that the Lord is at my side and will help me, as he did with his people .

In this new academic year, I made my choice: To share Jesus from student to student!

Manuela Buffa
(GBU Bologna)

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From Marsala to Siena… and back!

domenicoWe have the great pleasure of introducing Domenico, a student who has decided to undertake our staff training program. The pleasure is even greater because he represents an opportunity we have prayed about for many years: a member of staff in Sicily!
We have had, and still have, GBU groups in Sicily, but we have never had a member of staff who could offer continuity, visit and present the GBU to churches and start new groups in  universities where there are none.
As of January 1st, 2017 this will become a reality. For now you can keep reading and get to know Domenico and Angela. Pray for them!

(Johan Soderkvist,
GBU General Secretary)

A student’s journey in the GBU

I first believed in Jesus when I was 14 years old, and was baptized shortly after. At the age of 13, I started attending the youth group at my church in Marsala (Sicily) and that’s where I understood who Jesus is. I felt compelled to give him my life.

After finishing school, I decided to go to university. I moved to Siena on October 1st, 2012 to study Modern Literature. I had never heard of the GBU. The first Sunday there, I went to church and at the end of the service, the first person to come over and speak to me was Giovanni Donato. Among other things, he told me that during the week the students met on campus to study the Bible. That was my first glimpse of the world of the GBU.

In the following months I began attending GBU Siena’s Bible studies and events. It wasn’t at all hard to integrate into the group, not only for hospitality and warm welcome I received from both the Donato family and the students, but also because of what the GBU was: a group of Christian students who shared the same challenges and struggles at the university but, foremost, a group who shared a common goal. Sharing Jesus from student to student. Seeing that Christ was the focus of every GBU activity and event was what, more than anything, convinced me to contribute to the cause of the GBU and which kindled a desire to evangelize, channeling this zeal within the context in which I found myself, the university.

In April 2013 I attended my first GBU Weekend Away. If I had to choose a moment in which I felt called to the work of the GBU, I would pick those days in April. There, my vision broadened, I saw the resources and the needs of the GBU at a national level and the Lord laid on my heart the deep desire to commit to this missionary effort.

At the beginning of 2016 I made two important decisions. The first, together with my fiancée Angela: that we would get married in March 2017. The second – being that, for various reasons, in May I’d move back to Sicily and finish university there. The realization that my work with the GBU was coming to an end made me very sad, but I nurtured the hope that I’d be able to help in Sicily, though I didn’t know how. At the Weekend Away last April I spoke with Johan Soderkvist about this. I didn’t know what job I would find after graduation, nor if I’d have time available, but I desired to contribute somehow to the growth of the GBU in Sicily.

Johan’s reply went way beyond my expectations. He told me that, for years, the GBU had been praying for an increase in the number of staff in the south of Italy and for someone to be based long-term in Sicily. He suggested I start thinking about the possibility of working with the GBU and what that would entail. It was an amazing conversation. Afterwards I was struck by the way in which God was opening a door to do something that went beyond my imagination. There was the possibility to keep serving the GBU. This filled my heart with joy, and still does.

I have great hopes for the months and years to come. The road  seems to be full of obstacles at the same time, but Angela and I know that God brings his work to pass. We put our trust in Him.

 

Domenico Campo

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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

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Ready, steady… go!

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When Giovanni Donato suggested I attend the GBU Student Leaders Training, from 30th September to 3rd October 2016 in the small town of Rocca di Papa near Rome, I have to admit that it seemed a strange idea to me. I thought, “In Ancona (the city where I live), there isn’t even a local GBU group. Why should I receive training for a role that doesn’t even exist and of which there’s no hope at my university?” … But wait, let’s rewind.

In January, after years of having attended national GBU events and activities, God laid on my heart the desire to establish a group in Ancona – a university made up of many departments and, therefore, with a great need for Jesus to be shared from student to student. So I got to work and began looking for Christian students with the same desire that God had given me, both in my own church and in other churches around the city. I managed to forge contacts with quite a few students, but unfortunately nothing concrete was established. I then left Ancona to spend a semester studying abroad, and returned to Italy in August. That brings us to 5th September, the day I had that conversation with Giovanni about the Training. Since many of the students I’d met at the GBU Weekend Away in April had warmly encouraged me to attend the Training weekend, I decided to go.

There were 27 of us students (approx. one or two per GBU group, all from various universities across Italy), and we were all gathered and ready for a weekend of intense preparation to equip us in tackling the upcoming academic year as we lead our local groups. The whole weekend was centred around a single theme: Be holy, because I am holy (1 Peter). Read more

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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)

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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)

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A new GBU group in Padua

We are very happy to be able to share with you the things that have happened here in Padua over the last few months. As you may already know, for a few years now we have been lacking a stable GBU group at the University of Padua. I found this out in the last years of High School, when I was considering the various universities nearby and hearing more about the various GBU groups in existence. Along with a sense of sadness to not have found anything a desire grew in my heart to start something myself, a desire that only began to take shape with the start of this academic year when a good friend (who had been a co-ordinator of a GBU group for years in Pisa) put me in contact with Chris.

Near the middle of October, after a few weeks, we met to see what we could do and to pray for the birth GBU Padova 1of a new group. In the meantime, we were joined by Emily, an English girl in Padua for Erasmus. We thank the Lord for how he has guided every thing in the course of this semester, what seemed uncertain and difficult He has made possible! At the first meeting there were four of us, we were joined by two other girls: Jessica and Gloria. None of us had had any experience with the GBU, after the initial bewilderment and shyness our first meeting continued with great serenity but was also very exciting, we had the opportunity to get to know each other a little, to share our testimonies and think about how to organise the meetings of our little group. Finally something concrete was born, a response to our prayers and hopes and once again I could see how the Lord does not fail to give an answer to those who want to serve Him. We have decided to study the Gospel of John together, as it is a great place to start thanks to the richness of the verses it contains. After a few weeks we were joined by three more students (Marco, Elie and Naomi) who started to frequent our meetings. Their presence has been a further encouragement and together we have continued with our reading and meditation of John. Read more

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A week in Riga

Hi my name is Zach. I am an Interaction volunteer in Siena, and this year I went on the GBU mission trip to Riga, Latvia. I would like to tell you all a bit about what happened and also share some reflections.

The week:

We all arrived in Riga sometime Saturday, we got a chance to go visit Fjorilda who was still in the hospital at the time [Fjorilda is an Interaction volunteer in Riga and was hit by a car about a week before the mission trip]. She was very happy to see all of us and we spent about 2 hours all speaking Italian while Fjori’s mum and the General Secretary of LKSB (Latvian GBU) stood in the room not understanding a word…

The mission week started with a meeting Sunday night where we discussed the plan of action. The days were packed: in the morning after breakfast, we had devotions all together and got ready, before heading to the university campuses. We had a large team of people helping so we were able to cover several university campuses in the city. We would spend 3 hours talking to students on campus and inviting them to the events. In the afternoon we had to set up for the evening, and start preparing the food. We would have a prayer time at 6 then open the doors. Each event ran roughly for a couple of hours. After there were always people who stayed around to talk, then we would clean up, and get back to home base at about 11, cook some pasta for dinner and go to bed. We did this 4 days in a row. It was tough! But it was also rewarding.

The first night over 120 students showed up! We didn’t have enough pasta to feed them all! It was a fun cultural evening where we had a quiz on Italy and taught the students common Italian gestures amongst other things. We also explained who we were and that the rest of the week we would be talking about important questions about God, and invited them all to come.

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The second night I played some live music, then Giovanni spoke in response to the question “Why doesn’t God reveal himself more clearly?” He argued that God has revealed himself clearly in Creation, in Scripture and in Jesus! There was a question and answer time and there were a lot of Muslim students asking questions. There were more than 60 people there! And many of the muslim students stayed for more discussion afterwards.

The third night we watched La Vita è Bella and Francesco spoke about suffering. That Christianity has various answers to why God allows suffering, but in the end Christianity is less worried about explaining why there is suffering and more worried about offering the hope of no more suffering one day. There were about 50 students there. Once again many students stayed behind to talk.

Then the final night, I once again played some live music, and Giovanni talked about who would be saved. He explained the gospel, that people must repent and believe in Jesus. I was amazed during his message how attentively people were listening to him. I think there were more than 60 people there. Afterwards there were some questions and Giovanni answered them clearly and gracefully with the truth. Even more people stayed after to talk on this night. There was one girl from Uzbekistan who came to Giovanni afterward and told him she believed it, but had a feeling of something blocking her. Others were very interested in knowing more about the Bible and about Jesus.

All in all it was a very encouraging time with many students interested in who Jesus is and what he is about.

A reflection:

I have often been uncomfortable with the on campus evangelism of trying to just start conversations. I often feel like a salesman, and it isn’t a good feeling. But I learned this week that God will use your willingness. I was in a space which was very hard to start conversations in. But each of the first two days I had a really good conversation with someone or group, then on the third day I saw both of those again (they came and said hello wanting to talk more) and was able to talk more to them about God and the Gospel and also bring Giovanni into the conversation to explain what he would be talking about. It made all the rejections worth it to have a few people hear the gospel. I think God uses you especially when it is uncomfortable.

Please pray for all those who heard the gospel in that week! Pray that these students would come to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior!

Zachary Smith
(Interaction Siena)