After two years in which the FESTA GBU (National Student Gathering) was held online (due to the pandemic), this year we were able to meet again in person. From Trento to Messina, we university students, graduates and staff rejoiced, studied and spent a few days together surrounded by the Florentine hills at Poggio Ubertini.
Stefano Mariotti guided us and shared with us some reflections on Peter’s first letter written “to the elect who live as strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia” (1 Peter 1:1). This is precisely where the title of the Festa comes from, “Far from Home“, an expression very familiar to us students. In addition, among other activities, there were some seminars that gave us the opportunity to cover topics such as interacting with the university, using social media to share the gospel, organising evangelistic events, and inviting a friend to read the Bible.
TWO ENCOURAGEMENTS FROM 1 PETER
During our studies, I loved it when we would break up into small groups. We would read a few verses, share our observations, and begin to ponder their meaning with the help of some guiding questions. Afterwards, we would all gather together and Stefano would delve into some of the themes more specifically. In the first chapter of his letter, the Apostle Peter talks about two important topics: joy and suffering. Personally, it made me think a lot when Stefano asked us what we rejoice in, and particularly when he said that sometimes we make our joy dependent on a circumstance, an event, or often a person; consequently, our mood will depend on how things turn out. I immediately thought of the verse from Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord always. I repeat: rejoice.” It was important for me to remember to base our joy in God because He is our safe haven and He is faithful.
Another thing that encouraged me was when the Apostle Peter argues that the sufferings the recipients of his writing go through are necessary and that we should not be surprised; in fact, he says, “ Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in as much as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:12-13). Through these words and thinking about how God sustains us even during difficulties, I was spurred on since He is our “cornerstone” (1 Peter 2: 6), essential and necessary for our lives. Sometimes difficulties are needed to grow and help others to grow, as Stefano shared, our hope in Christ.
TOGETHER TO SHARE JESUS
The Festa GBU was also important because it was an opportunity to continue cultivating the friendships that were born and that continue to be born in GBU. Building relationships that you can count on is really precious. Talking to other students and staff, sharing the activities carried out in your local GBU group over the past months, the events that have been organised and those that will take place soon, the ideas but also the difficulties that you encounter… These conversations really encouraged me to continue to bring Jesus to the universities. When I think of the GBU as a group made up of so many students and friends with the same objective, it gives me courage.
To conclude, I can say with certainty that that weekend was a blessed time, expectations were greatly exceeded as God used so many people to support us, to show us once again the love he has for us, how precious we are to him and how much he cares about our lives. We were encouraged once again to be a light in our faculties and talk about Jesus to our friends and fellow university students.
Giada Coppola (Coordinatrice GBU Parma)