This year, despite the pandemic, we didn’t want to do without the precious weekend of FORMAZIONE GBU (Student Leaders’ Training) in which young students, willing to serve God at the university, gather to be spiritually charged and start, together, the new academic year. It’s a chance for spiritual growth and training both for “freshers” and for more “experienced” students.
Following you can find the testimonies of two students: Federico Beccati, just getting to know the GBU world and also a new leader in Turin, and Alice Novaria, an experienced leader already on board the mission for a few years now.
Praise the Lord, I had the opportunity to attend, this year for the first time, Formazione GBU. It was great and encouraging to see fellow students from Italian cities ready and available to serve God also in the context of university campuses. Thanks to the more experienced leaders I had the opportunity to receive helpful advice, both practical and spiritual, to start this task according to God’s will.
I was hesitant at first, being inexperienced, of how I could be of any help to the GBU vision, which is “sharing Jesus from one student to another”.
Instead God responded to my doubts from the very first day with a Bible study on Haggai, an extraordinary text about the devastation the people of Israel were experiencing after the return to Jerusalem from the exile, but where God gives hope: “I am with you” declares the Lord (Hg 1:13). And then Haggai prophecies of the glory of the Lord with the coming of Jesus Christ. Thanks to studying this book I understood fully how everything must be entrusted to God and how we as student leaders are called, in our role, to have only one goal: to give Him glory and to present His Gospel to others.
As I repeated frequently in the days after Formazione, I had never received so much input into my spiritual growth as I did during that weekend. An example of this to which I am thankful for were the workshops on evangelism, for instance through “Sharing Jesus by reading the Bible with a friend”, I found the motivation to fight against my shyness and accept the responsibility of evangelism that Jesus left us after His resurrection.
Another topic that we looked at was how we are called to be leaders, not according to the world’s definition, but according to Jesus Christ. To be a leader is to be a servant who sacrifices oneself for others, whose life is rooted in the Word and who is of encouragement to the other members of the group, helping them to grow.
Although the Covid-19 restrictions limited our interaction, it was good to encourage one another, especially in this new beginning full of uncertainties. I was particularly grateful for the moments of prayer in which we supported one another and I will keep lifting up my fellow student leaders in prayer throughout the year. During the weekend we had the opportunity to share our worries and prayer requests which really reinforced the bond amongst all of the participants.
I want to close by thanking the GBU staff workers who made Formazione possibile, I thank them personally because by being able to attend Formazione, God showed me more so the plan that He has for my life and therefore affirmed the verse that says:
“I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go”
This year God granted my desire of closing my long university journey with what is most important to me – sharing the message of the Gospel.
The GBU has always been a great way to accomplish this and God opened up a way for us at Urbino, a university with no Christian witness.
After a couple of years where GBU Urbino stopped due to lack of “student power”, we are back and this fills me with joy. So I had the opportunity, a few years later, to attend Formazione GBU again. The weekend was a leap into the past, and brought back many memories and some nostalgia too! I was surprised to see a considerable generational turnover in the students who came and also some older friends.
We studied Haggai, a book that I had never personally analysed in depth before. I think that God wanted to equip us this year by reminding us that HE IS AND ALWAYS WILL BE WITH US. He will be with us even when we are discouraged and when all our efforts may seem fruitless or useless, because the work is His, not ours.
Another great teaching that really stuck with me was the example of Haggai and his “hidden service”. Despite the fact that the book we studied is named after him, Haggai is more like an “extra” than the lead in this story, as one might assume. Haggai faithfully reported God’s message without adding or taking anything to His words – he was only an instrument in God’s hands.
The application I took from this (that was provoked by a simple comment during the Bible discussion) is to be humble and faithful to God.
I want to point this out because I believe that Formazione GBU is a rich time filled with input, with every moment having the potential to be crucial for one’s spiritual growth. In every Formazione session that I attended I always observed a strong desire between students and staff to share and exchange thoughts and lessons learnt. Even in the rare “free” moments between sessions or at the end of the evening, it was beautiful to see that Jesus was at the center of our conversations, on the top of our list of priorities.
Along the same lines, I thought that spending time with our only roommates at meal times (due to Covid restrictions) would be a limitation during this particular Formazione, yet this turned out to be a great blessing. Because of the deeper nature of our conversations we were able to establish stronger, more intimate relationships and encourage one another, with God guiding us the whole time.
One workshop that I found particularly useful was “How to prepare an evangelistic message” in which we also had the chance to do practical exercises. And there’s much more that could I say about the prayer evening, the group Bible studies, the sessions on the leader’s role in a GBU, the panels during lunch…
I think that now, equipped so, we have nothing left to do than answer the call of our Lord –
“Get to work, for I am with you!” (Haggai 2:4)