Stories of daily life: disciples to “make disciples” in the hand of a great God.

April 2019

I was waiting for a new roommate in my Uni residence. You’re never really ready enough to welcome the newcomer, because you have no idea who it could be. I wanted to to be ready. In the face of uncertainty, as Christians, God calls us to trust him and to bring our doubts, fears and desires to him in prayer, knowing that He himself will provide what is better for us, in his own time. Initially, my requests were mostly related to practical aspects of living together: “Someone polite, neat, and, if possible, Italian, please!”

But the more I spent time with God, the more I realized that He was changing my desires; my requests were no longer the same and my thoughts were aligning with His. I had prioritized things that were of little importance. What God was calling me to do was show who He is with my life, to talk about hope in Christ Jesus with my new roommate, with the desire to one day read the Bible with her, at our house! I knew God would send the right person at the right time. As for me, I rediscovered the value and the power of prayer, and the great privilege of being able to enjoy special relationship with God.

But to really understand the greatness of our God, and why this story is His story, we need to take a step back…

During the two weeks of waiting and praying, something rather strange happened. One Saturday morning I was reading the book of Acts, when I heard some lovely music. I knew that melody, it was a Christian song! For a moment I really thought I was wrong, but then I saw an Asian girl with a guitar in her hand, singing and praising God in front of the university residence. I was so excited that I want straight down to the square and, without even knowing her name, I started singing along with her. I met a dear sister in Christ (G. from Berlin) who organizes bible studies at her house every Friday, and that that day was handing out flyers near the University to invite students. We began to hang out regularly and shared our passion for Jesus.

Three days later I met A. my new roommate… from Mongolia! She didn’t speak Italian, and it wasn’t going to be easy to communicate (she only knew a little English), let alone talk to her about Jesus! I didn’t see how I could share the gospel with her, I trusted God and his faithfulness. I prayed that He would give me opportunities to share at least my story, and how he had changed my life, but I didn’t have many opportunities for dialogue. God challenged me to put my complete trust in him, to be able to do it without words but, with my life, to show His love, His joy, His peace, His grace and His forgiveness. A. this perceived it, I wasn’t aware of it yet but God was already working in her heart.

Easter

It is clear to me that God had prepared a special time with A. even though I had imagined a different kind of day. I invited her to go to the park for a walk after a quick lunch, and I brought my ukelele with me. We sat on a bench and I started spontaneously praising God with some songs and explaining what they meant. We spent two blessed hours there, and God gave me the joy of sharing who Jesus is for me, and the opportunity to explain the gospel message in simple words.
“For God so loved the world that he gave His only Son, so that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
God had already answered in an incredible way to my prayers, wait until you hear what she asked me!

“What if we started reading the Bible together?”

I could not have imagined that after only two weeks we would already have the first bible study at our home!

May

We had our first bible study in English. A.’s desire to know Jesus was encouraging, but it was not easy for her to understand the text. Even though I had the proof that even wordless God can perform miracles, I felt the urgency that she really understand the good news of Jesus and it would really be great to know a believer who spoke her language with which could have talk and ask all her questions.

Here the story gets interesting: remember G. the Asian girl I met a few weeks before? Well, what I didn’t mention is that his mom is Mongolian. G. knows 9 languages, including Mongolian!

And that’s not all, During the second biblical study with A., I told her about G. and she very spontaneously asked me if it was the same G. that organizes bible studies on Fridays, that had given her a flyer a few weeks, which she had gladly accepted because she was interested in knowing Jesus. You can imagine my reaction! I was amazed at how much God had orchestrated everything perfectly. I realized that this was His work, that I was only an instrument in his hands, and that gave me joy, peace and an incredible sense of freedom. I surrendered control of everything to him.

It was not easy to schedule a meeting between G. and A. For three weeks, our plans kept being cancelled! But God had already shown me his faithfulness and again invited me to trust him, there’s nothing more reassuring!

June

Friday the 14th: the day of the long-awaited meeting, G., A., me and my ukulele, completely immersed in the green surroundings of the park. As soon as they met with great joy and enthusiasm they started talking in Mongolian, while I, not being able to understand anything, sang and thanked God for what my eyes were seeing. G. opened her Bible and began reading and commenting on verses of the letter to the Romans:

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” (Romans 10: 9-11)

After a while G. asked me to join them in prayer because A. wanted to meet Jesus personally and start a new path with him. I could barely hold back the tears – it was the greatest joy of my life.

In two months God performed incredible miracles and showed his power: nothing is impossible for him! The wonder was to see how in the hands of a great God every Christian is equipped to proclaim the message of the Gospel to people of every nation and language, because He has already given us everything in Christ Jesus.

As his disciples He calls us to “make disciples” and I am aware that A. is only at the beginning of her journey with God; my prayer is that she can fall in love with Jesus more and more, get to know him through the Bible and decide to follow him with all her heart. We continue to pray for God’s work in her life!

As for me, I praise God for the privilege of being beside her in this journey that, despite small daily challenges, is full of great blessings because “there is more joy in giving than in receiving.”

Alessandra Malta
(GBU Firenze)

GBU Italy students revived by the IFES Europe evangelism conference

Priscilla was one of 1,700 students. She had come with her friends from GBU Italy to join students from 47 other countries. This was IFES Europe’s student evangelism conference, Presence, held at Easter 2017. Almost two years on, we asked her to reflect on the long-term impact of being at Presence. She shared her reflections:

Priscilla’s story

“I was expecting a wonderful experience. But not something that inspirational. Both for me and for my IFES group (GBU) in Milan.

It was amazing to experience a connection with other students as we prayed together in different languages. And it was amazing to see how big IFES is — to realise that we are involved in a huge international project.

But one stand-out moment for me was hearing a man share his testimony on the last night. He had grown up in a Muslim family in the Middle East. As part of his study, he spent a few months in France as an international student. There he had met some Christian students and started reading the Bible with them. Just three weeks before he left France, he gave his life to Christ.

That man now works with IFES students in the Middle East.

After hearing his story, I felt convinced that we need to make more of the opportunities we have to reach international students. We are used to praying for missionaries all over the world, but what about the hundreds of international people around us? They need to know Jesus! And they can be a powerful testimony in their own communities when they go back. The time they spend in our country might be short, but it could be enough.

A new heart

My friends and I came back from Presence spiritually charged, full of ideas and with a new heart for international students. Since then we’ve started having Bible studies in English as well as Italian. In my university we have a lot of international students — mostly from China, India, Pakistan, South America and other countries in Europe. They are from different religious backgrounds. Generally, we find that they don’t know much about Christianity, but they are more open to speaking about spiritual matters than our Italian friends. Sometimes their questions surprise me. They are curious. Talking about our souls and our sin is not weird to them.

Before Presence I was interested in international students, but I was scared because of the language barrier and I wasn’t sure what approach to take. After Presence we decided not to worry about those things. Our English is not perfect and our Bible studies are not always the best. But the important thing is to make the international students feel loved and welcome.

We’ve started hosting evangelistic events each month — usually themed parties, like The 1950s, Pizza, Movie Night, The South of Italy… We’re learning to have someone there to translate everything into English, and we’re trying to think about how to manage food, games, music and a presentation of the gospel in the most effective way. Sometimes we’ve had up to 60 students! We’ve also gone out to meet students on campus. Now we’re working to create a little guide about how to survive at university here, which includes some information about GBU.

An adventure worth having

To IFES groups that haven’t yet started engaging with international students I would say to risk it because it’s really worth it. It’s a great opportunity to discover other cultures and to test your faith. Pray for your universities and let yourselves be amazed!

And to IFES students in Europe who are considering going to the next European Evangelism Conference, Revive, I would say, GO! When we came back home we realised how much Presence had joined us together as a group. It made us a real team with the same goal and the same vision, the same love for students. Presence was an adventure and gave us stories that we still tell today.”

Introducing: Revive

The impact of Presence was felt across the whole region, as students fell more in love with Jesus and caught the vision for sharing Him on campus. Many mission weeks happened in new cities as a result of Presence. But IFES Europe still longs for more. It longs to see revival. In its Christian students. In its universities. In its nations. Revive, the next European evangelism conference, is taking place in Germany, 27 December 2019–1 January 2020.

(this article appeared on ifesconexion.org)

Every year in Slovenia, ZVEŠ the local GBU/IFES movement organises a festival in memory of Primož Trubar, a very important cultural figure for Slovenia. This is because after his conversion to the evangelical faith, actually during the Reformation years, he wrote the first books in the Slovene language.

This year the Italian GBU sent a small delegation of students, all from groups in the Veneto region of Italy. This is already a reason to praise God, because a few years ago there wasn’t even one GBU group in all the region, but today there is a good three groups!

One of the main reasons for the trip was to help the Slovene students in evangelistic activities; during the day we had conversations with students, we tried to make new contacts, and most of all invite people to the evening events. There, an artist commented on an art piece painted during the Reformation times with interesting spiritual discussion points. And that wasn’t all, being there was also a way to encourage the few students who work for the gospel in Slovenia: in Ljubljana there is only one student and one staff, and between all of the universities there are about five students! They really thanked us for our presence, they were enthusiastic that we were there.

We also encountered a culture very different from ours, even though we are geographically close. We tended to find students more introverted compared to those whom we’re used to, so it was a bit more difficult to start conversations. Although this difference was noticed less in Koper, here the presence of Italians is much stronger, and so in effect here we felt more ‘at home’. Some students we talked to were catholic, even if probably the culture is more secular than ours; and certainly you can’t forget the minority of Orthodox and Muslims, whom we didn’t have the opportunity to be in contact with. One thing which struck me was the deep sign that the civil wars of the 90s had left in the collective memory, particularly among the older people they frequently mention Yugoslavia. Even if the students whom we met grew up after the conflicts, it is always a fundamental aspect of the cultural context in which they move.

We Italians also had opportunities to meet to study John 12 and reflect on the content of our message: Jesus, the light which reveals God and whom God has sent into the world to give glory to himself. Through the death and resurrection of the eternal son, equal with God but also in submission to and obedient to his will. The Gospel reminded us that it is no surprise when Jesus is rejected, since also his peers and compatriots did, but also whoever believes and sees the light can only do so by the grace of God.

It was a great experience for everyone, personally I returned home determined to build more relationships with the students around me, aware of the enormous privilege which I have to be a servant and friend of the Only True God.

Gianluca Nuti
(GBU Padua)

When I learned, a year go, that I had been accepted to the University of Pisa, I did not want to go. Now, a year later, I find myself gladly embracing the offer of becoming a GBU student leader in this same city.

It is incredible and wonderful how the Lord is able to change and mold situations, and the way we see them. A year ago I had only a vague idea of what GBU was, I knew that the group was trying to re-launch after a few years of silence, I knew that there was a need for people who had the desire to share Jesus with students. When I came (reluctantly) to this city, I met the group and during the course of the year I also met staff and volunteers and saw their strong passion for the ministry in the university. It was a contagious passion, beautiful to see from the outside, and slowly, the desire to help this project in some way started to grow in me.

In September, when Zach (the Pisa GBU staff worker) asked if I would become one of the student leaders, I accepted and I also signed up for the Student Training Weekend, but I was still full of doubt and fear. Will I be able to manage my time wisely? Will I be a good leader? Will I be able to dedicate myself earnestly to the GBU without neglecting my studies or other commitments? Will I be able to share the Gospel with strength and without shyness? Questions that I’m sure other people ask themselves, too.

Well, I never would have imagined receiving so much in 3 days. Besides the answers to all my questions, I’ve been filled with strength, enthusiasm and motivation to start this new academic year.  I had never studied the epistle to Titus in depth and I would never have thought that these three chapters could contain so much. The answer to my questions arrived immediately: if I hold firm to the trustworthy word, not only the Lord will change me, but He will make me able to encourage others. I cannot be perfect, and never will be, but I can and I must hold firm to the trustworthy word. This is what gives me life, what shapes me and teaches me to face every day of the academic year. I don’t want to worry anymore about the challenges of being a student leader: the Lord only asks for a heart willing to serve Him, He will take care of everything else!

So here I am, in a city that a year ago felt dreary and that now makes me feel joyful, and I have a great desire in my heart: to share Jesus, from student to student!

Blanka Baracetti 
(GBU Pisa)

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)

From 27 until 29 March 2018 the “Bible on Display” event took place at the Magna Graecia University of Catanzaro. The exhibition was carried out in the Department of Medicine and General Surgery, offering an overview of the Bible, its contents, reliabilty of the text from a historical/scientific point of view, the invaluable message of life offered by Jesus, its evolution through printing etc.

It is very easy to set up, as roll up banners are used. The exhibition can be shown in any kind of venue, preferably sheltered.
During the event organised by GBU Catanzaro, a brief speech was given by Giovanni Donato which aroused interest among the students. Questions, doubts and puzzlements were raised, dialogue and debate were prefered and some wanted to go deeper with the Bible message and join the meetings held by students in the local GBU group. Bibles in a variety of languages were also exhibited and New Testaments given out. Read more

#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

Throughout the 11 years that I have been working with the GBU, many times I have asked myself why I do what I am doing and if it really is worth it…

In other words, does it make sense to strive for the proclamation of the gospel in universities? There are so many important ministries out there and I want to be sure that I am dedicating my time and energy to something that is really worth striving for.

For this reason, I would briefly like to share three reasons why I still believe that is it extremely important that we bring the gospel of Christ into universities:

1. The gospel needs to be preached wherever knowledge is put on a pedestal above God

The apostle Paul tells us that knowledge puffs up (1 Corinthians 8:1), and it is true! We can clearly see this in universities. Increasingly, in the minds of many people, especially those with a greater level of education, there seems to be a clear distinction between everything that is rational, ascertainable, or can be empirically demonstrated and anything that concerns faith, God, and religion. In a contest in which human pride rises up against its own Creator, we need to be ambassadors who humbly and confidently proclaim the message about Jesus of Nazareth, for the salvation of those who consequently choose to follow him. Read more

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

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)