Tempo di lettura: 3 minuti

By Giovanni Donato, Staff GBU Siena

A new academic year has begun and, like every year, the GBU has organized  Formazione (Student Leaders Training Conference) –  which is attended by all those who will be student leaders for GBU. This year, I was asked to preach from the book of 2 Timothy, which I was honored and pleased to do!

2 Timothy is probably one of the most suitable texts for such a retreat, the purpose of which is to exhort, train, and challenge the GBU coordinators (student leaders). I say this because that is precisely what Paul wishes to do with Timothy in writing of this letter, and every exhortation, every rebuke, every challenge that Paul issues to the young leader Timothy is easily applicable to young student leaders who are about to begin a new academic year with enthusiasm, but not without concerns.

In our four days together we were able to consider and meditate on the entire letter, however below I would just like to highlight two main lessons from 2 Timothy:

The call to Christian leadership is a call to suffering

Several times in the four chapters that make up 2 Timothy, Paul mentions the word suffering; he encourages the young leader to be ready to suffer for the sake of the gospel (1:8) and to patiently endure the suffering he will encounter in ministry (2:3, 4:5). Paul reminds Timothy that he too is suffering unashamedly for the sake of the gospel (1:12, 2:9), that he is also patiently enduring suffering for the sake of the elect (2:10), that his entire ministry has been marked by suffering (3:11); he informs him of the fact that he has been abandoned by all those who had been close to him up to that point (1:15, 4:9-10, 4:16) and how he had been violently attacked by someone whom he had until recently considered his friend (4:14-15). He makes it clear to Timothy that all who choose to be serious about God (“living piously”) will necessarily face persecution (3:12). Wow, put like that the call to leadership does not sound very inviting… However, Paul in this letter is not only saying that the call to leadership is only a call to suffering (thank God!), but it is also a glorious call!

The call to Christian leadership is a glorious call

In his letter, Paul repeatedly emphasizes the importance, honor, and even beauty of serving God. He reminds Timothy that the holy call to serve the King of kings is not received because of good conduct, but solely because of the glorious grace of God (1:9) that has been manifested to the world through the appearance of our Savior Jesus Christ (1:10). He explains to him that such a glorious calling is worth suffering (1:12) and that God is the one who will uphold us by his power (1:8) and guard us carefully until the day when we can lay down our arms (1:12). He exhorts young Timothy to invest time and energy into people who would one day take his place so that the flame of the gospel could continue to stay burning and be passed on throughout the unfolding of history (2:2); he urges him to watch over, care for and protect the body of Christ (2:14, 3:1-9), watching over it with love, humility, patience and consistency (2:15-16, 2:22-25). He called on him to preach God’s inspired Word faithfully and passionately (4:2), to use the gifts God had given him (1:6), and to faithfully fulfill the service the Lord had entrusted to him (4:5) because at the end of this great adventure, entry into God’s heavenly kingdom (4:18a) and the crown of righteousness that the Lord, the righteous judge, would award to all those who joyfully awaited Jesus’ return (4:8)

Through the study of this letter we were able to do what Paul desired to do with Timothy through the writing of this letter: to exhort young Christian leaders to faithfully serve the Lord, not to be surprised or upset when they encounter suffering in their journey, and to always remember that the holy call to serve King Jesus is a glorious call that has been given to us by the grace of God and for which it is worth even suffering and dying, waiting for the day when we will meet him in glory.

Happy New Year and happy service to all GBU coordinators and to all those in the body of Christ who hold leadership and responsibility!

Tempo di lettura: 2 minuti
Elena Montaldocoordinator of GBU Torino 

As someone who studies Primary Education (ed: education = training), the word “training,” has a special value.

Its meaning is not summed up in the systematic transmission of knowledge, but indicates a desire to render someone competent. In other words, they are able to rework and apply that same knowledge that they learnt in the context of reality. This is possible only if there is a social network that provides those being trained, stimuli to which they can respond.

Student Leaders Training

This year’s Student Leaders Training meant all of the above to me and even more. It was  more than a context where students from all over Italy gathered for three days in Florence to listen to teaching, study the Bible together and participate in various  seminars. Here I even had the opportunity to lead an inductive Bible study, a prayer meeting, as well as planninng events and meetings for the new GBU students and to share GBU with university students in Florence itself.   

For the first time as a coordinator, after years of participation in the GBU, I felt that I was an irreplaceable part of a project that has Love as its engine and People’s Lives as its goal.

The theme

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul speaks as a father who, shortly before his death, addresses his son. The very one who had been the author of massacres, violence and persecution of Christians, after meeting Jesus, finds himself writing in prison, abandoned by all and condemned to death because of his faith in Him. 

An absurd decision in the eyes of many, but not to his own who saw joy flowing from his suffering. With his life, until his last breath, Paul had in fact led many souls to receive the salvation that comes from faith in the One who first gave His life and rose again to give them Life forever.

Reading and studying his words together with other students who, like me, received that same news and chose to believe and live for this same reality – I felt like the recipient,  together with Timothy, of that same letter. 

Let’s start again

During our Student Leaders Training we coordinators were confronted with an example of faith that laid bare our fears, insecurities and worries that anyone, in living to the fullest an ideal that goes against the grain, faces sooner or later, and then removed them. Together we understood the deep meaning of the ministry we believe has been entrusted to each of us Christian students within the GBU.

I realized how much courage and strength it can take to consistently maintain this life choice. At the same time, I realized even more deeply how worthwhile it is to live it out fully so that more and more people will know the Love and grace that the God of the Bible has shown, through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus, in order to have a personal relationship with each of them.

Now we are ready to begin again, each where he or she lives in Italy. This time, however, with the knowledge that everything we do in our own small way has a common goal and a joy that springs even in suffering.

Tempo di lettura: 3 minuti

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.


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.


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)

Tempo di lettura: 2 minuti

There aren’t many contexts like university, at least spiritually.  Every day we’re assaulted by the assumption that every “good”, even the best “goods”, can be reached if we humans just put in enough effort.  In today’s university departments, there’s little room for the spiritual: at most, it gets relegated strictly to the private, personal realm that has little or nothing to do with civic life or academic progress.  In our lecture halls, therefore, the socio-physical world and the spiritual world are completely separate, removed from one another.

 For both the aggressive atheist and the typical disinterested uni student, someone who wants to entrust themselves completely to Jesus seems strange.  Maybe too strange – crazy, even.  Academically, faith is often seen as weakness, a shortcoming, something that gets in the way of knowledge, that holds humanity back from reaching our true potential.  How then can someone belong to Jesus and at the same time swim in these cultural waters?  It’s easy for a believing student to feel like a fish out of water, to feel truly far from home.

But this experience isn’t at all unique to the modern university

From the very beginning of Christianity, believers have been considered “outsiders” by their society – from the very beginning it was clear to the world that there was something different about these “Christians”, that their allegiance wasn’t the same as those around them, the majority of their society.  For this reason in the early years, the church suffered greatly at the hands of those around them.  The problem was so serious, that the apostle Peter wrote a letter to the first generation of believers – calling them “sojourners and exiles” on this earth – encouraging them to not give up, but to endure, to keep going, even to rejoice in the midst of their sufferings, because of the great blessing that they had received from God.  This letter will be our launching point for the long-awaited FESTA GBU!

What does it mean, though, to be a sojourner and an exile?

What does that imply for today, to be far from home?  This will be the main theme for this year.  We’ll have two very special guests joining us: Stefano Mariotti, the pastor of the Chiesa la Piazza in Budrio (BO), who will share with us some reflections from 1 Peter on this theme.  We will also have with us Lindsay Brown, former General Secretary of IFES, the global movement that includes the GBU.  Linsdau will be sharing some of the lessons he has learnt from his over 40 years of experience in student ministry.

 But wait, there’s more!  The FESTA GBU also represents the primary moment of the year when students from all of Italy can gather together IN PERSON for 4 days of workshops, prayer and praise to the Lord, music, sport and plenty of time face to face – what a joy that we’ve been missing for nearly 3 years!  It’ll be unforgettable, and absolutely unmissable.  

Be there!

Simon Cowell
(Staff GBU Bari)

Tempo di lettura: 3 minuti

I have been involved with GBU for 15 years now. Throughout  these years our mission has not changed, but the world around us has. For us to share the Gospel effectively, it is always helpful to understand these changes. 

Today the Italian university is changing,  not as an organism in itself, but separate from the context in which it grows and develops. It is changing in relation to what is happening in our country, or, even moreso, in relation to the winds of change blowing through Europe.

About three years ago I was invited to take part in a major event that was to be held in Poland in 2020. It was a continent-wide conference that would bring together about 1,000 evangelical leaders from across Europe. The Lausanne Movement, promoter and organizer of this event, has now existed for nearly 50 years to further the advancement of the Church’s mission in the world.

But 2020, the year of cancelled events, forced the organisers to postpone the event to 2021. In fact, perhaps a bit naively , they hoped that we would soon be able to return to holding major events in attendance (easy to say in hindsight!), a luxury that the coronavirus, to date, is not yet allowing us. Lausanne Europe 20/21, then, turned into a major online event (another one!) that took place in November between the 17th and 20th and brought together online more than a thousand leaders from across our continent to reflect, pray, learn and plan for the advancement of Christ’s mission in Europe and to the ends of the earth.

After the Cape Town Global Congress in 2010 and the Young Leaders Gathering in Jakarta in 2016 (both sponsored by the Lausanne Movement), I also had the privilege of attending this event, and doing so in person. How so? How can one take part in person in an online event? Well, the answer lies in the fact that I was asked by the organizers to be one of the hosts of the different sessions, and this required gathering in person with a small group to attend the event in the city of and from which the event would be streamed in Southampton, UK.

There were many inputs, as can be expected from an event of this magnitude. For instance, there were a number of different speakers on “stage” who brought to our attention to which major challenges and opportunities are facing the European Church right now and which ones we may face in the coming decades. Here I would like to highlight three challenges that I found particularly relevant to us as we carry out our Christian ministry among university students:

Europe is becoming increasingly international and the church must respond to this trend

Our cities are changing their look, many people from all over the world are coming to Europe in search of work and a decent future. As society changes, so does the university and it follows that our GBU groups are also becoming more international. Our group here in Siena (to give one example) is made up of about 60% foreign students. This brings with it new challenges, such as having to deal with different cultures and ways of doing things and holding meetings in English, etc. It is not always easy to do all of this, but it is one of the challenges we face in the new Europe. Let’s try to do our best!

Making room for the next generation of leaders

Luke Greenwood, one of the many speakers, challenged us to consider and make room for the next generation. This has always been a strong point of student work, which sees its groups led by very young people who are new to the concept of leadership. GBU Italy follows its student coordinators, invests in them, gives them confidence, trains them and encourages them to carry out their role. What a privilege to be able to work alongside very young people and see them take their first steps in Christian ministry and leadership!

Giving voice to people whose voices have long been suppressed

One morning we were encouraged (and admonished) to listen to those whose voices have been suppressed by European Christians. Among these is the voice of women who for too long have been overpowered by that of men. GBU Italy is attentive to giving space to women, involving them at the forefront of ministry among students on a par with male students (at the moment, more than half of the student coordinators in Italy are women!). How wonderful to see female students flourish and grow as they put to use the gifts God has given them in service to the gospel!

May God bless Europe, the European Church, and the evangelistic ministry among college students in an ever-changing Europe.

Giovanni Donato (GBU staff worker in Siena)

Tempo di lettura: 2 minuti

Soon you will be reading the latest news from GBU students all over Italy. You will probably find reasons for praise that you have already read in other newsletters, prayer requests that you have prayed for in the past for a group, news of events from an enthusiastic group that, however, are not exactly new to you. In fact, they are often activities that have already been done in other cities, by other groups. Activities and prayer requests that you yourself have prayed, if you are a former GBU member, or that you know about because in the very last newsletter you read, another GBU group had done or asked for something similar in some other city. 

But why, then, would you read this newsletter? What’s new about it?

If you’re in a hurry, don’t read it. You might not find anything new. But if you devote a few minutes of concentration to reading, if you pay attention, you may be able to catch the spirit in which the students wrote those few lines. You will be able to find expressions such as “supercharged”, “finally”, “restarted” that powerfully express all the joy that  the students have  now they are getting back to meeting in person , relating  with other students, organising creative events, Bible studies and prayer meetings. In short, to Share Jesus from student to student, as they have always done, even during the pandemic, but with a new enthusiasm.

And that enthusiasm will sweep you away!

Then you’ll understand that the GBU still has that ever-new enthusiasm  typical of the young, new generation of believers, which is renewed from year to year, particularly in this post-covid restart year (we hope!).  You’ll realize we’re on track, we’re charged up, and you will feel involved, eager to do something: to pray. The Holy Spirit will guide you, speak to you, and with your prayer and support you can continue (or begin) to be a part of this mission, the mission of GBU, to make the Lord Jesus known in universities.

Domenico Campo (GBU Staff worker in Sicily)

Tempo di lettura: 3 minuti

According to an old theory, already implicit in Heiddeger’s writings on technology and popularized by a well-known article by historian Lynn White Jr., the Judeo-Christian tradition is the cause of the environmental crisis we are experiencing. If animism and paganism promoted a form of respect for the environment based on the belief that behind the natural elements there were spiritual beings, their defeat would have caused the desacralization of those elements and their transformation into resources to be exploited by man, prince of creation and its ruler. Without the need to historically analyze the validity of this theory, we can recognize how a superficial reading of the Bible may have led some Christians to take an inconsiderate attitude towards the environment.

On the other hand, careful reflection on what the Bible says about our relationship with nature represents the most solid foundation for a commitment to the protection and safeguarding of creation.

It is true that man is created in the image of God and his relationship with Him places him on a different plane from the rest of creation since the beginning of the biblical narrative, yet it is precisely the beginning of Genesis that suggests to us that man has always had a role of responsibility towards the environment:

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden, to work it and take care of it.”

(Gen. 2:15).

In confirmation of this high value that natural elements have in the Christian worldview, we can recall that all of creation has been subjected to the effects of sin and is awaiting the return of Christ (Rom. 8:19-23), for “all things were created by him and for him” (Col. 1:16). Modern environmental concerns should not be foreign to any Christian who takes the truths just mentioned seriously, but there is more: without God, humanity risks losing any valid motivation to protect the environment that does not lead to anti-humanism.

Without God, it seems difficult, if not impossible, to find the balance between anthropocentrism, which has given support to the senseless exploitation of natural resources useful for economic development, and anti-humanism, which, by denying man the right to consider himself more important than other forms of life, turns him into the problem to be contained or eliminated. Neither atheistic materialism nor modern pantheism can provide a solution to this dilemma. Both fail to provide any basis for ethics, or end up equating human life to that of other animals, if not plants (or viruses!).

  • Why should I care about the survival of someone other than myself?
  • Why would it be wrong to eliminate even a small minority of human beings, if it would bring undoubted well-being to all other life forms on the planet?
  • Why would it be right to eliminate a life form like Coronavirus?

Questions for which the answer seems obvious and intuitive suddenly become difficult, if one excludes God from the picture.

The Bible does not resolve questions of environmental ethics with a form of anthropocentrism limited by God’s law, but instead by placing Christ Jesus at the center of all things.

The purpose of creation is to glorify Christ, and God’s plan culminates not in the salvation of man but in the unity of all things under one head, Christ Jesus (Eph. 1:9-10).

Christianity proposes a theocentric humanism that assigns a special role to man and a great value to his life, which, however, is not the ultimate end of things. Human beings are called to contribute to the realization of God’s plan, and they are called to do so also by taking care of the environment.

Francesco Schiano
(GBU staff worker in Naples)

Tempo di lettura: 2 minuti

The days spent at Formazione GBU were special.

They were rich and blessed because every activity that we experienced was useful (to me). One fundamental part of the training was learning from the interactions and confrontations between the students or between staff members and students; how important it is to know the thoughts of others and to learn from one another!

Formazione was not only theoretical, but also practical! Each student leader had the opportunity to lead a brief Bible study using the inductive method as well as receiving “input” that will be useful for evangelism at our universities.

Also valuable were the moments dedicated to international prayer for various brothers and sisters from different universities around the world; the seminars in which we focused on reflecting on certain ideologies that are taking root within the universities and what the Bible says about them; what methods can be used to to share your own testimony or what one should be aware of when one wants to start reading the Bible with a friend.

All of this was set against the backdrop of Formazione’s theme – The Time is Near.

These words are found within the first three chapters of the book of Revelation, a book that, amongst many other things, refers to love: the love of God that shines through the seven letters sent to the seven churches of Asia Minor, which are also valid for us today.

As student leader of GBU Salerno, a newborn reality, I return home satisfied and enriched.
Thanks to this experience in the grace of the Lord I was able to receive encouragement, as a university student, looking at the work of God within other GBU groups.

During the last few days I have been able to think about some points concerning my personal life that, in other circumstances, I would perhaps never have reflected on.

Guys, God speaks to our hearts and knows very well what our needs, difficulties and uncertainties are. We must never stop having faith in Him because at the right time He answers, at the right time He shows Himself.

I encourage the person reading this article to strive in their GBU, where we share Jesus from student to student. Our efforts in His name are never in vain!

Finally, a special thank you goes out to all the GBU Staff workers who work daily to advance the Kingdom of God within the universities; your presence, your encouragement and your dedication is something I will always carry in my heart!

May God bless us.

To Him alone be the glory!


Giuseppe Ambrosio
(coordinator of GBU Salerno)

Tempo di lettura: 2 minuti

Figuring out God’s will for one’s life seems to be a common obsession in the lives of believers.

Perhaps this is because we suffer from a kind of “Sliding Doors” syndrome.
Just like the famous 90’s movie, starring Gwyneth Paltrow, we think that one wrong choice (in the movie it was a random event, but that’s beside the point) can change the course of our story, causing us to miss out on the best things in life.

Yet God’s will for us is crystal clear in the Bible. Jesus called us to be his witnesses, to the glory of God. Before he ascended into heaven, he told his disciples, “Go and make disciples” and his disciples passed on this same commission to those who believed their preaching. Making disciples of Christ is God’s will for every person who believes in him and follows him. The main answer, whenever we are faced with an important choice and we ask ourselves what to do, should be: “Go and make disciples of Christ.”

“You are the salt of the earth…”

This year at the Festa GBU we asked ourselves how to fulfill the great commission by reflecting on three famous passages from the Gospel of Matthew (5:13-16, 9:36-38, 28:16-20).
“You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world…” a disciple of Christ cannot go unnoticed, and the place he is in, he makes it a better place. His new birth and the presence of the Holy Spirit in his life clearly make him different. He is what the dry, dark world in which he lives needs.

So, shine! “That they may see your good works and praise your Father in heaven.”

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them”

The crowds that live around us should see our good works. What should we see in them? Jesus saw sheep without a shepherd, people who were tired and exhausted, he saw a great harvest, which prompted him to say “pray therefore to the Lord of the harvest that he will send out workers into his harvest field.”
The practice of fasting (not necessarily from food, but perhaps from the internet, smartphones, TV shows), solitude and silence might help us to be free from the distractions that keep us from seeing the crowds living around us. This will help us feel the compassion Jesus feels for them, as well as encouraging us to spend more time on our knees, praying with a greater vision of the Lord’s work.

Then we will be ready to go, to be uncomfortable, to take risks.

“Some want to live within the sound of a church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop, within a yard of hell” (C.T. Studd).

There is a great need to preach the gospel, to teach the Word of God. Those who have dedicated themselves to these things have always faced suffering and persecution, but “Surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age,” Jesus told his disciples after affirming that all power had been entrusted to him, in heaven and on earth.

We are not in a world driven by chance, in which our wrong choices can ruin our lives. We are in the harvest field of God, who has all things in his hands, and who asks us above all else one thing: “go and make disciples of me.” Nothing else is as important.


Francesco Schiano
(GBU staff worker)

Tempo di lettura: 2 minutiMarch has arrived and for many of us it feels like we’re living in a movie we’ve seen over and over again, like a time loop from which we can’t escape. A year ago many in our country were scared, skeptical, terrified, hopeless, but we would never have guessed that a year later so many of these feelings would still be in our hearts and minds. The fact is, although time has passed, for many, the situation seems to be unchanged.

Students are still in distance learning and universities seem to be functioning only online , with a few exceptions here and there. The thrill of stepping through the door of the university classroom for the first time for many is gone, for yet another semester. For others, however, the experience of online graduation will become a bittersweet memory to be recounted in the future.

The daily life of GBU groups has also changed now. Online Bible study meetings, thousands of messages in chat rooms, social promotion, and online events have become part and parcel of a normal GBU day. But don’t let that fool you. The essence remains. That desire to share Jesus with one’s friends, the commitment to witnessing the gospel, and the fellowship that spurs growth in one’s own faith and the faith of others is there for anyone who wants to see it.

In times like these, where challenges against our faith are piling up, we cling to the Word and the hope we can find only in Jesus. He is the one who assured us that He would be with us until the end, pandemic or not. My invitation to you is to go and read the news from the different groups. You will see that instead of complaints or ‘defeated tones’ there are many reasons for joy and hope. There is news  from large and consolidated groups but also stories of the challenges from small groups that have just been born and who enthusiastically recount every small victory. There are many reasons for praise and there are requests for prayer, because the students have now realized that in their life of faith they will not be able to go much further without the prayer and intercession of their brothers and sisters.

What has changed then since the last news report? If we look at the circumstances, not much. But if we look to the One who works every good work in us, who acts when no one else can, and who changes the lives of students every day, then there is much to be seen. So I invite you to read the news, praise the Lord for His work, and pray for the groups, with the assurance that Jesus has not stopped in time, but is at work making all things new.


Carol Rocha
(GBU Staff)