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Slovenia Mission Trip

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)

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Hold Firm to the Trustworthy Word

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)

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Complete Joy

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)

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Bible on Display

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

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#maiunagioia

#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

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Is it worth it?

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

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