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Ready, steady… go!



When Giovanni Donato suggested I attend the GBU Student Leaders Training, from 30th September to 3rd October 2016 in the small town of Rocca di Papa near Rome, I have to admit that it seemed a strange idea to me. I thought, “In Ancona (the city where I live), there isn’t even a local GBU group. Why should I receive training for a role that doesn’t even exist and of which there’s no hope at my university?” … But wait, let’s rewind.

In January, after years of having attended national GBU events and activities, God laid on my heart the desire to establish a group in Ancona – a university made up of many departments and, therefore, with a great need for Jesus to be shared from student to student. So I got to work and began looking for Christian students with the same desire that God had given me, both in my own church and in other churches around the city. I managed to forge contacts with quite a few students, but unfortunately nothing concrete was established. I then left Ancona to spend a semester studying abroad, and returned to Italy in August. That brings us to 5th September, the day I had that conversation with Giovanni about the Training. Since many of the students I’d met at the GBU Weekend Away in April had warmly encouraged me to attend the Training weekend, I decided to go.

There were 27 of us students (approx. one or two per GBU group, all from various universities across Italy), and we were all gathered and ready for a weekend of intense preparation to equip us in tackling the upcoming academic year as we lead our local groups. The whole weekend was centred around a single theme: Be holy, because I am holy (1 Peter). Read more


A GBU girl at Formacion

Student Leadership Formacion is a 10 day conference organised by IFES Europe where participants face questions such as “What kind of person does God call to be a leader?”, “How can I feel or know that I’m being called?” and even “How can a leader grow without burning out”.5qjsq9yc

From the 4th to the 13th of August 2016, I had the honour of going to Poland, with 3 other GBU members, where we learnt, through the story of Moses, how to be good leaders in the church and in the ministry of IFES. I can say with certainty that it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life so far!

There were 140 students from 40 different countries who all had the same role as a leader-coordinator in university bible study groups in their universities. It was very encouraging to meet other students (all between 19 and 23 years old) from countries around the world who serve God and are as passionate as I am! It was great to be able to share with them faith experiences and the work they are doing within the university with IFES. I felt part of something very big and important and I returned home with a great sense of responsibility for my role and very enthusiastic and eager to start the new academic year.

The programme was packed and intense but never heavy or tiring. It was very well thought out, dynamic, original and interesting! We were only there for 10 days but we really learnt a lot and we grew a lot in our faith, as men and women of God, as loving brothers and sisters, as young leaders mindfully aware of our responsibility and to work effectively in a team in order to make God known in the best way!

vmgvfne2As well as growing with God, it was also an opportunity to grow with my christian family here in the world. I made many new friends who I bonded well with and created deep friendships in the name of God that I’m still carrying on today. I now have bothers and sisters in Serbia, Greece, Spain, Russia, France, England and Jerusalem!

Formacion also does much more. It makes you learn more about your personality and teaches you how to use that efficiently, it gives you the opportunity and time to reflect on your whole life to see where God has worked and which events have shaped you into the person you are today. It challenges you and encourages you to spend and entire day alone with God, a 20 km walk in the Polish hills with only a map at your disposal (the reason why my group, for a few kilometres, risked crossing the border and almost found ourselves in Slovakia). You eat lots and lots of soup, vegetables for breakfast and pancakes for dinner. It gives you the opportunity to learn the characteristics of other cultures in the international evening and it challenges you to overcome your difficulties and fears.

I am truly grateful to God for giving me the chance to take part in this unique experience which has changed my life.

Debora Oxenham
(GBU Roma Tre)

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Being together at the GBU Weekend Away… what a joy! Students from all over Italy (and even further) gathered together in one place to praise God and be encouraged to continue seeking to fulfil the vision which they work towards throughout the year – to share Jesus student-to-student. And that is exactly why, each year, I cannot wait for the weekend away.

As soon as I’d arrived at Poggio this year, I could already feel a sense of excitement and knew that the three days I was blessed to spend there would be full of joy, but also challenges to be faced. And that’s exactly how it was. Just a few days, yet intense ones, in which the word ‘together’ was not only a gift that God had blessed us with by having us all gather together, but it actually became the theme of the whole conference, leading us to see the whole event from a brighter perspective. Together we took part in study groups where we were able to learn more from certain Bible passages by discussing it altogether. Together we had the opportunity to attend seminars, each of which tackled a different topic. Often we students arrive at the weekend away with lots of questions: How can I speak about the gospel with one of my friends? How do I organise an evangelistic event at my university? How can I deal with trials and challenges from a Christian point of view? And so this is the moment in which we try to find answers to all kinds of questions, not just dwelling on theory but approaching a member of staff who can give us practical advice.

What’s more, there were plenty of opportunities to spend time together laughing, playing games and having fun during the evening events and, in addition, to hear real testimonies of those living out their faith in the GBU context. And I think that this last point is one of the best aspects because it shows you how God is really working through this unique ministry.

Thanks to the studies led by preacher Stefano Molino, we were able to reflect on how the first Christians in the book of Acts used to pray, the way in which they proclaimed the gospel and how they always made important and difficult decisions together. It was interesting to see how Christianity began together and how even today God encourages us to continue together. We saw the teaching in Acts applied to our own situation in the GBU, circumstances which are not always easy as there are times when we feel burdened by the responsibility to share the gospel, but the fact that we have been called to do all of this together is so encouraging. Throughout the weekend away, God reminded me of the importance of prayer and I think that this is a challenge for all of us in our local GBU groups. Before doing anything, we should find the time to pray and make the effort to join together, to share the burden and also the joys of our mission. We cannot do anything without praying together first. This is why, during the conference, I found the prayer room really helpful as a space full of prompts to encourage us to pray with and for others. Thanks to all of these things, during the three days at the weekend away we were able to enjoy an experience similar to that of the apostles – we received so much and I thank God for the opportunity he gave me of being there. But it didn’t all end there. Just as Jesus called the apostles to go and preach the gospel, today he still continues to call us, giving us the same challenge. Now it is our turn to accept that challenge and face it in our everyday lives and in our GBU groups.

“… to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.” Philippians 3:16 (NKJV)

Shanizee Scorsone
(GBU Milan)


A new GBU group in Padua

We are very happy to be able to share with you the things that have happened here in Padua over the last few months. As you may already know, for a few years now we have been lacking a stable GBU group at the University of Padua. I found this out in the last years of High School, when I was considering the various universities nearby and hearing more about the various GBU groups in existence. Along with a sense of sadness to not have found anything a desire grew in my heart to start something myself, a desire that only began to take shape with the start of this academic year when a good friend (who had been a co-ordinator of a GBU group for years in Pisa) put me in contact with Chris.

Near the middle of October, after a few weeks, we met to see what we could do and to pray for the birth GBU Padova 1of a new group. In the meantime, we were joined by Emily, an English girl in Padua for Erasmus. We thank the Lord for how he has guided every thing in the course of this semester, what seemed uncertain and difficult He has made possible! At the first meeting there were four of us, we were joined by two other girls: Jessica and Gloria. None of us had had any experience with the GBU, after the initial bewilderment and shyness our first meeting continued with great serenity but was also very exciting, we had the opportunity to get to know each other a little, to share our testimonies and think about how to organise the meetings of our little group. Finally something concrete was born, a response to our prayers and hopes and once again I could see how the Lord does not fail to give an answer to those who want to serve Him. We have decided to study the Gospel of John together, as it is a great place to start thanks to the richness of the verses it contains. After a few weeks we were joined by three more students (Marco, Elie and Naomi) who started to frequent our meetings. Their presence has been a further encouragement and together we have continued with our reading and meditation of John. Read more


A week in Riga

Hi my name is Zach. I am an Interaction volunteer in Siena, and this year I went on the GBU mission trip to Riga, Latvia. I would like to tell you all a bit about what happened and also share some reflections.

The week:

We all arrived in Riga sometime Saturday, we got a chance to go visit Fjorilda who was still in the hospital at the time [Fjorilda is an Interaction volunteer in Riga and was hit by a car about a week before the mission trip]. She was very happy to see all of us and we spent about 2 hours all speaking Italian while Fjori’s mum and the General Secretary of LKSB (Latvian GBU) stood in the room not understanding a word…

The mission week started with a meeting Sunday night where we discussed the plan of action. The days were packed: in the morning after breakfast, we had devotions all together and got ready, before heading to the university campuses. We had a large team of people helping so we were able to cover several university campuses in the city. We would spend 3 hours talking to students on campus and inviting them to the events. In the afternoon we had to set up for the evening, and start preparing the food. We would have a prayer time at 6 then open the doors. Each event ran roughly for a couple of hours. After there were always people who stayed around to talk, then we would clean up, and get back to home base at about 11, cook some pasta for dinner and go to bed. We did this 4 days in a row. It was tough! But it was also rewarding.

The first night over 120 students showed up! We didn’t have enough pasta to feed them all! It was a fun cultural evening where we had a quiz on Italy and taught the students common Italian gestures amongst other things. We also explained who we were and that the rest of the week we would be talking about important questions about God, and invited them all to come.



The second night I played some live music, then Giovanni spoke in response to the question “Why doesn’t God reveal himself more clearly?” He argued that God has revealed himself clearly in Creation, in Scripture and in Jesus! There was a question and answer time and there were a lot of Muslim students asking questions. There were more than 60 people there! And many of the muslim students stayed for more discussion afterwards.

The third night we watched La Vita è Bella and Francesco spoke about suffering. That Christianity has various answers to why God allows suffering, but in the end Christianity is less worried about explaining why there is suffering and more worried about offering the hope of no more suffering one day. There were about 50 students there. Once again many students stayed behind to talk.

Then the final night, I once again played some live music, and Giovanni talked about who would be saved. He explained the gospel, that people must repent and believe in Jesus. I was amazed during his message how attentively people were listening to him. I think there were more than 60 people there. Afterwards there were some questions and Giovanni answered them clearly and gracefully with the truth. Even more people stayed after to talk on this night. There was one girl from Uzbekistan who came to Giovanni afterward and told him she believed it, but had a feeling of something blocking her. Others were very interested in knowing more about the Bible and about Jesus.

All in all it was a very encouraging time with many students interested in who Jesus is and what he is about.

A reflection:

I have often been uncomfortable with the on campus evangelism of trying to just start conversations. I often feel like a salesman, and it isn’t a good feeling. But I learned this week that God will use your willingness. I was in a space which was very hard to start conversations in. But each of the first two days I had a really good conversation with someone or group, then on the third day I saw both of those again (they came and said hello wanting to talk more) and was able to talk more to them about God and the Gospel and also bring Giovanni into the conversation to explain what he would be talking about. It made all the rejections worth it to have a few people hear the gospel. I think God uses you especially when it is uncomfortable.

Please pray for all those who heard the gospel in that week! Pray that these students would come to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior!

Zachary Smith
(Interaction Siena)

Sharing Jesus in Latvia – cold country, warm hearts

My name is Fjorilda and I am writing from freezing but beautiful Riga, Latvia.

I am here this year with IFES InterAction to work with international students.

Before leaving my home in Italy, I knew almost nothing of Latvia, and my friends had told me scary things: people eat only cabbage, potatoes and meat all year; it is very cold and most of the year it is dark; people are cold…

As a stranger I arrived at the airport. My colleague was waiting for me with a bunch of flowers and a joyful smile. We hugged like real friends; then she carried my suitcase, and began to explain how everything worked – public transport, shopping, life in general in Riga. This was not a ‘cold’ person! Soon I met my roommate, my InterAction team leader, other colleagues and my General Secretary – none of them were ‘cold’!

But the weather, yes – very cold! I dress with many layers like an onion and am weighed down by clothes. But there is joy in experiencing new things, for example walking on the frozen sea.

As for work, I had to start from scratch and I felt alone. But I started to make friends with people in the Latvian class for foreigners that I was taking at the university. I suggested that we start a homework coffee club, that after class we would go out and have coffee together, do homework and then take a walk to explore this beautiful city. The idea was greeted with enthusiasm by all, and so my ministry began.

Since then I have developed friendships and some of us started to study the Bible together. They invited more friends and now there are about eight of us.

I also started a Bible study group with four Muslim girls. I was a bit scared because I had little experience with Muslims. But I have seen the grace of God, his hand has guided everything and gives me the wisdom and the humility to answer honestly and even admit that sometimes I have no answer.

Also on the course I met a girl from Lithuania who was staying in a hostel. She knew I was a Christian and asked me if I knew a Christian place where she could stay. I invited her to stay at my house: this was my opportunity to express the love of Christ in action! She said she was an atheist, but we talked about faith often and I shared the gospel with her. In December, she decided to give her life to Jesus, just before she returned home.

Ministry with international students is not easy – you meet many people, make friends, learn a lot about different cultures … but soon they return home and you have to start all over again.

But God is faithful, in all things. He has answered all my prayers and is also bringing new people to become part of the team, so I do not have to do everything alone. Now we are preparing for an evangelistic week in March. We are excited and looking forward to a team from GBU Italy coming to help us.

What can I conclude? Before we go to a place to serve, God has visited this place before us, has prepared everything for our arrival – we are doing only what he has prepared earlier. He has warmed our hearts to go and is warming other hearts to receive the good news we bring.

Fjorilda Kreku


How do you measure success

Here we are at the start of a new academic year with the honour, responsibility, challenge and pleasure of “shining out like bright stars among a warped and crooked generation, holding out the Word of life”!

Whether you are a seasoned student with a long list of successes and failures, or a freshman, feeling that mix of excitement and nervousness over the possibility of getting involved with the GBU, I want to ask you the question, “How do you  easure the success of your evangelistic efforts?” How do you establish whether the effort made has achieved its goal or whether you have failed and so will have to adopt a completely different method and approach next time?

My answer has always been, consciously or unconsciously, to count the number of people who convert, or at least the number of people who have been touched by the message. Or, when I really want to hold on to the smallest acceptable result, I count how many have been “reached”, how many people were present at the event with whom I managed to talk about the Gospel.

Perhaps you could come up with a game of awarding points, three for converts, two for those interested and one for those reached.

I have been frustrated countless times because my score was too low. There are certainly many reasons why an approach like this to evangelism is wrong. Rather than trying to list them, I invite you to look at the book of the prophet Jonah, as we have done recently in Naples together with some members of GBU Potenza.

Read the whole book – it only takes a few minutes – and afterwards ask yourselves, “Who was God’s work focused on?”

It is surprising to note that in a book that talks about the salvation of more than 120 thousand people, God’s attention seems to be mainly focused on the individual who had been chosen to deliver a message.

In contrast to the other prophetic books, the book of Jonah gives very little attention to the message the prophet was called to proclaim. And the receivers
of the message themselves do little more than appear. Jonah, on the other hand is called, corrected, used, rebuked and accompanied by God throughout the whole story. The whole book is devoted to his transformation (we could also say conversion), albeit an incomplete one.

God does not need us to bring His message to the students in our universities, but He has chosen us because He wants to complete a work in us.

This year, try to evaluate what you have learned about God after every effort you’ve made to evangelise, and leave the rest faithfully in His hands!

Francesco Schiano

(Staff GBU Naples)


I wanted to get a Bible but my hands were dirty…

“We don’t have any Bibles left,” said Tommaso to a Nigerian refugee, inside one of the many refugee welcome centres of the province of Trapani, Sicily.  “Why did you run away when you saw us distributing Bibles, five minutes ago?”
“I went to wash my hands because I wanted to get a Bible so much but I didn’t want to get one with dirty hands,” replied Vincent, in tears.
Stefano was struck by the amount of love and respect that the refugees of the welcome centres were showing the Bible. He was there in the Summer of 2015, with other young people from his community helping Tommaso distribute clothes and Bibles to refugees, many of which were coming from sub-sahariane countries. When Stefano went back to his hometown, Chieti, he began to stop refugees in the street, asking them if they needed anything and if they wanted a Bible. He met a Nigerian named Lacki and when he gave gave him the New Testament he saw his face brighten into a smile. Lacki took the present with great joy and tapped it against his chest and shouted: “God is in my life, he is in my heart.” Two brothers in Christ had just met!
These are just two stories out of many which show that when the people of God move, tragedies such as the immigration going on in the Mediterranean Sea and the Balkans can turn into signs and seeds of divine providence which, as always, turns the evil deeds of man into something good. The root of immigration is the sin of man behind which lies the social unbalance of our planet and the threat of its survival.
I led a small mission group, which included the youth of my church as well as those of other local churches and many university students to support the African refugees arriving in Sicily.
The name of the mission “Foreigners like us” came from Leviticus 19:34. We chose this name as we are convinced that welcoming does not come with an if or a but, but it is a must for every Christian in Christ who lives for the Word of God. Our aim was to distribute clothes in the welcome centres, hand out Bibles, share the gospel and meet other brothers and sisters in Christ who managed to cross the Mediterranean Sea.
Our experience was amazing. We felt part of the action that the Holy Spirit wants Christians to carry out in this moment. We have so many stories to tell. We can testify that God is at work and he is urging his sons to work as well. All this is injecting a new kind of enthusiasm into the tired western churches.
Stefano’s experience is a testimony to this: when he returned to his city he started, together with other people, looking for the refugees who live among us, here in Italy.
Our experience with the mission was a confirmation that welcoming has to involve three key elements:
•Share the gospel, in a loving, understanding and delicate way
•Show Christian love when meeting the needs of desperate men and women by taking time to listen to them and take actual care of them (give clothes, directions, information, advice etc.)
•Look for the suffering church which lives among the refugees of any nation.
In our mission, there were some university students from the GBU program. I often asked myself the following question; ‘How can these two different worlds – students and refuges – meet?’
Here are some suggestions:
•Reduce the space of entertainment. This is a state of emergency and we should cry and suffer together with those who cry and suffer. Use our holidays as an opportunity to give a hand to others. Go back to our local churches and help in anyway we can.
•Some study programs require work experience or training in the field. This is a perfect opportunity for pedagogy, education, psychology, sociology and medical students to gain this experience in the field.
•There is a great need of people who can speak foreign languages: English, French but also Arabic, Bangali, etc. It’s easier among students to find people who can speak these languages.
•There is a great need of people to be able to understand legislative matters, who can deal with prefectures, local associations and institutions. Students or people with degrees in law, economics, social services, etc.
I believe that now more than ever there is a great need for a collaboration between secular and spiritual vocations. The local church has to be the body that coordinates those who are willing to help and the action to be taken in dealing with the refugees.
If students act, they will have amazing experiences.
Daniel, from Sierra Leone, was a child soldier with severe family trauma (his parents were killed), survived the Mediterranean Sea and now is one of those refugees that knows the Lord and his Word. At the end of a morning spent cleaning the coastline of a Sicilian city together with other refugees and our volunteers, he made a prayer while we were sitting all together singing and praising the Lord: “Thank you Lord because today you gave us the strength to do your will and be useful in our society.”
God is at work, even in tragedies.


Giacomo C. Di Gaetano (Staff GBU a Chieti)

Some resources on the refugee crisis:

If you have other resources, especially from the student world, please write to us!