Praise and Prayer
GBU activities have been running for a month and a half already, and have included prayer meetings, inductive Bible studies held in various faculties, faculty outings to speak to students we met on campus and evening training sessions!
So we thank the Lord for the opportunities He’s giving us to do all this.
We also thank Him for the students who transferred to universities in Rome this year who already know Jesus. We are hoping they will have a heart for the GBU mission and will invite their university friends and colleagues along to meetings.
We’re also grateful to God for those students who already joined the group last year, who are becoming more and more involved in activities, and because the team of group coordinators and staff has expanded!
Please pray that students’ lecture times would be compatible with meetings, so that meeting in the faculty would get easier. Let’s pray that the high levels of enthusiasm in participating in activities would remain the same and that we will be daring in sharing our faith with our friends at the university.
We have currently started a new series of studies called Coming Across Jesus. Our prayer is that students who don’t yet know Him will come across Jesus this semester!
We really can thank God for how the group has got up and running again so fantastically. Before starting up the meetings again this year, there weren’t many students who seemed interested and we were a bit discouraged, given that last year we were a decent-sized group of 7-10 people. But instead, we were surprised by how God sent us people.
There are new students who come along (among whom there’s a Catholic boy) and it’s a wonderful opportunity for us to open up the group and get known by more people. In fact, friends of this boy are probably going to come along, as well as a Catholic girl. In total there are ten or so of us this year, despite there being five or six of us at the meetings. This year we meet in person on Saturday morning, but we allow those who can’t be there the option of joining via Zoom, the hybrid way!
We’d like to give thanks and at the same time pray for the Catholic friend who was an atheist up until a year ago and is now reading the Bible with us. Let’s pray he’d bring his friends along, so that we’d be bringing God’s Word to more people.
Up until now, we’ve only had two meetings, so pray for us too, the group coordinators (Gloria and Jessica) that we’d be witnesses for the others.
Moreover, Gloria is going off to do Erasmus in February, so let’s pray we find someone else to help Jessica.
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By Aoife Beville, university researcher and former GBU student
Ahoj! – that’s how they say ‘hello’ in Slovakia, where I visited at the beginning of October. I’m Aoife (pronounced Ee-fah), I’ve been involved in different IFES groups: Cork (Ireland) where I’m originally from and where I was co-coordinator of the Christian Union during my BA; Bologna, where I did two years of InterAction, an IFES international voluntary work programme where I supported the students of the local group; Naples, where I was co-coordinator of the group during my MA. Now, I am back in Naples and still at university, but on the other side of the lectern! I research and teach in the field of English linguistics. You may be asking yourself ‘what does Slovakia have to do with it?’ Good question!
Good News for the University
Last year at an IFES conference I met Sara, a VBH (GBU) staff worker in Slovakia. We started talking about the usefulness of having Christian academics involved in the work of national movements. I believe that the gospel is good news for the university and I would like to be able to support and serve GBU students as I do my work. I told Sara about my research on irony as a persuasive strategy in The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. A linguistic and literary study that, due to the nature of the text, touches on various interesting topics (apologetics, atheism, etc.). Sara invited me to come to Slovakia to give a lecture at the university on the topic of this research.
“The Trouble about Argument”
So, through Sara’s contacts I was invited to give two lectures in the English Language and Anglo-American Literature courses at the University of Prešov. The lectures were entitled: “’The Trouble about Argument’: Irony and Rhetoric in C. S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters” and presented the stylistic analysis of the text. The text, for those unfamiliar with it, is a sardonic epistolary novel consisting of letters from one demon to another with detailed instructions on how to ensure the eternal damnation of a human ‘patient’. Linguistically, it is a fascinating text that makes use of neologisms, irony, bureaucratese and other peculiar stylistic features to persuade the reader of the intellectual and spiritual validity of Christianity. Written more than 80 years ago, during World War II, it presents a lucid and surprisingly relevant critique of the objections to the Christian faith. The lessons went well, the students participated actively and I had the opportunity to chat with both them and their professors.
A Polarised Society
My lectures in Prešov took place during election time, a time of high tension and strong division in the public debate. Given the themes of the lectures, the local student group also invited me to participate in evening activities in a café near the university. We advertised these evenings under the title ‘Polarised Society’ and while handing out leaflets our team had some interesting conversations about it with students on campus, the topic certainly attracted their attention. At the café we welcomed guests with ice-breakers and questions for discussion in small groups. Following this, I was interviewed using questions from attendees that arrived via app (Slidoo; highly recommended for similar events!). The discussion was wide-ranging and touched on various topics: my personal journey to faith; tips for healthy debate in a divided society; questions on the validity of the Christian faith. In fact, even after the official end of the evening we stayed chatting for so long that we had to order pizzas to feed the crowds. As a good adoptive-Neapolitan perhaps it is better if I don’t comment on Slovak pizza!
Good News for GBU
The VBH is a national movement with different challenges than the Italian GBU. For example, there are only two staff workers – Sara and Graham (also Gen Sec). However, the vision is the same! The events in Prešov were part of an attempt to revive the group after a slowdown caused by the pandemic. It was encouraging to see some students better understand the purpose of the local group – not simply a club for young believers but a space to welcome those who would like to know Jesus. The students seem to have been empowered and encouraged by the events we held together, their feedback has been really positive. Many Ukrainian students – who are now studying in Slovakia because of the war in their country – came to the Cafè Nights. It was a joy to see the Slovak students welcome them and offer them the kind of community – safe, hospitable and friendly – that they so badly needed. I am grateful to the Lord for the experience and for the blessings we received during those days. I also feel that no local group or national movement is too small to think big and organise such events!