'Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.' Acts 20:32
This summer Chris took part in the IFES World Assembly, which gathers delegates every four years from the various IFES student movements (like the GBU in Italy which we work with, or the Christian Unions in the UK). This took place in South Africa, with around 1,200 students and staff present (pictured above - Chris is in a purple jumper, bottom left! The group represents 160 national movements from around the world). It was encouraging to meet people doing the same job all over the world, sometimes in places where Christian evangelism is not tolerated. To see that God is building his church in such diverse places and situations helps to put our own challenges in perspective and encourages us to make the most of every opportunity we have here in Italy.
The Bible teaching during the World Assembly came from Luke and Acts. The verse above, in the latter part of Acts, in some ways sums up all that Luke has to say. If there is a Church today, if there is an assembly of God’s people, it is because of the way he takes his word and uses it to bring people into a relationship of grace with himself through Christ, as they hear it and obey it. So where the Church will thrive in the future, and where an evangelistic work like the one we are part of will be used by God, will be where his word is most honoured and obeyed. Please pray we would do this as well as we can in our small corner of Italy!
As we begin another year with the GBU we give thanks for a good number of students in the region where we work. As well as the group in Bologna where we live, the groups in Verona, Venice and Padua are carrying on this year. A number of students up the road in Modena have decided to start a new GBU group this year, and in Forlì a student who we have known for a few years has arrived to begin a Master’s degree and is keen to find other students there to start a group. We’ve also been in touch recently with Christian students in some other places, like in Udine and Trieste. We are thankful to have two trainee staff working with us, Manuela in Bologna and Naomi in Padua, as it is a challenge to think of how best to get alongside all these students in their various universities.
One idea that Naomi has suggested is to hold a GBU autumn training day where she lives, gathering together students from the area to learn from the Bible and to think about evangelising in their universities. We are planning this for 23 November. We are hoping it will be effective, please do pray with us!
Often we find the students who come to the GBU are not very confident in evangelism, or knowledgeable in the Bible. However, with some help they are the people best placed to reach those around them. Last week we did some walk-up evangelism on one campus, and Chris was with a young man who became a Christian in the last year. The first time he did the exercise we approached two students, who had grown up through the Catholic Church but now one was unbelieving and the other was unconvinced. The GBU student listened to their answers and was about to say goodbye when they asked us what we believed. So he told them that not long ago he was in the same place as them, but had been invited to look at the Bible by a friend, and had come to know God personally. It wasn’t a very sophisticated answer, but it was a clear word of God’s grace, and they both listened very attentively to what he had to say! Our goal is to see students like this looking to speak to others about the gospel, and so coming to understand it better for themselves. Do pray for all the students around to stick with the GBU this year, and to grow through the experience they will have.
In Church at the moment we are preaching through 1 Samuel. We have been struck by the character of Jonathan, Saul’s son, who is a very noble and godly man, but who ultimately never does what he seemed in every way born to do, to rule Israel as king. Yet he was not resentful about this, but faithful to the Lord and the closest of friends to David, who God anointed in his place. He recognised that God runs the world how he wills, and not how we think would be best. There are many people in church at the moment who face struggles or live with disappointments of various kinds, and have to wrestle with God’s purposes. Please pray with us to grow as a church in our knowledge of Christ, who is himself our fully sufficient reward, so that we would value faithfulness to him more than success in the world. And please pray the same for us as well, as we seek to serve him with the opportunities he gives us.
Chris and Lizzie
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