Newsletter 36b - March 2001
After almost a week looking after the team that came here to help with the mission at the university, I have slowly got my life back to normal, with time to reflect on what we have done and to write about our experiences. We have also got the house back in order - we reached a peak of 11 people in our combined kitchen/dining room/lounge for dinner, which required no small adjustment to the furnishings and habits of the household.
There were other adjustments from when I last wrote as well. One of the participants had to drop out, but then two more decided to come, to take the number to ten. Even the day before the mission I was still not sure of how many people there actually would be. But one key to university ministry, I have learned, is flexibility! It also turned out that the two concerns that I had had before hand were unfounded: not only was the train strike on Sunday cancelled, but it snowed (fairly rare for March) the day before the first people arrived, which meant that we were able to do some good team building whilst skiing on the Saturday. Then on Sunday there was a good time in church to explain what the GBU does, and help the congregation in its support of its ministry.
For all of Monday and also Tuesday morning, there were always a couple of people at a book table in the Economics faculty, whilst the others divided up to do surveys and talk with students in the various faculties in the city. On Monday morning I also took two people to the two faculties on the hill above the town to do some advertising there. Since these faculties are separated from the rest of the city, I don't usually do much work there. The group was certainly able to meet and talk with a lot of students - in all we did 327 surveys, all of which finished with an invitation to the public meeting and the weekly Bible studies, and many of which continued with a conversation on questions that the survey had raised. Without a doubt, the greatly increased human resources that we had meant that we were able to do a lot more than the group could do by itself. By the end of the period, it was hard to find students to do the survey with, because many kept saying that they had already done it previously.
On Tuesday afternoon there was the public meeting at which Marcello spoke. From a numerical point of view, it was a big success. There were seven people from outside of the group - a friend of Markus and the others a result of the advertising and conversations. This is easily the most we have ever had at such a meeting at the university. The other positive point is that of all the meetings we have done, in this one there was the clearest explanation of the Gospel. Possibly this was because Marcello has had his formation in the GBU as a student, and now works for the GBU. This means that we think the same way about appropriate ways to evangelise at the university!
Another positive aspect of the mission was its effect on the usual group at the university. Markus said a couple of days ago at our weekly meeting how much he enjoyed being able to spend time with other Christian students (probably he feels a bit the isolation here), and how much he benefited from being able to evangelise with others - a lot easier than doing it by himself. In fact, he brought a friend (Annia) to some of the meetings - like him, she is an exchange student from Germany, but being from the old East Germany she had learnt nothing about God as a child, and would like to find out more. We hope that she will start to come to the weekly Bible studies. You could also pray for Tiziana, who e-mailed me on the Monday night to say that she wanted to come to the public meeting, but had another commitment, and asked for a copy of what was said. After my reply, she wrote again to say that she would have liked to come to the weekly meetings as well, but has a lesson at that hour. Since it is the start of the second semester, some of the other members of the group have changed their timetables as well, so we are looking for another hour which would be suitable for everybody.
Reading again what I wrote a couple of weeks ago, and especially the prayer requests I made, I realised that I have shown how they had all been answered, even though it had not been my intention to follow this pattern when I started writing. So to remind you how God worked, here were the prayer points:
The second last one, to be exact, has still not been fulfilled, although as I mentioned it might be in the next few weeks. In any case that leaves you something to keep praying for. In the meantime, pray also for the national student weekend from the 23rd to the 25th, where Markus and I will be going (possibly with others from Trento), as well as most of the people who came to Trento. Apart from an opportunity to learn about "Evangelism in the Italian culture" (the theme of the talks), we will be able to share about our experiences in our mission, to encourage the other groups to think about doing something similar, and to help each other in their evangelism as we have been helped in ours by those that came here.