Newsletter 40 - March 2002
At the university
There has been a change among the students that attend the Bible study group at the university, because Miriam decided last month to return to Holland rather than do her degree here. Since she had been intending to study at Trento for four years, I had been hoping that she would give some continuity to the group, as well as the opportunity for some long-term training, which is an important aim of a student group. But it was not to be. Instead, with Robyn returning to England in June when he has completed his exchange year here, and Jacqueline (currently in America to research her thesis) due to graduate in a few months, it will be back to starting the witness among the students from scratch once again in September. In the English-speaking part of the group, Julie will be returning to England in the summer as well, but Ellenor and Yvette will still be here next year, and I am sure they will be as great a help as they are now.
Last weekend I went to Rome for the annual GBU student weekend. The theme this year was mission, to complete the cycle we have done in the last few years on the three aims of the GBU – evangelism, discipleship and mission. It was a good opportunity to talk about the various aspects of mission with these young people – in the main talks, about what the Bible says; a few practical aspects in the seminars; and what it means personally through a few Italian missionaries who we invited to talk about their own experiences. My impression was that quite a few people would be interested in doing something in mission, not necessarily overseas but also in Italy, either full-time or part-time, but that they have difficulty doing it, through lack of structures or finances to permit it, or churches that discourage it. In any case, I pray that from this camp, and from the on-going training that the GBU gives to students, that there will be a lot more Italian missionaries going out in the future. From here, I had been hoping that some students went, but as I said there is currently only one attending the meetings, and whilst he really wanted to come, he had an exam the day after and so could not make it.
Last month, there was also an anniversary for me: 20 years continuously in the university world, from studying to working to ministering. And it is still the environment I most enjoy being in.
In the church
Being at Rome that weekend, I was not able to be at the church bookstall which took place at the town market day that Sunday, so I can not say much about it. The newspaper said that there was a record crowd of 150,000 people that day (50% more than the total population of Trento), so without a doubt a lot of people saw us. From speaking to some of the people in the church, I have heard of some opportunities as well. One positive aspect was that it went ahead, especially as we had not been able to organise one in December due to a lack of interest. This time Andrea and Jury got to work to organise it, and there were sufficient people willing to be at the stall to be able to do it. There is also more interest to do other evangelistic events, with an evangelistic meeting planned in the church for the end of April and some literature distribution to start up.
Spring is the conference and travel season, so as well as two trips away last week there are a few more in the next couple of months.
April 6-13: ECM biennial conference in Slovenia.
April 24-28: GBU conference on "Communicating the Word". This is in two parts, one on Bible exposition, the other on dramatic reading of the Bible, with two experts in training students in these fields coming to Italy. (Pippo and Salvo, two of the four preachers in the church, both had this training about 10 years ago, and say it was fundamental in their learning how to teach the Bible.) The conference is not aimed solely at students however, and the desire is also to help the Italian church generally in its communication of the Word of God. In fact, apart from myself two other people from the church at Trento will be going, Jury for the exposition and his wife Gloria for the reading. They are a very committed young couple, and I pray that this conference will help them in their future service in the church.