In the states, college students generally go back to campus the second week or so in January to start their spring classes. However, in Italy it is a little different. They start taking their exams for the fall term in December and are just now finishing them up. Almost all exams are given orally and are in many cases the only grade given in a course, so if a student doesn't pass the test they don't pass the class. No pressure right!?! This still seems very odd to me, but I am learning. So in December we focused on helping out some of our Bologna partnerships while students just weren't on campus to meet. Many went home to study, outside of Bologna, and to spend the holidays. Those that did go home often only came back to take their test and to leave town again.
In January, our team came back and did intensive language study during two of the weeks, went to Nerja, Spain for midyear for a week, and then to Florence for a seminary type training on the book of Romans for a week. These were all things that even though aren't directly things that impact students are designed to prepare us for ministry with students. I can sometimes feel like I wasting time by doing things such as these but when I look at the overreaching effect that they have, I see their value and importance. For example, how can I communicate to Italians about Jesus if I can't speak Italian? Drawing pictures and hand gestures only go so far. In Nerja, my team got to talk with other STINTers from Western and Eastern Europe, North Africa, and some special forces. The hard soil that they are experiencing can be similar to what we are experiencing here in Bologna. So it was good not only to praise and worship God together but to also share ideas on ways to sow seeds that God can use to bring people into his kingdom! The class on the book of Romans gave me insight into the culture and times in which the letter was written that enhances what I know about how Paul shares the message of the gospel to the citizens of the Roman church. This is important not only for how I process the gospel as it relates to me but to also how I share the gospel with Italians today. So long story short, even though January was busy and productive, I really was ready to get back to campus.
As we begin the new semester, we took a look at the strategies we garnered from others in Nerja.
One of the suggestions that seems to work really well in not only doing English clubs like we have but also having conversation partners. The reason this seems to work a little better for reaching students is that you’re more likely to develop deeper and more meaningful relationships with students meeting one on one. This of course means more opportunities for processing the gospel with students.
Another avenue we are using for reaching students in the International Woman's Day on March 8th. We are planning on doing an outreach on campus that would allow us again meet students and to also maybe get the Agape Italia name out there as far as students recognizing who we are. I will post more about this as details are finalized.
Another upcoming project that our team is preparing for is the Effective Study outreach. With this Agape Italia Bologna is sponsoring a world renowned team from Switzerland to come and share effective study tools with students at the university. Also woven into the presentation is the gospel. Right now we are still searching for a location as it is very hard to get a room on campus.
Overall we are really as a team trusting the Lord to bring relationship building opportunities to us and for us to recognize those and use them for building God's kingdom. Without relationships to work with there will be little opportunity for reaching students for Christ.
Thank you so much for your prayers and support for Bologna!