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Italian gospel growth during lockdown. Part 2: some personal stories 

CMS missionary Gillian Law works with the Italian student group Gruppi Biblici Universitari (GBU, the University Bible Group. Here in part 2 of her account of gospel growth under lockdown (part 1 is here) she shares encouraging personal stories of how gospel work continues. 

What has ministry in Italy looked like during COVID-19 lockdown? In reality it has looked very similar, except for time spent travelling on public transport, but it’s all happened online. I still meet up 1:1 with leaders and other students. There is less admin (and less cooking—all Italian get-togethers involve food!) but still things to organise, and students to connect with to organise the online events. We still have Bible studies although these are no longer campus specific. National events have actually increased during the lockdown, again because we can: it no longer matters if you’re in Palermo or Venice, you can join in a national prayer meeting online. And there was also a need to respond to the crisis collectively and in a unified way when it all started. 

Rosa’s lockdown story 

One student, Rosa [not her real name] is at the end of her degree with just one subject and her thesis to write. Rosa now has a job and so is rarely at uni. But online meetings have opened up new opportunities. 

In previous years she would come quite regularly to GBU and was interested in understanding the Bible better. She is not a believer but goes every now and then to mass. She has now reconnected with us through online Bible studies, She told me that when she stopped coming to GBU she stopped reading the bible but now that she’s back with us she’s keen to get back to reading it, not just in bible study but also on her own. We’ve been studying the end of Luke’s gospel and she wants to know what happened after the resurrection so she’s started reading Acts. And because in GBU we use the same questions each Bible study (one on observation, one on interpretation and one on application) she has learned a way to keep reading the Bible for herself. Praise God! 

Ivan’s lockdown story 

Ivan [not his real name] is an international student who’s been in Rome for a few years now but has not found us before. Under lockdown we have been more active on social media. Ivan found us online and joined in with the English group. 

Ivan is a believer but is a long way from his family. Unlike many Italian students he has not been able to go home for the lockdown so is stuck on his own in his college room. He has said how much he appreciated ‘meeting’—albeit online— other Christian university students, and how much he’d learned from reading carefully and studying the Bible. 

Sally’s lockdown story 

I met Sally [not her real name] through an Australian contact. Sally arrived in Italy only a few months before lockdown, she came to study Italian initially and then move on to a degree in economics. She is not a believer but told me that she thought the Bible was an interesting book and perhaps could help her improve her life, and so she wanted to read it. 

So we began reading Mark’s gospel. We finished that and have now started John. She initially had an intellectual curiosity but has now realised that Christianity is not simply one of many options among the world religions. She knows she needs to work out if Jesus is God and if she wants to entrust her life to him. 

Through meeting up online we’ve developed a lovely friendship. Sally is lonely and didn’t have many opportunities to make many friends before lockdown. And not understanding Italian she has been quite lost in the mess of governmental decrees about what is permitted and what is not. So it’s also been good to help her navigate the early months in another culture (something that I had to do myself, just a few years ago).   

Please pray for us 

We have much to give thanks for in this time of crisis, but of course not all the stories are happy ones. Some students have distanced themselves from GBU in this period. For various reasons: some are genuinely anxious about the crisis and have struggled. Others have struggled to find a rhythm to online university, GBU, church, everything. Others have struggled with living at home in small houses with all the family (sometimes it is simply that younger siblings need help with school work, but other times it is more serious when there are tensions within families). 

So we find ourselves thanking God for the opportunities that have come, while also praying for those we are struggling to keep contact with, especially that the students we’re not seeing have not distanced themselves from God, even if they have from GBU student ministry. 

To sum up, COVID-19 has brought both new challenges and new opportunities to the Italian GBU. Please pray with us about the challenges, and thank God for the opportunities to speak and learn the gospel of his Son. 

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Please consider giving to support the work of CMS and help missionaries like Gillian to keep reaching out with the gospel. www.lastinghope.cms.org.au