It has been a full week since boarding the plane for Summer Mission, and looking back, I can't believe it has only been seven short days! We have had so many opportunities so far, and I have learned so much about my team and Italy. Thank you to everyone who prayed for our team as we prepared to go overseas: our team of eight has bonded together very well. Just earlier today, I got to have a great conversation and hear the stories of the other guys who are here, and I look forward to continuing to strengthening those relationships.
When we got here, we met up with the STINT (Short-Term International) team, a group of four American students who have decided to give a full year to ministry in Bologna. Some of our ministry will involve teaming up with them, and at the end of the summer, they will continue getting to know the students that we met. After getting to know them (and recovering from some crazy jet lag), we spent the next couple days exploring Bologna and the campus of the University of Bologna where we will spend the rest of our afternoons. We also got the chance to meet a couple of the students the STINT team has gotten to minister to. In the picture above I am with Guido, an Italian student who came to know Christ in October and has since continued learning how to walk with Christ. Seeing the fruit of Cru's ministry in Bologna was very encouraging.
Finally, on Friday, we got our first chance to see what our time on campus will be like: we went out with the STINTers and did some evangelism. In some ways, this was a refreshing experience. The general atmosphere around campus is very social: it's hard to explain, but it just feels less individualistic than American universities do. There are cafes everywhere, and students are always outside talking, and it isn't considered nearly as intrusive as it is in America to just go up and talk with someone. Italians are very polite and willing to carry on conversations. However, in other ways, ministry was difficult. Growing up, I had always assumed Italy was largely catholic due to the presence of the Roman Catholic church. I had heard that Italy is starting to leave this background, but I thought at the very least most Italians would still consider themselves Christians. Of the six students we met during evangelism, every single student identified as an atheist. When we mentioned that most Americans assume Italy is mostly catholic, one girl just laughed.
So far, I have learned a lot on this mission trip, and I am looking forward to jumping in to a full week of ministry. However, I think I underestimated the spiritual climate on campus: I would not be surprised if ministry becomes draining quickly. Please pray for energy and courage as our team begins our first full week of ministry. Pray that, even if ministry is hard, God would use it as an opportunity to build up our faith and our ability to lovingly discuss the gospel with others. Pray that God would soften the hearts of the students that we talk to, that they would be willing to hear us out and consider the good news we have for them. Also, thank God for all he has done so far - getting us here with no logistical issues, giving us a STINT team to guide and encourage us, and giving us beautiful weather to explore the city!