Italy is a country where over 95% of the population have no idea what it means to know a living Savior. In Bologna the numbers are even worse. It is quite literally our job stated to introduce Italians to Jesus and disciple those that do know him. We focus our efforts on the students at the University of Bologna, the oldest university in the western world and home to nearly 100,000 young people. “UniBo” is one of the most influential universities in Europe and prayerfully the students we are able to reach during their time here will become our missionaries as they in turn become leaders throughout the country.
How do we do this you ask? As of 5 years ago there were no formal ministries to the college students of Bologna, as a result we have had to take on several different tasks in our effort to be salt and light on the campus:
Of the 100,000 students in Bologna, we know of about 30 that have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. Not 30,000…30. This leaves an incredible need to reach and influence the remaining students. In an effort to do this we have partnered closely with Agape Italia, the Italian arm of CRU (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ). Agape arrived in Bologna at about the same time we did and have been gracious to allow us to work with their staff, interns and infrastructure as we build relationships with students.
Our home church in Bologna is Chiesa Evangelica Nuova Vita, a thriving church planted by our organization 25 years ago of about 150 members (a mega-church by Italian standards). Nuova Vita has ministries to the local homeless population, prostitutes and sex-trafficked women, food banks for the underprivileged and has commissioned multiple full-time missionaries. These ministries combined with a dedicated, faithful and growing congregation are beginning to make a measurable impact in the city of Bologna. We are the leadership of the Nuova Vita college department (NVUni). In this capacity we lead bible studies, organize events and individually disciple students as they seek to deepen their relationship with Jesus.
A part of our time is spent cultivating a vision God gave us long ago to open an American-style coffee shop in Bologna. The general idea is based on two main factors, the most basic of which is the fact that we could be here for the next 50 years and we would never be able to meet 100,000 college students. Building a comfortable environment where students will come to study and spend time will bring them to us. The second factor is the divide between the small population of believers in Italy and the rest of the country. Generations of persecution and isolation have caused many of Italian christians to withdraw from general society creating a situation where the overwhelming majority of Italians don’t even know someone that knows Jesus. We hope to have a space that can be “brackish water” (the place where a fresh water river flows into the ocean) where salt water fish and fresh water fish can live side by side. It is our vision that building these relationships will allow the gospel to be seen by thousands of Italians that have never even had the opportunity to know what a relationship with Jesus looks like.
These are just a few examples of the things that fill our days. Believe it or not there are many more. God is moving in this city creating countless opportunities for us to share the gospel. We are so blessed to be on the front lines because it gives us a great view!