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March 25, 2012

Italy: Reaching Bologna Students

With the sound of air horns and cheering students congratulating a recent graduate, TEAM missionary David Hannah stands in Verdi Square at the center of the University of Bologna campus in Italy, laughs, and acknowledges: “This is my life!” 

  • Local Connections

    Missionary David Hannah (right) has met many local students thanks to engineering student and Bologna-born Fabio Ceredi (left).

  • Campus Ministry

    Taking a law class at the university and having the opportunity to teach led David Hannah (left) to meet many students such as Giacomo Zaccaria (right).

  • Student Gatherings

    Students gather at the home of David and Nicole Hannah to enjoy fellowship and time in God’s word. (Photo by David Hannah)

With the sound of air horns and cheering students congratulating a recent graduate, TEAM missionary David Hannah stands in Verdi Square at the center of the University of Bologna campus in Italy, laughs, and acknowledges: “This is my life!”

This is quite a different setting than either David or his wife Nicole would have imagined. Just a few years ago, David, an attorney, and Nicole, a nurse practitioner, were on a traditional life path – high school, college, where they earned high-level degrees, and settling into careers. “None of it was contrary to God’s desire for us at that time; we were still serving and reaching out in our community,” Nicole said. “There just came a time when God began to reshape us.”

This reshaping included a specific calling into cross-cultural mission in Bologna. After a quick Google search, David impulsively called TEAM missionary Andy Brucato, who was seeking workers to start a campus ministry at the University of Bologna. Not long after, the Hannahs decided to pursue life as missionaries. David and Nicole moved to Italy three years ago, along with their daughter Ruby and an 80-pound dog named Preacher. Bologna, a city of nearly 500,000 people with a university population of approximately 100,000 students, is a city that places a high premium on education where advanced degrees lend credibility. David and Nicole, both highly educated, knew that God had prepared them for just such a place.

Around the same time, Andy and Linda Brucato contacted Jesse and Tricia Marcos, who were working with Cru (formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ) in Germany, to see if they were interested in ministry at the University of Bologna. The Brucatos offered support through a partnership with the Nuova Vita church. After prayerful consideration, Jesse and Tricia answered the Lord’s leading and moved to Bologna to establish Cru on campus. At a meeting with the Hannahs, Brucatos, and Marcos, TEAM and Cru decided to work together.

Only around 500 believers live in Bologna, so the first step was finding believers on campus. Fabio Ceredi, an engineering student, was one of David’s first connections. Fabio was born in Bologna and grew up in the Catholic faith but had fallen away from the church. After an illness, Fabio turned to the Bible for answers. He also sought out a believing childhood friend, who put him in contact with David and the Marcos. David was amazed at Fabio’s heart for seeking Jesus, and his passion is evident to everyone. Fabio enjoyed reaching out to his large social circle, which in turn helped David make local connections. Fabio and David are on a basketball team where they are the only believers. “This is where Fabio is so great,” said David. “He has taken it upon himself to create social events so that the guys can get to know me better.”

David and Nicole use many outreach techniques with students. David takes classes at the university law school, which guarantees daily interaction with many students. Nicole mentors a small group of young women. They host social events at cafes and invite students into their home four or five times a week for a Bible study. David and Nicole encourage these students to reach out to their friends by inviting them to social events or asking them to volunteer for special events.

God is honoring the effort of the Hannahs and those involved in their ministry. During a February 2011 planning meeting, they realized they didn’t know any students. Yet just eight months later, David and Nicole were hosting 45 people in their apartment for a chestnut roasting party. David gives the credit to the Lord. “It’s totally supernatural,” he said. “So many of these things are not through the efforts of man. It’s all God.”

-Written by Robert Johnson
-Photography by Robert Johnson

[Originally published in TEAMHorizons, March 2012]

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