The Story So Far
In March 2003 Grace & Light founder Mark Hopkins grieved over the death from AIDS of someone close to him. Patience Chule was the wife of a student and had become like a daughter to Mark.
Between diagnosis and her death Patience had given her life to Jesus Christ and was changed by him.
As Mark reflected on her last few weeks of life and her funeral he wrote: Hundreds gathered in the cathedral for Patience’s funeral, at which I preached the gospel and talked openly of her AIDS, as she had asked me to. I couldn’t help pouring out my grief and the love I felt. Within a week these three – the gospel, openness and love – came to me as a fully formed vision for Grace & Light.
From the moment the vision came Mark felt compelled to act upon it. He developed a pilot, shared this with several people with HIV/AIDS experience, modified it a bit, then set about trying to implement it.
One of the first needs was for counsellors and it was this that brought him into Tassie Ghata’s office at in early April. Tassie volunteered on the spot and recruited lab personnel for testing also.
Mark, Tassie and Ayano Chule (Patience’s husband) visited five Nigerian churches during May and June, preaching the gospel during a service then returning for counselling and testing. Of those who were tested 250 chose to join Grace & Light and share their status with each other, another 80 joined during a second round of testing sessions three months later.
Six years on Grace & Light has over 50,000 members in more than 500 churches in 15 of Nigeria’s 37 states. During 2009 alone 20,000 people were tested in 244 churches; of these 540 were HIV positive and 17,500 chose to become Grace & Light members.
In January 2010 Grace & Light had 285 fully trained volunteers working in 35 teams. Each team is responsible in their area for mobilising (taking Grace & Light into new churches), leading services, preaching and public speaking, counselling, testing, home-based care, accountability group support, education, advocacy (problem solving and publicity) and administration.