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17 August 2018Borno State outreach delayed

Planned outreach into Borno State, in north eastern Nigeria, should commence in September.

Tony Sudan, Tari Bitrus and other members of the Yola volunteer team were due to visit Madiguri in June to make contact with local church leaders, as well as with Grace & Light members living in the town.

However, their visit was postponed due to renewed fighting between the military and Boko Haram as well as suicide attacks in Madiguri on 9, 11 and 21 June, and in nearbt Damboa on 16 June.

Already two Grace & Light members, who were studying in Jos, have returned to Madiguri and are recruiting people for a new volunteer team. Ngaruru ??? trained at TCNN (Theological College of Northern Nigeria) and is now a church pastor in Madiguri., while Johnson Ahmad completed his degree in Jos and is now a local businessman.

“They are sharing Grace & Light’s message of social righteousness with their families, friends, colleagues and congregations in preparation for Tony and Tari’s visit,” said international coordinator Tassie Ghata. “We are very grateful for their active support.”

Tony and Tari’s September visit will be exploratory to encourage Ngaruru and Johnson, meet the volunteers they have recruited, and introduce local church leaders to Grace & Light’s ethos.

They then hope to return to Madiguri before Christmas to deliver the five-day new volunteer training programme and commission volunteers into the Madiguri team.

Money donated by UK supporters to date through our June fundraising walk will fund travel for Tony and Tari as well as their accommodation and meals while in Madiguri. We will be inviting grant making trusts to fund the new volunteer training later in the year.

Please pray for Ngaruru, Johnson, their contacts in Madiguri and the local churches, Tony and Tari as the travel to Madiguri and funds for the training programme.

17 August 2018Renewed Nigeria starts with the youth

Students at a mixed Muslim and Christian secondary school in Jos have committed to playing their part in improving Nigerian society over the next 15 years, following a Grace & Light visit to their school.

They are students at the Industrial Training Fund School where 50 per cent of students are Muslim and 50 per cent are Christian. During their visit, the Jos volunteer team inspired students of both faiths with what they, as the adults of the future, can do to reform Nigerian society.

“We saw lots of commitment from the students to make big and small changes in their lives now and for the future,” said international coordinator Tassie Ghata.

“They said they would work hard and do the best they can in exams, as well as show respect to each other and to people of different faiths. Plus, they committed not to tell lies and not to cheat at school and in their lives outside school.

“We have high hopes that they and students at other secondary schools, who make similar commitments when we visit, will bring in a new Nigeria over the next 15 years as they become adults and begin influencing work and politics and religion and family life.”

The Yola and Jos volunteer teams visited three schools during July, sharing the gospel of social righteousness with 1,119 students. Of these, 503 chose to be tested for HIV/AIDS and three tested positive. Forty-nine students made a first commitment to Christ and another 245 rededicated their lives.

17 August 2018People are changing their hearts

Church members continue to commit to changing sexual behaviours and corruption when they hear Grace & Light’s message of social righteousness during church visits.

During counselling our volunteers hear many stories about sexual behaviours that people thought were okay because everyone was doing it. It isn’t until they hear Grace & Light share about how Christ expects us to behave that they commit to changing and leading gospel-centred lives.

“We hear time and time again that they feel, because everyone is doing these things, they are not a sin,” said international coordinator Tassie Ghata. “Through our preaching we help them see their lives from God’s perspective.”

Corruption in the workplace also continues to be something people commit to changing during the church visits. Many say they believed it was okay to clock in for a full day even though they were starting late and leaving early, or lie about buying low and selling high.

“They think it is only the big guys who are corrupt. Once we speak they realise it is also them and that their behaviours are wrong,” said Tassie.

The Jos, Yola, Bauchi, Lafia and Michika volunteer teams visited seven churches during July, sharing the gospel with 1,763 people. Of these, 466 chose to be tested for HIV/AIDS and 436 joined life sharing groups where they will support each other to live lives of social righteousness.

Two people tested positive for HIV and will receive ongoing support. Forty-three gave their lives to Christ for the first time and another 281 rededicated their lives.

17 August 2018New building rises from the Jos earth

Construction of a two-story retreat centre commenced in April at Grace & Light’s headquarters in Jos.

On 24 April staff members and builders held a breaking ground ceremony with Christian leadership consultant Kate Register digging the first hole. A time of prayer then launched the new building work. So far, the foundations have been dug and the floor slab laid.

This work has been funded by donations from the grant making trust Golden Stable and a private supporter. Construction of the ground floor will begin once we have further funding for this work.

“We are building the retreat centre stage by stage as we receive funding”, said international coordinator Tassie Ghata. “We hope to complete the building by the end of 2019. We will then be able to use it for the many training programmes we run in Jos as well as earning income by hiring the building out to other faith organisations for conferences.”

When it is completed the building with have 28 en-suite twin bedrooms with study areas, a large meeting hall, lounge and dining area, as well as car parking and relaxing grounds.

17 August 2018Tea and cakes to celebrate

London’s extraordinary sunshine welcomed Grace & Light supporters to our annual thank you for supporters.

UK trustees and supporters got together in south east London for our annual supporters’ tea in July while Isabelle and Mark Hopkins were visiting. We were glad to have Malou and Gareth Bolton and Trish Chatfield of AMEN join us.

Over tea and cakes Mark shared the latest news on ministry in churches and schools in Nigeria as well as the continuing insurgency in north eastern Nigeria where Grace & Light is restarting ministry.

Earlier in the day UK trustees met with Christian leadership consultant Kate Register of Sunergos. Kate gave us an update on her time in Jos working with Tassie Ghata earlier in 2018. We also spent time evaluating’ progress on our UK strategy since Kate first worked with us in June 2017, plus planning for 2019.

Highlights include a more strategic focus on fundraising, five per cent increase in giving for 2017, and expanding relationships with congregations and church leaders in the UK.

12 July 2018Christians suffering in clashes with Fulani herder militia

Coordinated attacks on Christian farming communities around Jos since mid-June, hundreds are dead, with the area remaining tense.

Violence against farming communities across the middle belt of Nigeria, including around Jos, has escalated following a call by Fulani cattle herders for West African Muslims to join their jihad and regain land they claim to have lost back in the 1800’s.

Over three days in late June more than 50 villages were attacked in a campaign of ethnic and religious cleansing, homes, businesses and churches burnt to the ground and those unable to flee were murdered. The majority of victims were women and children.

These attacks are coordinated, well planned, systematic and deadly. The attackers are armed with AK47’s and rocket launchers, while villagers have basic weapons to defend themselves.

During one attack villagers captured an attacker who turned out to be a Christian government soldier paid by Fulani to carry out the violence.

Grace & Light is impacted through our member churches in Mangu, Miango, Riyom, Bokkos and Barkin Ladi where church buildings have been burnt and congregations scattered. We are grateful no volunteers have been killed or injured so far, though families and friends have been.

Grace & Light’s headquarters team are looking for practical ways to support survivors living in camps around Jos including donating items from our charity shop.

Travel is still difficult with the militia stopping vehicles and murdering occupants; recently including a local pastor and his wife. Schools are also closed and exams disrupted.

International coordinator Tassie Ghata and her family have had students staying with them for three weeks while their boarding school was closed; they are the children of long-standing friends.

Please pray for those suffering in Nigeria and also lobby your MP for the UK government to step in with humanitarian aid and political influence to halt the insurgency. More than words are needed.

The Christian charities CSW and Aid to Church in Need are documenting the violence and deaths. Read their reports at Nigeria Sees 106 Attacks by Herder Militia in Central States and Nigeria: A New Emergency.

UK MPs are encouraging the government to intervene to stop the violence and support victims of the atrocities. MP Jim Shannon tabled questions in parliament in May and the issue was presented in parliament in July.

12 July 2018Christ becomes real for congregations

Church members are understanding more clearly what Christian lifestyle is meant to be like and receiving Christ for real when our volunteer teams visit their congregations.

The Jos, Yola, Mangu, Jalingo and Gombe volunteer teams visited 21 churches during May and June, sharing the gospel with 4,363 people. Of these, 1,355 chose to be tested for HIV/AIDS and 1,270 joined life sharing groups where they will support each other to live lives of social righteousness.

Four people tested positive for HIV and will receive ongoing support. One hundred and thirty gave their lives to Christ for the first time and another 758 rededicated their lives.

International coordinator Tassie Ghata is particularly pleased by the number of teachers who respond to Grace & Light’s message of social righteousness. She explains: “In Nigeria teachers in government schools are supposed to have first and second degrees, while private school teachers are less academically qualified.

“However, children in private schools do much better. This is happening because government teachers are not doing their best for students. When we counsel them we encourage them to commit to being better teachers.

The volunteers also see much corruption among Christians in business. “Their work ethic is based on what is acceptable in Nigerian culture rather than on the gospel. For example, they may ask for 30 bags of cement, use 20 in their job and take 10 home for themselves. They think this is the way to do business. We have many rededications to Christ around ethical business.”

12 July 2018Insurgency stops visits to schools

Volunteers are visiting fewer secondary schools because of intensified unrest in areas immediately around Jos.

Many school visits have been cancelled in recent months because of unrest between Fulani herder militia and villagers in the farming areas surrounding Jos. Schools are closing and pupils being sent home until local danger passes.

The planned conference for teachers has also been put on hold until after the summer; as have sessions for school leavers to help them prepare for life at university or in the world of work.

However, we are delighted that the Jos team were able to visit five schools during May and June.

During these visits, they shared the gospel and social righteousness with 1,028 students and tested 560 for HIV/AIDS. One hundred and thirty students gave their lives to Christ for the first time and another 414 rededicated their lives. Three students tested positive for HIV.

Volunteers continue to be shocked at the immorality they find in these young people; but also, delighted at their response to the gospel when they hear it shared. Most have already begun imitating the adults around them because this is the way they see to live life.

“When we offer an alternative based on Christ they choose this new way and commit to studying and being hard working,” says international coordinator Tassie Ghata.

“At one school we spoke with a group of boys who were into lying and stealing. They were sneaking out of class as a group and stealing goats to sell. In our session together we looked at what their lives may be like in 15 years’ time.

“Two of the boys said they were no longer going to steal, would be truthful with their parents and teachers and aim to do well so that in 15 years they could look back with pride on their achievements.

At another school we found two young girls who had been abused by family members. One girl, living with step mother and abusive father felt there was nothing she could do to change her situation and that her life was not worth living. Subsequently, Grace & Light has arranged for her to live with and be cared for by her grandmother.

“The other girl, abused by a cousin from a young age, felt worthless and has coped by turning to drugs. Through counselling she now believes that what happened is not her fault, and that God loves her. She has found her worth in Christ and is living a better life.”

12 July 2018Young people join Jos volunteers

Twenty younger volunteers have joined the Jos team, enabling Grace & Light to expand its schools’ ministry as they are available during week days.

They are fresh out of school or university themselves and able to empathise with the challenges facing secondary school students in Nigeria.

In early June they completed our new volunteers training programme and have been visiting schools and churches since, with the headquarters team and more experienced volunteers.

“They are enthusiastic and relishing going into schools to share their faith and social righteousness as well as counselling individuals before HIV/AIDS testing,” said international coordinator Tassie Ghata.

“We have their support now in schools as they are not working. Though we do know that once they get jobs they will no longer be able to support our schools’ ministry during the week.”

12 July 2018Many more secondary schools will open their doors to Grace & Light

Principals from private and government secondary schools across southern Jos are inviting Grace & Light volunteers into their schools following a seminar explaining our schools ministry.

More than 60 principals representing virtually all the secondary schools in Jos South attended the seminar on 31 May at the local government education directorate offices.

International coordinator Tassie Ghata explained how Grace & Light works in schools and shared examples of the issues volunteers come across during their visits including sexuality, sexual abuse, drugs, stealing and lying.

She said: “We are happy so many school leaders came to hear about our work. They identified with what we were sharing and asked lots of questions. We were invited to talk for 20 minutes but ended up speaking for over an hour because the principals had so many questions.”

The seminar has opened the door to many secondary schools the Jos volunteer team has not yet been able to visit. These visits will commence in September after the summer holidays during August.

12 July 2018Successful fundraising walk over the South Downs

Thank you to the 14 people who joined our 2018 fundraising walk centred on Arundel and to those who sponsored us.

On Saturday, 2 June we met by the war memorial in Arundel, then walked up the steep main street past Arundel Castle and Arundel Cathedral and through Arundel Park on to the South Downs.

The day was beautifully sunny and warm without being too hot and we had stunning views on the Channel, woods, farmland and river.

We lunched in the walled garden of the delightful Bridge Inn at Houghton before walking back along the banks of the Arun River to The Black Rabbit for afternoon tea and chance to rest our feet.

Finally, the last mile back to Arundel past Swanbourne Lake and a peaceful stream full of ducks and swans.

All the money we raise from this walk is going towards new ministry in Borno State, North East Nigeria where people have suffered horrendously in more than a decade of insurgency.

Now the situation is stabilising and it is time for Grace & Light to send a team into Borno to restart our ministry there, contacting existing volunteers, visiting church leaders, speaking in churches, testing people for HIV/AIDS and setting up life sharing groups.

There is still time to support this work as our online fundraising walk page closes on 31 July. If you would like to give please visit 2018 Circular Walk in the South Downs

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