25 October 2018Insurgency comes close to Jos headquarters

You may have spotted recent news stories of violence in and around Jos. In late September fighting came close to Grace & Light’s headquarters. Killings started just two kilometres away on Rukuba Road – our gatehouse is just off this road.

Staff were unable to leave the office for part of Friday, 25 September, and then once they were able to leave, had long detours on the drive home. An added challenge was that they needed to reach home before the 6pm to 6am curfew. This changed to 10pm to 6am from 5 October as tensions calmed down.

Faith Ezekial, our care and support officer, stayed with friends close to the office for a fortnight as the area around her home was too dangerous. She is grateful her house was undamaged and she has been able to return.

Churches have been targets. Kunga Baptist Church, which the Jos volunteer team visited in mid-September, was attacked during a Sunday service; the building was burnt down and three people killed. Another of the churches we have visited, ECWA in Nasarawa, was also attacked.

“We still don’t dare go to some areas,” said international coordinator Tassie Ghata. “What is sad is that Christians and Muslims are no longer socialising together and instead are keeping to their own areas.”

The first time Jos faced insurgency was in September 2001, seventeen years ago. Since then there has been violence at least yearly in Jos and Plateau State, which had been considered one of the peaceful states in Nigeria.

Violence increased noticeably in 2008. Though the military and police are now more active as a security force, the militants wear fake military uniforms, so people are unsure who to trust.

Please pray for our staff and churches in Jos as they support victims of the fighting.

25 October 2018Religious and civil leaders changing ingrained corruption

Church leaders, politicians, civil servants and university lecturers from across Nigeria came together for Grace & Light’s second annual leadership conference on social righteousness.

Fifty-one civil and religious leaders attended our three-day conference in Jos in mid-September; over half had also attended our first leadership conference in 2017.

This year’s theme was Righteousness Flowing Like a River, based on the lament and call to repentance in Amos 5. Amos speaks out against those who oppress the innocent, take bribes and deprive the poor of justice.

“Many people in Nigeria believe we are doomed and can’t change. That Nigeria is going down the drain with corruption. We believe change is possible and that it starts with our leaders being willing to change,” said conference organiser Tassie Ghata.

“Nigeria needs leaders who will bring social righteousness into society. We are helping achieve this through our conference by inspiring delegates to be role models in their organisations. They leave believing they can bring change to their communities.”

The conference was fully interactive with delegates discussing the issues they face at work and in their churches as well as sharing their personal experiences and hopes for the future.

In the final feedback session they asked for ongoing support from Grace & Light as they seek to practice the commitments they made during the conference and hold each other accountable. Through a What’s App group, named the Salt Network, they are now able to talk to and encourage each other, share issues and ask questions.

Additionally, some of the church leaders will be organising social righteousness conferences for the congregations in their regions, which Grace & Light will facilitate.

25 October 2018Church visits continue during the rainy season

Church visits are becoming less about HIV/AIDS testing and more about social righteousness in Nigeria.

Our volunteer teams are finding church members really wanting to change things in their lives that they did not see as sin before. Now they recognise these things are not what God wants and they are willing to change to honour him.

“So many people we talk to look at their lives after they hear our message. They become willing to walk in righteousness and live differently, for which we give God glory,” said international coordinator Tassie Ghata.

June to September is rainy season in Nigeria, with teams less active because roads are saturated, and sometimes flooded or boggy, making travel difficult. As well, many people take long holidays and return to their villages, meaning churches have few members in their congregations and leaders are on holiday also.

In spite of this, the Jos, Yola and Lafia volunteer teams were able to visit 15 churches during August and September, sharing the gospel with 4,829 people. Of these, 940 chose to be tested for HIV/AIDS and 750 joined life sharing groups where they will support each other to live lives of social righteousness.

Eight people tested positive for HIV and will receive ongoing support. One hundred and seventy gave their lives to Christ for the first time and another 760 rededicated their lives.

25 October 2018Schools work quadruples thanks to your support

Celebrate with us our successful schools’ ministry - we’ve quadrupled visits over the last year and witnessed many changing hearts and lives.

Back in 2017 Grace & Light set itself the target of reaching 4,500 secondary students in 30 schools, visiting each school three to five times a year to give students ongoing support.

We’ve made big steps in reaching these goals. Between September 2017 and August 2018 our volunteer teams visited 28 secondary schools, sharing the gospel of social righteousness with 7,337 pupils.

Of these 3,439 chose to be tested for HIV/AIDS and just 17 were positive. Four hundred and sixty-three students committed their lives to Christ for the first time and 1,238 rededicated their lives.

We have also trained volunteers in our Bauchi, Gombe, Jalingo and Lafia teams so that schools outside Jos and Yola are also able to hear our message and receive ongoing support.

Our work in schools began in 2013 when the Jos volunteer team was invited by a local head teacher to share the gospel and test pupils. The work grew slowly through word of mouth and by 2016 between them Jos and Yola teams were visiting eight schools a year.

International coordinator Tassie Ghata felt called to dramatically increase this work and set the challenge of quadrupling school visits during 2017.

We are grateful to those who supported this expansion of our work by joining our fundraising walk in June 2017 and donating following our letter in February 2018, as well as Goodnews Evangelical Mission which gave a significant gift.

Over the next 12 months we would like to train volunteers in other teams so they can also work in secondary schools, plus increase visits by existing schools teams so that schools receive multiple visits a year and students feel they have ongoing support.

25 October 2018Yola team becomes more strategic

Yola staff and volunteers are now using a strategic business planning tool to focus on critical activities and evaluate what they do.

They have greater understanding of their strengths and areas they should develop, and practical ways of monitoring activities in churches and schools.

Their priorities for the next two years are increasing visits to schools and churches, taking ministry into areas that were occupied by Boko Haram, supporting congregations impacted by the insurgency, persuading local Christians to become financial donors and recruiting new volunteers.

Jos volunteer team leader Alfred Mshelizah and international coordinator Tassie Ghata spent two days in Yola in late August, helping team leaders Tony Sudan and Bitrus Tari plan for the future.

They took the strategic planning traffic light system UK leadership consultant Kate Register introduced into the Jos headquarters team back in April, as well as to UK trustees during 2017.

Tassie said: “Both staff members and volunteers feel more energised, they are encouraged to tackle the issues and also build on their strengths. They have real passion for the many people suffering from years of violence in the surrounding areas and have the courage to reach out and help.”

Tassie and Alfred also took with them 20 crates of books from charity Book Aid. Yola staff will run regular book sales to raise funds for local ministry in schools and churches.

25 October 2018Churches confirm their commitment to life sharing

Church leaders recommitted to supporting their members in life sharing groups during our most recent workshop for members.

One hundred and seven people running Grace & Light life sharing groups in almost 30 churches joined us for a day of sharing, discussion and encouragement in mid-August.

These pastors and action committee members support over 500 people who have been open with their HIV/AIDS status and joined life sharing groups in churches in and around Jos.

International coordinator Tassie Ghata led the discussions around issues of Christians in the workplace, corruption, wealth and poverty, how Christians are to treat other people, gender and sexual violence.

She said: “We had lots of input from participants sharing with each other their experiences and how they feel. Their members are no longer hiding their HIV status, are living more positive lives and being supported by the church leadership.

“They are also now able to talk about the day to day issues of corruption and poverty with their members.

“One pastor said that he had been unable to talk about sexual issues from the pulpit. But our visit had encouraged him to preach openly from the scriptures and his congregation was now willing to listen.”

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